The last two days have full to the brim for a Highland lad in Lombardy. The trip so far has been so educational, friendly, and so well organised. All I have to do is turn up at the right place and at the right time and we head off to somewhere new,see something different and talk to some one interesting, whether it be Niccola, Giuseppe or the mischievous Giovanni. Found out the saffron eating cows is probably a wee joke to wind up the more gullible Scots amongst us……me. The area we were in tues/wed was heavily forested but with young trees as the place was denuded after the Second World War through clear felling for charcoal burning. Although we were kindly looked after I have struggled with the local dishes, the over abundance of salt and the lack of vegetables. As a guy of habit the fruit and muesli start to the morning is badly missed. We are visiting an area where there are even more problems than back home. Where we had lunch Niccola told us that the school had closed and although there were a couple of new restaurants opened up there was little activity in the area. It was especially attractive to tourists, the forests were not mature enough for saw milling and the wood fuel supply was not established in an economic basis although the wood stacks were very artistic . Hardly saw any kids any where over the last few days. Lots of politics chat, Scottish, Italian and environmental. Couple of interesting points of discussion, a different view of carbon as a problem and nature’s take on globalisation. I made the comment that nature does not like globalisation but that was countered by the statement that nature does not care but just gets on with it….. True whether we like it or not and we tend not to like it. The Italian politics are sad to hear about, whether from the older Niccola or the younger Helena and “Tatty”. Helena wants to leave and Tatty does not see any one to vote for. Berlusconi does not even register as a joke. Going back to the serious side there does not seem to be much employment linked to the forest although that may change as the forest matures. At the moment there is a consortium of private and public bodies involved, state and local, and seems very complex although it does work. The jobs are based either in offices and are rangers. Wed morning saw us get ready for another full day at the office. While waiting for the two rangers to arrive I was told about the amazing Mario who had built an observatory almost single handed from scratch.
I just could not make it needing twelve hours sleep instead. Giuseppe and Baptista turned up and we headed off on a pretty stunning day”s tour. We are now in the Valvestino/Capovalle forests and the van was left behind as we traveled in two jeeps up the sides of sheer cliffs, getting commentaries of species and histories all the way. These guys were passionate about their jobs and they were easy company. Lots of War tales and made you realise that the wars we get involved in are in other people’s countries and for them it is far more immediate, even after this time. One story that Guiseppe told us was after Mussilini had headed north and set up the Republic of Salo his own mother had been visiting her sister and stopped to watch some one play tennis. She had never seen tennis before and not only that but it was El Ducie himself. Quite extra ordinary that I was sitting a couple of feet away from the son of some one who had been in Mussilini’s company if only for a brief time as she was quickly moved on by his guards…….living history. Up 4000 feet we were talking about ibex,bear, lynx when a couple of hunters walked past us out of the mist. Earlier there were several shots echoing around the two valleys we traveled over. Nice to hear the red deer roaring.
More than one photographer in the pack though.
Where we stopped for lunch in front of a big fire was a view point back to where we were yesterday. Baptista was very interested in fishing and through Helena we exchanged stories and I did a bad drawing of a creel.
After driving on through the young forests Giuseppe stopped and we spent a wonderful half hour catching white clawed crayfish and salmon parr.
Everything going back of course and so much information about life cycles and the river environment.
I felt we left as friends at the end of the day. So all that remained of the day was a three hour drive to Breno where I had too much to eat, spaghetti followed by pizza, but as ever good company and another fine day complete.