Sunday, 4 February 2007

Beach life

After yet another rainy week, the cariocas have enjoyed this weekend at the beach.

The beach scene in Rio might be at first sight like that seen in many resorts around the globe, but one has to observe carefully.

On a sunny weekend day, like yesterday and today, thousand of people would crowd every inch of sand. There is no such concept as personal space, the only rule is that there must be enough space to lie your pareo/sarong/towel on the sand, or alternatively, to place your deck chair.
If a sarong (=longish piece of light fabric used to lie on the sand, called canga here) is your choice, then you must follow a small ritual before finally placing it on the sand: you produce a small mound of sand (by kicking it and the patting it down with your feet in the shape of a soft pyramid, let's say). This will serve to rest your head. For extra comfort, you may dig out a little sand, about 50cm away from the mound, and will house your bum.
After all this, you're ready to lie your canga on top of the mound, and if you have an sunshade (big umbrella) you proceed to place it, and only now, remove your clothes gracefully, and place them in the arms of the umbrella, so that they don't touch the ground.
A couple of notes most be made:
1. Towels are absolutely reserved for people that are tourists or want to look like such.
2. Cangas are strictly forbidden for men, who must lie directly on the hot sand.

The Chair option seems more democratic.

You need not bring anything to the beach apart from your swimwear (mind you: they are also on sale by ambulant sellers) and a handful of cash.
The beach is lined with small huts, that have chairs and umbrellas for rent, apart from having some drinks and most importantly coconut water.
If you don't fancy coconut water and get thirsty, worry not, since every 5 seconds there's a guy passing by, offering anything, from water to beer.
There is ice cream, fruit, sandwiches, pastries, but the most popular of all the things on offer is the biscoito Globo, which comes in sweet or savoury, and it is a baked snack in the shape of a doughnut (see photos), made out of mandioca flour again. They are very light, and taste of air!

Today we went to Ipanema beach, which is tactfully divided into zones. You must know their association, since one section is for flirting, the next is for gays, the following for smoking marihuana, the next for families with kids, and you wouldn't want to be in the wrong part of the beach.

It was so hot that I didn't even mind how strong the sea was and I went to swim.
While I was in, the waves started getting bigger and stronger, and I found myself once being toppled by one of them...before I knew it I was already floating helplessly....
I struggled to secure my bikini bottoms in their place while trying to reach the shore, and stay on my feet once there. I got back to my canga with the minimum shame.

When we were about to leave , people started cheering -and it wasn't even the sun set yet-.
It was 6 dolphins that were visible from the shore, and were doing their usual trick of going in and out, curving their fishy bodies and showing off their beautiful fins.

All in all, a very different experience to the beaches I was used to.

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