Our first beach experience was near Pao de Azucar, the beach called Praia Vermella (The Red Beach). It was within walking distance from our hostel in Botafogo and we had heard it was small, quiet and lovely, so we thought we’d start our beach hopping with that.
And oh, happy we were we did! It felt so good being there, not only because it was quiet and not crowded, but it had such a unique feel about it…. It was surrounded by hills and the sand was unlike any others we’ve seen (I know this is the 237th time I say this, but it’s really true) it looked and felt like smashed quartz and it did not stick to our skin at all. What else could you desire from sand?:)
The next beach we checked out was Ipanema beach, the locals’ favorite and the one everyone seemed to be going crazy about. We wanted to see what was so special about it, and we soon found out: 1USD for using the public toilet, plenty of gringos (foreigners) around and also plenty of thieves waiting only for one moment of carelessness to part you from your valuables.
Unfortunately we had first hand experience with theft. Except for Boca’s little camera, we did not take any other valuables or important documents with us to the beach; we just had some cash we needed for the day. Silly, careless and not thinking too much, we kept all of it in one of Boca’s pouches… and at some point discovered the pouch was no more. It had simply dissapeared and we had no idea when and how it had happened. We were upset at first and beat ourselves up for being so careless despite knowing better. Boca was the most upset as she had been carrying that pouch with her everyhwere for the past five years and it had a strong sentimental value for her. But as we had learned so well during our development over the past 2 years, and especially over the past 5 months, every experience we have carries with it a lesson, so after analysing what we had to learn from this we were ready to let go of the beating ourselves up and of the things we had lost… and after a 20 minutes walk on the beach, Boca was ready to let go of her pouch as well :).
The next thing to worry about was how we were going to get back home with literally no penny in our pocket. We were looking at a two hours walk or more. We were starving and tired and walking two hours was the last thing we wanted to do… but did we have a choice?? As we were leaving the beach I was holding the last piece of our food (a pack of waffles) in my hand. We passed by this fella’ lying on the sand… he was gathering empty cans to take for recycling and he seemed tired and hungy as well. He looked at us and asked for the waffles… we all looked at the man, then looked at each other and easily recognised we all had the same look on our faces, the same decision in our eyes. I handed the man the walfes. He grabbed the pack and starting gulping them up. We swallowed… nothing (as there was nothing left for us to swallow), but felt our hearts growing nevertheless, being certain we had done the right thing.
As we stepped on the side walk and put our slippers on I saw some things shinning near our feet. We gathered around 50 cents from the floor. Not nearly enough to pay for our bus fare home (7.50 Reais for the 3 of us), but a lovely confirmation that we had indeed done the right thing.
We started on the way home still able to crack jokes about the day and what had just happened, and at some point saw two police men in front of us, standing by their car and scrutinizing the surroundings. We instantly had an image in our mind of being escorted back to the hostel in a police car, and we could not contain our giggles. We kind of suspected they could not leave their post, but thought of asking for some help anyway, as we’ve been taught well by our parents that there ain’t no harm in asking.
So I approached the two men and in broken Portuguese I explained to them what had happened at the beach, that we have no penny in our pocket and needed to make our way back to Botafogo. They kept nodding and did not flinch when they heard of the theft, as if they were used to hearing this a million times a day. After describing our situation I asked if they could tell us what the shortest way to walk home was. Without thinking much, one of the policemen stepped right in the middle of traffic (obvioulsy bringing it to a sudden halt) and stopped a bus right there, in the middle of the very busy road. He asked the driver if he was going to Botafogo, then signaled us to get on the bus. He instructed the driver to take us to the hostel, bid us goodbye, got back to the sidewalk and let traffic continue its course. It took us a while to process what had just happened, but only a second to start feeling like VIPs: all the people on the bus were staring at the 3 gringos who got a free bus ride home after the police had brought the traffic to a halt in the process. That’s probably not something one gets to see every day… We suspect, at least.
It’s quite easy to understand why we never felt the need to go back to Ipanema after that. In all honesty, we didn’t really see what was so special about it and we had no desire to return to the crowd there. We instead went to finally check out the once famous Copacabana beach and found out we liked it much more than Ipanema. This came as a surprise, as pretty much all the other travelers we had met had told us Copa was not nearly as good as Ipanema these days and they didn’t enjoy it there at all. We never really understood why, but we didn’t bother much about figuring that out and just enjoyed being there instead.
Our favorite activities there (besides lying under the sun with a good book in our hands) were: playing beach volleyball, doing some excellent people watching, walking the whole length of the beach after sunset and watching the cariocas and gringos playing sports, chilling with a beer or caipirinha, talking and laughing out loud, listening to live music and singing along too. They were awesome days and evenings, they were!
We checked out three other beaches: Leblon, a very posh beach in a very posh part of Rio. We found the people there to be very different, more high class and much more fit as well. It was so interesting to observe the difference! The other beach was Flamengo, just for a morning, it seemed much more chillaxed and we really enjoyed it. Lastly there was Leme, just before Copacabana beach. We went there during the Military World Cup Games, so the beach was studded with fit military men from all over the world. Not the typical view for sure :D, but visitors aside we still preferred Copa.
In conclusion, there is definitely no scarcity of beaches in Rio de Janeiro! They are not the kind you find in Thailand, but they are pretty impressive for beaches within a metropolis 🙂
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