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The Thrilling Flight from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro

Flying between international airports—GRU in São Paulo and Galeão in Rio de Janeiro—would have been a chore because they are both located far, far away from the city. However, flying from Congonhas to Santo Dumont is a treat, never mind these two smaller airports are old, crowded and barely have landing strips.

We left São Paulo at a decent hour, no 5 a.m. flight this time. Twenty minutes and a 40-real taxi ride later, we were standing in the GOL Airlines check-in queue. “And goooaaaal!” Feng whispered, somehow a soccer fan despite being born in China and raised in Canada, two countries that excel at… well, other sports, just not soccer.

The plane tickets were $65 each ($50 for Mark), saving us a six-hour bus trip. I wish domestic flights were as cheap in Canada…

GOL employees were super efficient despite the long queue of passengers heading to dozens of Brazilian cities I had never heard of. We waited for a while in the historical central hall, where a giant, old-fashioned air-con unit was attempting to cool off an area way too large to even feel the cold, dusty breeze.

Ground level, gate 19. We took the shuttle bus to the aircraft and somehow, all passengers fit in. I’d rather board using stairs than walking through a jetway bridge—it feels deliciously old-fashioned.

Congonhas’ runways are short, slippery and dangerously close to city buildings. What came first, the airport or the neighbourhood? No idea but I wouldn’t want to live so close to Brazil’s most dangerous landing strip, it’s an accident waiting to happ—oh, wait, crashes did happen.

Better not think about them now.

We held our breath. The plane took off and rose over São Paulo, one of the largest agglomerations worldwide. It just doesn’t end, there are buildings, towers and roads everywhere you look.

Less than an hour later, I spotted the green mountains and hills of Rio de Janeiro.

We got closer and closer.

“I see the Corcovado!”

“Hey, that’s the Maracanã Stadium!”

“Look, the Pão de Açúcar!”

“Botafogo beach!”

“The favelas!”

“The Rio-Niterói Bridge!”

“I’m… I’m getting dizzy,” Feng muttered.

Yeah, amazing view, but a bumpy flight. We were getting closer and closer to the sea, to the ground and…

The plane touched down the runway I hadn’t even seen.

In Brazil, planes don’t land, they bounce several times and eventually stop. Santo Dumont’s runway is also notoriously short, so more bouncing than usual was apparently needed.

“Can you imagine the pilot has to do it all over again, probably several times a day?”

Great view, though. Don’t splurge on an helicopter tour over the Sugar Loaf, just take any domestic flight from Santo Dumont!

Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Taking off in Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Taking off in Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Taking off in Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Taking off in Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Taking off in Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Taking off in Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above São Paulo
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Landing in Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Landing in Rio de Janeiro
Flying above Rio de Janeiro
Landing in Rio de Janeiro

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