I came to Rio for six weeks as part of a volunteer programme to mentor young entrepreneurs, but as I get ready to leave, I am very aware of just how much I have learned during my stay here. It’s fair to say that when I arrived I was more than a little wound-up (as my lovely, straight-talking teammate pointed out to me, as only a South African with Dutch, German and Greek influences can). I hadn’t thought it was that obvious but it was time to relax and go with the flow.
Buzios is a beautiful fishing town set on an ocean peninsula 105 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. My flat mate had spent a weekend there and recommended that I go check it out and so last Friday afternoon I set off with my overnight bag to Rio’s enormous bus station, Novo Rio, to get the air-conditioned coach for the three hour journey out of the city.
If you’re going to be in Rio for the Olympics, or indeed at any time, you will of course want to visit the famous attractions such as Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer and the Copacabana beach. Once you’ve done all of that, here are my top 5 tips of things you really should do before you leave.
After a bit of a grey week, wall to wall sunshine on a Sunday can mean only one thing: a day at the beach. It’s great how quickly I’ve become a regular at my particular part of the Copacabana. My chair guy waves to me as I stand waiting to cross the road and my lounger is waiting for me by the time the lights turn red. At around £1 for a days rental, plus £1 for my chilled fresh coconut, a day at the beach is very inexpensive. No sooner am I comfortable in my spot, than the beach vendors approach. I am constantly amazed at the selection of items for sale. All of the usual beach paraphernalia – glasses, hats, sarongs, jewellery, swimwear – plus selfie sticks, paintings, whistles, T-shirts, bags and even rugs. Even more amazing is the vast selection of food and drink – pies, pasties, trays of watermelon, crisps, nuts, prawn skewers, beer, cocktails, sandwiches, ice cream, acai – and even guys dragging around small charcoal BBQs to grill cheese kebabs. Everyone approaches and everyone moves along if you are not interested. It’s very polite and very friendly and that’s because people do buy and the vendors make sales and it all just works without being pushy.