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January 2006

 

DIARY

 

BILL AND DIANE BOHLEN call in at Benelong Road for lunch and a relaxing afternoon. They’re transiting through Sin City before meeting number two daughter’s new boyfriend in Melbourne and thence to Hobart and the Huon Valley. Diane reports lots of walks, a trout farm, wineries, a wooden boat building school and many other attractions along the Huon trail – but especially the coastline. I also discover that Diane and I voyaged to Australia from Blighty on the same migrant ship – the Georgic – in 1949; Diane earlier that year, me in November. Now how about that!

MARTIN HADLOW returns to Australia after 16 years with UNESCO, including recent assignments in post liberation Kabul and managing tsunami relief work in Sri Lanka. From 1 February, Martin, who took over from me as manager of Radio Bougainville in 1973 and then as manager of 2ARM-FM Armidale in 1977, is a new Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland. At the same time he becomes Foundation Director of the university’s new Centre for Communication for Development and Social Change.

Along with many others I was concerned when BOB (MOOSE) DAVIS became quite ill after the reunion and immensely relieved that he made such a strong and full recovery. Bob reports being especially chuffed to hear from BRIAN WHITE, who himself has had health concerns. “I was moved by this act of support,” says Bob, “and that Brian had taken time out to offer me support and moral sustenance.”

JOE CRAINEAN says thanks again to the gang for a great Sydney reunion. “I know Henry and the northern mob will try to upstage it - if possible,” he adds. Joe’s been to Melbourne for niece’s wedding, camped for a week at Howqua, driven back along the Great Alpine Way, via Mt Buller and Hotham, then back along the Princes Highway, camping en route and visiting his son at Cooranbong on the way to Tamworth for the country music bash. “It's a tough life but someone has to do it,” brags Joe.

GRAEME O'TOOLE has done a fine job getting the E-Course website up and running. You can access it at http://www.geocities.com/ecourserabaul. “It’s at present in skeletal format,” says Graeme, “but will expand with new ideas and contributions.”

The PNG GOSSIP NEWSLETTER (www.png-gossip.com) reports that a headmaster at a Goroka school is in trouble for allegedly demanding that four grade six students lick the dust off the floor of their classroom recently. Parents reported the matter to police and the resulting court case attracted much interest after the headmaster was charged under Section 7(b) of the Criminal Code. The teacher is out on bail. He has denied the charges but stressed the need to maintain discipline in schools.

RICHARD JONES replies to Tony Kendal’s plea in The Mail 94 for information about his sisters who went to school in PNG from 1957. The girls were the daughters of John Herbert, who raised them and Tony on his own in PNG when his wife left him.

Richard wrote Tony: “I worked with John from late 1970 to the end of 1976 in the HQ of the Department of Labour, Commerce and Industry in Port Moresby. He was the Senior Industrial Relations Officer and later Chief of Division. I ended up as the Senior Industrial Training Officer in a separate division. We ran 5-day training courses for frontline PNG nationals, who were being made ready to take over from Aussies in supervisory or sub-managerial roles in government departments and private industry.

“Johnnie and I would hold vigorous and spirited discussions on the rights and wrongs of the Israeli commandos flying to East Africa to free the passengers of an airline held to ransom or the efficacy of Australian voters in leaving Robert (Pig Iron) Menzies in office as PM for an obscene period of 16 years!

“I'm afraid I can't shed any light on your sisters' situation but have you tried the PNG Association of Australia at www.pngaa.net?”

If anyone else is able to assist, you can contact Tony at tony.kendal@boeing.com

 

REUNIONS

ASOPA 62/63: 45th ANIVERSARY - BRISBANE 2007

HENRY BODMAN [Fig Tree Pocket QLD] - In the last issue of The Mail we printed the first organisational stirrings aimed at another boomer get-together. Readers were invited to comment on what might be involved, covering the who, what, where, when and why.

I have had a response from Les Lyons who reckons we need to do more than go down the nostalgia trail. He suggested nine holes of golf be arranged at a convenient course of suitable standard. How many takers would we have for that? Les will get the job of recruiting starters while we, in Brisbane, will see that it all happens.

You also read the suggestion for a discussion. That can be incorporated into the weekend and the right facilities will be found. Once again, those who suggested this will get the job of working out the subjects and how the session might work.

Despite the initial lukewarm reception to getting together with Asopians of other years, I intend to press on with that and see the Saturday lunch as a good time for that mix to be thrown together. Some of you might remember Peter Plummer (1963-64). He went to the Northern Territory and attained very high rank in the Department of Education before recently retiring. I will be working on him to get that mob together for their own show, but sharing one function with us.

BOB DAVIS [Canberra ACT] - I think Les is on the right track. We need to think about programming a couple of sessions aimed at particular interest groups. Rodger Philpott mentioned the idea of a forum to consider Pacific problems and called for those with interest and experience to apply grey matter. Les wants a round of golf. We have attempted (halfheartedly) to organise a card tournament for 500 (or poker or bridge?). What about a snooker/billiards session at a local club. Then there's the joggers to consider and the tennis and squash players for those who don't want to admit that we're all in our mid sixties or more!

Then there's more. I'm sure Rod Hard would be able to run a session or two on how to invest more wisely for your retirement. There may even be some interest in discussing educational trends and issues .(Bring back the cane!). I know I haven't even scratched the surface.

But you need to be very careful not to overstructure the event. People can be too organised especially at events such as these. Indeed one of the reasons our first two reunions were so enjoyable was the amount of free time - time to relax and just enjoy being together again. I don't care when it is - I am very flexible.

COLIN HUGGINS [Albion QLD] - How I would love to grace a golf course but with my legs being in such great shape and my back completely gone, it's out of the question for me. But it is a good idea if you can get enough starters. I was always hopeless at golf no matter how hard I practised and I never miss any of the televised majors or the Australian season.

As for the Admiral Westover and Masta Philpott discussion groups, I'd love to know the topics - sailing the high seas or the Arizona landscape (just being funny!).

Has anyone looked on the web at Kirribilli on the River as suggested by the Burrells. Looks good to me, and central. Or the Abbey Apartments/Hotel near Roma Street in the CBD? Any news from the Sunshine Coast, the domain of Justine Finter?

No problems from me on the proposed dates of late August/early September. The tennis fans might end up having late nights with the US Open on around that time - anyhow a good excuse to continue drinking!

Other groups? No problems having a mixed night or lunch a la The Oaks. Where could be the major problem. Brisbane high spots would be The Breakfast Creek Hotel, which is a bit Oaks style but getting there now is a problem unless the River Cats call in nearby.

I am now on acupuncture for left side of back, leg and foot. Great fun! Although no pain I am in misery with the aches most of the time, so Barry Field and I won't be playing in the seniors at the Grand Slams even in my wildest dreams!

RICHARD JONES [Bendigo VIC] - It's perhaps a tad early to say definitively but I'd say August-early September would rule me out. The young bloke who, for the past two seasons, organised the gear, setting-up and who hosted the midday to 1 pm stint on the Bendigo FM station I work for during the footy season has snagged himself an ABC radio cadetship in Darwin. He heads off to the NT at the end of this month.

I had a meeting with the station manager yesterday and it looks as though I will be back to my 2003 hosting duties, rather than just rocking up at 1.30 and b'casting the footy as a caller. I'd have a more substantial hosting role now, it seems.

In late August here, as in most regional footy leagues, the last home-and-away round is being played plus the first weekend of the finals - Saturday and Sunday. Last year's Sydney functions at the end of September-early October were fine as all the footy (AFL included) had been completed.
Anyway it's not set in concrete just yet. I'd be all in favour of a discussion group, but unlike Les I'm not averse to big chunks of nostalgia. In addition to the former ASOPA course people, what about inviting the former E-coursers who live in Brissie and round about.

COL BOOTH [Port Macquarie NSW] – I personally like the idea of a resort where everyone possible would be under the one roof. In Sydney, I especially liked the unplanned meetings with various people staying at the Concierge, eg, at breakfast and coffee. I think, in fact, that the Gold Coast (or Sunshine Coast) might be the ideal location with plenty of places available and looking for business, good transport conections, airport, golf etc. Even people such as the Bosdmans, Burrells, Bohlens and Welbournes etc might find it acceptable to leave home for the weekend. It would also be ankle biter friendly. Whilst I agree the Gold Coast has had its day in many respects, we as a group would not be generally interested in the traditional tourist aspects for that particular weekend, as we are our own entertainment.

Re golf, cards, forums, etc. These things could be scheduled for am Sat, Sun or mid pm Sat, Sun. I think they are a side issue, of particular interest to a minority, and that they can be scheduled to suit those interested without encroaching on the main sessions, ie, Fri Night Meet and Greet, Sat Lunch very casual, Sat Dinner a bit more formalised, Sun Lunch as per Masta Kit's excellence, Sun Dinner for those who want to participate.

People who haven't been to the Gold/Sunshine Coasts for a number of years might like to have some kind of organised tour on Sat pm or Sun am.

I have no problem with people from other years joining in. They will only be envious of what we have achieved and if they are able to match us it will not be a problem as we will be able to congratulate them on their achievements. But I guess that Sat lunch or maybe Sat dinner would be the best time to include them. The simple fact is that many of our paths crossed, particularly in the larger centres. Names that come to mind include Peter Hill WNB E Course, Peter Stuckey, Coralie Joyce, Paul Brigg, Raye Clough, Bob Burlington, Bob Egglestone, Dave Keating and Brian Davis.
Em tasol; tinktink bilong mipella. Ol samting istap gut long Paradise.

HOWARD RALPH [Newport NSW] - Speaking for myself only, I will travel anywhere, anytime to attend the next reunion. If the dates clash with other matters then those other matters will have to be changed. I don't play golf but I'm sure non players would be able to fill in the golfing time caddying or watching the weather or something. I'm looking forward to the event already.

ASOPA 61-62: 46th ANIVERSARY - BRISBANE 2007

DAVID KEATING [New Farm QLD] I have agreed to Henry Bodman’s request to coordinate a reunion of the 1961-62 ASOPA group in conjunction with the third 1962-63 reunion in 2007. Our group has never got together since 1962, and in 2007 it will be 45 years since we graduated from ASOPA.

Could you pass on my email address via your newsletter with a request for the 1961-62 Group to make contact with me at email dak99@bigpond.net.au or by post at PO Box 73, New Farm, QLD 4005.

COL BOOTH [Port Macquarie NSW] - We would certainly be happy to pass on to Dave what we learnt in the 2003 reunion exercise. The critical thing that progressed our search was the NSW State Archives where the full names rest on the old inspection reports. This made searching the white pages and electoral rolls much simpler. There must be five hundred Brian Smiths in Australia. Dave had better get his finger out as I believe that shortly there is the prospect that Electoral Rolls will cease to be a public documents.

We can provide Dave with information on Leslie Wills (Lewis) (Cape Hoskins, West New Britain) and Gaye Zimatat (Speldewinde) (Canberra). The simple fact is that we followed any clue until it either ran out or gave results, eg, phoned a Bill Wilson in Perth, who put us on to his father who was an ex kuskus in Education in Moresby, who put us onto an ex DI living in Wagga Wagga, who put us on to Jan Vaughan (Nicholson) on the Gold Coast, who Keith contacted and received the info about Michael Hatch. It was a case of follow each step and making numerous phone calls.

 

NEWS

HOWARD RALPH [Newport NSW] – The reunion was wonderful. The brilliant idea to visit ASOPA was particularly enchanting and stirred a host of memories which may have otherwise settled into the very long term memory and become even more difficult to access as the brain shrinks.

This end of the year was very busy from a health perspective as people tried to have their illnesses before Christmas. There were more accidents as people travelled more and with greater determination to achieve the almost impossible prior to Christmas. There were staff shortages because many wished to spend time with family.

Consequently those of us remaining were required to run faster to achieve the same result. As you may imagine the amount of trauma to wild creatures also escalated as more were hit on the road. Orphans dehydrate more quickly in the heat and require more extensive resuscitation. Bushfires always cause many deaths and much suffering. With the help of a solid core group of carers we seemed to manage.

Reading The Mail is a recurrent source of enjoyment for me. I look forward to each edition, which provides some contact (although not as good as a reunion) with a very special group of people. I trust everyone had a peaceful and safe Christmas and New Year. For myself, I stayed out of the car and off the roof.

BARRY PATERSON [Cairns QLD] - We decided to go to Malaysia this year via Papua New Guinea, a cheaper way to go with brief stopovers in Port Moresby. We headed off to Port Moresby in a Fokker F100 with a pleasant crew and delightful service. The flight is less than two hours.

On arriving at Port Moresby I was looking for the door to the transit lounge where we would wait for our connecting flight to Singapore. Instead we were moved through to the Arrivals Hall and told our plane had broken down in Brisbane. They got the message through to Moresby but missed out on notifying Cairns.

The official told us they would be trying to move us out as soon as possible, however we would need to stay overnight at the company's expense at the Gateway Motel. Unfortunately the Motel was slipping gracefully into a Third World context. It was not the place we remembered many years before.

We used the morning to tour around a very different Port Moresby. We visited Gordon High School where Janine was head of Science in the late 70s. Those old buildings were still in good repair. Janine was very happy. We went past Murray Barracks where I had served at that time. We were advised that we should avoid going inside. We took the advice.

The port was looking very prosperous and the old town was very busy. We paused a moment at the ashes of the top pub and the defunct bottom pub to remember absent friends. With all of the changes, it was good to see the Aviat Club still in action. We spent many good nights there.

We were advised to be at the airport by 12 noon the next day. We spent the whole of the afternoon waiting for some sort of news. Then they gave up and said we would have to stay another night. This time at the old Travelodge, which has now been completely renovated. A beautiful place, provided you are willing to stay inside the heavy steel security gates.

The next day after a considerable wait we got onto a Dash 8 to go back to Cairns, with hand-written boarding passes. The flight connected with a magnificent Australian Airlines flight to Singapore that was a real pleasure. But remember ... we still had to come back from Malaysia with Air Niugini through Port Moresby. More of that later.

R M (BOB) JENKINS [Bunbury WA] - Luella and I decided this time last year to return to PNG while we had both the means and the health to do so. Just as our first six years in PNG shaped the last 40, so too will the recent time shape the rest of our lives. For those ex teachers, kiaps, liklik doktas and didimen who have never returned, all we can say is DO IT!

The receptions we received at Kokoda, Popondetta, Tufi and Goroka from ex students, ex teachers, villagers who remembered us and others who had no idea who were, was overwhelming. That we should make the effort to go back and see what our students had done with their lives seemed to be something initially beyond their comprehension. After they had come to grips with their surprise, the response was one of unbridled joy. We have both been emotionally affected by the warmth and affection of the people in areas where we lived.

We would absolutely recommend that 'ex-pats' who haven't been back, leave aside the negative publicity, exercise sensible precautions and go visit your old locations and the people you had contact with. You will not return to Australia unaffected.

Perhaps, Keith, you could use this website to garner support for people in the provinces who are poorly served by national and provincial politicians and public servants. There is a great deal that we who have so much can do, though it needs to be practical and sensible (qualities I'm sure, are still the hallmarks of those of us who went to PNG).

Bob says he’s looking forward to maintaining contact. You can contact him at 3 Cooke Street, Bunbury WA 6230, phone 04 0792 5398 or email him at jenkins@iinet.net.au

VAL MURPHY [Koondoola WA] - Love reading The Mail. I did get to the reunion, but in the morning prior to the visit to ASOPA. My commitments to the WARL and my required presence at the NRL grand final limited my interaction to a cup of tea with Margaret McKenna and an interesting talk with Rory O’Brien and Bob Davis.

The 1961/62 Asopians (the creme de la creme of ASOPA groups) is on the move. Dave Keating is the leader of the pack and is currently gathering information for a possible gathering this year in August.

Bob Jenkins who lives here in the Sou West has just returned from a visit to his early postings at Tufi, Popendetta and Kokoda. He was unable to get to Sigerehe in the EHD due to trouble on the Bena River, my posting in the 60's for four years. And I thought if I taught them to play rugby league that they would stop fighting.

Had dinner with Les and Margaret Lyons during the Christmas period. Les has a terrific property in the bushland at the foothills of the Darling Ranges. Interesting journey that two old blokes whose bond is ASOPA and PNG would finish up working in a Catholic School in WA. Keep up the good work.

COL BOOTH [Port Macquarie NSW] - Already 2006 has started with a bang. Only back from Cairns a few days after delivering the old family Fairmont to daughter Kara to use. Nigel had taken it to Canberra and Adelaide, then brought it home when he went to the Solomons, so now it has ended up in Cairns. It had done over 270K on its second engine when the speedo gave up in 2002, so I guess it has a total of 700K on it now. It went like a dream. We did Port Macquarie to Rockhampton on Day 1, Townsville on Day 2 and then a leisurely drive to Cairns on Day 3. After a week with Kara and Chris, we flew to Sydney then took a train ride home. Looking forward to a week on the Murray in early March. We are going with friends who lived in Paradise in the 1970's.

IAN McLEAN [Okinawa Japan] - I am off to Washington for a meeting in a few weeks time and then we settle into our new bureau on Okinawa. It's ironic that all the travel I've done lately for work caused me to miss the reunion last year. My leave was pushed back so many months that now I'll be taking last year's leave in late March/early April this year, so expect me to sporadically inflict myself on the Jackson's.

PETER LEWIS [Windella Downs NSW] – Many thanks for the lengthy newsletter. When do you have time? Trust you both had a pleasant and happy festive season.

ANN PRENDERGAST [Waverton NSW] - Thank you for all the work you have done in getting the newsletter out so regularly during the past year. It's a great help in keeping in touch with what people are doing and brings together for me friends that have been part of my life for many years. Please note the change of email address to annpren@tpg.com.au.

LORRAINE JENKINS – I have been enjoying some of the great stories on your ASOPA website. It came to my notice that Molly Kreidl mentioned the visit of Mr Alva Clark, the General Secretary of the TPNG Red Cross, at her school, and the ensuing embarrassing moments. As a Red Cross leader in my school in the early to mid 1960s, I met and spent time with Mr. Clark and his wife Tove while I holidayed in Port Moresby. I wondered if there was anyone who could give me any information on the health and whereabouts of Mr and Mrs Clark, as they were very welcoming, and Mrs Clarke took me with her on her Red Cross duties.

Lorraine can be contacted at tandljenkins@bigpond.com.

HARRIET TROY [Thornleigh NSW] - Well Keith, what a slim taut and terrific image you now present. I am actually looking for Ernie Sharp's whereabouts. Do you have a contact for him? When I keyed him in your site came up.

If anyone knows how to get in touch with Ernie, you can email Harriet at clive@www.com

PHILIP CASS [United Arab Emirates]- My thesis is on the Pacific Islands press and the move towards independence in PNG. I am looking at three case studies: the Rabaul Times and the council tax strike in 1958; the Post Courier and the landowner protests on Bougainville in 1969; and Wantok Niuspepa and the drive towards independence in 1970-75.

Among the many things I am trying to find out are: Who started and paid for the second incarnation of the Rabaul Times in 1957-59? Does anybody have any information on the coverage of the Bougainville landowner protests in 1969, either by the Post Courier or anybody else? Does anybody have information on the merger of the South Pacific Post and the New Guinea Times Courier in 1969?

If anyone is able to help Philip with this search, he can be contacted at Philip.Cass@zu.ac.ae

 

FEATURES

SOUTH TO THE ANTARCTIC

BILL WELBOURNE [Mount Cotton QLD] - The pre Christmas expedition to South America and Antarctic with my son Tony lived up to our high expectations. It involved lots of travel and some drama; including an inconvenient unscheduled stopover in Santiago, Chile, due to mechanical problems of LAN airlines. Fortunately this was on return home from Ushuaia. This large picturesque and sheltered seaport town of about 50 000 people is the most southern town in the Southern Hemisphere. It bustled with tourists who flock to ski the slopes of the surrounding snow peaks or catch expedition and tourist ships to Antarctica. Some simply visit the marvellous Tierra del Fuego (‘land of fire’) National Park from where they can catch the ‘tren del fin del mundo’ … train to the end of the world. This is where Magellan noticed the fires, made by local Indian tribes, burning in the hillsides and hence the name. From here we embarked our expedition ship, the MV Explorer.

The 75 metre “Little Red Ship”, as it is fondly known, was built in 1969 especially for polar exploration and has achieved some historic distinctions. The Explorer was the first passenger ship to visit the Great White Continent and first to make the journey through the Northwest Passage. With a crew of 50 to serve 92 passengers, it proved to be an intimate and reasonably comfortable ship.

It took two days to cross the converging warm Pacific and cold Antarctic currents of the Drake Passage before we reached the Antarctic Peninsula for our first landing. Okay it was small old tub, but we were fed well, and most of us avoided seasickness during the topsy-turvy ride to get there. A a group of specialist staff kept us from being bored with lectures on the history and science of Antarctica.

The staff did a great job of ferrying us to shore in inflatable Zodiacs. The snow had thawed a little at the edges and allowed the penguins to begin nesting. We tried to keep a 5 metre distance from the wildlife, but the little tuxedo mob eyed us curiously as if to say, “Who in the b… hell are you lot?”, and then would go about their business. They would sometimes waddle and hop about and ski on their bellies, even uphill!

One day we managed three landings including an eerie twilight including one at midnight at Paradise Harbour, which is the site of an abandoned Argentinean research station. Apparently the resident doctor started a fire to destroy the base so he could avoid spending winter there. Then the weather turned nasty, bringing gale force winds and snow and forcing our jovial Manchester-born captain to search for shelter.

After being rocked to sleep, I woke one morning to see heavy snow falling and a crewman sweeping ice off the decks. For two days enormous icebergs loomed above us and a howling south-westerly funneled through the narrow fiords. Dramatic views of hanging glaciers and of snow and clouds pouring over towering cliffs provided Kodak moments for our memory. Ice floes ferrying resting penguins and the occasional seal amused us as we played dodgem out of the threatening pack ice.I got my son Tony to take a photo as I wrote “Merry Christmas” and built a small snowman on the aft decking which provided the best shelter.

Finally the blizzard ran out of puff. We managed another two landings and an Antarctic wedding, duly performed by the captain on a couple keen to tie the knot and to shout us champagne. Many of the passengers had professional backgrounds … lawyers, medicos, computer experts, accountants and teachers. The ten days on board gave sufficient time for great camaraderie in the mix of age groups, ranging from students to ancients like me. By the time we had rounded the Cape and disembarked at Ushuaia we had become one big international family.

That afternoon Tony and I boarded the milk run flight to Santiago where we were to fly direct to Australia. Not so. On one of the landings a tyre burst and we had to check our luggage through Chilean Customs, pay a tax and reboard the same plane ten minuted later; then wait for another ten for reasons unknown, probably to fix up the tyre. Once we got to Santiago we made haste to get the 11.30 pm International LAN flight to Sydney. Delay. We waited and waited. Three hundred disappointed passengers, some tired and angry, had to spend the night in Santiago and return 10.30 am after a few hours sleep.

I always like to shower before bedtime, even at 3.30 in the morning! I began to sway to and fro and experience strange motions of toppling over as I tried to steady myself. No, it wasn’t a dizzy spell, stroke or heart attack. I realised that I was trying to adjust my ‘sea legs’ to the swaying of the ship when there was no need to. ‘Come on… snap out of it, Willie, you’re on land now you stupid idiot,’ I said to myself. Then I was okay. By the way, my mobile phone was an invaluable source of SMS messages during our delay. Tony‘s disappointed daughters had taken the Friday off from school to greet his return.

Whenever I travel, my philosophy is to always expect the unexpected. Luckily our flight problems were at the end of our trip. No sooner had we arrived in Rio than Argentine pilots went on strike. I really don’t blame them as the peso is not worth much in the stuffed economy of Argentina. But we managed to glide through our stopovers at Rio, Iguassu and Buenos Aires before reaching Ushuaia. Fortunately we had allowed extra time here to hire our Antarctic gear and also visit the Terra Del Fuego National Park. This piece of luck meant we were able to catch the last flight out of Iguassu ahead of stranded travellers. Eight passengers due for boat never made it on board.

A Melbourne family minus their luggage did make our delayed tub. If you have American dollars then money talks in South America. Using Aussie ingenuity they grabbed a fast taxi to nearby Paraguay and bribed the border officials to get to the airport without a visa. Here they bought new tickets, got lucky with the reserve waiting list and rang ahead for a taxi to our delayed ship … which eventually groaned away eight hours late, after midnight. Howzat!

As for essential snow gear, we were advised to leave it in Oz, as it was easy and cheap to hire it from one of many shops in Ushuaia. Alas! Only one store catered for this and a booking arrangement was essential. Bribery here was useless, but we could hire gumboots. So we were forced to buy new ski gear for Antarctica and found out later it was cheaper to buy the gumboots, which required a hefty deposit. At least we had our camera gear for happy snaps, unlike a Londoner we met using an instant camera because somewhere between British Air and Argentine Air his specialised equipment had gone missing. Our small hiccups simply made an excellent South American experience more eventful.

South America proved to be a scenic wonderland from the time our long haul Pacific flight reached Chile. In bright midday sunlight, the imposing Andes formed a snowy backdrop to Santiago. From my window seat I wondered if our jet could climb quickly enough as we confronted them on our way to Rio. In darkness I observed miles of lighting and tall accommodation blocks as we touched down in Sao Paulo, the second largest city in the world, with a population nearly double that of Australia. Founded by Jesuits as a mission station in 1554 it sits on a plateau 760 metres above sea level about 70 kilometres from the coast. People say Australia grew on a sheep’s back, well there’s an awful lot of coffee in Brazil and its export income made Brazil.

Sao Paulo today is the powerful engine that generates over 30% of the GNP. In this megapolis live the descendants of Italian, Japanese, and Lebanese migrants. In fact Brazil is a polyglot of intermingling cultures in an area larger than Australia. They say it has the largest black population outside of Africa.

We noticed the coffee blend of skin colours on our first day in Rio, apart from the pink and white of the sun worshipping European tourists on Copacabana beach. Discovered in January 1502, Rio de Janeiro is Portuguese for ‘River of January’. Portuguese discoverers mistook one of the finest harbours in the world as a river in the process of forging their Empire. This involved wholesale exploitation of gold, silver and precious stones and the ruthless carnage of any native Indian resistance who opposed these intruding conquistadors. “All in the name of God of course,” I muttered upon boarded the crammed cog-wheel tram ride to the top of Corcovado mountain to visit one of Rio’s famous landmarks, the 40 metre high statue of Christ the Redeemer. And it was a grand heavenly view of the Carnival City and the crowded beaches as people frolicked in the tropical sun.

I longed to join the crowded scene on the beach, so as soon as our guided multilingual tour was over, Tony and I took to the sand. “I have just been to heaven and now this is paradise,” so I thought as I beached from bodysurfing a wave almost to the legs of a bare breasted woman. I quickly averted my attention away only to be greeted by another in string bikini minus the top. I needed to ride another wave.

Too soon we left the beach culture of Rio and flew to the jungle parkland at Iguassu, home of the world’s greatest waterfall. It made Niagara look ordinary. Upon our arrival as the water thundered in afternoon sun, Tony’s facial expression was of disbelief. The Iguazu River discharges an average of 1700 cubic metres of water per second from 70 metres along 275 falls spread in a half moon over 2.7 kilometres. Both Brazil and Argentina share the falls and there is a bit of mucking about with security to view them fully and to take in all the walks and attractions, such a thrilling zigzag ride in an inflatable speed boat through rapids below the falls in the Iguazu River.

Our guide knew the ropes. He advised us to visit a magnificent bird park complete with macaws and hornbills and then arranged the best seats to a South American cabaret. Over cool Brazilian beers and sumptuous cuisine, a variety of South American entertainment blew us away. It had it all; from Argentine whip cracking cowboys and Indian dances to Mexican trumpets and pipes of the Andes. The real showpiece was the Brazilian drumming and dancing. Athletic men did acrobatics and the tall string-bikini clad women gave a frenzied shaking of all their female endowments. Wow! Hot stuff!

South from Brazil our next stop was Buenos Aires, meaning “good airs “ in Spanish, and known as the Paris of the Americas. Having been to both places, I saw no resemblance apart from dingy and crowded inner city dwellings and a bustling stock of attractive Europeans of Spanish and Italian heritage. If you transported them to Australia, you wouldn’t know the difference. But I’m sure they would appreciate relief from the failed peso. Buenos Aires is located on the southern shore of the large murky mouth of the La Plata River with Uruguay miles away on the northern shore and with better beaches. (We didn’t want to go there because I think they’re still too upset that we beat them for a place in the World Cup.)

Their people are known as “portenos” (people of the port), acknowledging the historical importance of the port in the development of the city and the whole nation. Here was no River Seine, crossed by small bridges, and flowing through a glorious inland city. However, their three million inner city dwellers and the conurbation of another 9 million have a lifestyle akin in some ways to Paris. They eat out when for most of us it would be bedtime. They must be twenty years behind us in the QUIT smoking program. It was difficult to find an eating area without choking on smoke. Nothing seemed to run on time probably because they ate and partied late.

The tango is part of their lifestyle, so Tony and I had to see a tango showpiece performance in its birthplace. The erotically charged tango dance originated in brothels in the 1870’s when many immigrants arrived without their families. It later found wider acceptance and in the 1920’s it was adopted by Parisian high society and then all over the world. On our city tour a young female photographer appeared with a smile that could melt snow off the Andes and whispered in halting English for each of us to smile. She then left the bus, but I had no intention of buying any of her photos. What a surprise when she appeared three hours later armed with digitally enhanced photos! I was full swing in a tango with a blonde beauty you only dream about. I think it was her! I bought the photo and so did Tony.

We were hooked and thought if we were single we could soak up the atmosphere here in South America on the cheap, supported by our investments back home. In little remaining time before continuing to Ushuaia and Antarctica we were off to buy tango shoes and other leather bargains.