Sunday, January 30, 2005

When The Day Doesn´t Go As Planned...

I swore murder at whoever was behind the constant ringing of my phone. Whoever it was didn’t let the fact that I didn’t answer dissuade him from his persistent goal. The phone rang once, twice, three times… and he even tried a forth time. Putting the pillow over my head I turned the other way and tried getting back to sleep, telling myself that whoever it was, I could get back to them later. After a week from hell, I was exhausted and catching up on sleep was right on top of my priority list. I was almost back in dreamland when that familiar pang of guilt crept up over my shoulder. What if it was important? What if there was something wrong? People are only this persistent when it’s urgent… The caller ID identified my uncle, notorious for adventures on the weekend and although I was always more than a willing participant, recharging my batteries couldn’t survive a day with him. Guilt was going to keep me awake until I found out what it was, and if the purpose was adventure, I’d be sure to manage a perfect “No thanks, today I’m going to stay home and relax.”

Get me those spare batteries!

First I got one leg out of bed, then after taking a deep breath, I took out another and before I knew it, I was laying on the floor reminding myself that I only had ten minutes to find the warmest clothes I had… we were going to go play in the snow!
Pico to Arieiro is one of the highest peaks in Madeira that one can go to by car. The view is amazing especially when you travel above the clouds being one of the points that cannot be missed by the nature loving tourists. Snow will only fall in Pico do Arieiro once a year, on one given day of the year God decides to cover Madeiran soil in a white blanket of snow and this is the day that my adventurous uncle and I wait for the whole year long!

No words can describe the sound of the first step upon virgin snow. I watched and listened with marvel as the untouched snow gave way to the pressure of my footsteps. Being this early in the morning, there was almost nobody else around and Pico do Areiro became my secret playground. The sun shone brightly on what looked like cotton candy sprinkled with glittery fairy dust. No wind, not even a breeze appeared to disturb us and you could almost walk around in a t-shirt… if you were insane enough. At first I reveled in the joy of throwing my uncle with a couple of well aimed snow balls. I of course also got hit twice on the nose and a couple hundred times on other places but the fun was too good to care about the wetness caused by a snow war. When I was too tired to run around, I laid on the snow and made a snow angel, everything that I had worried about the whole week somehow seemed distant and insignificant and although I couldn’t feel my feet… I thanked God that I was alive! These are the moments I live and work for. No one can price the view of Madeira’s most beautiful peak looking as if it had been covered with icing. I can’t tell you how many hours we spent playing in the snow because we all simply lost track of time. After exploring the surroundings, my uncle and I decided that the car’s mats would make perfect substitute sleds! Finding myself a nice slope about three or so meters, I looked down and hoped there were no hidden stones on the way and that the landing would be soft. With one solid burst of courage, I pushed myself over the slope and even though the landing wasn’t one of the softest, my uncle and I went back on the slope a couple more times, attracting some other daredevils to try along with us.

Joy is Bliss.

I can’t remember when last I had so much fun and closing my eyes, I humbly thanked God that I got out of bed and that I was living this moment. Moments… the best ones last for such a short time and become such a significant part of the past. I meditated on how lucky I was to be sharing this one with people I love and wrote down the name of someone that had been on my mind and who I wished I could spend a similar moment with. I just know he’d love the snow as much as I do and although my wish seemed like an impossible reality, I decided that there was no harm in wishing. Smiling at my dumb idea, I then rubbed his name from the snow and went back to play!
My uncle and I discovered a wooden plank, the kind that they use to lift cargo with forklifts. My uncle looked at me, I looked at my uncle and then we both looked at the wooden plank… five minutes later we had tied the plank to the back of my uncle’s Suzuki Sumarai and gave my aunt strict instructions to drive slow and go easy on turns.
Nothing felt more like Christmas! Not only was our makeshift sled fast and fun, we quickly made a success with the people on the road who waved, took pictures and made videos of our new sport. With more people around, kids off all ages appeared to watch the fun and after a while, we began giving rides to a couple of happy kids who had the time of their lives. At one stage, my uncle and I had three kids grabbing on to us as we skied up and down the roads, making us look like Santa’s personal sled service. When looking up, I realized that another uncle of mine had also decided to join the fun and was filming us as we zoomed up and down in the snow, when I went over to greet my aunt I laughed as she greeted me by saying “When I saw two whacky people zoom past in a sled tied to a car, I thought to myself – that can only be my niece!”

Wet up to my undies, we left the snow in desperate search of some heat. Running into one of my uncle’s friends we decided that a day as perfect as that one couldn’t end in the middle of the afternoon. His house being the closest, we decided to bake some potatoes, buy some bread and go into a barbecue spot in São Jorge where we would make meat on a spit (Espetada). My aunt and I laughed and joked as we tried drying my pants with a hair dryer and a towel that did nothing to help dry my hair. Stopping at the supermarket to buy bread, I also bought a new pair of socks and smiled at the flabbergasted people who looked at us as a couple of crazy Eskimos still dripping from Alaska. Thanks to the rain, the road up to our secret spot was full of mud and only my uncle’s jeep could climb up the muddy path forcing six people to squeeze into a place designed for four. Leaving the other car on a tar road, we all squeezed in and held on for our lives. The jokes and laughs were too many to count!

Once reaching our rocky kitchen, I sat on one of the rock tables and looked around me. On one side I saw Pico Ruivo covered in snow, on the other side I saw a perfect blue ocean and a big sun about to set on the horizon. Perfect, absolutely perfect! The kind of view you only dream about when you live in the city and I sighed wondering when would be the next time I got this pleasure. I remembered my colleague back in Lisbon who had told me just the day before that he would love a house in Madeira. I wished he could see what I was seeing, I know that he’d choose a place with this exact view and I smiled as I pictured him smiling from his desk whilst reading this exact sentence. I didn’t have that much time to think any further. After the men had came with branches that they would be using for spits, I was put in charge of cutting the bread still warm in the packet, and then ran around being chased by a madman whose sole mission in life was to smudge my face with some mud. Hehehe… I guess he thought he’d return the favor after I painted some brown Indian war paint on his cheeks.

The food was amazing, the kind you’ll never get out of a restaurant. I held my stomach as we laughed at the singing members of the group, who not only couldn’t carry a tune but also decided to torture us with those songs that only your great grandmother remembers. Night fell and I was blessed with the most magnificent star lit sky. In all my years of camping, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen the sky more filled with stars, and the more you laid back and stared at them, the closer they seemed, to the point where you could almost reach out and grab one. I was blessed, given the opportunity to wish upon two shooting stars, I realized that the only way things could possibly have been more perfect was if my pants were completely dried.

“A euro for your thoughts?” My uncle’s friend and I didn’t often see each other but whenever we did, we always had tons of fun together. Even though we’re about twenty years of age difference apart, we seem to understand each other really well. One moment we’re two six year old kids chasing each other with mud and the next moment we’re two sixty year old philosophers pondering on the meaning of life. At that point I didn’t think of much except for the fact that I was lucky to be alive so I put my head on his shoulder and told him that I wished that every person on this planet was living a moment as special as that one as I was… a tall order I know, but something definitely worth wishing for.

How to end the perfect ending? Tag on the highway. My uncle’s version of tag is of driving fast enough to loose your buddy behind you. Then you find yourself a place where you can hide and only come out when he’s zoomed past you. You then drive up close enough to flash your headlights at him and the process reverses itself. At eleven at night when it’s cold and almost everyone is at home sleeping, the road becomes your playground and we enjoyed ourselves on fast turns and great hiding places.

After a hot shower, I practically fell into my bed making it seem as if I’d never gotten out of bed at all and that the whole day had simply been an amazing dream. The original plan had been to stay home and relax, taking the day to unpack my suitcases and do my laundry… thank God that the day didn’t go as I’d planned!

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