Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Majella: light on the mountain

“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” Edward Abbey

Today I live and work 3/4 of my time in Abruzzo, and in my life I have spent countless days among these mountains. Still, my vast knowledge of this region and its nature always suffered from a large blank spot. I never ventured deep into the wildest and most mystical mountain range of all, the Majella massif – the “Mother” mountain for the locals. (The second peak of the Apennines; valleys even 20Km long with no human living in them; the largest wolf population in Abruzzo!) So, when the environmental organization PAN Parks*, which in Italy has given its prestigious certificate only to the Majella National Park, contacted me last September to purchase some images from the area, I was a bit ashamed to say that I didn't have any good picture of it, but I would have been eager to be assigned to cover some spots for them. Excited as seldom before, I began my first explorations in this unknown wilderness (this is indeed Majella: a pure wilderness in the middle of Italy) with several maps in my backpack (there are 4-5 different versions of Majella’s paths network!) and two months in front of me to accomplish the work. I will skip mentioning all the problems I experienced with the weather (this year we had snow already in October), or with the very long distances and demanding, steep slopes, carrying a heavy backpack on some trails that vanished into nothing. But I will say something of the wilderness.
Majella gave me the healthy shock of encountering a wolf 50m from me on a mountain path one morning and the thrill of having two golden eagles soaring above my head another day. I flushed partridges, crossed streams, found primitive handicrafts, spotted chamois on inaccessible cliffs, walked on tundra-like plateaus, heard the call of the wallcreeper – many times, camped at 2790m asl with -10°C, touched two walls of a canyon by stretching my arms, saw the milky way cross the whole sky and had the incredible luxury of getting lost – three times!

I don’t know many other places here in Italy where all these things can still be found and experienced at such level. I commend the National Park for the groundbreaking commitment in preserving and rewilding these mountains, against all the odds and the public opinion. Come to visit Majella to see this with your own eyes, and give me a call, I would be happy to show you around.

*PAN Parks is a cool organization, working hard to find a way both to protect Europe's wilderness and help the local communities to develop a sustainable economy. I am really glad to have contributed a bit to their mission with my work.
Click on the bear to visit the PAN Parks website.