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An enchanted valley…

…I could start by writing “If paradise exists, it’s located forty kilometres away from my house”, and perhaps this would be the most meaningful way to describe what the Argentina Valley has given me during the last few years. It’s not a challenge, it’s not a desire to be in the limelight, it’s simply a “fatal attraction”, a primordial call. The accessibility with which one can understand the places, the history of this wonderful valley makes me proud of being in some ways custodian to an inestimable treasure, a protector of its heritage; on the one hand aware of the potential that a promotional policy could bring but on the other hand selfishly jealous of sharing these treasures that we should all contribute in maintaining intact for what they are…exceptional gifts.

Since I was a child, when I looked towards the North from the mouth of the Argentina river, way beyond Taggia, focusing my attention on the peaks high above, I always knew that sooner or later I would have had to walk on that distant white strip that like a bridge connected two spots in the sky. It was easy to fall in love. These days it’s second nature, waking up before dawn, equipment ready, camera, first aid kit and some water is all that is needed. Often I go alone, sometimes with good friends who share their love of the valley with me. Taggia, Badalucco, Montalto already starts to glisten, then Agaggio appears. In Molini di Triora a special dimension starts to materialize, I switch my thoughts off and I open my heart…a quick coffee break and the smile from the locals’ bright faces who now greet me as if I am one of them, they give me gifts, they buy me coffee…some of them are hunters, ultimately against my principles but they are still my people, people with whom I confront myself, they know where the valley accepts them, and I in return know how to accept them…

After the quick greeting, I rush as nature is calling…eyes up to the sky where Triora dominates as it always has…from here there is no way back, here is where paradise starts…one of the many gravel roads takes me to where the so-called “civilization” ends, I look up to where the trees stop, I must be up there before the chamois move towards the other side of the mountain…it is almost as if they know that I am about to arrive…I want to believe it is so.

At last I am in the undergrowth, fleeting meetings with welcoming hosts, the wild boars, discreet almost disinterested but gently menacing and shy…my heart starts beating faster in the hope that they cross my path, that they walk close to me and then disappear like only they can…I stop and take some pictures, dawn is always different up here, also the feeling of freedom is always different, the meadows coming up next are shining with dew, flowers that are unusual and rare up here are commonly found and are starting to blossom giving dashes of colour to the background green just like fireworks as they explode in the sky. I already have what repays a full day’s walk…I have just a few seconds, a very long few seconds after which they disappear over yonder where no one is around and they can graze in peace. I stop again, binoculars in hand and look up to sections of the mountain where I know the animals like to roam. I see the chamois but they have already seen me, I will never be able to get up close to them, they have a sense of proportion that keeps us at a distance…when they feel exposed the safety margin that nature taught them becomes a dance, a perfect circle. The show starts when they feel too exposed or threatened. Then they will know no obstacles and defy gravity by designing new and impossible trajectories on impenetrable rocky cliffs; that is when I need to be ready, armed with my camera in the hunt for that perfect shot. Here you can touch the sky, here each rocky spur can reveal an unexpected meeting that I need to face calmly and silently…I’m hoping to see a roe deer, sometimes they come in groups of two or three and from afar you can hear the males calling. Though invisible to me, I call to him in the midst of a deafening silence, I have learnt his language so I hope to receive a reply…sometimes he replies and I am overwhelmed with emotion…then I look at my watch, luckily I still have time to climb further up. I still have to say hello to Her Majesty, from this angle I can even see the Tuscan coast, the blue water of the sea, it is unbelievable but it is so. Here she is! All of a sudden above me is the Queen, the Golden Eagle, an implacable angel, feared and respected by all living beings of the mountains, well almost all of them, as incomprehensible acts by little men limit her and make her less and less visible but here she is, I shoot and shoot, it does not matter if I don’t manage to frame her properly, I see her and that is enough. It’s almost like a symphony, as if my appointment with nature repeated itself over and over, I always hope the animals understand that I am also one of them. Thousands of other surprises, foxes, marmots, reptiles, many birds of prey, migratory and non-migratory birds…I also fear and hope to meet the wolf’s yellow eyes…he knows me, he sees me, I know he is somewhere around and he is watching me…

Here is my valley, I am aware that I need to be afraid of it but I have never tried to violate it, tame it or dominate it…I only want her to take me to where I am allowed to go. This is the only way that my son and all of our children will inherit the same privilege.

 

 

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Andrea Biondo

Andrea is a well known nature photographer, a successful blogger, tireless walker and mountain lover. Our mountains, his mountains, friendships born by chance simply by sharing a way of observing things, of breathing and of taking pictures...Thank you Andrea for the message you dedicated to us.