The second day of program started as the first for with an early start and a delicious buffet breakfast, a popular choice being the profiterole-esque sugar coated treats or the generous spread of tropical fruits and juices. Fortunately our morning activity was a walking tour of the old town of Sao Paulo led by our in country guide Filipe. We wandered the physical and historical birthplace of Sao Paulo, taking in, among others, the City Theatre and Sao Paulo Cathedral.
We saw Sao Paulo City Hall, affectionately known as the “Engine room of Brazil”. This municipality oversees the mammoth Sao Paulo state and city economy which when viewed on its own is the second largest economy in South America, ahead of neighbours such as Argentina and Chile and only behind Brazil itself. Our tour finished with a view of the city from the rooftop of its’ oldest skyscraper.
After a 10 minute pit-stop at our hotel to change into business wear we battled the notorious Sao Paulo traffic to arrive on time at the Australian Consulate for a briefing with Sheila Lunter, Australian Trade Commissioner. Sheila shared with us some unique insights as to the role of the trade commission in facilitating Australian businesses to engage with the 2.4 trillion USD Brazilian economy. Sheila also told us her story which began by completing an undergraduate degree in literature studies in her birth country of Holland, through working with international businesses in Europe and her Australian Trade Commissioner post in Singapore culminating in her current role in Sao Paulo.
I’ll skip ahead to my favourite part of the day which was going to a top flight football match in Sao Paulo where we SAW RONALDINHO PLAY! It was an incredible sight to see 30,000 fans turning up to a game being played at 10pm on a Wednesday night. The experience of being amongst a crowd of incredibly passionate supporters will not easily be forgotten and we were fortunate to see Sao Paulo FC win 1-0, a rare sight this season (unfortunately that meant Ronaldinho lost). The stadium erupted in celebration of the first-half goal but the enthusiasm of that cheer was almost matched when the score updates for other games being played that night rolled across the screen and revealed that cross town rivals Corinthians lost 2-0. It was some-what confusing phenomenon for the less football inclined amongst the group who had been following the play on the pitch with interest and were at a loss to explain the raucous cheers and jeers.
We arrived back our hotel at 12.45am weary but satisfied with the events of the day with the job of packing, sleeping, eating breakfast and checking for our 8am departure for Manaus. Most took the opportunity to grab some much needed catch up sleep on the flight to the gateway to the Amazon that is Manaus, with a population around 1 million people. We stepped out of the airport to temperatures of around 35°C, quickly forgetting the chill that had hung over Sao Paulo in the days before. Our schedule was light, checking into our hotel with the usual feverish hunt for the Wi-Fi password before lunch.
Our afternoon activity was tour of the Manaus city centre, the focal point being the marble Opera house built in the late 1800’s. The commanding structure a remnant of a decadent period at the turn of the 20th century when Manaus was the centre of the global trade in rubber. Its’ marble floors sourced from Italy, much of the glass throughout the building from Paris, the wood a combination of British and Amazonian oaks and cedars.
Our day finished as it should in the hot and humid Amazon with a night time dip in our hotel pool, overlooking the Negro River with its’ waters having floated down from Columbia to the meeting of the rivers here in Manaus.