Jerry Whitmarsh – a Pyrenees-mountainwalker by heart- recently asked me if one could walk around Andorra along its borderline. He did the HRP in 2015 and found that Andorra had “the potential for some interesting walks”. If I could help him? Well let’s try.
To start: there is already a circular walk in Andorra – the GRP – but it remains inside its borderlines:
So I designed a circular borderwalk around Andorra, using existing trails and trying to stick to the borderline. It visits everything you need to visit: both tripoints, bordermarkers 426 and 427, Pas de la Casa with its changing borderline and the pene-enclave Os de Civis.
But it’s a tough trip in a rough landscape: an estimated 10 days of hiking, distance 147km, total elevation of 22910m. Maximum altitude = 2899m, minimum altitude = 829m, average altitude = 2102m (statistics by Google Earth elevation profile).
Have a closer look on a fullscreen interactive map with this link
and/or download the .kml-file or the gpx.file.
The previous post suggested that the official delimitation of the French-Andorran border would lead to the installment and engraving of bordermarkers from the eastern to the western tripoint. I already dreamed of new mountain trips along the ADFR-borderline.
But Jean-Paul Laborie – border commissioner for France – wrote me that those new bordermarkers will only be placed in the Pas de la Case area, in particular between the Col des Isards and the lake of Estany de Font Negra. Let’s show the old borderline (from the tripoint of La Porteille Blanch to Pas de la Casa) on a map from the fifties.
Why (new) bordermarkers here? For a good reason because the borderline shifts to the east making Andorra larger. Let’s show it on a recent map:
Why this change? Because Andorra wanted more access to watersources for the town of Pas-de-la-Casa, e.g. the lake of Estany de Font Negra which is from now on split in half. That implies a loss of terrain and water-access for the French community of Porta which heavily protested. Jean-Paul states that three borderstones will be placed and several crosses engraved between Col des Isards and the lake, their numbering still unknown. He adds that already two unofficial white delimitation-lines have been painted: one on the border bridge giving access to the town-center and one at the roundabout leading to the tunnel d’Envalira.
In 2001, there has been another border change in this area, in that case comprising of an equal exchange of terrain on either side of the borderstream. Andorra was building a tunnel just north of Pas de la Casa (tunnel d’Envalira) and wanted its own terrain on the French side of the border-stream for the building of road and viaduct leading to the tunnel. Blue = Andorran parcels ceded to France. Yellow = French terrrain ceded to Andorra.
I was very surprised by this very interesting article which tells us that in spring 2018 bordermarkers will be placed between Andorra and France. And that means the first bordermarkers ever between both countries. Their border was never officially delimitated.
On my own webpage on the tripoints of Andorra you can read: “The Andorran constitution (1993) states that the borderline is the ‘traditional one’. However, in two areas Andorra and France/Spain came to a delimitation act. The first is about the border of the Andorran parish of St. Julia de Loria with Spain (1856). The second (2000) delimited the border near the French village of Porta.“. That last one was in order to build a tunnel.
In 2012 an agreement was signed for the delimitation of the whole Franco-Andoran border, the borderline was digitally measured and now the installment of the bordermarkers is scheduled for spring 2018. You can imagine that I’m very curious about: how many, which numbering, which places, their shape. It will involve new bordertrips and I can’t wait.
The article contains links to a few audio-recordings. One of them is an interview with the well-known Jean-Paul Laborie, member of the commission d’abornement franco-andorane. A previous article tells more about the conflict on the control of the water supply from the sources of the river Ariège.
Don’t miss it (I won’t): the wonderful exhibition of Marco Noris in the MuMe-museum in La Jonquera, 40km south of Perpignan. This Museu Memorial de l’Exili is a museum on the refugees who fled Spain after the civil war.
Marco has walked along the ESFR-border from Andorra to the Mediterranean in 25 days, visiting almost every bordermarker and making a (small) painting of each marker. His way of commemorating the border which was once a one-way threshold to freedom. The exhibition can be visited until 28 january 2018.
Yesterday was a historical day: a meeting at Cabane de Hérechet of Charles Darrieu and Michel Molia (French) with me (Dutch). We even had an international observer from Belgium: Henny.
(from left to right: Eef, Henny, Charles, MIchel)
Both frenchmen have covered all the existing bordermarkers on the ESFR-borderline and are puzzled – like me – by the fate of the 408-submarkers III and IV. They were installed about 50 years ago on a steeps hillside but are now unfindable. These missing markers are linked with an intriguing story of how a local conflict about tresspassing led to a change of the international borderline (see
Goals of our meeting: meeting each other and of course a last joint effort to find the missing markers. We didn’t find them (as expected) but we sure had a very pleasant and interesting meeting.
Conclusion: without a plan of the actual placement of the submarkers, there’s no clue where to search again after the numerous searches of us three.
There’s a French plan but buried somewhere in some archive but we now have a new link: a Spanish map kept in a Spanish archive.
I was shocked in june by the email of Corinne Gourgeonnet, a passionate bordermarker-researcher in the “Pyrénées-Orientales”. She had broken her ankle on her way from Can d’Amunt to bm540. In a way still in safe area, on a trail regularly visited, while she could have been alone in the depths of the remote river-valleys of bm536 or 540.
I’m the least one to warn you because I often wander alone into the wild to find whatever remote bordermarker. But be prepared to be surprised by an injury like a broken ankle:
– if possible, don’t go alone
– if you do: tell someone of your itinerary
– bring your mobile telephone
– carry an emergency supply of water, food, bandages and painkillers
– take clothes with you to keep you warm and dry when needed
– know where you are
And Corinne? Don’t worry about her, she is brave and cheerful and is already making new bordermarker-trips.
Olivier Penaud is a devoted bordermarker-researcher in the Basque country. See his photo-blog. In a video-recording of the French tv-series “Des Racines et Des Ailes” (from 16:40 up to the end) we see him showing us a few Basque bordermarkers and giving background information.
At the other side of the Pyrenees, the customs officer Patrick Arderiu takes us by boat to bm602 and tells about the annual reconnaissance of the bordermarkers.
I was surprised to read about the project of the artist Marco Noris from Barcelona: walking along the bordermarkers from Andorra to the Mediterranean and making a painting for each and every bordermarker. In fact it has already been accomplished on 11 september 2017 after a journey of 25 days, according to his detailed planning.
The artist describes his project (in the third person) in a way as only artists can: “During the walk, the artist will paint a work corresponding to each of the 198 milestones that mark the border. To walk and paint, joining together points along the border, as though balancing on that invisible line that divides in two that which is one, making visible what is invisible and opening up in this way a new stage for memory.”
On his website, every day is nicely planned on a map and we read that he has had an extensive support team. The results of his project will be shown at the MuMe-museum in La Jonquera from 14 october to 28 january. I can’t wait to visit it, a top target for the winter.
It has been a plan for years: (trail)running around Llivia and visiting all the bordermarkers on the go. Why: for the fun of it and as a sporty challenge.
Today was the day and the route I was about to follow was my own GRPdesBF-one:
Well, it took me 5:30h to complete the 25km. Many parts were unfit for running: too steep, too rocky or no trail at all. And when I could run, there were regularly interruptions to find the bordermarker, make a picture, to check where to proceed. So the average speed is low but the variation in speed was large. I was quite exhausted when I finished, also quite content. I think no one has ever done this.
The recording by Runkeeper can be seen at this page.
I’m back in the Pyrenees and today I visited the so-called Gorospil-cemetery: a graveyard of borderstones thrown from the Gorospil mountain-pass in the Basque-country. For whatever reason, bm75 and 76 were not quite popular between 1948 and 2003. Several successive generations were removed and tossed down the hillside to be dutifully replaced by officials with a new bordermarker.
It was Jacques Koleck who – in 2013 – first informed me of his findings: three old bordermarkers in the upper part of the stream of Haizagerrico, including an original bm76. Shortly afterwards, Javier Martínez Ruiz wrote me that he had in 2007 found the same bm76 as Jacques did and even found more bordermarkers down the stream, including an original bm75. This all triggered Anne Marie Bats and Bernadette Chasseur in 2014 to visit this ‘cemetery’ and they refound the markers of Jacques and Javier but also a ‘new’ bm75. In a few months, Jacques returned and he found an additional unmarked borderstone. See this page for the comprehensive story.
As you can read, I ‘m just standingd the shoulders of these devoted bm-investigators and I found easily all 6 bordermarkers standing erect in the stream-bed.