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Sunday, November 27, 2005: Imagine our delight when we awoke Sunday morning to a gorgeous sunrise.
The sunlight on the favela was beautiful.
We headed down to our favorite corner table in the hotel restaurant for our daily breakfast of rolls, cold cuts, bacon, eggs, fruit, and orange juice, which was included in our hotel package.
The sun was blazing through the restaurant window. When we finished, we went back to our room and got our confirmation call from Just Fly Brazil -- hang gliding is on!
Our instructor, Paulo, picked us up at our hotel in his white Jeep and took us up the steep, winding road to Pedra Bonita in the Tijuca forest. The foliage is gorgeous and the ride is bumpy and fun.
Reaching the top, we parked and passed this tropical little resting place.
We had to stop and admire the colorful beetle that a large spider had caught in his web.
The staging area at Pedra Bonita was busy, with flyers everywhere setting up their hang gliders for their flight.
With a view this beautiful from the platform, you can see why. This is the very location where the "Amazing Race" was filmed in 2002, featuring Paulo as the coordinator for the hang gliding portion of the Rio segment. (Paulo was also the hang gliding instructor for the Brazil episode of 2007's "1000 Places to See Before You Die" series.)
The view looking back toward the Tijuca forest is also quite lovely.
After suiting up, Paulo gave Debbie instructions for takeoff and a few minutes later, they were off.
The camera on the glider's wing caught Debbie's huge smile. Hang gliding is a blast!
Less than a minute later, Tom and his instructor were off too. Tom was able to take a few photos with our camera, which was firmly tied to his flightsuit.
Debbie's glider was visible below from Tom's glider ...
... as were the roofs, yards, and swimming pools of the neighborhoods we flew over.
Ahead of us was Pepino Beach (official name: São Conrado Beach) where we would be landing.
We swooped over the buildings along the beach and out over the ocean, then turned back for our landing along the beach. It was one of the greatest experiences we've ever had, and we're so glad we did it.
Here is the camera's view of Tom's flight.
We didn't get photos of ourselves landing, of course, but here's a solo flyer doing the same landing a few minutes later.
After our flights, Paulo finished narrating the DVD of Debbie's flight. It was an extra charge for the video, but it was worth every penny. The videocamera was attached to the right wing of the glider during the flight and watching it brings the experience right back to us.
Looking back between the buildings on the beach, we could see hang gliders and paragliders in the distance in front of Pedra Bonita. If you find yourself in Rio, do yourself a favor and contact Just Fly Brazil for an experience you won't forget.
It's hard to believe that this was the same gloomy beach and peak covered in clouds that we had visited just two days earlier.
Hang gliding makes us hungry, so we visited another Copacabana Beach restaurant, La Maison, where we feasted on a seafood entree for two, washed down with our new favorite diet drink, Diet Guaraná Antarctica.
After lunch, we dashed up to our hotel room to change into our swimsuits and get this gorgeous shot of Copacabana Beach.
We spent a glorious hour on the beach with rented chairs and umbrella, flagging down vendors for beverages and snacks as the mood struck. As restrooms are nearly non-existent on the beach, we had to head back into the hotel once, but we went right back out to enjoy an água de côco, which is a fresh coconut hacked open at the top and served with a long straw.
The beaches of Brazil are famous for tiny bathing suits and plenty of volleyball, both of which you can see here.
Heading back to the hotel, we passed this array of Carnaval outfits. We wondered what they were doing there.
Not long after, we heard drum music from our hotel room and looked down to see a little show. On Sundays, one side of Av. Atlantica is closed off for pedestrian traffic, and many people gathered to watch.
While we were out on the balcony, we got another photo of our favela. At one point, we watched a boy flying a kite from one of the balconies.
Our evening consisted of a popular Rio tour, starting with a dinner at a churrascaria; in our case, Churrascaria Oásis in São Conrado. We booked our tour online in advance through Gray Line, but every tour company in Rio offers this evening tour combination.
At a churrascaria, waiters come by with large skewers of cooked meats, including sausage, beef, pork, chicken, and every possible variation of those. The waiter presents the meat to you, and you choose whether or not you would like a cut. If so, the waiter slices the meat (filet mignon, lamb) or serves up a portion (chicken hearts, sausages, chicken breasts) and places it on your plate. Here, our tablemates from France (left) and Sweden (right) watch the waiter at work. In addition to the meats, a full buffet of salads, sushi, and side dishes was available. All the food was delicious and we were happily stuffed when we left.
After dinner, we went to the Plataforma Nightclub for a folkloric show. This woman performed soccer stunts onstage while the crowds were seated.
On with the show! The show consists of music and dances from each of the different cultures of Brazil, from centuries ago to today.
Here, male dancers perform capoeira. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art developed by slaves hundreds of years ago. It is a fascinating combination of dancing and fighting moves.
Dance number after dance number involved beautiful, elaborate costumes ...
... and wonderful dancing, of course.
A drum quintet performed several times during the show.
The dances and outfits became more modern as the show continued.
A Brazilian show isn't complete without Carnaval costumes.
The only improvised part of the show consists of a master of ceremonies greeting the audience, country by country. Occasionally, he would invite people from a particular country onstage to sing one of their native songs.
A large contingent from Romania sang their song from the balcony.
Part of the finale involved dancers coming out in ever more elaborate Carnaval costumes.
Just watch ...
... and enjoy ...
... and marvel at what feats of engineering these outfits must be.
And now, the big finale, with all of the dancers onstage singing a song about Brazil.
The main stage was retracted so dancers could go down onto the main floor and invite audience members to dance. This gentleman from Russia was reluctant at first, but eventually got the nerve.

This gentleman from Finland was much more obliging. The party eventually wound down and we returned to our hotel just before midnight.

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