My love affair with Brazil and Brazilians began with the visit to my house by two delightful young Rotary Group Study Exchange students from Brazil- One a computer software salesman, and the other a real estate and promotions agent. We went to several Rotary functions in Kiama. I was President of Kiama Downs Rotary club at the time.
They invited me to visit them in Brazil and stay at their homes in Assis and Presidente Prudente. I took up the invite during a return visit to Brazil by a Rotary Group Study Exchange from Australia visit to their clubs in Brazil. I was not part of the group but took part in the activities of the group in Brazil. This included barbecues and visits to various venues. That was my first visit to Brazil.
Six more visits would follow- four of them as guests of the Brazilian Tourist Association in Rio. While in Brazil the first time I had written an article on Brazil which was published in the Sunday Telegraph.
The Tourist Association was so impressed that they invited me to Brazil to write several more articles with internal travel by the Brazilian Airline Varig and accommodation courtesy of various hotels such as the Rio Beachfront hotel, The magnificent Tropical Hotel in Manaus (Amazon) and the luxurious Hotel De Catarases in Iguassus right on the falls (both owned and operated by Varig).
Aerolineas Argentinas ( a magnificent airline with its pure leather upholstered seats) which flies into Brazil provided first class air travel to and from Sydney. All in all a magnificent package with a guide/intarpreter (my friend Walmir) who went with me to interview Ronald Biggs in his home in Rio.
BHP officials had invited us to be their guests at lunch in Rio after the General Manager of BHP Port Kembla (Jerry Ellis) had written to them advising them of my visit. (BHP has substantial mining interests in Brazil.) Mr Ellis later became general manager of BHP with headquarters in Melbourne (a delightful man whom I got to know well in Port Kembla along with their Public Affairs Officer, Mike Archer who came to my farewell lunch in Wollongong to wish me well for my visit to Brazil.
After lunch in Rio, Walmir and I visited Sugar Loaf Mountain lookout and the Samba school half way up before meeting Ronald Biggs. I loved the Hotel De Cataratas (Hotel of the Waterfall in Ig) and I made friends with the hotel’s giant beautifully plumed Toucan (Bird) which wandered free in the grounds of the hotel (A magnificent bird native to Brazil). The hotel has a lift in the foyer which takes you to the base (Devil’s Throat) of the waterfalls.
I inspected the giant Itapu hydro electric power station with its 18 giant generators which provides the major part of electricity load for the giant industrial and domestic area of San Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city- and the world’s biggest hydro electric scheme.
I also visited the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Mount Corcovado (The Hunchback overlooking Rio) and noted the statue had its eyes closed (maybe just as well considering some of the things that go on in Brazil.)
I was just remembering I have stood atop Corcovado in Brazil; gone to the Ash line of Mt Fuji in Japan and climbed Ayers Rock in Central Australia. I think I have left the conquest of Everest a little late.
One memory I have of Dr Waldir Modotte (the hospital’s Gynecologist) taking me to the Assis Maternity Hospital (run by Catholic Nuns). Handing me a white coat and saying “Put this on”
and then accompanying Waldir on his rounds with the title of “Doctor Kevin”
What I saw on those rounds does not bear repeating.
Some time later Waldir visited me in Kiama and did some study at Wollongong Hospital and then on to Australia’s leading In-vitro Fertilisation Clinic in Melbourne courtesy of Melbourne Appexians m
whom I had contacted. He was delighted with his reception in Australia.
One big surprise disappointment on my first visit to Ässis in Brazil was the refusal of the Sao Paulo state government to staff the ultra modern and spacious hospital donated by Rotary to the city. The hospital eventually opened and I flatter myself in believing I had something to do with this as I gave the Governor of Sao Paulo an earful when he was visiting Assis for something or other. I told him in no uncertain terms, it was a disgrace!
He said other cities had a greater priority for staffing. The hospital eventually opened to the great delight of all especially the medicos in the city as the hospital attracted a lot of business to the city. Waldir had a lot of friends in the medical profession. They even gave me a very big party for my birthday held at the magnificent home of the very wealthy heart surgeon (he even did heart transplants!)
Waldir’s brother-in-law lived in the custom built city of Maringa and he arranged for me to stay there for a wile. The b-in-law was also named Waldir. His father-in-law was the very wealthy Ennio Pinnza who had made a fortune developing Maringa where he had his office. I visited him there and he invited me to stay at his horse-stud property with its magnificent homestead. It had several guest rooms and even had its own airfield which was the scene of the death of Ennio’s wife in an aircraft accident as they were trying to land.
I remember the glass panels at the homestead had emblazoned on them with big letters “EP” hand blasted into the glass. His horses were magnificent. Waldir (2) was his horse attendant. Waldir was also very much into show ponies and was a judge at various horse shows. The local newspaper did an interview of me along with a big photo. I also stayed with another doctor and his family in a town north of Assis.