last days in france

small willow fish-shaped baskets

Riding through the Alps we have seen some beautiful (and steep!) mountains and visited some inspiring projects. Shooting stars have been more common than internet along the way, so here is a quick update of what we have been doing:

tuesday 14 august, the action working group had a meeting and contacted local activists against nuclear energy along our route. At lunch time, Caroline, the mayor of Éourres village, joined us to eat and talk together about community living and how this alternative village was formed. In the afternoon some people joined in with the willow basket weaving and wool felting workshop in the local community café. We were also there to see performance of the Little Prince by the local youth theatre group, which took place throughout the whole village.  For our final evening in the village we invited Karavane Namaste, a group of musicians visiting the town,to join us for dinner and passed the night with music by the rocket stove :D.

wednesday 15 august, most of the group left the town early, cycling down the Gorges de la Méouge. Over lunch we fitted in a discussion about the different projects we are involved with back home to learn from each other’s experiences. We realised we are all involved in many different projects, ranging from Reclaim the Fields , squatted community projects, to woodland education. We arrived to Gap late and found a spot to camp next to the city football field.

Leaving Éourres

sharing apples on the way

thursday 16 august, in the morning the caretakers of the sports ground where we camped were welcoming and even opened up the sports centre showers for us to use (which we really really needed!). After looking for parts to fix our rocket stove in town we climbed up and crossed the col Bayard (1246m high) and officially entered “beauty land”, surrounded by high mountains and green. We camped near Lac du Sautet and watched stars together while eating great (mostly-)raw vegan birthday truffles for Leonie’s surprise birthday party.

friday 17 august, after porridge and a morning swim in the Lac du Sautet, we cycled through the alps to Tilia & Companie. After lunch some people helped with the roof construction of the strawbale house while others had a circle to evaluate tasks now that the group is smaller (we are 17 people, as many people got scared of the alps :p). In the night we recorded Susannes 3-language (french, catalan, english) song about the Ecotopia Biketour.

sun rise at Lac du Sautet

beauty land :D

alps view

saturday 18 august, as there are other volunteers to help with the house building, just some people of our group (with proper foot wear) could help out on the roof insulation (made of a mixture of pomice, lime and wood chips) and others used the morning to rest. After lunch Stefan showed us his house and gave an introduction on the site, where they plan to have three families living, and shared the construction techniques they used to build their houses. In the afternoon the work on the roof continued and we had dinner and a group orchestra around the fire before sleep.

Strawbale house and roof insulation

first house and yurt

sunday 19 august, in the morning, and after all the other volunteers left, Nicolas finally had time to make a presentation on Tilia & Co project. We learned about how it started, why they decided to use the techniques they use and what their plans are for the future. The afternoon was full of workshops, we finally managed to fix one of our rocket stoves (both melted parts of the internal tube due to high temperature and old rusty metal). We had an interesting facilitation & consensus workshop, Matt, from uN p’Tit véLo dAnS La Tête, gave a bike maintenance workshop where everyone checked their bikes, and Leonie had a all-day going wood carving workshop.

Explanation of the strawbale construction

strawbale house structure

bike repair workshop

monday 20 august, now that the construction of the roof is going to be halted for a while to rest, we helped all morning moving strawbales to store them for winter and clean the building site.  After lunch and an amazing beetroot cake for Jaye’s birthday, we decided to leave Tilia & co earlier. We used the extra time to return to the beautiful lakeside spot at Lac du Sautet  where we camped some days before to rest, swim and watch the stars before heading to Italy.

storing strawbales

cycling out of tilia through the alps

tuesday 21 august, we left early direction Embrum, stopping for lunch down the Col de Manse. In the afternoon we had a beautiful cycle around Lac de Serre-Ponçon and ended up sleeping next to the lake, on Savines-le-Lac.

buying food from local producers

wednesday 22 august, we were able to wake up really early, see the sun rise, and cycle along some nice roads with no cars picking blackberries and plums on the way. After lunch next to a river we continued on the main road to Briançon and climbed to Chantemerle to visit Filature Longo Mai who welcomed us with lovely signs on the road and had a delicious dinner waiting for us.

longomai cute signs for the biketour

thursday 23 august, in the morning we had a tour on the Longo Mai faiserie, saw their 30 year old electrical water generator, the hundred year old wool machine which still works everyweek and the wool factory. We left Filature Longo Mai and stopped in Briançon for lunch in the park, and talked to a local circus skills group about the biketour. It was a slightly chaotic day with some people feeling sick and a slight unintentional detour, but in the end we had a fantastic ride through a beautiful valley. We camped just before Col de l’Echelle where Isabella found a nice place for us to stay and we sang around the rocket stove enjoying our last night in France.

wool factory from longomai

NO TAV - Val di Susa Resiste

crossing the last valley of france

friday 24 august, we woke up a bit late and met on top of the Col to cycle down into Italy slowly and take some footage along the way for a future biketour video, on a road with not many cars and beautiful mountains surrounding us. We had lunch on Bardonecchia where we prepared for a NOTAV critical mass into Chiomonte, and were greeted by the police who were afraid of NO TAV radicals. After cycling together into the Val di Susa, where many drivers and locals showed support for our ride and the NO TAV struggle, we were warmly welcomed with an applause in the NO TAV camp, and had our first experience of Italian hospitality with bottles of “NOTAVino” (wine from grapes from the valley) given to us on arrival. After dinner, in the main tent, there was a talk with the last surviving witness of the Pinelli case and a known Italian anarchist, Lello Callitutti.

full packed bikes and trailers ready to cross the border

prepared to go down into italy

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