Arpoador. In Portuguese, it means "Harpoon thrower". In the 16th and 17th centuries, this rock was where the indigenous people of Brazil and the Portuguese settlers would harpoon whales. Today it is THE spot to view the famous South Atlantic Sunsets in Rio.
We arrived well in time for the 6.45 pm sunset, found a good spot, and perched uncomfortably on the hard rock. The husband went to the very edge of the rock to guarantee unobstructed views. Y plugged in her Airpods and immersed herself in a musical world. Ads, irritated that we were a full 30 minutes early for the big event, pulled out his phone as well.
I elected to people-watch. Next to us, a young couple was cootchie-cooing inside a warm blanket. A little ahead, another couple was fiddling with some complicated pieces of equipment to get the best shots of themselves with the falling sun. A woman about my age tied her flip-flops around her arm and gingerly made her way down the rock, away from the rapidly swelling crowd, to sit in solitary splendor at a 90-degree angle to the sunset. I would have loved to click a picture of her, so regal she looked illuminated in a glowing haze of yellow. In the water, surfers were riding the waves with varying degrees of competence. In front of me, Morro Dois Irmaos (the two brothers' mountain) leaped up from the waters, their jagged peaks in sharp relief against the orange sky. "Agua, Agua Coco!" yelled a young man walking in between the crowds, paying scant heed to the view. He had probably seen hundreds like this one and was intent on selling his water and coconut water before the crowds dispersed.
The kids woke up from their phones. "It's really pretty", Y remarked and started clicking photos. As the sun slowly sank into the ocean, clapping burst out all around us. Ads looked at me in wonder "Why are they clapping?"
"It's a tradition here. I read about it", I told him.
That evening, there were probably 200 or more people on the Arpoador, waiting for the sunset. Yes, many were on their phones, and many were posting about the experience even as it happened. #stunningsunset
There were foreigners like us, and Cariocas too. There were rich people from Leblon and Ipanema and poor people from the favelas. There were families, people in love, kids, and people having deep conversations with others and themselves. There were also people making a living selling coconut water.
But for 45 minutes, all we did was sit on a rock and wait patiently for that most common yet most timeless of daily events, a sunset. For a brief moment, even the avid surfers just bobbed along with their boards, their bodies and eyes turned towards the horizon. And when it finally happened, all of us clapped, in delight and wonder, and okay....because everyone else was doing it :)
I could tease some "universal human experience" gyaan out of this but what I really learned from it was that one must always always clap for a sunset :) Oh and sunrise too, why not?!