The festival of the "raiers": a river adventure
The rural world of the Catalan Pyrenees isn't only about going back to nature and disconnecting from the daily grind. The area is rich in centuries-old village festivals and traditions providing an unforgettable experience that will take you back in time. The festival known as the "Diada dels Raiers" will take you on a journey stretching back 800 years. The "raiers" began transporting timber along the river using rafts in the 13th century, and the method endured until the 1930s. The timber used to make the rafts was also sold.
You may well be asking what the "raiers" did exactly? Well they transported the wood on a wooden raft, known as a "rai" (hence their name), made from tree trunks joined together and used to transport wood from the Pyrenees to coastal areas by taking advantage of the river currents.
After reading this description, you can probably imagine that the job of the "raier" was neither easy nor pleasant. In winter, it entailed going to the cold Pyrenean forests, felling black pines and fir trees and throwing them down the ravines into the river below until they drifted along to the areas where the rafts were built from the timber itself. The "raiers" rode on the rafts to the designated distribution point.
As you can see, it was quite an adventure! In the 1930s, the practice died out following the building of dams, and timber was transported by road. The job of the “raier” was doomed to be forgotten, but in 1979, the Pyrenean town of Pobla de Segur, which stands on the banks of the Noguera Pallaresa river, decided to revive the tradition by organising a commemorative festival: the “Diada dels Raiers”. During the festival, held on the first Sunday in July, a few brave locals recreate the hard work of the “raiers”, defying the dangers of the rocks and river currents.
The day before this unique tribute, they build four rafts, or "rais", each one consisting of three sections of timber bound together. They head downriver from the Llània dam as far as Claverol bridge, covering a distance of 5 kilometres. The "raiers" dress in period costume and experience the adrenaline rush of this singular, traditional skill. The festival also features a wide variety of events and activities for all the family, including live music, workshops and much, much more throughout the weekend. Doesn't it sound like a great plan?
Come along and enjoy the "Diada dels Raiers" and find out more about the history of this traditional skill by visiting the Museu dels Raiers de la Noguera Pallaresa.
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