No one could possibly have ever thought that long-distance air travel was fun, or enjoyable, or have they? I arrived in Abadiania via Los Angeles, Miami and Brasilia around 10.30am Monday in a completely exhausted, spent and depleted state about 34 hours after leaving Sydney. Airports remind me of stockyards where we get herded into a stall for an experience we’d rather not have. Have you ever listened to the stock reports on ABC radio at the end of ‘The Country Hour’ when you might hear, “At Tamworth Saleyards today there was a yarding of 547 vealers……..?” That’s us at the airport.

The most comfortable part of my journey was the last leg from Miami to Brasilia where I had the pleasure of looking at a bulkhead wall about a metre away instead of the 30 cm to the seat in front of me. Small mercies. I could stretch out my legs and leave my seat without having to nudge the person next to me to get up and make way. I got out of my seat more than most. I drink lots of water while in the air and have to do exercises to avoid deep vain thromboses which I’m at risk of getting if I don’t take precautions. I recall with some amusement at the beginning of one of my trips forgetting to inject my self with Clexane (blood thinner). The seat belt sign had been switched on and we were about to leave the terminal. I grabbed a syringe from my bag and rushed to the toilet where I was met by one of the cabin crew wanting to know why I wasn’t in my seat. I held up my syringe and said, “I have to inject myself!” She didn’t blink an eye, turned away and went about her business.

Upon arriving in Brasilia it was a relief to see Edward, my pre-arranged taxi driver waiting for me immediately outside the exit door holding up a piece of paper with my name on it. He spoke little English and I speak even less Portuguese, but we managed.

Brasilia is the Brazilian equivalent of Canberra and the ACT in that it is located within a Federal Territory which is within a province, in this case Goias province which is in central Brazil. Abadiania, the village where I’m staying is about an hour twenty drive south-west of Brasilia. It’s the dry season at present. Similar to northern Australia, the wet begins around December. When I think of a wet season I think tropical, but not here. The soils remind me of those in Central Australia where they have gained their reddish/brown colour from the oxidation of iron in the soil over the millennia. From the roadway what you see is grassland punctuated here and there with clumps of trees or shrubs. Vegetation thickens up a little the further south we went, but the denuded nature of the countryside may be a reflection of past agricultural practices.

Entering Abadiania you are greeted with large, rusting and dusty metal letters spelling out the name of the village. It is divided by the highway, but this is not the real division. The eastern side is occupied by the locals and the western side is dominated by the Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola (St. Ignatius of Loyola) a Catholic saint whose name has been adopted by one of Sydney’s GPS schools, St. Ignatius College or ‘Riverview’. The eastern side has its collection of shops and other business set back from the highway and beyond. They look tired, dusty and aged and give the impression of being survivors. Prosperity is not immediately apparent. However, on the other side of the highway there is a different feeing which stems from the existence of the Casa and the tens of thousands of visitors who come here every year for healing. (More about this in future blogs.)

After arriving at my ‘pousada’ (my place of accommodation where I have a small room with en-suite) I quickly slipped into the routine.  It’s named Pousada Luz Divina. ‘Luz Divina’ means divine light. I’m sure it’s unsurprising that a pousada with a name like this would be painted with the colours mauve and white. My room is the recently renovated old meditation room. The newest of the rooms. The room rate is 85 Reals (about $46 Aus) per day which includes three meals, internet access, access to a free telephone, a lovely garden where the pink and crimson bouganvillia are in bloom, tables and deck chairs (without a deck), a labyrinth (if you like walking in circles) and a very friendly staff of locals.  Accommodation at the pousada must be in demand because in one corner of the garden more rooms are being constructed.  I noticed that OH & S is not a current issue.  The bricklayer was wearing thongs.  There is always some form of construction happening on the west side, be it a new pousada, a new shop, a renovated shop frontage or improved drainage.  Most of the floors are tiled.  Throwing around buckets of water is very popular method of cleaning.  Mealtimes are 7.15am, 12 midday and 6.00pm so we eat three meals in 11 hours and nothing for 13 hours.  However, I like the idea of an early dinner because going to bed is usually by 9.00pm.

In the afternoon I walked up to the Casa, bought 5 litres of ‘blessed water’ (many things here are preceded by the adjective ‘blessed’) at 2 Reals / litre, had a crystal bed (20 Reals for 20 minutes) (more about this in a later blog), had a half hour sleep on a bench on the meditation deck (more about the deck and its fabulous location in a later blog), had an ice-cream (an over indulgence) and strolled back to my pousada.

By the time I got to bed I’d been awake for nearly two days, taking into account the time zone changes.  On the plane I either read or watched movies, catching only about a half hour sleep here and there.  I have to confess to watching the Woody Allen movie, ‘Midnight in Paris’ for the eighth time.  I’ll soon be able to recite the dialogue.  If you haven’t seen it and love Paris, or art from the 1860′s to around 1930′s (a period which resonates with me) go and see it.  When bed finally came what a relief it was to stretch out on clean sheets and be taken quickly into unconsciousness.

When you book into public accommodation you are not normally required to sign an indemnity against legal liability but in this place it is required, not for the pousada, but for what happens at the Casa.  The name of the Medium who has been doing his work for about 50 years is Joao Teixeira de Faria.  Joao means John.  He is commonly referred to as Joao de Deus or John of God and he’ll be in Sydney for three days in November at the Sydney Showground at Olympic Stadium according to a poster I saw on the wall at the Casa today.  The medium does his work in a trance state.  He incorporates, in that state, various spiritual entities.  Getting back to the indemnity.  Each pousada has you sign one which purports to release the Casa and Medium Joao from legal liability for any emotional, psychological and physical harm said to have been caused by the work done at the Casa.  Interestingly, spiritual harm is not included.  The indemnity includes a statement that the advice offered by Medium Joao is spiritual in character and is not a substitute for any and all medical treatments presently prescribed by your own medical advisers. The document also states the Casa’s opposition to mind-altering substances, including alcohol, and says that it does not advocate the use of other spiritual healing modalities.  It even goes to say that the indemnity is given in relation to any injuries incurred while traveling in Brazil on public transport, or for decisions made about real estate transactions, applications for visas, visa extensions, or applications for permanent residency.  I can’t imagine how someone could successfully sue for a failed visa extension because they wanted to stay longer at Abadiania.  But like lots of legal documents one never knows how effective they are until they are tested.

So much for day one.