Friday, June 6, 2008

Plug taken out of river

Julie, a kinesiologist at the place in Chatte that I've been attending twice a week for the last two months, happens to be a former junior world champion in rowing, a member of the Romans club on the banks of the Isère. This morning, I asked her: "Have you seen what they've done with your river?"

Yes, she had. A week ago, the electricity authorities manipulated their dams in such a way that the only water flowing into the Isère at the level of the village of St-Nazaire came from the Bourne: the noble little stream that flows through Choranche and Pont-en-Royans. The Bourne is largely a mountain torrent, since its volume depends constantly on what's happening, in the way of rain or snow, up on the Vercors plateau.

At the place in St-Nazaire shown in this photo, there's normally a beautiful lake formed by the confluence of the Bourne and the Isère. Visitors are always stunned by the beauty of the red rocks at the tip of the peninsula, reflected in the green waters. Once upon a time, there was a fluvial port here named Rochebrune [meaning "brown rocks"]. The Chartreux monks used flat boats to bring down iron ore from distant Allevard. From St-Nazaire, these raw materials were transported by donkeys up to furnaces at Bouvantes, operated by the same monks who used to make wine at Gamone.

Julie's rowing boats are not the only grounded vessels. Against the backdrop of the aqueduct at St-Nazaire, the Royans river-boat for tourists looks like a stranded whale. Happily, this weird situation will not last for long: just the time it takes for dam workers to remove logs that have floated into their electricity installations.

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