Author Archives: Eef Berns

About Eef Berns

Since 2000 I'm on a quest for the bordermarkers in the Pyrenees. My project is to find & photograph & document them all. And to connect them with a long-distance trail: the Grande Randonnée Pyrénéenne des Bornes Frontières About me: I was born in 1957, work as a psychiatrice nurse and live in Eindhoven in the Netherlands..

Gorospil: the Bermuda-triangle of the esfr-border

Michel Molia (website) reported to me on July 9th that bm076 in the Basque country has disappeared:

Not an easy act of vandalism because bm078 was a massive pillar:

Bordermarkers do disappear or are destroyed on some occasions but in the case of bm076 (and bm076), this is not the first time. At least 5 or 6 earlier versions of bm075 and bm076 have been thrown into the valley or have been demolished. On this webpage, you can read their history. See also this blog post.

In the valley west of the ridge of bm075-076, a few of the lost markers have been refound in earlier years. We call it the Gorospil-cemetery:

Two weeks later, Michel undertook a search in the ‘cemetery’. But he couldn’t find this last lost bm076. What happened to it?

Alain Gillodes: all bordermarkers done

Alain Gillodes reported to me that on June 19th, 2021, he visited his very last esfr-bordermarker. It is perhaps the most iconic one: no. 602 in the Cova Forada, a cave at the Mediterranean coast, accessible only by boat or swimming.

It was a birthday present of his two sons who hired a boat to bring him to the cave. But the sea was quite rough,

too rough to get close to the cave.

The only way to reach the cave was by swimming – together with one of his sons – and it took 3 trials to get safely into the cave.

It was with immense joy that I could finally photograph this last marker“, wrote Alain.

With bm602, Alain has completed his quest of visiting all bordermarkers on the French-Spanish border. He started in 2015 and his pictures can be seen on this page and the interesting accounts of every trip on this one. He is not afraid of a dull bm-afterlife. As an enthusiastic cycler, he has conquered 6800 cols worldwide and he wants to reach the number of 7000.

By completing his quest, Alain has entered the Gallery of Honour of men and women who have covered each and every esfr-bordermarker. This Gallery  features (as far as I have information):

1.  Javier and María-Jesús Sancho-Esnaola
2.  Charles and Josette Darrieu
3.  Jacques Koleck
4.  Myself
5.  Michel Molia
6.  Alain Gillodes

And there are some people working hard on reaching that goal: Carlos and Conchita Roca (approximately 75% done) and Corinne Gourgeonnet (who wants to finish this year). Good luck to them.

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.