This is the video I captured in Governador Valadares, Brazil. And the friendly tree that hugged me.
This is the video I captured in Governador Valadares, Brazil. And the friendly tree that hugged me.
This is the video I captured in Governador Valadares, Brazil. And the friendly tree that hugged me.
Brazilians have a robust constitution. They are strong, smart and proud…. and batshit crazy.
The whole world comes to Brazil to fly XC. The Brazilians will not be shown up… They have a large contingent of local pilots.
I have heard stories….
The GV site is a strong cross country venue. During the blistering heat of the day, you need to be attentive and confident with an appropriately rated wing that you can manage in the air. Having an advanced paraglider might make us faster, but if we do not have the muscle memory, intuition and lightning fast reflexes needed to safely pilot a competition wing, the danger is very great. Advancing too quickly to a higher rated wing often leads to unfortunate moments.
From what I’ve been told, a number of their young, bold pilots have paid the price of this lesson with their lives.
……This is not to say there are not fabulous Brazilian pilots. There are champions here for sure.
Pe (pronounced “pay”) is in his seventies. He’s tall, has a wide beautiful smile.. And he always wears it. He loves to fly. I think he has been flying for a really long time.
My first flight in GV was late in the day. We took off in front of a large cloud overdevelopment that was pouring rain a few short miles away. I think I told you this part already… what I didn’t tell you about was the guy that launched after me.
I had partially folded up my wing, when I looked back at the rock. There was one solitary wing high, high up directly under the enormous black cloud that had filled in behind me. As a crowd of us watched, the tiny wing began to speed south west…. It took a series of huge deflations and appeared to spiral out of control toward the ground.
The local pilots send a recovery vehicle hurrying toward the location we think the pilot has crash landed.
We didn’t hear anything more until the next day.
It was Pe. He realized his mistake too late.
He had a series of major events in the air until the wing recovered low. It was too turbulent to land safely… he screamed back up to cloud base in a stormy blast of rising air, and rode the wild frontal wave downwind seventy kilometers in an hour and a half.
He landed safely in a field barely ahead of the 40mph+ winds and rain.
Pe was laughing as he told us his story.
Heading up to launch this morning, he was excited because the new day looked so promising.
He might have old balls, but they are made of shiny, polished brass.
Every one of the motorbike riders in Brazil could be Indy car drivers. I thought Southern California bikers were nuts, but the riding here is unmatched. In the cities, it is like watching a very realistic video game. I am mesmerized by this dance with traffic. Stop lights and signs are only guidelines. They weave through the tiniest gaps in traffic, yell at the cars they have cut off, and have not a second thought about jumping a sidewalk or two to get around gridlock. They do this with high heeled, unconcerned passengers texting or talking on the phone.
If you were wondering, I did see quite a few people with casts and road rash.
Saturday depart GV 14:00 – train to Vitoria, Brazil. I wanted to see the countryside.
Arrive Vitoria 21:00.
Taxi to bus terminal,
Bus to Rio De Janiero. Depart 21:30.
Sunday Arrive Rio 05:30. Hotel early check in 1300.
Monday Depart hotel 0600 for airport.
I am at the airport, checking in with my airline. I need to produce my immunization record showing that I have a yellow fever shot. I do not have this. The attendant will not book me all the way through to Costa Rica because she says that they will send me back if I don’t have it.
She tells me the office down the hall will have a record of my immunizations??
I have had.. at a minimum, three yellow fever shots within the last ten years. God knows, maybe there is something.
I walk across the airport to the tiny office. One guy speaks English. He offers me a coffee. It’s a strong, sweet Italian coffee in a little plastic water cup. He says he has no record of my immunizations. I scoop up my bag and stand up to go.
But he gives me a look and says waitch. He asks me what I was doing in Brazil and all the places I visited there. He was very excited when I told him I was in GV paragliding.
He asks me to fill out a form and within minutes, he has found my shot record. He stamps it firmly. He smiles, “Only in Brazil.” shakes my hand and wishes me safe travel.
I missed my connecting flight in Colombia, air traffic is still jacked from when the FARC blew up the tower a couple weeks ago.
It is six hours till the next one.
I tried to reschedule my flight again because after three vodka tonics, I thought it was a good idea to catch a bus tonight to Bucaramanga to fly for a few days.
It began to be increasingly confusing and expensive to change last minute tickets and hotel… and coupled with dread of another nine or more hours of seated travel, I bailed on what still seems like an appetizing idea…
I wish I could just magic myself there.
I will try to fly in Costa Rica… if the plane leaves on time tonight, I should be there by 23:00-ish.
24:03 San Jose. Checked in, tucked in bed.
It’s too quiet. No firecrackers, no motos, no thumping music, no garbage collector, no sweeping, beeping or whistling.
It feels like Amegeddon.
Rodrigo is an energetic guy. Brazilian, light skinned, heavy accent. He’s about 5’7″, fit, has short, curly graying hair and a big crush on me. He’s been very friendly for about a week, he always asks me if I would like to have a juice with him. I think he’s not a drinker.
When I landed in the tree, it was a pretty long way from town, but I heard there was a bar nearby, so I checked it out. I almost walked by it. It looked like someone’s house except that it had a lot of tables outside. It had taken me an hour and a half to pick the lines out of the thorns and branches and it was terribly hot. I was soaked with sweat.
I walked through an open gate and was warmly greeted by the owner and his wife. They helped me in with my bags and offered me a cold drink.
There is something about a frosty can of beer after flying that is better than any beer at any other time. It is glorious.
I saw a guy had landed across the street and went out to see if he would like a beer too. He looked as happy as me to know there was a cold one close by and joined me for several. and a plate of meat, potatoes and fried pork rinds.
I was feeling much better and began to unpack my wing (I just stuffed it in the bag to get it away from the thorns) My new friend and I folded it back up properly.. Just as we were unhappily talking about walking the mile or so to the bus stop in the raging heat, a couple of sassy looking forty-something gals rolled up in a little silver car. The black haired firecracker (Claudia) saw our paragliding wings and asked if we wanted a ride back into town.. Her English is perfect.
Of course we do! We stuffed our packs into the tiny trunk and got going. As we rolled down the dirt road toward town, we started talking..
I find out Claudia is the cousin of Rodrigo. She says he’s totally crazy. Not bad crazy, but definitely coo-coo for cocopuffs… We agreed we like crazy.
The two gals drop us off in front of our hotel and with warm hugs and kisses, send us off. We love Claudia!!
A couple days later I see Rodrigo in front of the hotel. He greets me with a giant smile and hug. “Hello! hello! How was your day?” I had to tell him the bad news, I had decided to leave.
“Where are you going?”
Costa Rica I tell him.
“I will go with you!”
I bust out laughing.. “Claudia was right! You are crazy!”
He makes a funny face..but smiles. “Would you like to see my house?”
He lives right in the hotel so I say sure.
We go into the hotel room. It looks like every other one. Bland. White sheets, folded neatly. white, undecorated walls. One fluorescent bulb. I’m feeling a little funny.
He walks to the other side of the room, opens the closet door.. Except that it’s not a closet door. It is a secret door that goes in to a spotless, giant room elegantly appointed all around with antique furniture.. Armoire, couches, art… Kitchen with granite island against the wall in front of me. A lush garden is planted against another to my left. It is wide open to the afternoon breeze and bright.
We walk across the handsome wood floor to a woman working at a computer desk. I think I am introduced to his mother. She is very pleasant, short, round, has a wandering eye and doesn’t speak a word of English.
He smiles, gives me a kiss, says something to her in Portuguese and tells me to enjoy my stay. He has to go do something.. I think my mouth is really, actually hanging open as he hurries out the closet door. As it shuts behind him, I turn and face mom with a smile. “Hi!”
She is very nice. She grabs my elbow and starts speaking in completely unintelligible Portuguese.. We are walking toward the kitchen. She holds up her glass and says “Agua?”
Oh. Yes. I will have a glass of water. I would prefer scotch, or bourbon or a gin and tonic would be nice, but I have no idea how to say anything like that and am suspicious none of the family drinks at all.
There is another gal in the kitchen. Short. Plump. dark hair. She walks toward us with a broken gait. She also has a wandering eye and one leg is too big. as she looks at me with a large round moon face and enormous, guileless smile, I realize she has down syndrome. She is darling. She greets me warmly, repeatedly and shakes my hand way too long. Mom has to tell her to stop shaking my hand.. She looks down. Then up..
Mom introduces me. “This is Weeeeeeennnndyyyy.” she makes the d sound with her tongue sticking out, between her teeth.
Their faces are now inches apart, making the sounds of my impossible name.
It takes another couple rounds.
I am holding back an uproarious laugh.. I can’t keep from smiling.
Finally, mom is satisfied and as sister turns to pour the water, mom looks at me, makes her eyes big and points to her head, then sister…..
and I tell her “Entiendo.” I understand.
We go to the couch and sip our waters. I look around the single huge room. It is no less than two thousand square feet. On opposite ends of the room, there are two queen sized, four poster beds with white mosquito netting. It is fancy, kind of lacy but the whole thing is bizarre. It is like a giant studio apartment. They explain to me about the Mosquitos. Sister picks at her skin and makes a face ” ooooooooooh. Aaaah”
She does it again.. And one more time. Mom stops her.
I’m actually having a fun time. I wished I had my gopro though.
Finally, I explain that I have to leave. Mom walks me to the closet door, sister follows. I say good by to sister, I give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then shake her hand… For way too long, but I’m just grinning ’cause she’s sweet.
I say goodbye to mom and pop back into the hotel.
I feel like I’ve just been down a rabbit hole.
I see Rodrigo later. “Hi!”
He doesn’t waste a second. “Hello! I would like to take you out tonight!” He grabs my hand.
I have to tell him. “Rodrigo. Yo soy una Lesbica.”
He is not put off a bit. “Oh, that’s ok! We can fix anything that is broken!”
But nothing is broken. I just laugh.
My name is Wenjee. Here. The D’s are pronounced like J’s. T’s sound like ch. Which is to me, hilarity for when the Brazilians try to speak English. With a hand up, they will tell me to “waitch”.
The trash here is a little bizarre. They don’t have alleys in the city like we do… where we throw our tidy bags of trash into a bin. Everything here goes right on the street. Bags, loose trash, food, flyers.. It looks terrible by the evening, but starting at around ten o’clock, or even a little earlier, they bring out giant brooms and start sweeping. And the garbage trucks come by with enthusiastic, cheerful collectors shortly after.. around midnight-ish and wrap up the collection by six-ish.
The one thing I won’t miss for a second about South America are the baños. No paper is thrown into the bowl. It is disposed of into the ominously large waste can next to each and every toilet. Many times, you have to pay to use the loo. Many other times, you have to pay for the toilet paper additionally and separately, from a dispenser on the wall. Many times, there is no paper.
Anyway, that’s not really what it’s all about..
I’ve seen at least one other female pilot now. I don’t think she speaks English. We just smile at each other..
Most of the pilots here speak at least one other language… French, Norwegian, Dutch, Italian….and Portuguese. There are a bunch of English speakers, but in a mixed gathering, they prefer to converse in Portuguese because that is the common language of everyone here.
I find myself on the outside of many conversations and am frustrated with my inability to join in. In Colombia, I had a good fifty percentage of understanding… And my friends all spoke English. The rest I could fill in with questioning. slow, but I always got there.
My rate of effectiveness here is very low. I love talking to people. I love to know who they are, where they came from and where they are going. Spiritually and physically…… Which takes some serious language skills to understand and absorb properly.
Today I had a tandem flight with Kevin. We flew 42K from here (GV) to Engineer Caldas. (sp?) we had a perfectly linked flight at cloudbase and a super landing… Which still hurt…. I am frustrated with my prior injury. My ankle is not too bad.. But I can’t run or walk in soft sand with it yet. My rib is still very painful and anything but a gentle landing hurts. I am worried that I may not have as great a landing as the last four times I flew. I’ve been pretty lucky.
Actually, I put it in the bushes on my second one. I have no video of the other three awesome landings, but a very good one of the bush plow-in. It was actually the softest landing I’ve had yet. My feet didn’t even touch the ground.
I was counseled that I shouldn’t advertise the video of this event because it would be “sending the wrong message”. which leads me to another thought..
I think that the accident ratio of paraglider pilots is seriously underreported.
As pilots, we rarely talk about our accidents…. Or events. And when we do, it’s usually jokingly… or with the responsibility for an event falling on the pilot alone. I believe that this is generally true as well. Most events can be attributed to pilot error…. But show me the person that has done anything perfectly. Every time. we are humans. we make mistakes. as pilots, we need to make fewer.
Having the inability to keep anything to myself, I told a couple other people with the same affliction… So, a lot of people found out about my tree landing and came up to me the next day.
“how are you?”
“ummmmm. Fine?….. Why do you ask?”
I found out through this exchange that most of the pilots here already earned their “tree T-shirt” or have had very recent near misses and were just checking on me..
I promise to post the video of the plow-in after I have managed to capture some better landings.
I feel a disturbance in the force. I will depart early.
I am calling the airline and switching my ticket to Costa Rica for a little sooner. I will leave by train and then catch either a bus or cab to the airport at my first opportunity. I think I need to focus on healing my broken body and getting healthy enough to fly with confidence again.
I would prefer to do this with a beach, some coconuts and scantily clad women very nearby. I wish i could go to Rio and spend the time, but my budget won’t allow for that kind of extravagance. Again.
I hope there are women that ride motorbikes with heels on in Costa Rica too.
I’m in Governador Valadares, Brasil, staying at Hotel Everest in the center of town. It’s only a couple blocks from the LZ. $25/night.
Today we’re going to fly. I’m still a little nervous about going up. Although, we’re going to fly safely and sanely, and I am going to put a lot of effort into a safe launch and landing. I slept well last night and didn’t have too many cocktails at the bar.
Stay out of power lines. Stay out of the water. Stay away from the rock. There are good, large LZ’s everywhere. It’s just staying out of the bad ones that is important. And not crashing in the good ones.
GV is small. It is dominated by the giant rock face that is launch for the crowd of paraglider and hang glider pilots that make their way to this haven of XC flight. I am the only female pilot that I have seen here yet.
There are few Americans.
I’ve noticed a couple of things about here. The two biggest to me are, firstly, the way these women dress up for everyday is amazing.. Heels, tight pants, make up, hair did.
Secondly, I haven’t seen a dog on a leash yet…. Plenty of dogs..There’s a few other things, but I’ll get to them later.
The thing that is trying to dominate me right now, is fear. I’m uncomfortable about getting in the air again after my wreck. I have to try all the little tricks I’ve learned over the years. I struggle to keep the negative thoughts from happening.. I buy some gum… stick two pieces in my mouth…. chew it up for a while. It seems to quiet the racket in my head. I set up my equipment robot like. Open bag. Remove flight deck, remove folded wing. Turn harness around. Each step is manifesting in my brain like an itemized list. I focus on each one. Task complete. I check each line. I check and recheck that I am clipped in properly. Helmet. Radio. I’m ready to launch. we wait. It seems like forever but the right moment never really arrives. Finally, rain on the horizon headed our way is the catalyst that gets us moving. We decide to launch before we get trapped at the top.
It’s light wind getting off the mountain but, that’s what I’m good at. So I take off. The air is a little chunky but has some nice lift and I finally get a piece going up…. Fast. This is probably not the best idea because the rain clouds are getting much closer.
It’s fine though, I find an area of sink and spiral down through it. I’m still comfortably high so it’s time to get ready for my approach, but find a great deal of sinking air. I have to cross the Rio Doce.. a giant surging river swollen and muddy from recent floods. I’m worried I might not make landing.
The setup is a little different, I had to come in from the opposite end of the LZ. Kevin is on the radio and really paying attention to me, coaching the landing. I’m scared. More nervous than I have ever been flying before. I hate feeling like this. Too much adrenaline…makes it hard to think clearly.
He guides me in and I plant it perfectly, next to the road. First landing, out of the way.
We celebrate with some beers and food.
GV has sushi. A whole bunch of it, actually. It’s not bad. Not too creative or too many choices, but it really satisfies the craving.
I love the meat on a skewer, even at the buffet, you can get seasoned, juicy grilled meats by the pound hot off the coals. The locals’ favorite are chicken hearts. The beef and pork are also delicious. The most common (and least expensive) thing to eat here are the stuffed pastries. Fried or baked then stuffed with meat or cheese generally. Street vendors are really different here. I have seen mostly fruit carts….
The one that I think is really fun is the potato chip cart. In the evenings, they wheel a cart with a glass box top around and serve bags of peanuts, hot potato chips or popcorn. It comes in a small white paper sack.. about the size of a “medium” McDonalds French fry box. you can get butter, salt, cheese or spicy on either. It costs about fifty cents.
The only tourist trade here comes from paragliding.. and only for a few months a year.
The women outnumber the men by about twenty to one. Perhaps this is the reason why Brazil seems to have the largest concentration of beautiful women per capita… they are everywhere.
The female police officers are all stunning. Every last one. Beauty must be an unwaiverable qualification for entering the academy. I will be recovering from whiplash when I return.
GV has a gay bar.
The women are mostly single, the men are not generally inclined to stay with any one woman… That doesn’t explain the gay male population though. The ratio here is a whopping estimated thirty percent. It is widely accepted.
The bar is five blocks from my hotel.
There is so much to tell about this culture and tiny town, I will have to tell you more later. I’m going to check out the gay bar in the next couple of days.
I cut a quick video of the Rio beaches i frequented just to give you a glimpse of what I liked about being there…’course I missed a lot, but you’ll have to make it down here for some Brasil sun worshipping and serious people watching.
I love Rio. The beaches are wide, busy, friendly and fun. Fun for a couple reasons. First and best, is that the people watching here is at it’s highest level. Im spending nearly all my time at the gay beach, so theres no mamas yelling at their screaming children, and if there is some kind of yelling, its a fantastic soap-opera drama…I’m hoping to see a “bitch slap” but they seem too friendly for that kind of outburst..
Next, there’s things to do.. Swim, run, bike, skateboard, slacklining, volleyball, rollerblade…. it’s so accessible.. There is a huge bike lane built right next to the beach that goes the entire length of the strand.. Many miles.
As well as a fat sidewalk right next to that for strolling or walking your dog. There are small workout stations spaced along the route too. You can do pull-ups, dips, stretches and a bunch of other exercises on these small, steel, adult playgrounds. There are little stands of everything you need right on the beach. And if there is no stand, there will be someone to come by and offer it to you in a moment.
There are little, fantastic restaurants everywhere. The food is terrific. I especially like the local bean soup served in a juice glass, side of bacon chunks and shot glass with peppered rim..all on the same small plate.
The hills, the heat, the water, the beach, the music, the beautiful people, the food, It’s a complete package that feels exciting and healthy..
I want to tan all my skin. Well, most of it, so I went shopping.
For us single, fashion-impaired types, mirrors should be equipped with a simple light and siren system. Green light: Looking good. Ok to depart. Yellow: Revisit your closet. there may be a better choice. Red light: Emergency siren.. Do Not leave the house.
I think the bikini I bought was from the kiddie section. I’m not posting a picture of it here because it looks so Wal-Mart. I may qualify for XL here.
I was feeling a little pressured when I was choosing. There were three attractive young women buying bikinis too and I felt a little creepy pawing the different ones, trying to see if they might fit…
I look like a transvestite in most women’s feminine clothing.. due mostly to my ginormous shoulders.
I just grabbed one.
…any clothing choice, particularly a bikini, should not lead a person to believe that the wearer could unstop their clogged drains.
There was a good inch or two happening above the seam in the rear.. depending which side I covered more of. The front will require a more severe application of razor…. or a Brazilian wax job. The top wasn’t any better. Planned or unplanned, clearly, there was a wardrobe malfunction already happening.
Nothing has happened in Rio. I have met a few people, an anesthesiologist and friend at the bar last night, a couple nice men and a little cutie-pie who helped me tie on the bikini top that I finally purchased right on the beach.
I walk all day… around town and from one end of the beach to the other. Then get a chair and umbrella and people watch with an ice cold Caiparina… Brazilian rum, ice, limes. Refreshing. Powerful.
Over the years, my demeanor has changed a bit. Women used to approach me.. but I think I have developed an “I-will-beat-you-up-first-ask-questions-later” kind of look…. at least that’s what my less-than-discrete friends tell me. While it keeps me safer on the streets, It’s harder to meet people. I have to initiate most conversations in order to let people know I don’t bite…
I’m supposed to leave Rio tonight, but I can’t think of anything less appealing. I love it here. I don’t want to leave. Ever.