pursuits TRIP Gliding over São Conrado with a view of Ipanema ?Whatever you do, don?t stop running halfway down the ramp.? We?re about 800 metres above sea level, near the peak of Rio?s Pedra de Gavea, and I?m learning that the only thing dangerous in hang-gliding is a sudden loss of nerve. My coach and pilot is Paulo, a Carioca with the ear-to-ear grin of the vocationally gifted. Paulo spent nearly a decade obtaining an advanced technical degree, flying every day just for fun. Only after graduation did he realize that working would mean giving up flying. So he tossed the degree and now makes his living taking tourists on tandem flights. He?s taken kids. And stewardesses. Lots of stewardesses. And old men. His only worry is that someone will chicken out halfway down the ramp, and that he, and they, will stumble over the edge of the cliff and fall to their deaths. We practise running together a few times, his arm round my shoulder for support. Then it?s up onto the ramp. We strap in, hoist the glider, and run for the edge. It disappears beneath our feet. We?re aloft. We?re not falling. Time to take in the view. To my right is the Tinkertoy jumble of Rocinha, South America?s largest shantytown. On my left is ultra-tony São Conrado, its 26 TORO OCTOBER & NOVEMBER 2003


If eating street meat in South America isn?t adventurous enough, try jumping off a cliff there private golf links gleaming. It?s the perfect vantage point from which to ponder the division of wealth in this most inequitable of countries. Except that in the contest for my attention, even class-warfare politics are no match for sheer adrenalin-fuelled euphoria. I hadn?t expected to enjoy hang-gliding this much. I?d tried and been disappointed by this kind of thing before. After a day-long paragliding course in New Zealand, I discovered that a paraglider just floats, drifting down like a fuzzy white dandelion seed. It?s like the difference between bobbing along in a big rubber raft and shooting through whitewater rapids in a kayak. Hang-gliding has that exhilarating sense of speed, the same cataclysmic dependence on precision control. Too soon, we set down on a long gold stretch of sand. I?m pumped. I let out a quasihysterical laugh. Then a war whoop. For $500 and a few weeks of my time, Paulo tells me, an instructor he knows can teach me to fly. A few weeks of practice on top of that, and I?ll be ready to launch on my own. Count me in, I think. I see a bunch of other flyers grouped round a beachside beer shack and nod to them like an equal. ? Shawn Blore risky business Base Jumping voss, norway This high-octane sport involves jumping from a fixed point, rapidly free-falling, and eventually releasing a parachute. Aside from its picturesque mountain-and-fjord backdrop, Norway is one of the few places in the world where the activity is still legal. Zorbing rotoua, new zealand Leave it to the country that created bungee jumping to come up with the next stomach-flipping activity for restless tourists. Suspended inside a ten-foot clear-plastic sphere by nylon ropes, participants (or ?zorbonauts?) are pushed to the top of a steep hill and then left to roll uncontrollably down it. Rodelling st. anton, austria Rodelling is the Austrian activity in which participants hurtle down an icy track (often straight into a bar) on a vessel that is part luge, part antique toboggan ? at night. Micro-Light Flying victoria falls, zambia Flying at a couple of thousand feet over the roaring falls and the Batoka Gorge strapped into what is essentially a lawn mower with wings is a good way to test your adrenalin-rush mettle. paulo celani, just fly rio de janeiro, brazil t/f 2268-0565 photograph by judy bellah/lonely planet images

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