Border-path in construction

In the middle of the Pyrenees, we find the river Garonne, originating in Spain and passing into France at Pont du Roi. The borderline follows the thalweg (= the line of deepest points) of the river for ± 750m. marked by bm409 and 410 at the north and south side of that stretch.

After the building of a barrage in France in the 1960-ies, the water level in the riverbed increased and its width got enlarged. To mark the borderline (thalweg) in the river 14 submarkers were placed along the elevated riversides. Seven on the Spanish riverside and seven on the French side, each showing the distance to the thalweg. They all look like this one:

Carlos and Conchita Roca (of this website) discovered last week that at the Spanish side, a concrete path is in construction, connecting the Spanish road south to bm409.

 

Let’s show some of Carlos & Conchita’s pictures:

This picture shows the connection to be made with the Spanish road.

Further on we see how the concrete path-in-construction looks like.

At the narrow parts, they are working at these kinds of constructions.

The concrete path is ending at bm409, with no sign of an extension north on French territory.

One wonders why such an effort is made: there was already a decent and scenic track along the river. A bit of improvement, safety cables at a few vertiginous spots, and a clear connection to the road south would have done the job. Never mind, I have another goal to check out in the summer when we can travel again (hopefully).

The Basque-border on fire

Javier Martinez Ruiz informed me of a devastating fire on 20-21 February 2021 along the borderridge in the Basque country between bm001 and La Rhune. See also this news-article

He sent me some pictures and comparing them with my pictures of June 2020, you can see the destruction.

This is a picture of mine of bm002 from June 2020.

And this how Javier found the terrain back.

And this is bm008 in perfect order in June 2020.

And this how bm008 looked right after the fire. We see a damaged marker but Javier is not 100% sure that it is caused by the fire. But shortly before, it was still in good shape.

I’m reluctant to say it but for us, as border-enthusiasts, such a fire offers also opportunities as I experienced on 12-9-2012  at the other side of the Pyrenees. An impenetrable maquis-terrain burnt to the ground and could be easily explored afterwards.,,,

By the way: Javier is a remarkable man. Living in Irùn, he published in 1995 a profound study of the bordermarkers 1-196 (see my literature-list, Javier agreed to make it accessible as a pdf-download). He still visits every single year almost every bordermarker from 1 to 235.

New update GRPdesBF-website

It’s been about a year ago for the last update but I’m glad to announce a new update of my main website www.grpdesbf.nl

See for the update-details the update-log

Barry Arnold in the Pyrenees

Barry Arnold is one of those guys fascinated by borders: border-crossings in all kinds, border-phenomena, and in particular tripoints. His website (https://barrysborderpoints.com/) lists all his trips to various borders and tripoints.

In August 2020 he traveled to the French-Spanish border in the eastern Pyrenees and documented thoroughly the ‘borderpoints’ he visited, including the two tripoints of Andorra. See this subpage of his website. Very interesting, very informative, very worth reading.

Noteworthy: he did the Llivia-circuit as well, covering all the Llivia-bordermarkers (soon to be added in his enclave-section). He is also one of the few among us who dared to climb the Pic de Medecourbe (western tripoint of Andorra). Also interesting: his account of the pene-enclave Os de Civis,  the only Spanish village that can be reached by car only by going through Andorra (link). He might consider – with his stamina – to do the Andorra-circuit.

Carlos & Conchita: halfway on their quest

This cheerful couple from Barcelona started in 2016 with searching and photographing esfr-bordermarkers. This is their website.
First, they covered the eastern Pyrenees, east of Andorra. Then they made a crucial decision: let’s try to do all 602 esfr-bordermarkers. They worried a bit about their age (they look 55 but are actually a tiny bit older) and feared the long trips into the high mountains. But why not try? Jacques Koleck started when he was 71 and Michel Molia was 73 and they both completed the whole esfr-border.

Since yesterday you can follow their progress on this website-map:

The red markers are the ones still to be done, the green ones have been covered. You will also find yellow lines (bm’s done walking) and violet lines (done by car).

A few days ago, they reported me that they had found their 301st bordermarker implying they are halfway of the official 602 bordermarkers. 

Congratulations! You are going strong!

To be honest (and they know it): In fact there are more than 602 bordermarkers (double ones, extra ones, intermediate ones: see this page) but this one deserved to be celebrated.

Bordermarker-maintenance: someone has to do the job

On Tuesday 23-6-2020 I did two maintenance jobs near Col de Lizarrieta in the Basque country. I located the exact spot of a presumed lost borderplate and found it back. The second job was dragging the dislocated intermediate marker 44L back to its original spot and dig it in. Why? Because no one else does.

A bit of background: In 1988 twelve intermediate bordermarkers were placed near Col de Lizarrieta: 44A to 44L. On the broad and flat Col itself – between bm044 and bm044A – three plates were placed at ground level with an F and an E on it. Two of the plates still exist but the third one seemed to have disappeared or covered by tarmac.

This is the second plate, the third plate should approximately have been placed underneath the red car.

Of the twelve intermediate markers, the 44L had rolled down the hill and was to be found for many years next to 44J. It seems no one cared…

Fortunately, the treaty of 1988 mentions the exact distances between the plates and the markers. See this page. So the exact locations of the third plate and 45L can be established quite simple with a landsurveyor’s measuring tape.

I arrived very early on the Col to avoid unwanted attention. My toolkit for today:

I started with measuring the exact spot of the third plate:
and start to dig and soon: Bingo!

Then uphill for the second job and measuring the distances from 44K and from 45 to establish the original location of 44L

Then digging a hole

and rolling the 44L uphill

And finally digging in 44L at his original spot.

Jobs finished in two hours, I’m very content. Someone has to do it.

Jean-Paul Laborie again on television

Jean-Paul Laborie is a commissioner of the Pyrenean border committee. As such, he is popular with the media and has appeared several times in newspapers-articles or on television.

His latest appearance on television was part of a news-broadcast (Le 13 heures du samedi 23 mai 2020) on the French TF1-channel. Not as an actual news-item but as a human interest subject on the bordermarkers of the Pyrenees. The video contains a lot of drone-made aerial footage, I like that.

Les-bornes-frontière-de-Napoléon – Le 13 heures du samedi 23 mai 2020_TF1 from Eef Berns on Vimeo.

The video has four parts:
– part 1: Jean-Paul visits Col du Portillon (bm366) and Col de Barèges (bm356 and 358) and gives some explanations

– part 2: a trip (without Jean-Paul) to the old mines of Bentaillou which are said to be close to bm420. In fact they are much closer to bm418/419 which is still a 2-hours walk from the mines. The guide points wrongly to a col (Portillon d’Albe) where there is no bordermarker and to a mountain top (Pic de Serre Haute) with a ‘borne’ visible. But that not a ‘borne frontière’ but a giant cairn.:

(Picture above borrowed from this webpage)

– part 3: two short visits to Llivia and Le Perthus

– part 4: Jean-Paul visits for the first time bm602 which is in a cave at the mediterranean coast. Bm602 is only accessible by boat or by swimming.

My video on the Bidaubus-conflict: how France is about to lose 8 hectares of its territory

I have published in the past several posts on the ‘Bidaubus-conflict’. The last one was http://blog.grpdesbf.nl/?p=710

It’s all about a border change on a hillside near Bagnères-de-Luchon, between the bordermarkers 407 and 409. France and Spain have agreed on a compromise in which France is about to lose 8 hectares of its territory. That is surprising because – in my opinion – the treaty is very clear about the right borderline. All the reasoning can be easily summarized in a 4-minutes video. It is in french to cross the language border. It might look a bit amateurish, but it explains well enough the inevitable logic of the treaty.

Bm574bis has disappeared

In the busy bordertown of Le Perthus, there are two very remarkable bordermarkers: 2 pillar-like markers with a coat of arms of both countries. They stand on either side of the main road from Spain to Perpignan. They date from 1764, from the Convention of Perpignan. Later on – in the 19th century – they were incorporated in the Bayonne-treaties and got their numbers in the 1-602 sequence: 574 and 575.

Old postcard showing them together, looking into Spain

With the risen popularity of Le Perthus as a shopping paradise, the road was widened and bm574 was relocated about 50m to the SW. At its original spot, a metal plate (with ‘574’) was put at ground surface. We don’t know when that happened. This is a map of the scene:

The label 574bis is an invention of ours to distinguish both markers. The plate we are talking about is shown on this picture from 2008:

At the far end of the white line is bm574

But Carlos and Conchita Roca (website) couldn’t find it back in July 2019.

Picture of Carlos & Conchita Roca

Has it been stolen? Or damaged and removed? Or just being covered by a splash of tarmac for some unknown reason?

The bordermarker-guide of Michel Molia

At the age of 73 in 2013, Michel Molia – a retired dermatologist from Bayonne – started with his own quest for the bordermarkers of the Pyrenées including starting his own website.
And recently the Pyrénées Magazine published a nice article about him:


I met him several times with as a peak experience our trip to find the long lost intermediate bordermarkers bm408 III and IV. That they were found at last was only possible by his persistent search in the archives for a lost map.

I like him with his endurance, friendliness and wit. Now he has written his own bordermarker-guidebook and I was honored to receive a copy of his privately published book. It describes his trips, gives practical advice and is a pleasure to read. In a way, it is a printed version of the ‘guide’-part of his website. You might email him (michel.molia@free.fr) if you are interested in a copy.


He is not the first to make his own account of his bordermarker-quest. I have copies of privately published books by Jean Hirschinger/ Simone Hondelatte and Lucien Thomas. But Michel is the first to cover the entire esfr-border.