One of the many things you can experience in Rio is the beaches and the colorful life which surrounds them. At first glance the big beaches are not attractive at all because they are surrounded by many misconceptions and you can’t enjoy them fully.
“It is prettier in the photos” was what I thought before setting my foot on a beach. Even at a distance of a few blocks you can feel it is not true. And once you step on the sand all doubts surely vanish. It is just like in the photos – a huge beach, wide shoreline, the concrete silhouettes of hundreds of buildings, hills with favelas, authentically Rio. Copacabana is uniquely Copacabana. Ipanema is uniquely Ipanema.
It is amazing that on the sand itself there are only wooden huts, from which you can rent umbrellas and chairs. The bars are along the seaside alley. The space is enough and it is not taken over by restaurants. Also, there are no areas where expensive umbrellas are sticking out of the sand. If you need an umbrella, it is brought out for you and fixed into the sand wherever you’d like. We won’t compare the prices to those of places with two handfuls of sand and a huge hotel in the back. Everything is affordable to the people, the Cariocas and the foreigners.
We were warned to avoid some parts of the beach, mainly those in one end of Copacabana, next to the favela. We took a walk to that part and found out that, while in places there are more poor people, that doesn’t mean that you get mugged immediately. We were especially glad that we looked like locals (at least that is what one Carioca told us) and only the camera and the map could have given us away. We passed through darker and more secluded places and nothing much happened.
Whatever you need on the beach, you can get it within 5 minutes. A hundred sellers offer cold beer and water at affordable prices. They make caipirinha, roast cheese on demand, carry swimsuits for every taste and style, towels, sunglasses, jewelry, shrimp on a stick…I missed half the things. They manage to be somehow inconspicuous and materialize at your side only if you need them. Also, they always find the time to talk with their clients, even if when there is a language barrier.
We awaited the sunset on Ipanema beach while the hill on the opposite side, sheltering a huge favela, added beauty to the view.
Besides people like us who enjoyed the view and wondered what to photograph next, there were a lot of other groups, united by interest. You pass through the area of the gay community, and then there are the people who like smoking weed. Of course, no one bothers you unless you show interest. There was a huge crowd of people who played with soccer balls and made quite the view, a hundred balls jumping in different moments over the heads of several hundred people.
We are proud to say that we passed on foot through both beaches on our way home. It is 6-kilometer walk and every meter was worth it. We didn’t take photos or videos, some memories remain without digital copies. We are moving on, right after we finish our caipirinhas.