Destination Rio de Janeiro, the first travel to the former capital of Brazil.
Copacabana Beach was visited for the second time, we witnessed flower offerings to the goddess of the Oceans.
Ipanema Beach, Posto 9. At about 5 PM, we decided to return to the pousada. We walked along the long boulevard, parallel to Ipanema beach. It was still pretty warm; the sun was still able to burn our bare skin. We entered the Garota de Ipanema Park again, and left it at the corner of Forte Copacabana. We were walking at random, since we had no map with us. That weekend we really were in need of a map, since we were lost various times, the streets resembled each other. Besides, many street names are too long to remember easily. No street names like ‘Highway’, or ‘Hofplein’, or ‘Damrak’. But… ‘Bulhões Rua de Carvalho’, ‘Rua General Espirito Santo Cardoso, “Rua Senador Bernardo Monteiro. Just to give few examples. Some friends of mine already joked that a street should be named after me, with my five names. Nice friends…
Less than an hour later, we arrived at the pousada. We were about to ring the bell, that would disturb the receptionist’s dog-sleep, to have the electronic gate opened for us. Another five travel companions were about to leave, to start their discovery of Rio de Janeiro. They had spent their time in their rooms, while we spent the day at Ipanema Beach. The five invited me to join them. I was not eager to spend the rest of the night in my room, and I joined them. I only had met them briefly in the bus, now e had the opportunity to get acquainted with each other. Their names were Deborah, Joana, Rodrigo, Pedro, and Bernardo. They studied Literature, Philosophy, and Geography, different from Library Science and Biology, the faculties that were more familiar to me. I had observed Joana inside the bus, as an avid photographer. It was as if she had started some kind of competition with me: who could take more photographs. She was married to a Spaniard, and she was teaching Literature. Deborah quickly lost her shyness to me, and started an animated conversation with my. In Portuguese. The long-haired brunette was studying Geography, but is also working as a civil servant.
I already had visited Copacabana Beach, and therefore, I became their guide. The route to the beach was really simple: a long straight road perpendicular to the beach. The road was frequently interrupted by intersections that were protected with traffic lights. Sometimes, we had to wait a while before we were able to cross a street safely. There was a pedestrian light, but according a good Brazilian tradition, you will not wait for it to jump to green. Less than twenty minutes later, we were at the beach. The two ladies wanted to go left, the guys wanted to turn right. I kept myself neutral in this discussion. The solution was that we all turned… LEFT. We walked on the boulevard, along many kiosks and bars. The bars were surrounded by a number of plastic chairs and tables. Red or yellow, depending on the beer supplier. Brahma red, Skol Yellow. Sometimes there was Antarctica blue, and rarely green… from Heineken. Most of the seats were occupied by tourists. I noticed American elderly, who loudly showed how much joy they had together. Bystanders gaped at them. And so we did.
A circle of flowers, honoring Iemanjá…
The sun lost its strength, and neared the horizon. Better: the earth rotated bit by bit so it looks as if the sun is coming down. Now it is scientifically correct. But linguistically, the sun is still the moving factor. The rising sun, the setting sun. The warm afternoon rays were reflected by the row of hotels along Copacabana. Few hotel façades had their Christmas lights already installed and lit. The lights still seemed weak due to the remaining daylight. One hotel had an illuminated decoration of two champagne flutes moving towards each other. For New Year. Another hotel had put a huge Santa in football uniform on the balcony. And him behind a giant football. A weird combination, a sportive Santa. A sharp contrast to the prevailing image of a Santa with a huge beer belly and chubby cheeks. A striking fact, since the Santa historically is a copy from the European Saint Nicholas, who was not that fat. An invisible link? Our prejudice against fat Americans and a fat Santa?
There were only few people on the boulevard and on the beach. However, we noticed a group of women on the beach. The majority of them wore bright clothes. They were grouped around a large circle of flowers in the beach sand. The mostly yellow flowers – I noticed a lot of gladioli – were put in the sand. The women stood around it, and held each other’s hands. One of them sprinkled water as she walked along the circle of women. A peculiar ritual. As a coincidence, it was December 8, the day of the goddess Iemanja in São Paulo. So what, we are in Rio! It is not inconceivable that this group of women had arrived from São Paulo… Iemanjá, the goddess of the ocean, Our Lady of Glory as the Catholic equivalent. The Catholic equivalent was introduced when the slaves were forbidden to practice their native religions. Therefore, as their response, the slaves linked their gods to Catholic saints. A little further away, a woman stood at the shoreline. She had a bunch of white roses in her hand. She threw the roses in the water, one by one, while muttering something. All other beach walkers kept respectful distance from her.
It already became dark. The row of lanterns that follow the long curve of Copacabana and Leme were ignited, forming a long string of white lights in the blue-black sky. It was about time to return, and we walked back towards the fortress. We crossed the cool, loose sand and walked along the shoreline. It was low tide; small waves slightly touched the beach, their gray-white heads disappearing quickly. None of us dared to walk barefoot in the cold ocean water. We did not walk, but strolled. We had plenty of time. We chatted, and we kept silent. To absorb the impressions of the soft murmur of the sea. A soothing rhythm, a soothing feeling. At the end of Copacabana, we crossed the loose sand again. We went looking for a bar where we could have some drinks. There were numerous restaurants with large terraces along the boulevard. Most terraces were full of people. No surprise. It was Friday, the start of the weekend.
The terraces were occupied by local residents and tourists. One of the waiters had noticed our group and motioned us. We had to wait about ten minutes before a table became available. Another waiter cleared the table routinely. We collected five seats and sat down. Waiter number three arrived with a large tray with a dozen dishes of hot and cold snacks: petiscos. Without asking he started to put the dishes on our table. Immediately, Joana protested fiercely, she quickly understood his intention. She asked waiter three with a sharp voice whether he had understood that we had ordered these petiscos. He nodded routinely. She summoned him to remove that ‘junk’ immediately. He growled, but cleared the dishes again, and vanished silently. Unsuspecting (foreign) tourists would think that he had been misunderstood, would feel embarrassed, and would accept these petiscos. And to notice, some hours later, that the total amount on his bill had increased with eleven reais or more.
We limited ourselves by ordering a maximum of two beers or soft drinks each. We had no intention to get drunk, and to pay too much. We stayed a little longer to chat a little more, without ordering anything more. One of the waiters was watching us disapprovingly. His mood was approaching a thunderstorm, I noticed. Our group kept a sunny mood, and ignored his bad mood. It was almost ten PM, when we left this bar. The waiters kept silent, and watched us leaving, without saying goodbye. We later joked about them. A few hundred meters further, we stopped at a local supermarket: Zona Sul. Along the way we stopped at a local branch of Zona Sul, a small supermarket. We bought some water, bread, cold cuts, and soft drinks, for the remainder of the night, and for the next day. One of the guys really got hungry, and the other two guys also could use some snack. We had to looking around for a snack bar. We asked around, asked bystanders, we crisscrossed Copacabana and Ipanema. Eventually, a snack bar was found, and it was still open. The guys ordered some hamburgers. It was about time to return to the pousada. Without any map, it was impossible to find the shortest way back. It was already 1 AM when we finally traced our pousada.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2007, 2015