We dedicated our second day in Rio to walking along the massive beaches of the city. Copacabana is probably the most famous beach in the world. Ipanema, on the other hand, became widely known by the song “The Girl from Ipanema” (“Garota de Ipanema”) written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes.
Over the years, it has become an icon of Rio, representing the magnificence and splendor of the metropolis. A Brazilian friend told us that Copacabana was a place where the human drive for perfection of the body reached its highest standards, and there we should expect to see the sexiest people in Brazil. With anticipation and… a small dose of insecurity… we put on our bathing suits, and headed off to confront the elite of the elite.
What we encountered was not at all what we’ve imagined. First of all, people seemed pretty average, not a trace of ladies sunbathing topless (such a common view nowadays at European beaches) no muscular lifeguards, no extraordinary beauty whatsoever… just some tourists, parents with kids, fisherman… Frankly, the only place where someone seemed to care a bit more about their “beach image” was the gay section of Ipanema.
Instead we saw a lot of things that we did not expect at all. At Copacabana, large areas of the ocean were so contaminated with floating rubbish, that it was impossible to bath there. Still some determined swimmers were brave enough to literally paddle through the dirty water with their arms. In the middle of Ipanema, we also saw a large digger distributing some fresh sand over an old layer of the beach.
Despite of that, Ipanema and Copacabana are beautiful and quite unique. Thanks to their location, it is not just the usual plain horizon that you see from the shore. There are several islands and mountains that decorate the vast blue ocean, and it is an incredible view.
I have to admit, that I liked Ipanema more than Copacabana. I don’t know why exactly, but the water was amazing, extremely clean. It had a lovely deep color and strong waves, that would drug you in and spin you over if you were not careful enough. We walked along the beach, up to the point where the Lagoa Rodrigo de Feiras flows into the ocean. I saw several sardines left on the sand by the strong current. They were jumping hopelessly. I picked them up and threw them back into the sea!
When the sun went down, Copacabana changed completely. It felt like everyone was there. The bars filled up with people and music. The beach was illuminated, and the sand turned into a perfect ground to practice all kinds of sports. I cannot tell how many people were playing football, volleyball or just working out in open-air gyms that night. On the promenade, people would ride bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, or simply run or walk.
That is when we were proved that Cariocas (the Portuguese name for native inhabitants of Rio) are indeed concerned about their body shape and fitness. I was also impressed, how they managed to make the best of the beach, and I felt a bit jealous, that we don’t do it back home in Barcelona.