Instructions as follows :
Find out as much as you can about the black grouse before you start.
Salient points : a.) the males are black; and b.) they are about the size of a grouse.
Other notes : a.) they live on moorland near trees; b.) they don't taste good; c.) they have distinctive forked tail plumage, hence the Italian common name gallo forcello; d.) they perform elaborate courtship rituals in spring; e.) they are endangered to the point of being on the Red List, despite not tasting good; and f.) it is still legal to hunt them, despite being on the Red List and despite not tasting good. Go figure.
Next, climb in your Panda, taking wife, children and associated clobber with you. Head towards Cannobio, and hang a left, then keep driving up. Drop in at Crodo for a crodino, the region's very own fizzy drink (a bit like Lucozade), and keep driving up.
Keep driving up. Second gear. All the way.
Up, up, up.
When you pass through a tunnel very similar to the one at Milford Sound, NZ, (similar in that it has no interior cladding and no road to speak of - something off the set of Doctor Who, without, we hope, the wobbles) -- when you pass through this tunnel, you know you're nearly there.
Reaching, finally, a point about 5km below Alpe Devero, abandon Panda by the side of the road because the car parks are full, take out walking boots, under-5s, patient wife and other clobber. Start walking.
Up. Up, up, up (starting to seem like a busman's holiday...)
Reaching, even more finally, the alpe, marvel at the beauty of the fertile basin ringed by austere, bare peaks, and feel at home due to the frequent occurrence of stone houses with tetti in piode :
Have a picnic. Walk around a bit. Count fish in the river (just to get your eye in). Wonder at the lack of ice-cream, and the lack of cows (it's an alp in summer, isn't it?).
Go to bed late (on account of the good company). Wake up early. Fortify yourself with a cappuccino and a slice or two of the refugio's delicious torta, made with pears, chestnut flour and honey. Forget to ask for the recipe.
Leaving wife and kids behind to clear up, trot across in your strong walking boots and green fatigues to the far side of the alp, where a bunch of guys wearing strong walking boots and green fatigues are standing in a manly circle, being eyed by a group of English setters.
Join a squadra, and after a second cappuccino, head upwards along the river bank and through the larches :
Reaching fairly open moorland (very up - more than 2000m up, in fact), walk around a bit, and then a bit more, and wonder at the lack of black grouse. But when the setters gather into a canine circle being eyed by a group of green-fatigued hunters, you know you've found one.
Don't miss the highlight : a mother with a brood of no less than seven juveniles. According to the world expert, A Good Sign.
In the meantime, make sure your wife (patient), walks around a bit, puts the kids on ponies and walks around a bit, takes some photos and walks around a bit, marvels at the overnight reappearance of large quantities of ice-cream (and its equally sudden disappearance into the mouths of two under-5s), 'discovers' the fact that the woodlands are full of wild blueberries and sets the kids onto picking some for lunch. She must also arrange a picnic lunch including a delicious local goat cheese and equally delicious rye bread impregnated with raisins and walnuts. Make sure she forgets to ask for the recipe.
As time goes on, wife should resort to playing Eye-Spy with the following on her list :
A church :
A mule with an interesting saddle :
A chimney with some mountains in the background :
She must be very sorry not to have had an opportunity to see a black grouse, which looks a bit like this (credit, RSPB) :
Get back to base two hours later than estimated, where patient wife is endeavouring to keep the two under-5s from killing each other (having run out of Eye-Spy subjects). Finish off the cheese and the bread, and inhale a can of Nastro Azzurro. Then head on down, down, down.
Down, down, down, second gear all the way.
On arrival, the designated driver is fatigued, the boots smell strong, the under-5s are green from the curves, the cats are eyeing the lame chicken-in-the-pantry, and after taking more than two hours to get the rambunctious under-5s (no ironic reversal there, I fear) up, up, up to bed, the wife is a world expert on patience.
No famous grouse then?
Loved every word of it!!!! Especially the fantastic, atmospheric, early morning shot. Wonderful.
Brilliant Photographs and a lovely story.
I love love love this story of uphill adventures, early mists, food and above all, a wife with the patience of a saint!
Hi Lady Fi -- on the patience (blush), I refer you to the reality check in the side bar!
You do live in the most beautiful place in the world. Of course, with your writing and photography skills, you could make any place look inviting.
You could use that mule in Carmine, from what you say...
Debbie : You are such a stroker!
Louise, I enjoyed your photographs and commentary. This was a great selection for BPOTW.
Reality check? I never let reality intrude into my life! ;-)
Great story and wonderful photos! Such a terrific adventure!
Louise, I just hope those under 5's that have the amazing priviledge of going on these adventures remember them. What a story. I loved it. Thank you for the pictures.
Long live the black grouse. Who knew they could create such a day.
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