One of the first things we do when we arrive at a new destination is explore our neighbourhood. Despite having done the long haul down to Rio de Janeiro from Costa Rica via Miami, it didn’t take us long to get out the door and down to the famous Ipanema beach.
Our Ipanema apartment is just two blocks from the beach, so a stroll along the gorgeous stretch of sand known as Praia de Ipanema (Ipanema Beach) was our first task and a duty we decided we would take seriously each day.
The weather has not been on our side this trip with locals in nearly every place we’ve stayed telling us that the grey skies and rain that welcomed us were uncharacteristic for this time of year. Right. Rio’s been no exception with mist shrouding the striking Dois Irmãos peaks overlooking Praia de Leblon – the beach adjoining Ipanema – from the day we arrived.
Miraculously, the weather doesn’t seem to have any affect on the ability of Cariocas, as Rio’s locals are called, to enjoy themselves. Nor does it appear to disrupt their daily routines. In other cities, locals would be retreating to coffee shops and pubs.
Here in Ipanema, and neighbouring Leblon and Copacabana, Cariocas continue to walk, jog, rollerblade, cycle, skateboard, exercise, eat, drink, read, and even dance on the bike track and black and white paved footpath that runs beside the beach.
Down on the sand, they’re playing volleyball, racket ball and soccer (football), and sunbathing, flirting and selling stuff. And in the sea, they’re swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, and the kids are fooling around.
Each day we see the same locals jogging down to the beach in a wetsuit with a surfboard under their arms, walking their dogs, reading a newspaper as they sip a fresh sucos (fruit juices) or coconut juice, snoozing on a tiled bench, or simply sitting and soaking up a little sun as they take in the scene.
Praia de Ipanema, is, like most Rio beaches, marked by handily numbered Postos housing toilets, police and lifeguards. Practicalities aside, the Postos also define and delineate the stretches of sand and the locals who populate them, giving each space of beach a personality all its own.
Our beach is identified by Posto 9, and while we’re told its character was decidedly counter-culture from the 1970s to 1990s, these days it seems to attract all sorts, from elderly teams of trim, tanned volleyballers to skinny favela kids kicking a soccer ball around, making the people-watching absolutely engrossing.
Grey skies? Well, if the weather doesn’t bother the locals, we’re not going to let it worry us.