In the enchanted forest of the Huchet stream

By Anne-Lise Carlo

Posted today at 00h21

The departures in galupe, the traditional boat of the Landes, always have something uncertain and epic. While everyone is looking for their place on board, to distribute the weight, this frail flat-bottomed boat pitches vigorously. His crew finally seated, the boatman rings the official departure.

From the first meters of navigation on the pond of Léon, one feels carried by the slow and undulating rhythm that the green galupe gives to this crossing of several hours. Splitting the sheets of water lilies and water chestnuts that emerge on the surface, the boat glides easily. In the distance, from floating marshes inaccessible to tourists, the cries of little bitterns emerge, small migrating herons, which almost merge with the barking of dogs.

During the descent of the current of Huchet (Landes), the boatman, Christophe Labadie, sensitizes the passengers to the specificities of the fauna and the flora.  In the background, the lake of Léon.

Right in the middle of this beginning of paradise in the southwest of France, the boatman Christophe Labadie, known as “Tito”, is already paddling like a devil to reach the exit of the lake and join the long-awaited current of Huchet ( pronounce “Huchette”). Nine kilometers of an umbilical cord between the pond of Léon and the Atlantic Ocean which forms a rare nature reserve, created in 1981. This protected area of ​​617 hectares extends over three municipalities in the Landes: Léon, Moliets-et-Maâ and Vielle-Saint-Girons.

Meanders and traps

At the very beginning of the XXe century, the fishermen of Leon make poets and writers, journalists and soon tourists discover this exceptional nature. The success met by Huchet is such that in 1908, a first official group of boatmen was born on the current. Since then, the fame of the natural site has continued to grow and they are still around thirty today. Owners of their boats, they are also responsible, in collaboration with the personnel of the reserve, of maintaining the current, like precious lookouts spotting natural obstacles, accumulation of branches, aquatic plants or dead leaves, brought by the streams.

Coming from a family of eel fishermen and boatmen, raised on this expanse of fresh water, Christophe Labadie knows its meanders and traps. Its galupe arrives at the place called La Nasse, a dam which marks the official birth of the Huchet current. It is necessary at this moment to negotiate the passage of the boat heckled by the eddies. The boat bangs hard, a dull noise is heard, a young girl on board utters a cry. The boatman, with a reassuring smile, warns: “There it was a Landes crocodile. Rest assured, he is not very aggressive but there may be others on the way … “ We are warned.

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