What ya know!? "Snow mask"
In 2010 I saw on tv news by eight at night in prime time, the impressive call about 30 cms of snowfall in southern Brazil. My jaw dropped, the world was different than I had imagined, to record/ register a snow fall in Brazil became a mission of this mountaineer ever since. Would not be easy (mainly because of distance, some 2000kms round trip), it would be a matter of putting a badass game face on and bet on the accuracy of prediction or simply luck of a super polar air mass moving by brazilian lands coming from Argentina. It worked after an attempt back in 2011, that cold month of August when I, Pedro Hauck, Camila Reis and Maximo Kaush ventured south of our country, but we never saw snow. Different times those...
In August 2011, Lilianne and I were not yet married, we only were sure that it would be later that year. I was a healthy bull even after sixteen years without a CBC, even had a formal job I loved...
My third round of consolidation chemotherapy ended on 13 July when I was discharged from the hospital with only 37,000 of platelet count and hoping for it not to fall more than that, which would mean a new time inside the hospital for transfusions, if this number turned out to be lower than 20,000 points, standard procedure, to transfuse below that. The plan was to go south of Minas Gerais with Tacio and Pedro and to enjoy together one more trip to mantiqueira in less advantaged peaks (from 1900m to 2100m) and who knows if the heavens permit, practice some night photography.
The weather changed dramatically, which at the same time made me change my mind about the destination as well and permanently cancel the south of Minas, where it would rain a lot. Seen again, not believing my eyes, the news that a very strong polar air mass caused the strongest snowstorm in Ushuaia for some ten years I think, and this dictates what comes to Santa Catarina Peaks, hiting it in full force on the morning of Tuesday and Wednesday, 22 and July 23 consecutively, but the highest probability of snowfall would be on the morning of 22. "Hmmm ... if I don't go now, I may not have another chance, I should check my blood before…"
Also raised the possibility of changing the course with Tacio, but he decided to stay because he had some tasks to complete with a photographic exhibition and a longer trip than planned would disrupt his agenda, and Pedro was grinding stones like a crazy looking for the damn Apatites (for his Doctory degree), which have already become legend in Paraná state hehehe, this cancerous mountaineer was all what left.
In July 18th I went to the lab close to home do a test to see if my plans to travel with the rest of bone marrow aplasia would be possible. But on the way back, feeling strong and excited enough to climb Pobeda, thought about who I could trust the task to accompany me, someone who had companionship sense, photographic love, focusing on forecast and to travel so far by this, and has a certain detachment to schedules and a normal life.
The first name that came to mind was the buddy Paulo Fabre, urban professional photographer, who I met in 2010 while traveling in the Atacama to climb, and he was there to shoot, practicing a bit of detachment with the day to day of large urban concentrations where we live. “Perfect choice” I thought.
I got back on the bus home doubly elated as I knew Paulo would not refuse my invitation because he enjoys the unplanned as much as I do. Thinking about a good test result about my blood, and tried to step up the pace. I got home, opened facebook to formalize the invitation and had some messages waiting to be read, among these, one of Paulo himself, which I reproduce below along with my response:
"Paulo Fabre C Oliveira Jr.
Hello buddy...okay in there? Do you know anyone going to somewhere this weekend? Anywhere. I am desperate to travel...lol
Paulo Roberto Felipe Schmidt
u read my mind
I came on the bus ready to call you
okay to travel?
Paulo Fabre Oliveira Jr.
just talk when and where, I’m there with ya”
And so it was our decision. In five minutes it was all right and I called Lilianne to calm her down, with the fact that I would no longer travel so far alone and still coming out of aplasia of the last chemotherapy, now I had company. During the next couple of hours we decided to travel a day earlier than scheduled, on the 19th, and bought the tickets from São Paulo to the city of Lages already in Santa Catarina state (only this trip would take us 12 hours on a bus), distant only about 45 miles from São Joaquim, where Paulo told me he had family, including his grandmother, then we would have a place to chat, get warm and sleep. Great!
And how about that, I bought the tickets and not even remembered to wait the night and with it the result of THE blood test...surprise! A not very good one. All numbers fell. Including hemoglobin, which explained my recurrent headaches (brain deprived of oxygen in the blood, a forced simulation to walk over 6.000 meters/ 19,680 feet at just 800 meters of altitude in São Paulo city without aclimatize). The platelets? A shame, with only 19,200, transfusion status for at least seven units of platelets. Damn…
I'm not crazy, but of sanity I don’t have much hehehe. I opened the laptop and updated my spreadsheet of blood control (yes, sometimes to be a self-taught sucks, one year of treatment and I already think of myself as an hematologist hehe...) and got to the magic number of 36 days post chemotherapy (after the last infusion of chemotherapy) and it was in the same 36th day, at the previous aplasia after the second consolidation chemo, that the count rose spontaneously, gradually showing the end of the "wave" of chemicals.
I was back on track. I called Lilianne, explained everything and let the promise in the air that the numbers would rise and, better yet, the decision to go the day before and have a bed to sleep would be the best thing, my marrow wins 24 hours more to produce something. I was counting on the egg in the chicken with constipation. What good would result on this? Nevertheless, I was honest with Lilianne in my words, as always. But deep down, it was a dangerous bet I was doing…
Deep inside I was very apprehensive. But the acumen of a mountaineer told all my body cells that would happen this time the Brazilian snow, and if I went to the hospital I would receive a transfusion of platelets, and my number would pass 50,000, but would lose two crucial days and the snowfall on the mountain I wanted to be. Had to risk and avoid at any cost even a bump in the abdomen, as this could cause me grave internal bleeding and put myself in a situation of risk of death in the interior of Santa Catarina, with hundreds of miles between me and a hospital that has a blood bank. What good is life if there is no adventure?
I thought to myself: "I'm surviving for eight entire months, I need to live a little, even if it means for only five days, I’ll go, fxxx it."
I left the internet and got my backpack ready slowly, calmly, taking care not to stumble indoors, which would make my efforts a joke without even getting out of the house. Bah...
Nobody needs to be an hematologist to understand what I say, just look the picture of the blood test, it gives you my numbers and normal parameter right next to it, in hemoglobin I was running at about half of normal and platelets – well, already in transfusion status, beyond the fact of being with a very weak immune system, still too low to be without fear of catching the flu. What the hell...
Friday the 19th, the next day, Paulo came here at home and in five minutes I called a cab and went down with our four backpacks heading to the cold and possible snow. The unexpected journey had began, Hobbits style lol. On the inside, I was visualizing a great output of blood from my marrow at all costs, this lazy worthless thing that overlooks the “carioca people” that gets a lot of excuses for not working...Someone remind me where I was born? It’s not possible I was born in Rio de Janeiro, I don’t feel like it!
I bought all kinds of supplies for this trip and ended up forming a true mobile ICU in my first aid kit that formerly was limited to painkillers. Now, it’s possible to work on a large bandage with everything I take and also maintain a relatively reliable aseptic area. I even got an oximeter, which is used to check heart rate and oxygen saturation. Well, I bought new masks to use inside the bus and the tent, and I forgot at home. Problem...When we arrived at the bus terminal before going to the bus I went to the pharmacy to buy new ones, and all they had was those that last only a day of use, or a few hours. Care to guess the brand name? "Neve" (Portuguese for “snow”!). The mask even had a small snow capped peak in the logo. Ahahaha!
In the bus terminal of Tiete, the biggest of America Latina here in São Paulo, our imaginary began to work, and as I savored one steak and fries I was already celebrating the simple fact of get on a bus heading to a mountain, a single mountain, more than a thousand miles (literally) from home, with a chance to make some photos, being cold, and especially to feel alive and productive. Our bus left…
I can not say that the 12 hours that became 14 were endless because honestly, I do not know and have not seen, I slept 80% of the course and it was worth it, since the trip was at night and I would not have seen it. Once off the bus we try to buy a ticket to São Joaquim, which would mean at least eighty minutes more, and barely had time to drink a hot chocolate because the bus was leaving the small Lages bus terminal in just ten minutes. More road...
Once we arrived in São Joaquim (1.355m high/ 4,445 feet), Paulo’s uncle named Zani Fabre, came to pick us up at the bus station. We do not waited not even two minutes. The jokes have already started hehehe. Good guy at heart, and good gambling jokes, Zani took us straight to the grandmother's house that Paulo has, and she received us with a full house and lunch at the table, traditional southern Brazilian dish: “galinhada with polenta”. As a visitor my shame is known to be short-lived, and within minutes I was stealing fries from the lunch table with a glass of juice at hand telling jokes too.
Great talk with all of them, all very well and hearty, lunch went striding, very funny, jokes, and everyone enjoying our adventure that would begin the next day, the whole family, that beautiful and fun family! Paulo’s grandma is 86 and she cooked for like 20 people!
In the course of the day, we increased our social engagements and from then on I understood that Paulo was being modest when he said that "he had family in São Joaquim." Heck, almost every family living in the city! In fact, we saw business at the streets of Lages and São Joaquim and villages with "Fabre" in the name hehehe. His family is born, created and traditional in high Santa Catarina, and besides all get on really well with the cold. It's funny, everyone has wood stove, everyone has the same brand of electric heater to the bathroom, and everyone has electric blankets! (Laughs…)
In a few hours of conversation, I knew that the city has problems like any other, suffers from drug trafficking and drug addicts on the streets, the hospital is near crippling and close the doors, the local Priest's crazy enough to kick a coffin because the guy "would not attend the mess" (ahahahah!!), the notary has been audited and fined by Federal Police, and a lot more of good gossip. All this at a donut and hot coffee chat...lol
We ended the day in the middle of a barbecue at the home Zani’s eating steak and playing dominoes until eleven at night. The day ended, time to go home and sleep and grandma’s.
Cold room, less than ten degrees, and too much blankets for those who enjoy cold, kicked aside and was alone with one blanket, not electric of course, and it warmed me through the night until dawn, a little cooler in the morning of July 21st. On this day, the scheduled lunch on our agenda was again...Zani's! Big traditional feijoada! Yammeeeee!!!
Meanwhile Bea called me (Beatriz Azevedo), the dearest Bea, saying she would be doing Off road in Urubici and maybe, enjoying the proximity, she could drive to São Joaquim to give me a hug, that would be great! So I took the liberty of passing the phone to Zani who tried to give latitude and longitude for her.
Unfortunately for Bea, fortunately for us (Ahahaha!), she and her friends could not go, that means more feijoada for us. We prepare to the cold, have not forgotten anything, and just before four in the afternoon, we took the car that Zani left under our responsibility and we started our adventure below the eyes of the entire family, worried about Paulo and now aware of the fact I have cancer, worried about me too, as they accepted me as a distant son. But I said to Paulo’s mom “trust me, I do that all the time, Paulo will be safe”. Now we had to win 76 kms that separated us from the small and quiet Urupema, which is at 1.340 meters of altitude (4,396 feet), encrusted in a small valley within the Santa Catarina Sierra. Isolated, cold, minimal, with some 2,000 people living there.
Luckily, the weather helped us a lot and it hardly rained, then the dirt road was fantastic. Just made a short stop in the square for the record with no more than two shots to stay there and we resumed our goal, which was to assemble tent before the sunset. This would ensure the peace and less pain in the hands assembling the tent the night in the cold already tense rolling down there.
The book thing...
What can I say? I was hungry!:)
Morro das Torres, or Hill of antennas, is the first mountain to receive the high winds from the south, especially Argentina, and this is probably more than Morro da Igreja the coldest mountain in Brazil. There, it was recorded in the last ten years the lowest temperatures of our country, and last winter the lowest in fifteen years if I'm not mistaken, ranking -8.8°C with a wind chill of -27°C. It's cold. For Brazilian standards or not, because I always say that the cold mountains of Brazil are not for us brazilians and not for anyone, since our mountains are very moist, and especially Morro das Torres, whose summit is great puddle, so you can imagine what the cold weather is up there, if your insulation is poor, death by hypothermia is right without assistance and rescue. No jokes.
Night fell, and with it a mild cold, was positive in 5°C until the time we tried to sleep, around 21:30h. In fact, the entrance of the polar air mass was reserved for nine or ten in the morning on Monday. After much trying, I gave up and changed the position altogether, assuming attack position on farts war, going to sleep with the head to the end of the tent. Prepare the boots at the bottom of the tent to avoid that traditional sawmill wetting and subsequent freezing of all boots.
Well? ahahahahahaMorro das Torres summit. 1733m.July 22nd.2013.Urupema/ SC/ Brazil
No good, when we woke up the side of Paulo was bad, facing the winds picking up soft rain that beat together all night. So the fact that it touches the tent caused sweat inside, a leak, and where it dripped? Inside his boot. Nor lacked seasoning, enough to put one egg in and cook the boot on the stove. Pages were torn from a book whose ending is never going to be read, a separate plastic bag inside his boot, and the wait for the snow began.
The morning came dark, gray, eight in the morning seemed night yet. But the tent was already covered in ice, the popular "rime" (in English). Frozen rain began and continued almost nonstop for hours, which already is a fun event to see in Brazil, rare. After hours it gave us a truce for five minutes and we went out to shoot, several people were already at the top of the mountain in cars waiting for the snow that was coming, and I was not so confident about that. Had in mind the vision that still had to be colder for snow, and my watch? Hmmmmm, left it on a stone lying on its side not to alter the reading, keeping the sensor in the air since the stone is cooler...
Eight and a quarter of the morning:
Parofes: "Buddy, can ya see the temperature?"
There was bigger rimes...
Paulo Fabre: "Wait...
Paulo Fabre: "Well…no I can’t..."
Parofes: "What do you mean “I can’t see”?"
Paulo Fabre: "The watch froze."
Parofes: "How come the watch froze? Let me see that..."
Parofes: "Geez! The watch really froze ahahaha!"
Comedy this intellectual conversation. As the temperature did not change, I found that the functions had gone to shit together since it was covered with a layer of ice that surrounded completely, I couldn’t even put on the wrist because it could not thaw, just boiling water. I stopped right there in front of my side of the tent so I could look at it, it was marking -0.8°C.
In the pause of frozen rain for five minutes we tried to get into the car to rescue the large backpacks with food and equipment, but bad news for us, the car froze! We could not stick the key in, it had ice on its hole.
Love the way this shot came out...
The mountain began to fill with people already amazed with the gorgeous event of rime, too much cars up and down, and everyone was screaming at us, waved, or photographing us. Calles us wondering if it was cold and I said no, but they, there in that metal box a ton, probably were suffering.
A guy stopped by Paulo on the road and said: "Boy you are not serious, you guys did not camped there, you set up the tent now only to have a story to tell..."
Paulo replied: "No, we came here last night waiting for the snow, really". Serious, not a single smile on his face hehe
The guy gave a loud laughter and accelerated the car, did not believe I think...And he obviously didn’t notice the piles of ice hanging under the car of about 15-20 cms in size, formed by the night.
What happens is that, for many people here in Brazil, the culture of mountaineering is something that you only see on TV, in Asia, and people have a very curious imaginary (or not) of these “super persons”, the mountaineers. For them, the climbers must have an electric heater inside the tents and someone to massage their feet, and pizza delivery in high camps, probably that. What we were doing was completely normal to me and even to Paulo who had only a few experiences in mountaineering, and I was even a little sad because I could not hike the mountain on foot as I usually do, having to content myself before my illness to get to the top of the modest little hill with the loin sitting in the same metal box of a ton. What a difference...
Time passed and I got frustrated lying in tent looking at the outside, starting to get hungry, and checking the temperature. It fell a little to -0.9°C, then another half hour later it was -1.0°C, and after that it started to get hot. It climbed back to -0.9°C, to -0.8°C, to -0.7°C, and then jumped straight to -0.5°C. And I thought "yep, now there’s never gonna be any snow this morning". I made a video of me whining about it.
It was ten o'clock when temperature dropped to the -0.5°C mark and the first snowflake, a big white bastard, fell just in front of my view. I said to Paulo...
Parofes: "Man, this here is snow!" (and I pointed the snowflake that fell on the grass right in front of my side of the tent, a small part of the ground that didn’t froze because oof the constant steps, and was not wet as the surrounding terrain and, therefore, did not melted the flake)
Paulo Fabre: "Yeah man, this is snow!"
Parofes: "Let's get out of the tent because it won’t last long!"
Paulo Fabre: "Let’s go!"
Parofes: "It's snowing man! Uhul "(because I could not miss the damn "uhul" ahahaha)
I Jumped out to the tent and started filming and photographing walking like a drunk aimlessly, but I think it was more for a child who won the first remote control car of his life, trying to figure out where the hell the battery goes (inside the car kid, stick the damn things inside the car!). Whoever looked at me definitely thought I had never seen snow in my life.
But what they didn’t know was that actually, I did not know if I would ever have a chance to see it again...
Paulo came out of the tent and started shooting together, we hugged and I thanked the company for being there with me. I was really thrilled to be alive, feeling homesick for Lilianne and getting a snowfall in the middle of Brazil!
What a scene hehehe
Hell yeah! ahahahaha
A few minutes passed and more people came in shooting, curious, asking to shoot by my tent covered in snow, photographing our car, others, Paulo and I, the whole set, until a young female doctor with some friends came, saw me with the mask and asked why I was with one. I told her the reason, and she told me she was a doctor and that I should not be there. But she was not trying to fight with me at all, she said with a tone of being worried with me. I Answered short but sincere: "You do not know me, I know I shouldn’t be here, but I also now I needed to be here".
Then a young lady came, wearing a colored jacket, with a cameraman by her, and asked to interview me since Paulo introduced the subject on the mask thing. Then I gave he interview to her and it went on every local channel by noon the same day.
We were, as I said, the "stars of the moment" in Morro das Torres. I gave an interview to local TV (see video below) and photographed the maximum I could, being careful not to destroy the cameras of course. My dlsr and my gopro silver 3.
Then the cold began to shake, was the arrival in power of the polar air mass. Dawn was at zero degrees during the morning the temperature maintained at -0.5°C or similar and windless, during all 100 minutes of snow fall. At noon, when it got very windy, the temperature began to fall. One below, two below, three...Until it was 13:00h and the temperature stabilized at -4.1°C. Hence, the wind put together with the cold, at least 50 km/h (could easily be stronger, this is a guess measurement), the wind chill was of -23°C. Cold. The coldest I felt over a brazilian mountain undoubtedly. Colder than I felt in 2011 in Morro da Igreja, when we got actual temperature of -2°C and wind chill of -15°C.
The healthy blood also has the function of warming the body, so I feel the cold more now than three years ago, my feet hurt a bit and my hands could not leave out my jacket for two consecutive shots. I had to take one shot and warm my hands for four or five minutes. Paulo felt very cold feet, but I reassured him about the possibility to frostbite there, at that temperature, almost zero, at least for him. Then he continued shooting and plunged through the bushes far away heading for the edge of the mountain that overlooked the city of Urupema itself. I kept always close to the tent if an emergency happened, then, my angle to photographs was to nearby mountains and a vision towards the next village which by right should be the true owner of the Morro das Torres, Rio Rufino county, for pure closeness. From Urupema are nearly five miles to the top of the Morro das Torres and Rio Rufino, only three and a half miles.
The hard part was to get INTO the car.
At one point I gave voice to my body, I was very cold, my attempts to get warm in the legs and feet failed, hence the decision was quick, get into the car. We opened the car trunk, which received no incidence of winds and therefore had no icicle covering the lock, luck. We got in the car and opened the doors that were hard frozen, took the food and had lunch inside the tent, where we decided to go down immediately since the objective had been completed, to see and register the Brazilian snow. We were fine, smiling, full belly, but concerned about the situation of our sleeping bags, with several wet spots, abundantly. Paulo’s boot was still quite wet, even my camera bag was a little wet. The situation was quiet and under full control, since it would not rain and the chances of more snowfall were very low, but with my condition, it was risking too much for just more cold. The strongest cold was in fact expected for the next morning.
This was a serious problem for me, too risky to stay there and subject myself to sleep in a wet bag the next, the next night would be much colder. I am bold, but not crazy. After lunch we began gradually to store things in the car, we didn’t worried about organizing anything inside the backpacks, we could do this in the city.
At this time the cold was intense and it was tricky for me. My heart rate was in 135 and rising, that was my body trying to get me warm, even with shirt, fleece and goose feather jacket and standing without moving, which made me comfortable at the top part of my body, but I felt quite cold in the legs. It was useless, the effort was in vain. We turn on the car heater and stayed inside for a few minutes, I improved and my heart rate dropped to 95.
The routine was this, Paulo went to walk a little more and I took charge of putting everything in the car at possible speed, so I went to the tent, get something, put in the car, get myself into the car warming up a little bit, and then repeated the routine, on and on. The routine was going on and after about three repetitions of these Paulo finished his pictures and came together to finish collecting everything.
The problem was the last thing, the tent. It was covered by a layer of 2 cm of ice from a whole side, which graduated grew with the night rain, freezing rain from six to ten in the morning, and the snow that has accumulated on what it had already. I think there was about five to seven kgs of ice on, only one side of the tent as the other had no incidence of winds and precipitation. The result was inevitable, I could not release one of specks. It was wrapped in ice. The solution was easy, the first one who had to relieve the bladder would do it there to melt the ice. The prize was to Paulo. Then the ice melted, the tent let go of the ice, and we finished putting everything in the car. Look at this video made by Paulo and listen to the ice breaking over me. When we made this video the wind had virtually stopped.
The time had advanced rapidly, and it was three in the afternoon, so we wanted to come down soon and celebrate in São Joaquim with dinner. Taking the car out also has of a certain job because of the ice on the dirty ground. We put what's left of some paper under with the tire and making a small trail of a meter, it worked, the car came out. To our luck, the car had no problem to start at all, even almost completely covered with 2cms of ice.
We started the descent at about half past three in the afternoon and, as it should be, we increase the number of interested persons by our car, which despite being free of the second windshield of ice which we could remove with the help of the car heater and smashing it with our hands protected by gloves, still had the doors, roof, and front completely frozen. Result, we cause more traffic jam on the muddy road that leads to the mountain. Everyone wanted to photograph the car, and the vast majority still commenting to us about the state of the car, of course, dumb observations like “Wow, your car is frozed!”. Really? I didn’t notice that! ahahahahha
Too much curiosity, too much cars, and we descended slowly, and for a moment when we get to the altitude of 1,550 meters, where there is a "Y" in the road and a building, thought it could be because of the "Waterfall that Freezes" which is just ahead, but in fact, it wasn’t frozen. Show that was reserved for the next day morning and we lost by being at the cold comfort in Paulo’s aunt house. I’ll explain the expression "cold comfort" later. Actually the frenzy of the cars was to get a photo next to some accumulation of snow before it melted away, and the accumulation was in fact little. Dozens of cars gone by us, virtually no one down.
Followed after losing altitude and good thirty minutes could be summarized to five without traffic jam, we reached the 1,340 meters of Urupema county again. Not even stopped, we left right away, making a different path because Paulo wanted to cross a dirt road that leads to another nearby village of São Joaquim, where his grandfather settled and was owner of a grocery store. On the way, we took a very short blizzard on the road only 1.000 meters of altitude, which lasted three or four minutes.
The small village is called Santa Izabel, and boils down to two main streets, and a additional one exits the small square. Must have probably five hundred residents only. We stopped, parked the car at the door of the grocery store that once belong to Paulo’s grandfather, also named Paulo Fabre, and enter. Paulo began talking to three locals and ended up staying there for fifteen minutes drinking a hot coffee and listening to the "stories" that "southerners rednecks" were telling us of Paulo's grandfather and his uncle, whom I met the day before. After the chat we parted and around five o'clock we resumed our way to São Joaquim, where again, for two or three minutes, it snowed on the road.
We arrived at his grandmother’s, entered, dropped our things, and immediately went out for a walk and see the city as it was, left the task to organize the car the next morning. The city was a real party, crowded, many tourists came because of the snow forecast, and who arrived the night before got lucky because we hear it snowed in São Joaquim more than Morro das Torres itself, unfortunately all melted fast and we could not see how it was. We went home and had a coffee with grandma, after that we went out to dinner and celebrate the success of the “mission”.
Walking through the city we found that it was still packed, and city hall do not realize the demand for so many people who face a long trip there when snow is expected. All packed up at the square, completely filled with people queuing for photos near the tree full of icicles (the city purposely wets the tree to freeze in the cold, collaborative work of nature and men), a lot of people kind of "lost" walking here and there. The restaurants? Crowded, all of them, and the city has like only ten. Our intention was to dine out, so we started knocking on the door for a table, Me, Paulo and Fabricio, Paulo’s cousin.
Just got a place to eat after an hour searching, the only place where people do not have a time to wait of approximately two hours. Even so, we wait half an hour to sit down and place our order, and another half an hour waiting for the food. Well worth it, the food was good, the service friendly.
Home again, we contacted his aunt, Gica, where we would spend the night to rest, shooting outside in the morning, since it's a small farm with a large area, pines, Araucárias, high fields, gorgeous place!
We went there, settled down, and things were still inside the car! In the house of Aunt Gica there was still some snow accumulated through the bush by the fence in the garden, since it snowed there with greater intensity. The only difference from her house to his grandmother's comes down to about 4 kms away, outside the city limits and, moreover, on average two degrees colder. Her house is exactly at 1,400 meters of altitude (4,593 feet).
We got there as the night was very cold, we bask in the kitchen talking while she worked in her wedding sweets (she sells them for living), we were presented with a delicious apple tea...Ahh...years that I did not drink this delicious fruit tea...
We talked a little about our adventure, and then yet early, I think it was half past nine in the evening, we went to sleep. We stayed in a guest room that did not seem to be very cold, but...lol...Quickly I fell asleep, was tired, poor blood drains my energy which is already low because of the disease and the end of the aplasia. Just got up in the middle of the night one time to pee and ran back to under the covers, it was pretty cold. When the cell phone alarm woke us up, we decided to stay one more hour to let the sun rise, I looked at my watch and inside the room, the temperature was only 3°C. Sleep another hour. The cell phone screamed again, and I could not stand the curiosity (there were also snow forecast for this morning) and we put everything we had, looked at the watch before left the room, and put it on my backpack to measure the outside too, and marked 2°C, inside the bedroom! What a cold room! We left immediately to photograph with the cameras and taking my tripod. It did not snow, but the cold was pretty strong, it was eight in the morning.
The cold morning, photographing outside under -24,5°C of wind chill
First shot of the day
At this point I decided not to risk it and not demand too much of my sick body, Paulo went to hike the ridge and I stayed where I was looking for textures or other cool things to photograph. Insects not a chance, those who did not freeze were basking in their holes and covered with wood on fire. So I was wandering slowly in the middle of a huge semi frozen puddle, which offered me the comfort of stepping without getting my feet wet.
In five minutes Paulo arrived at the top of the ridge and photographed quite a bit up there, and followed the ridge back. I followed where I was and started the way back toward the house, already half a mile distant. At that time, Paulo came down and found me on the garage door of the house, and we decided immediately to go around the property to photograph in a forest of Araucaria which is within the grounds of his aunt property, we went over there.
Arriving at the house we were greeted by a real canine pack. Two large adults being a shepherd, a mutt of one blind sight, and several smaller ones, I think five or six more. Among these, two puppies, one very small with a maximum of about two months born, if that, and it trembled like jellow, and showed up ready to play and for a new home. The poor puppy looked a miniature cow, very cold and shivering. At this time, the temperature was -4.7°C, and very windy. In the hills, the wind was at least 80 km/h. The Araucaria trees are quite high, certainly with some 25 meters tall, swaying in a mating dance before the strong Argentinian winds. Where we were, the wind was of about 60 km/h. Associating temperature and wind, we reached a wind chill of -24.5°C. Cold, and strong brazilian cold if I might add. Undoubtedly I hit a new record of cold in my own country (if we had stayed in Morro das Torres or even in Urubici at Morro da Igreja, would go through wind chill of -33°C, reported by the website that receives direct information of SINDACTA weather substation, which is in the neighboring town).
It was very cold and my hands hurt just to take them of my jacket where they felt comfortable and warm. Even so, we photographed a bit more in there after making friends with all canines of the house.
The sun managed to break through the blockade of thunderclouds, which decimated definitely with the chance of snow again this day, and when the sun's rays struck my face and body, and a strong wave of heat comforted me for a short period of time, a priceless feeling, in a really beautiful place. Again, I felt very much alive.
Some photos and started heading back, enough of exposure to extreme cold for me and Paulo, moreover, we had no breakfast yet. We arrived back at Gica’s at ten o'clock, that was when we eat something, as when we left no one had raised yet. We ate quickly and started organizing backpacks and belongings before leaving it there, since we had to this day a van scheduled for 13:00h to the city of Lages, where the bus leaves back to São Paulo and another 12 hours of road trip.
After lunch a distant cousin of Paulo, Toninho, offered us a ride to Lages, since that's where he lives, and we accept. The transport van was canceled because with it we would be hanging out in Lages for about five hours waiting for the bus, and decided to go with the ride, at five in the afternoon. In Lages our bus would leave at 18:45h. With the new schedule, we would have time to organize everything properly in the backpacks and try to give a tidy in the tent.
We came chatting in the car, well, Paulo and Toninho talked a lot, I was still amazed admiring the landscapes around us...The trip was super quick and we were soon in Lages, at six o'clock. Yet had time to organize backpacks again and look for my headphones which actually noticed I forgotten in Gica’s. Damn, Lili just bought me this! :/
When I woke up at the bus, it was only half an hour from the bus station of Tietê already in São Paulo. Soon we arrived and took the subway. At Paraiso station we parted since Paulo would be at home there, and I went on. After leaving the subway I got a taxi and I was finally at home, had breakfast with the First Lady who went to work soon after. I was tired, lazy, needed a shower, so I left to do a blood test the next day, which would be Thursday, July 25th. And I did, with the result coming out on the same day at night, and the gorgeous number of 45.400 platelets in peripheral blood. Ah! I was right!
More, I did a new blood test on Monday July 29th and the result was 63.000 platelets in the blood. On the same Monday I went to Dr. P for a consult and request the health plan for the authorization of chemotherapy which, theoretically, is the last step of my treatment, preparation for remission. To stamp the passport of healing (even if subjective healing, since the disease gets back in 45% of cases even after the transplant) I need a new bone marrow, which didn’t found yet. Patience, you gain some, you lose others. I'm here, alive, well, that's what matters.
Anyway, authorization went okay and was released on August 2nd, and I came to the hospital on August 3rd, returning to this place that became my predominant residence this year, for the fifth round of chemotherapy. At my arrival day did another complete blood test (also analyzing glucose, liver and kidney) and scores were excellent, 102.000 platelets, white blood cells (immune system) at 3440, 8.3 of hemoglobin. Liver and kidneys are also within normal numbers, which is what most concerns in terms of side-effects in the use of chemotherapy.
I stayed at the hospital from August 3rd to August 11th. Already received tha last chemo and went home for a couple of days, and I am already back in the hospital for the aplasia period, transfusions, transfusions…Came back yesterday and I still have some 20 days to go here.
Now one last thought, I don’t believe only in the end of aplasia for everything have gone so well on this trip. After all, for much less, with 25,000 platelets inside the house doing nothing and before winter I had some bleedings in the hands and legs. This time, with only 19,200 in transfusion status, I enjoyed the long road and had absolutely nothing, not a drop of blood lost by nose nor brushing teeth.
As always the psychological fact proves that doing what we love releases several natural drugs in our system, drugs which made me happy, in tune with my body, psychologically healthy, masking my illness while I was enjoying the cold, the snow, and the mountains of southern Brazil. And by doing so, my bone marrow went with it and worked quite a bit.
Big hugs to all, and hail the Brazilian Snow!