Tuesday 17 April 2012

Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Ipanema Beach
Firstly I have to say, if you ever get the chance to go to Rio. GO!

For me this was a holiday, not work, so I was able to truly relax. Rio was the was one place that had always been on my bucket list.

You hear a lot of bad things about South America, from violence, corruption, muggings, all things that we English fear in a holiday. Hence why so many of us like our little annual trips to Spain so we can eat in the same restaurants, in the same hotels.

I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, so I booked a two week trip on my own. I stayed in a hostel in Ipanema, in the heart of Rio. You soon meet some great people. Within an hour of checking in I was at the beach with an Australian, two Norwegians and an American!

Copacabana Beach
Brazil's infrastructure is undergoing a heavy overhaul in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, but as it stands the roads are nowhere near suitable for the stress they are under. As a result, the traffic is heavy. And the drivers are crazy!

From my hostel in Barao du Torre in Ipanema, I ran the three blocks (0.5km) to the beach weaving in and out of the traffic which seems to pay no attention to road signals, to be met by a simply outstanding view (top photo) of the sand and the Twin Brothers mountain.

In Rio, the pavements are made of stone mosaics. It adds a huge amount of character to what would otherwise be a regular pavement, however when it's wet it is incredibly slippery!!

The beach fronts are lined with musicians and street traders, plus beach bars selling local fruit. While on the beach, we were offered everything from aftershave and necklaces to marijuana and cocaine!

Now on the beach front, I simply followed the walkway along the beach, through Parque Garota de Ipanema which brings you out on the world famous Copacabana Beach, arguably the most famous piece of sand on earth. 1.8km from Hostel to this point.

Christ the Redeemer - (taken on my phone)
The weather is very unpredictable, but when it's good it is excellent. By 11am each day the temperature was well in the 30Cs but a dry heat. This was in December so not quite peak summer time where temperatures can hit the 40Cs around Carnival time.

Copacabana Beach is like one big gym, lined with football pitches, volleyball courts, surfers, gym apparatus and a sea of runners and cyclists. The footpath along the beach has distance markers at 400m intervals from end to end. In total the beach is exactly 4km long.

The roads adjacent to the beaches in Rio are closed every Sunday, so I would say if you only want to run once, try and save it for then.

On a Sunday, as the roads close there is a huge market full of local traders, you can definitely pick up a Rolex or an Omega for around £2, although by the time you get back to your hostel/hotel it will probably have stopped working!

In terms of safety, Rio is definitely improving but there are still certain areas where you need to use your common sense when running.

I would advise not taking your ipod/mp3 player, simply as it is not uncommon for tourists, or as the locals call them 'gringos' to get mugged/robbed. There is so much noise from the beaches and the roads that you would struggle to hear the music anyway.

I would advise just memorising the name of your block and a landmark on the corner, that way should you forget your address you have a way of retracing your journey back to your hotel.

There is a lot of poverty in Rio with the surrounding favelas in Lapa (home to an amazing  all-night street party every Friday Saturday & Sunday night) especially one of the worst hit. As a result, barely any of the locals , taxi drivers and shop employees speak English, so if you get lost you are on your own!

You can try your luck by asking "Fala Ingles?" which translates roughly to "Do you speak English?", but I wouldn't hold your breath!
Despite the surrounding mountains, the beach walkways are completely flat so it is a really enjoyable terrain to run on.

For my route I simply ran from one end to the other and back - 8km of jaw-dropping views of Sugarloaf Mountain, the beach, local street traders and musicians.

It may seem rather dull to simply run for 4km and then turn around and come back, but trust me it is anything but.

In total this route was 11.8km but the joy of it is you can make it as long or short as you like by simply opting not to travel from end to end of Copacabana.

This is route not about the run, but about the environment and surroundings, plus the vibrant atmosphere that is present wherever you go in Rio.

Plus you want to save your energy for some Samba dancing in the local bars and clubs!

Follow me on Twitter @fairboyruns

Start - Ipanema Beach
Journey - Head along the beach away from the Twin Brothers, 1.3km to reach the Park which seperates Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
4km walkway from end to end of the beach. You will reach the Lima district at the far end which is when you simply turn around.

Finish - Ipanema Beach
Views of Rio and Sugarloaf Mountain from Christ the Redeemer

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