By Georgia Grimond, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With almost every square inch of Rio’s heavenly coastline accounted for, the discovery of a small beach in Vidigal came as a surprise to local residents. The little bay was revealed when a house on Avenida Niemeyer was demolished in July to make way for a new cycle path. It has already been named Praia do Ciclista (Bicyclist Beach) by people on social media.
Located at the east end of Praia do Vidigal which runs under the new Joá highway, Mayor Eduardo Paes has said that he intends to create access from the bike path to the “new” beach for the public. Work will continue this year.
Though all beaches in Rio are public some are harder to reach and therefore lesser used. Praia do Vidigal is almost exclusively used by guests of the Sheraton hotel who have the easiest access to it. Residents of nearby Vidigal favela go the beach but cannot reach it via the hotel. It has been possible, but not easy, to get to Praia do Ciclista over rocks at the end of Praia do Vidigal.
“People were never in the habit of using that stretch, although access was free,” Juarez Feitosa, a Vidigal resident for over sixty years, told O Globo newspaper. “The truth is that the demolition of the mansion is great for the residents. The festivities stretched into the early hours.”
A two-storey house has existed at No 99 Avenida Niemeyer since 1983. It was built by a paulista farmer Lover Ibaixe, who is known for his collection of Salvador Dalí prints and as the host of many lavish parties. However questions arose about the legality of the house and four years after its construction, it was subject to a lawsuit regarding the right to build on the land. In 1998 the high court ruled in favor of demolishing it but the process stalled.
Ibaixe, who is now 82, only lived in the house for three years and is now based in Goiania. He was said to have donated No 99 to the Associação de Moradores do Morro do Vidigal (Vidigal Residents’ Association) in 2001 for use as an art school. His son, however, is now fighting the decision to pull it down, saying that its construction was legal and that the Vidigal Residents’ Association never accepted the gift.
Bicyclist Beach begins a series of many of Rio’s better-kept secrets. Away from the crowds and bustle of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon lies a number of smaller and more hidden bays that are a pleasure to escape to.
Tucked away in the chic neighborhood of Joá is a surfer favorite. On the weekends Joatinga bay attracts a cool, young, hip Carioca crowd, who wind their way down to the beach to play bat and ball and bathe in the clear water.
Further down the coast is the seemingly endless expanse of beach at Barra, which will host many of next year’s Olympic competitions. Although spacious and relatively empty, its shores are a hive of activity. Runners and cyclists make use of its 18km length and its sea is filled with surfers, windsurfers, bodyboarders, kitesurfers and fishermen.
Beyond lies the more rural and charming bays of Recreio, Prainha and Grumari. Though they lack some of the amenities, like showers and toilets, found on the city beaches and they can be hard to reach without a car, they are well worth the effort. Lush green jungle drops down to the white beaches and crashing waves provide some excellent surfing. A few small restaurants also serve up fresh fish and good, uncomplicated food.