I’ve always been desperate to visit Rio and, along with the Amazon, it has been the main draw for me to South America. We’ve all seen images of seemingly endless stretches of sand, lapped by turquoise waters; contrasted by dark green jungle covered mountains in the distance – it sounds pretty tranquil, right?
Rio is home to several stunning beaches and arguably two of the most famous stretches of sand in the world: Copacabana and Ipanema. So coming off our long international flight we decided to leave sightseeing for another day and head straight for some much-needed R&R – we got neither.
Relaxing on the beach Brazilian style
It turns out that Brazilians look at beach life in an entirely different light to most. Rather than seeing it as a somewhere to sunbathe, read a book and chill; the beach is their playground, marketplace and place to party.
As we approached Copacabana we first came to the black-and-white swirling, mosaic promenade that runs the length of both beaches, separating the road from the sand. Having navigated past the rollerbladers, cyclists and skateboarders we came to an outdoor gym where toned Brazilians were perfecting their already ripped physiques. Beyond this, lie the volleyball courts and football pitches, which were all being used with frenetic intensity.
Finally, you hit the belt of contented people at the front of the beach. Samba music plays out from hand-held speakers, the smell of charcoal BBQ’s and weed smoke fills the air. The energy is palpable and it epitomises what life in Rio is all about – having fun.
In true British fashion, we lay our towels down and reach for our Kindles. I hadn’t read one sentence before an enthusiastic local came over to sell us a couple of incredibly strong Caiprinhas, which we gladly accepted. Moments later someone else appears with some barbecued prawns, and someone else selling corn-on-the-cob. It was like sitting in Yo Sushi with a continuous conveyor belt of food and drink. But it goes far beyond that, this part of the beach is a one-stop-shop for everything from hats to hair-braids; bikinis to bags – and of course there is also a smorgasbord of illicit substances on offer too.
The other distraction on the beach in Rio is the beauty of the people. The bronzed men wear unnecessarily small trunks; and whilst the women can’t be topless, not much is left to the imagination. There really is nowhere else that will make you feel quite so pale and out of shape as Copocabana or Ipanema.
Aesthetics aside, what’s most striking is how comfortable everyone is in their own skin – fat, thin; old, young; it doesn’t matter. No one has any inhibitions, which is a breath of fresh air from the insecurities about image we have in the UK these days.
Life at the beach in Rio is many things – but one thing that it is not is peaceful.