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Dec 09

Pipas

Last Sunday was a funny kind of day – it started off rather dull and hazy, then later on the cloud cleared and it turned into a gorgeous sunny day. This suited me perfectly as I had to work during the morning and the only thing worse than having to work on a Sunday is having to work on a sunny Sunday!

With the work (and clouds) out of the way, I went up onto the roof to enjoy the sunshine. When I got up there I found that I was not the only one enjoying the afternoon sun.

pipa-kite-rio

This is the archetypal kite design in Rio – paper stretched over a simple frame, a long tail and a single line.

 

These kites, known in Brazil as pipas, are really popular, especially in the favelas.

pipa-pao-de-açucar

A lone pipa flying over the Santo Amaro favela, with the Pão de Açúcar in the background.

 

You hear a lot of sensationalist talk about how kids are paid to use their pipas to help the traficantes (drug dealers), either as a warning sign (kids stop flying their kites when the police enter the favela to alert the dealers) or as advertising (kids flying their kites when a new drug shipment arrives). I’m not saying those things never happen, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of kids just like flying kites.

pipa-kite-moon

The moon!

 

Anyone who has read The Kite Runner will be aware of the practice of putting crushed glass on the strings so that kites can do battle. Here in Brazil the glass thread is called Cerol and poses a serious hazard to people on bikes and motorbikes. Back in 2007 a 9 year old boy was killed when he was riding his bike and was caught around the neck. In fact it is such a problem here that many motorbikes are fitted with an antena anti-cerol - an extendible protector which looks like a car aerial with a small hook at the top.

antena-anti-cerol

When you see the horrible injuries people have suffered because of the cerol, you can see why the antenas anti-cerol are so popular. image source

 

Anyway, back to my relaxing Sunday on the roof. I had seen these pipas many times from a distance, flying above the nearby Santo Amaro favela, but whoever was flying this one was very nearby so I got a really good view of the kite as it moved through the air.

Seeing that there is only one string, it was amazing how much control the person in charge of the string seemed to have. At one point they let out what must have been a couple of hundred metres of line and despite the massive bow in the line, they were still moving it this way and that with sporadic, and no doubt expert, yanks.

pipa-kite-rio

 

The nice thing about hanging out in Rio with a camera is that there always seems to be something interesting around the corner. As I snapped away at the kite, a massive vulture swooped past the moon, flapping around as it searched for a thermal.

urubu-lua-vulture-moon

This urubu (Black Vulture) was kind enough to line up with the moon for me.

 

A few minutes later this Fragata (Frigate bird) flew by.

fragata-passaro-frigate-bird

Excuse my bird nerdery, but these are rather elegant aren’t they? If you ever see them down near the ground you’ll realise that they are also massive! (wingspan 2.2 metres, 7.5 feet)

 

Sitting out in the sun, sipping my newly discovered favourite drink (more on this soon) and watching the kite and various birds flying around, I found myself reflecting that life could be a lot worse.

 

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4 comments

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  1. The Gritty Poet

    The wingspan of 7.5 feet on the Frigate bird is amazing, which makes this ever the more impressive:
    top-10-tallest-players-in-nba-history.html
    This must make dating life quite challenging, probably hard to find a bird that measures up (yes, I went there).

    1. tomlemes

      Ha! I have never heard of any of those guys, but that last picture of Manute Bol (even if staged) is brilliant! The fact that the tallest player was ‘just’ 7’7″, makes Robert Wadlow (at 8’11″) even more unbelievable!

  2. Alex

    Tom, it’s time you start selling your fotos to National Geographic! Love the one with the favela and Pão de Açúcar AND the kite !

    1. tomlemes

      Aw shucks! That’s nice Alex, thanks :) Sadly I am at enthusiastic amateur level only, but Rio makes me look good! :D

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