The Walk Down Ipanema Beach

December 30, 2009 - 4:19 am No Comments

Had a very productive morning, adding Skype credits to my account so that we could use my laptop to affordably call Tati and American Airlines and Doug’s bank at home. Skype’s amazingly cheap for international calls, and it’s a must for any traveler with a laptop.

Craving bacon and eggs, we searched for a decent place for breakfast but couldn’t find anything. Traditional breakfast is hard to find in this area. Everyone wants to feed you meat. We had to settle for turkey wraps at Rota 66, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Ipanema.

Then we had some errands to run. Walking the streets of Ipanema are tourists who seem to be from Brazil or other parts of South America. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of American or European types walking around. The locals come in all shapes and sizes: tall and short, fat and skinny, light and dark, hairy and bare. In general, people look happy and seem friendly, and we haven’t really been scared about being mugged or pickpocketed. False sense of security? Or is it really not that bad around here?

Fish Market

Walking around in the warm humidity with my jeans and thick shirt was getting uncomfortable, so I used the rest of my US$25 American Airlines credit to buy some sweet purple shorts and a sweet black sleeveless t-shirt. I feel a hundred times better and, according to Tati, I ALMOST look like a carioca (a native of Rio).

We stopped at a travel agency to book a tour of Rio for tomorrow. Seems like a pretty good way to efficiently see all of Rio’s main attractions, including the city center, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Christ the Redeemer. We stopped for an açaí (ah-SIGH-ee) smoothie, which was awesome, and then headed to Ipanema Beach to meet Tati and her friends.

Surrounding Ipanema Beach are magnificent, jagged mountains that look like they’ve been rendered with 3D computer software. It actually looks like the mountains of Milford Sound, New Zealand quite a bit.

The sand is light brown and warm and squeaks with each step. Apparently:

Squeaking sand can be found on beaches on every continent in the world (except maybe Antarctica). Not all beaches squeak though, it only occurs when a certain types of sand (silicates, carbonate of lime, etc.), with grains at a certain size (around 300 micrometers), create layers from the wind and moisture. The sand also has to be well weathered, smooth, and fairly spherical.

The strange squeaking noise is caused from the friction of the layers rubbing against each other.

Also, polluted sand will not squeak. So if a beach stops squeaking, it’s because foreign matter has mixed in with the sand and taken away its voice. So if your beach squeaks, you know it’s clean.

Ipanema Beach is roughly divided by numbered lifeguard stands. Tati told us to meet us at #9, which is apparently where the coolest and best-looking people tend to go. Every girl wears a bikini, with bubble butts and large boobs everywhere. All the guys wear Speedos, and most (especially on gay Beach #8) are pretty jacked.

Doug and I felt a little small and pale, so we took off our shirts, slapped on some lotion and got to work. The blazing sun and humidity made things borderline uncomfortable, so we rented a giant beach umbrella and sipped coconut water and beer.

The ocean was chocolaty brown. Not sure if it’s pollution or natural, but it didn’t stop young couples and families and me from frolicking in it. The waves were coming in pretty good, throwing people all over the place. I’m not normally an ocean person, but it felt so nice.

Before heading back, Doug and I walked down to Arpoador, at the east end of Ipanema Beach, for a magnificent view. Walking the beach, Doug and I felt very safe. No suspicious looking characters anywhere.

Ipanema Beach

Tasty Bottoms

Yellow Umbrellas on Ipanema Beach

After showering and getting back into our dirty clothes, we met up with Tati and her cousin at a churrascaria (restaurant with all-you-can-eat meat) near our apartment called Carretão. DELICIOUS, and amazingly cheap. Our bill was R$269, which works out to US$39/person for filet mignon, sushi, sides, dessert, and wine.

Back at the apartment, we checked the American Airlines site and saw that the bags should have been delivered, but we still haven’t gotten them. So we fired up Skype and called them. The lady said that we should expect them tomorrow morning, and to call them back if they don’t come in.

So we headed out, in the same clothes we’ve now been wearing for three days. I have some new clothes so I get to mix it up a little bit, but Doug has been bravely roughing it with his gray t-shirt and khaki Transformer pants.

We cabbed over to Tati’s house (nice place!) and met her family and friends. They had no problem with my name but much difficulty with Doug’s. “Dug? Dog? Ahahah. Hot Dog!” We all had a few drinks and then took a bus into the city center for music and dancing. We had gotten a late start, so most of the bars around Lapa were very busy with long lines to get in. We finally settled on one, Carioca da Gema, and went inside. It was uncomfortably crowded. I’m normally not into being pushed around, but I was willing to deal with it since we are in Rio and the live samba band was great.

Now a moment to discuss the seemingly idiotic payment system used in bars and clubs and some of the restaurants in Rio. When you try to go inside, you are held up at the door by a girl or guy who figures out how many people there are in your party. Then, if they have room for you, they will give each person in the party a piece of paper with their name (they put “Gog” on Doug’s) and a list of all possible items for purchase with checkboxes. If there is a cover charge to go in, this is marked on the paper before you go inside. Then you drink. Each time you order something, you hand them your paper and they mark off one of the checkboxes next to the item you ordered. At the end of the night, you have to see the cashier to pay your bill. And if you don’t time it right, you’ll find yourself waiting in an enormous line for up to an hour, losing your buzz and killing your momentum. You cannot leave the building unless you give the person at the door your receipt showing payment.


Although the Lapa area seems like it could be a little sketchy, Doug and I felt safe again tonight. I’m sure it helps that we were hanging out with a large group of locals, and that Tati is keeping a close eye on us. Tati, by the way, rhymes with “scratchy.” That’s how she and her friends say it.

Tati has been amazing to us. She’s always available to hang out, get a drink, or grab a meal. She picks us up and takes us places, gives written instructions to our taxi drivers, and makes sure we don’t get run over when we cross the street. We are surely seeing things and going places we never would have without her. With Tati, everything in Rio has been almost too easy. Muito obrigado, Tati!

Still no bags back at the apartment. The web site no longer displayed our bag information, so we fired up Skype and called American Airlines again, asking WTF the deal was and whether or not we could get additional credit to buy new clothes since our bags have been lost for three days. No, but maybe they will give us a credit if they don’t show up tomorrow. I can’t believe American Airlines expects its customers to stay in the same clothes for three days when losing their baggage. By tomorrow, Gog will be going on his 4th day of wearing the same clothes, and he is, understandably, getting a bit irritated.

We need to be up at 7:30am tomorrow for our Rio tour. Boy, am I tired.

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