If you read my last post, you know how much I loved São Paulo. But after two weeks of average weather in a large city, I was craving the beach.
The sun was shining when we arrived in Rio de Janeiro and our hostel was one street back from Ipanema beach. The first morning there, we got up at 6 am to go for a swim while the sun rose. The beach, usually crowded and hectic, was mostly empty, the sea was already warm, and the famous Dois Irmãos mountains looked majestic in the morning light. It was perfect.
While in Rio my purpose was to film my documentary, which was wonderful and I met some incredibly interesting people. I won’t elaborate further on my film but I can’t wait to share it with you later this year!
In my spare time, I ticked a lot off my bucket list:
- Sugar Loaf mountain, which has amazing 360° views of the city.
- Christ the Redeemer. The iconic statue surprised me, for some reason I thought the statue was an enormous, looming figure overshadowing Rio. It was far smaller than anticipated, but still awesome nonetheless.
- Escadaria Selarón, the most beautiful tiled steps I’ve ever seen.
- Copacabana beach is a dream and I bought a lot of bikinis at the night markets.
- Swam and chilled amongst the many bright umbrellas and Brazilian bums at Ipanema beach, and watched the sunset from Pedra do Arpoador which was beautiful. I was a little distracted by a family of cats that lived in a cave near our spot on the rock. Kittens + sunset over Ipanema beach = my ideal situation.
- Watched the Festival of Yemanjá, goddess of the sea, which was so special. With lots of music and dancing, people dressed in white offer gifts of flowers to the sea.
Other than filming and interviewing interesting people, the limited time I spent on the beach was a highlight for me. During the day Ipanema and Copacabana are far from relaxing, with vendors constantly walking past yelling ‘AGUA!’ or ‘CERVEJA!’ When we rejected a man selling AÇAI!, he smirked and quietly said ‘…marijuana?’ Because obviously if you don’t want a smoothie bowl, the next best thing is some dank kush. We had our own chant of ‘Nao. Nao. Nao.’, meaning ‘no’, one of the few Portuguese words I mastered.
Looking at this photo alone, it looks like paradise! And it is. Ipanema beach is iconic, and wading through the warm water while sipping agua de coco is a dream come true.
But shortly after taking this photo, as I sunbathed on the beach, a little girl no older than 5 years old stood on the edge of my sarong with a boy, who looked around 8. They were selling chewing gum. I told them I had no money left, I had spent my spare reals on my coconut water and had nothing to offer them. This little girl didn’t move and kept repeating herself in Portuguese. Meanwhile, the boy spotted my friend’s readings and highlighters sitting on her sarong. His face lit up, he abandoned his sale, settled in beside me and quickly began to highlight the title of her reading. The girl remained determined and kept repeating herself in Portuguese.
Finally, I clicked, this little girl was pointing at my coconut. I handed it to her and without another word, she took a long, frantic chug and wandered off down the beach with it. The boy was so into his colouring that it took him a while to notice his companion had left. He scrambled after her and they had a short squabble over the coconut. The girl won.
This quick exchange brought me back down to earth. I felt so guilty for enjoying myself and relaxing, while for whatever reason, these children were forced to sell goods to beachgoers on Rios most famous beach. My heart was heavy but I’m so grateful I met this little girl, she made me more determined to share important stories like hers.
Rio de Janeiro itself was so much more than I expected, and I can’t wait to go back. Before my trip, I had heard of people getting their necklaces pulled straight from their necks and belongings getting stolen while people spent time on the beach. I took precautions, such as not wearing jewellery and taking the bare minimum to the beach (no pun intended), and again, not once did I feel unsafe. Of course, there are bad people anywhere you go in the world, but for me, it’s simply about realising that people are just living their usual lives in this place. The minute you accept it’s not everyone’s sole purpose to harm you, you can relax. At least that was my mindset anyway. The one downside to spending most of my time in the city meant I didn’t get to see much wildlife, I was so keen on hanging with some sloths and toucans. All the more reason to go back one day!