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The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David                      


Altertour - Monday 28th July Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone


We've all heard about the Tour de France - but what about the alternative tour, Altertour?  (See their website  The event started on July 3rd and will finish on Monday 28th at Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone - definitely a date for the diary.

     Broadly speaking this is tree-huggers on bicycles and as you'd expect winning isn't the aim of the game; it's about raising organic awareness and reclaiming sport for fun and relaxation.  The organisers hope to demonstrate against "le dopage" in all its forms.  In sport as well as in agriculture, transport, sustainable living, energy production etc.  (The ride is however 2,700 kms long so fun or no-fun participants intending to travel the whole distance still need a strong set of legs.)

     Each stage is around 15kms long and is the basis for a series of events around the theme of organic and sustainable agriculture; exhibitions, films, concerts and conferences. Subjects of debate range from doping and
genetically modified organisms to renewable energy and organic winemaking.

     As 2008 is “Ban GMOs Year” ( and cultivation of the MON810 GMO maize has been stopped in France, the Altertour is taking the anti-GMO campaign on board, and will be carrying out GMO controls on maize crops along the route.

     In the "Place du Capitole" in Toulouse on Friday 25th there will be talks and discussions on themes such as "How best to create jobs in small-scale agriculture?" and a variety of stands along with a display of "velocoques" which are bicycles with a sort of weather-proof tent on top.  You have to see this one to really understand what I'm talking about.  (

   The caravan then moves on and the same evening from 8.30pm to 11pm will be in Vieillevigne, presenting the theme of "Art & Ecologie dans la Société".

    Saturday (26th) is set to be a party: kick off will be at 10am in Castelnaudary with an open-air exhibition about GMOs.  Riders will then arrive in Carcassonne (1pm) in time for some music (the "Fanfare du Minervois") before haring off to Laure-Minervois for 4pm for events on beekeeping and ploughing with animals, and another open-air exhibition about GMOs.  The day winds up with a party on a boat (the péniche Convivencia) in Olonzac from 8.30pm to 10.30.

    The next day (Sunday 27th) will be spent in Lodève and events kick off at 5pm with talks about how best to preserve Lake Salagou, how to grow tomatoes with less water, and alternative ways to produce and consume food.  The evening concludes with a "Festival des Voix de la Méditerranée" - which is essentially poetry.

    The last day of the tour is Monday 28th at Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, which will be attended by José Bové and Susan GeorgeVarious other divertissements are on offer at the lakeside; "La Caravane des Arts Singuliers," les Guerriers de l'Arc-en-ciel, a sale of the "Altercyclettes" - bicycles used in the race, an art exhibition on the themes which have been explored during the race as well as stands, stalls, speeches and talks.  
Next column will be uploaded around 1st Sept.




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