A wild Loire smuggler


For nearly three decades the man has been traversing the Sancerrois by foot, on horseback, by bike, or by canoe as often as possible. Over the years, he became a close friend of the beavers he saw settling on the riverbank or on the islands and shared the waterways. Birds living in the Loire forest know all about their seasonal rhythms, taking care to protect their nesting sites that tourists usually use for a quiet beach during the summer months!

Yvan Thibaudat learned all about the Loire as well as the fishermen, the Loire smugglers who brought goods, people and animals in their boats, the rare authentic Loire people. And he loves this river more than anything. In love with nature, he wanders her in all directions and tries to teach her to read as a guide, as an animator of leisure sequences, stay on land or in the Loire, to friends or those who call her.

But after the euphoria of the good years comes mass tourism, wine tourism, an unbridled consumption of leisure, gradually moving away from Nature. Yvan Thibaudat tries to solve this subtly: “This is my thirtieth year outdoors and I’m in my fifties… After seeing so many people, we choose to limit activity, please and enjoy. Mountain guides or guides work more and more like this with passion. . »

“We should all need love and festivity”

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This in no way prevents Yvan and his team from meeting expectations: “Reservations are increasingly being made at the last minute. I’m telling people, do me a favor, come and have a drink! I draw a circuit for them on a white piece of paper in a corner of the table. We give them everything, everything we love: Purple pond, to observe birds with binoculars… Come and bloom with gun! Some agree, some don’t. Some make reservations every day and want to go canoeing at 2 o’clock on a particular day. Do not interrupt them the program for the restaurant: come with me to the Loire in the evening if the weather is fine. And if the weather is uncertain, take advantage of the evening and make your restaurant another evening! We all need love, intimacy, people are often stressed and cold…”

Traveling without a mobile phone!

It is also difficult to separate tourists from networks: “You need to make the most of it, you can do a lot of things. People are totally waxing, taking walks and posting photos… I offer group outings without a cell phone! And we don’t take laptops on the beaver ride. It’s not just me, they will offer detox stays at La Fontaine de La Vache without cell phones and networks. »

Kal the organizer knows the weakness of group accommodation, he hopes that the project run by the town hall of Saint-Satur will be successful. Meanwhile, individual accommodation booked online is thriving with a wide variety of offers, with service sometimes taking second place. And the post-Covid enthusiasm doesn’t help, “people are quitting! »

The landlord knows his area and good addresses “with regular service”. But he acknowledges a certain weariness with the unintended effects of television programs that praise the region: “We had Roots and Wings and the Great Escape, twice. Then people start consuming it stupidly. They want to see the beaver and deer signs in January! A welcome for city dwellers, I have a motto: I am welcome, as I want to be welcomed. I am trying to convey this idea to my colleagues and tourism professionals. When we say hello, we want to rent two bikes. I tell them there are many places to see: Bertrange, Gargaude, the pyramid-shaped barn… And because Sancerre is the favorite village of the French, people want to be surprised. When you go to Apremont it is beautiful and there are things to see around…”

Bivouac in the Loire

In terms of individual tourism, the demand is strong: “They think of the Loire, the bivouac, the nature, the wonders, I bend over backwards to organize their stay, I let them explore the Loire, the animals. And I introduce them to passionate, sincere people, who are the added value of the region apart from the landscapes. We want to develop this further to move towards people who need sincerity, love, truth. We have an extraordinary environment here, we have a generous nature, we want to give people pleasure and make them want to come back…”

Three Loires between Allier, Cher and Nièvre. Yvan Thibaudat distinguishes three Loire rivers: “Upstream the Loire, flowing through pastures like Allier; The part of the Bec d’Allier up to Cosne is between the river and the river; then, after Sancerre, I like it less, a much more linear, a much broader Loire. From Bec d’Allier to Sancerre, the Loire is classified as a nature reserve, with a Loire section of islands and varying numbers of parallel tributaries dotted with alluvial forests and sandbanks. And if you sail, be careful, you never really know the Loire! Note the background differences ranging from 40 cm to 4 meters. Life jacket is mandatory.

Herve Martin

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