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..

The new bordermarkers between Andorra and France

I have already posted a few articles on the new borderline between France and Andorra near the border town of Pas de la Casa. Reason of all this seems a practical one: the since long desire of Pas de la Casa to gain more control over their water resources. Pas de la Casa depends heavily on the upper Ariège-stream and owning the half of the lake of Estany de les Abelletes would guarantee their access to it.

There has never been an official delimitation of the ADFR-border until 2016 following a digitalization of the borderline. For most of the ADFR-border, there were no disputes: the borderline follows the watershed of a high mountain ridge. However: near Pas de la Casa there was a problem. This article explains that the Andorran maps showed the borderline through the middle of the lake of Estany de les Abelletes (splitting it in half between Andorra and France) while the French maps ceded the lake entirely to France including the half of the upper slope towards Pic Nègre d’Enbalire.  Let’s show that on an older French IGN-map:

The negotiations resulted in a new borderline between Col de Isards and the northern point of the lake which has been materialized in recent months by six bordermarkers: three markers and three crosses. Three questions remain to be answered: where are these new markers and crosses placed,  how do they look and what is the logic of the new borderline. Let’s try to answer them. But first another map showing the old and new borderlines and the location of the new bordermarkers.

Locations of the new bordermarkers

I was happy to receive a list with coordinates of the new bordermarkers from Sara Pijuan, head of the Andorra Cartography Department. This is the list:

It took some effort to convert them to wgs84-coordinates (download them as a gpx or kml). They are concentrated around the lake of Estany de les Abelletes. I am looking forward to visit them in two weeks on 25 August. Let’s show their locations in detail on a map with the new borderline. I attributed my own numbers to the six markers to keep all six of them in a numerical order.

Question 1: why are they only placed in the lower part of this new borderline? I think I know why: see the last paragraph. Another question: he alternation of markers and crosses seems arbitrary, why not six stone markers? But the best judgment of that aspect will be in the terrain itself. Let’s show more in detail the cluster of cross 1a and markers 2 & 3:

Why are stone marker 2 and 3 placed so close to another? And in the sequence of the borderline, they should have been exchanged from a numerical point of view: first 2 and then 3. But perhaps it’s an error in the list of Sara.

How do they look?
We have several news-articles (this one, this one and this one) to get information and see pictures. And don’t forget the tweets of the Àrea de Cartografia-institute of Andorra. But I rely on the pictures of the proud stonecutter Damien Breseghello of www.pierrescreations.fr who produced the stone markers and engraved the crosses in the field. He shows them on his Facebook-page.

We spot Jean-Paul Laborie (to the right, on his knees), the ‘délégué permanent de la Commission Mixte d’Abornement’. And I think that the lady in this masculine company must be Sara Pijuan.

The ‘crosses’ are engraved like plaques, no real crosses engraved or numbers attributed.

About the course of the new borderline

Apparently, there have been negotiations for years to resolve this problem which only could end in France giving up half of the lake. Let’s have a new look on the map with the three borderlines and look for the logic of the new borderline.

The answer is simple when we study the map: one has tried to attain an equal exchange of terrain. And that makes sense since there is no treaty from the past to rely on, there has never been one. In another bilateral agreement  (France-Spain, near Bagnères-the-Luchon), the existing treaty has been violated by an easy solution by cutting up the disputed terrain in half. But that’s another story.

Thus: from the Col des Isards the borderline follows roughly the trail downhill. Close to the lake, it leaves the trail to bend sharply to curve to the south bank of the lake. The trail is very distinct and probably they found it as such a sufficient demarcation. And they decided to restrict the new markers to the last part when the borderline leaves the trail.

Arthur, the conqueror

On 24 July 2019, I had a delightful meeting with Corinne Gourgeonnet and her son Arthur. I know Corinne since 2 years and she has impressed me with her enthusiasm in searching the esfr-bordermarkers, making new discoveries and deliberately abstaining from the help of a gps.

But we never met before until today when the four of us – Corinne, her son Arthur, Jan-Willem Doomen and me – traveled to the foothills of Pic d’Orhy to do a bordermarker-trip together. We covered bm232 to 234bis which meant descending into the forest to hidden borderstreams. The young Arthur (10 years old, already famous for his swimming-trip to bm602), liked to take the lead in the approach of the bordermarkers. With the gps in his hand, he guided us towards them. On the picture above, we see him with his mother at bm234.

And on this picture, the three men proudly smiling.

A strange discovery: a bm171, found in a garden

Corinne Gourgeonnet is an enthusiastic bordermarker-devotee. She spent some days around new year near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. How great was her surprise that the landlord of her B&B told her that he had a bordermarker in his garden! He had found it at his premises when he bought it. The previous owner was apparently a collector of strange items, found or otherwise acquired. Let’s show Corinne’s pictures of this strange item:

This is definitely an esfr-bordermarker but of a type never seen before. Perhaps it was once made to replace the bm171 at the border-ridge 11km SE.  But there we find a much more massive marker:

Where can you find this marker? The address is
Maison Laia
14 Route d’Ascarat
64220 Uhart-Cize

And this is a map of the premises of the B&B and where the bm is located:

The “right of reply” of Pierre Vergez, with an answer

I have discussed in previous posts the borderline between bm407 and 409 several times and was critical of the new borderline of the CMA 2015. In my opinion, the French delegation had the best cards in every respect but gave in to the Spanish far too easy. Who would care, they might have thought. Well, I do!

The head of CNIG-department, charged with the digitalization of the French border – Pierre Vergez – is a strong defender of this compromise. He asked for a ‘right of reply’ in the way of a Gif-animation. Here it comes:

My comments:

1. the treaty is not speaking of a source but of the “origine du ruisseau du Terme” and “la naissance du ruisseau du Terme”. That does make a difference: every stream has a beginning, it can be a well-defined source (water bubbling from the ground) or a ravine where somewhere the rainfall or melting snow merges enough to form a stream. If that is a permanent or periodical beginning or stream is not relevant in this context, the treaty doesn’t make such a difference. Sources and origins of streams on upper hill slopes tend to be periodical, subject to season and rainfall/snowfall.
2. the bordermarker B.F. 408 is shown at a wrong place.
3. the new borderline (CMA 2015) was a compromise: they cut the disputed terrain in half. From bm408 it follows a ridge between the two streams of the two ‘interpretations’ downhill to a point where the two streams  merge. It no longer bears relevance to the Treaty-text: a direct line from bm407 to a stream with bm408 above its beginning.
4. Pierre Vergez has made his own calculation and brought down the loss of French territory back from 8 hectares to 5 hectares.
5. ‘Scientific proof’? What would that mean? Close reading of the treaty text and plain thinking will do the job.

Do I have a tunnel-vision?

Mr Vergez accused me of a tunnel-vision on the interpretation of the Treaty. I should consider other interpretations and ask myself how the origin of the Ruisseau du Terme could be perceived from another point of view. However, he didn’t tell which interpretation of the Spanish delegation was so convincing that they had no choice than to seek a compromise.
And a tunnel-view? Well, he underestimates me. Of course, I did this mental exercise before. The border-conflict around 1960 (see this webpage) was centered around the same question. Let’s show which other interpretations are possible and discuss them.

The facts to start with

1. The treaty-text (in English)
“From bm407 the borderline leaves the ridge and heads directly on the northern slope to the origin of a stream, the “Ruisseau du Terme”. Bm408 is placed 312m from bm407, on a rock above this beginning of the stream. Then the border follows the course of the stream until its confluence with the Garonne where bm409 is placed.”

2. The historical locations of bm407 and 408, disputed by no one. Though rebuilt in the 1950-ies, their ruined predecessors were still present. That’s how the treaty was implemented in the 19th century and only challenged around 1960. Don’t forget that the rebuilding of the bordermarkers in the 1950-ies was a bilateral project and finished with a mutual declaration of agreement on their locations. In the 1960-conflict, the position of bm408 was nu subject of discussion.

A better map of the situation

We can see on a Google Earth-background the two borderlines on the French and Spanish maps (before 2015) and the various streams which finally come together and merge with the Garonne. We can identify three beginnings or origins or sources of streams. Thus there are three candidates for the origin of the Ruisseau de Terme. Let’s start with spelling the treaty-text and see which candidate fits best.

“(From bm407) the borderline leaves the ridge and heads directly on the northern slope to the origin of a stream, the “Ruisseau du Terme” -> there are three options available

Option 1 can be eliminated easily: the distance is too far (± 675m), there’s no rock nearby for bm408 to stand on and this cannot be fitted in the description of a borderline leaving the ridge and continuing on the northern slope of it.
Option 2: this is where in the 1960-ies bm408-I was placed at the top of a small cascade-like stream. However, it is not a continuous stream downhill, not even with a continuous streambed and one could ask if they are not separate streams. But never mind, we keep this option in competition.
Option 3: no comment, qualifies straight away for round 2

Round 2: two options left

We have two options left which both match with
– a direct line to the origin of a stream
– with a minimal distance (on the ground, measured in Google Earth) of ± 300m because bm408 has to be placed at 312m distance on a rock above it’s beginning.

Final choice

Without the actual and historical location of bm408, both options would make sense. But given the position of bm408, there is only one option reasonable: the direct line heads via bm408 to the origin of the Ruisseau du Terme. Otherwise, the direct line would have been a bent line: from bm407 directly to bm408, bending sharp north to option 2, let’s show that:

And that’s a silly thing to think. It was already in the 1960-conflict a peculiar thought, incompatible with common sense. Plain thinking involves: a direct line is a straight line and bordermarkers are placed on the borderline unless stated otherwise.

But our discussion not yet finished: 2 counter-arguments to deal with

1. could bm408 have been placed outside the borderline but still “on a rock above the beginning of the stream”? In that case, the direct line goes from bm407 straight to option 2 and that would make option 2 the “Ruisseau du Terme” of the Treaty. Does that make sense? Answer: no. Why would they have put bm408 at a distance of 100m south when a suitable position was available at the current position of bm408-I? And why not mention it in the Treaty?
Moreover: the ‘rock’ of bm408 is steep above the hillside SW (towards the Ruisseau du Terme) and S of it but provides a more gentle descent towards the cascade-like stream. Thus, the description of “a rock above” wouldn’t suit if the cascade-like stream was meant to be the origin of the Ruisseau du Terme.
2. could bm408 have been placed (or rebuilt) at a wrong place? Though Jean Sermet tells us that there was a ruined predecessor present at the spot in the 1950-ies, there are nowadays no remains visible. But as said: the project of rebuilding the bordermarkers in the 1950-ies was a bilateral project completed with a mutual declaration of agreement. So both parties complied with the rebullding on this spot. So:  is this presumption plausible? Answer: no.

Conclusion

After examining several options, there can be no reasonable doubt about what is meant in the Treaty. Other options simply do not fit in the treaty-text and the given locations of bm407 and 408. The borderline from bm407 onwards goes in a straight line via bm408 to the ravine where the Ruisseau du Terme has its beginning. On a map:

And I have to repeat my verdict: the French delegation in the CMA 2015 didn’t do their job well. They gave away 5 hectares of French territory in an easy compromise.

Erase my name

Pierre Vergez asked if his name could be erased from my previous posts. I thought about that, my remarks on his role, reasoning and attitude were not too flattering and this is not a personal vendetta. On the other hand: we are talking about public matters – the integrity of the French territory – and he has responded not as a private person on personal matters but as a civil servant to the public. Then you should take responsibility for what you write. He was not pleased: “I am embarrassed that my name is mingled with the empty rhetoric of the internet. Thank you for removing it from your fantasies.” and “I m chocked to see such fake News on internet. I was patient enough to reply to you, but by évidence you aren’t able to be honest enough to write my point of view. I think the best way is to show around your name and internet site as liers.
Well, so be it.

Bm508 restorated

I was surprised by a tweet of Joan Capdevila, border commissioner on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees Orientales:

gp-esfr508-restoration2018-photo06-by-joancapdevila-tweet

about the restauration of the old and worn bm508 west uphill of Coll d’Eina.

gp-esfr508-restoration2018-photo01-by-joancapdevila

While the cross is still well visible, only the ‘8’ of the number 508 was left recognizable. Enough reason for the commission to superimpose a granite plate.

gp-esfr508-restoration2018-photo03-by-joancapdevilagp-esfr508-restoration2018-photo05-by-joancapdevilaOne can argue if it would have been more elegant to place the granite plate just besides it, so as not to cover the original engraved cross. But I herald the efforts of the cross-border commission to maintain and restore the bordermarkers which are lost or damaged. And this restoration gives a good reason to return to this fabulous border-ridge for my own pictures.

How France has lost 8 hectares … secretly

In the Pyrenees, close to Bagnères-de-Luchon at the Bidaubus-hillside, France has lost 8 hectares for no reason. In a way, it is kept secret, decided upon in closed meetings with no publicity or justification. Can it be reversed?

esfr-map-bm407-410-geoportail-large-overview

The Bayonne Treaties 1856-1868
France has a vast length of borders with its neighboring countries. In the south, it’s the borderline in the Pyrenees with Spain and Andorra and that’s the one I’m very familiar with. Once – in terms of binational agreements – it was a vague line but since the 19th century, a very well described borderline complemented by more than 700 bordermarkers. The so-called Bayonne treaties between France and Spain were a result of decennia of investigation, negotiation and tough fieldwork.

Digital measurement of the border
The digital age offers new possibilities to delimitate the border more precisely. That’s where the European INSPIRE-project stepped in from 2007 onwards. The borderline and bordermarkers between France and Spain are precisely measured with gps-devices and the results discussed in the binational committee of the Commission Mixte d’Abornement (CMA). However, in this case (CMA-meeting 2015) its proceedings are not public and we have no idea which arguments were exchanged in case of disagreement. But we can watch the results of the fieldwork and the level of CMA-agreement on this webpage with a nice explanation on this webpage.

The CMA and its important meeting in 2015
The CMA is a binational committee with a long history, discussing and deciding on border-matters and bordermarker-issues on the French-Spanish borderline. There are 4 Spanish members and 3 French members. Its agreements can involve changes of the borderline, apparently without a final binational treaty needed to implement the change.
In 2015 the results of the INSPIRE-fieldwork was discussed in Toulouse and the digitally established borderline was approved. As said, you can check that on the map on this webpage: if the borderline is blue, it is approved. Are there any disagreements? Well, they only mention a since long disagreement at the far western side of the Pyrenees concerning the river Bidassoa.
Still, there are at least two cases in which the borderline was changed, one of them is the border on the Bidaubus hillside. Unfortunately, the proceedings of this meeting being not public (though the proceedings of 2014 and 2012 are available on this page), one wants to know the reasoning.

The Bidaubus hillside
The Bidaubus-hillside is near Bagnères-de-Luchon and SW above the peaceful village of Fos. That’s where the borderline leaves the mountain-ridge and descends to the Garonne. The treaty of 1863 is very explicit about the borderline leaving the ridge from bm407 and going in a straight line via bm408 to the origin of the stream (Ruisseau du Terme) which descends as the borderline to the Garonne. The text itself tells us:

407. Borne au cap de Touète
En ce point, la ligne internationale abandonne la crête et descend par le versant septentrional pour aller directement à l’origine du ruisseau du Terme, appelée aussi Riou-Poudét.
408. Borne sur un rocher, audessus de la naissance du ruisseau du Terme, à 312 mètres de la précédente.
La frontière descend par le cours de ce ruisseau jusqu’à son embouchure dans la Garonne.
409. Borne à cette embouchure, sur la rive droite du ruisseau et à la rive gauche de la Garonne.

In my own words: from bm407 the borderline leaves the ridge and heads directly on the northern slope to the origin of a stream, the “Ruisseau du Terme”. Bm408 is placed (NB: thus in between, inevitably on that direct line)  312m from bm407, on a rock above this beginning of the stream. Then the border follows the course of the stream until its confluence with the Garonne where bm409 is placed. On a map:

esfr-map-bm407-409-google-terrain-with-streams-and-borderderline-according-to-treatyNB: note the northern stream, important in the Bidaubus-conflict in the 1960-ies. It is called the Ruisseau des Réchets. The Spanish argued in the 1960-ies that this stream – as a prolongation of a tiny stream cq cascade NEE of bm408 – should be considered as the Ruisseau du Terme from the Treaty. That is silly because -in that case – the border-commissioners of 1863 would have placed bm408 at another spot.

The original locations of bm407 and 408 (which were rebuilt in the 1950-ies) are indisputable because the foundations of the original markers were still there in the 1950-ies.  Henceforth the borderline as meant and implemented by the 1863-treaty leaves 0% doubt, it can not be interpreted differently. Let’s show it how that upper part looks on the Catalonian ICC-map with its very precise elevation-representation:

esfr-map-bm407-408-direct-line-to-stream-on-iccmap

And look at this historical map (l’État-Major, somewhere between 1820 and 1866, probably drawn before the Treaty of 1863) which shows that in the 19th century the Ruisseau du Terme was considered as THE borderline (and not the Ruisseau des Réchets)
esfr-map-bm407-410-map-Etat-Major-overall-view-1820-1866
The Bidaubus conflict 1959-1969
A Spanish forestry company trespassed the borderline in 1959 and that led to a chain of events. The French border commissioner Sermet and his Spanish colleague Alija agreed to change the borderline as a sort of diplomatic solution and the CMA complied. The borderline between bm408 and 409 shifted to the North, ceding terrain to Spain. Four submarkers (408 I-IV) were placed in 1969 to delimitate the new borderline but only nr. I and II are still in situ and III & IV were unfindable (until spring 2018). A cadastral map with the new markers was drawn in 1969 but seemed to be lost. And thus it was not known how the new borderline was envisioned and subsequently how much terrain was ceded to Spain.
The French IGN-maps didn’t change at all and the Spanish map was already wrong before 1969 and remained the same. Not that anyone cared, the locals of Fos kept on using the terrain as ever and nowadays they are ignorant of whatever border change, submarkers or conflict.

esfr-map-bm407-409-various-borderlines-on-IGNfr-map-vs02The above map shows the different borderlines on various maps. Bm408 is wrongly indicated on this French IGN-map. Bm408 is located (and has always been) at the red line. Legend:
Black = borderline on the French IGN-map, since long
Yellow = borderline on the Spanish ICC-map, since long
Red = the borderline from bm407 via bm408 to the beginning of the Ruisseau du Terme, according to the Treaty of 1863
Light-blue streams: their courses derived from the very detailed Spanish ICC-map and the google-terrain map.

May 2018: submarkers bm408 III and IV found back
Michel Molia managed to recover the map of 1969 from a Spanish archive and the markers III and IV were discovered on 31 may 2018. See that page for more details. They were roughly placed in the same line as 408 I-II but had slid away and were half buried. The following map shows it all.

esfr-bm408-408d-all-markers-borderlines-streams-2018-vs01-crop

What does this mean? It made it finally clear how the new borderline was finally meant to be in 1969, ceding about 16 hectares to Spain as shows the next map:

esfr-bm408-submarkers-1969-new-borderline-according-to-SermetThe red line is the new borderline of 1969 according to the cadastral map combined with information by Jean Sermet. As said, it was approved by the CMA of 1970 in Madrid.

CMA 2015: a peculiar compromise
Back to 2015. The INSPIRE-project to delimitate the border precisely prompted the CMA of 2015 to decide what to do with the borderline between 407 and 409. As said: the Treaty is – in my opinion – unassailable about its right course but how to deal with the dubious new borderline established in the 1960-ies? And – besides – what was its exact course without knowing the position of the lost markers 408 III and IV? I guess they assumed the new borderline to be as in the above map.

One thing is sure: the French delegation had the best cards with the explicit Treaty-text, the undisputed locations of bm407 and 408 and the evidence of the État-Major-map. They had thus THE chance to restore the border to its original and rightful course. But they agreed to the most simple solution, cutting the disputed terrain in half. Still a loss of ± 8 hectares of French territory compared to the pre-1969 situation. The next map summarizes all my data and reasoning. The purple line is the borderline from 2015 onwards. From bm408 it follows a minor ridge between the two streams until their confluence on the lower part of the hillside.

esfr-bm407-409-all-markers-borderlines-streams-2018-vs01-cropThe purple line is however incompatible with the Treaty-text and ignoring the historical evidence of the bordermarker-locations of bm407 & 408 and the borderline on the l’État-Major map of the 19th century.

The role of the CNIG in the CMA-decision
Pierre Vergez is a high-rank civil servant of the CNIG and in charge of the project to digitally establish the French borders with its neighbors. He was so kind to answer in 2018 on several occasions to Michel Molia and me on this subject, however surprisingly unkind by his militant and derogatory – my appreciation – way of answering. Perhaps he was annoyed by ‘amateurs’ like us, putting in doubt the decision of the CMA of 2015 which he labeled as an “intelligent” diplomatic masterpiece about some “useless square meters”.
He mentions opposing views of the Spanish delegation they had to deal with but what is there to oppose when the odds are completely at your hand? Or was he embarrassed by our documented knowledge concerning the 1863-treaty and the Bidaubus-conflict. While all this knowledge is abundantly available on the internet and assembled and discussed on our websites. I don’t think he did his homework well, neither did the French CMA-members.

What stroke me most: in so strongly defending the CMA-decision, he acted as if he was the chairman of the CMA while not even being a member. At his best, he should have been an impartial consultant to the CMA. But I guess that it was he himself who came up with the “intelligent” idea of following the ridge between the two streams. A convenient technocratic solution fitting a technocratic civil servant from far-away Paris but – as said before – incompatible with the borderline that the authoritative Treaty-text of 1863 prescribes and the historical evidence. I can imagine how the Spanish eagerly complied with this compromise.

But despite my personal irritation, probably reciprocal, we shouldn’t blame him. The French members of the CMA are responsible for agreeing with this compromise and in my opinion, they didn’t perform their job well.

Consequences for the undivided common ground of Bidaubus
There is a large terrain of common ground south of the Ruisseau du Terme, common for the communities of Fos (French) and Bausen (Spain). See this page for more details. If the northern stream of the Ruisseau des Réchets is upgraded to a presumed borderline, considering it as the Ruisseau du Terme meant in the 1863-treaty, the common terrain is inevitably expanded to the North. Let’s show it on a map.
esfr-map-bm407-410-terrain-individis-border-and-crosses-with-expansio-to-north-since-2015

That would imply expansion to the Ruisseau des Réchets (yellow dotted line).
In any case expanded to the new borderline (yellow line) between the two streams. What does that mean in a practical sense? For example, hunters from Bausen will have the full right to enlarge their scope to the North. Same story for collecting mushrooms or cutting wood.

Conclusion
France is about to lose 8 hectares of its territory for no reason, in fact it has already. Is it too late? I don’t know how omnipotent the CMA is in its decisions or in what way local authorities and communities can initiate a reconsideration of this decision.

And who cares? Well, I do! Never thought that I – as a Dutchman – would end up as a defender of French territory….

New update GRPdesBF-website

I’m glad to announce an update of my main website www.grpdesbf.nl.

Main subject: the discovery of the lost submarkers 408 III and IV and the newly established borderline (2015) between bm408 and 409.

See for the update-details the update-log.

Corinne & Arthur: swimming to bm602!

Bm602 can’t be reached by foot. This very last bordercross is hidden in a cave at the Mediterranean coast between Portbou and Cerbère. In 2011 we rented a boat with a boatsman to get there and Serge Poncet peddled with a canoe from Cerbère while the mountaineer Lionel Daudet descended along the steep rockwall to the waterlevel. The cave is in fact a tunnel as the following picture shows.

esfr-trip-20110521-photo25

There has been only one man (Cayetano) who reached the cave by swimming as far as I know.  Until now….because Corinne Gourgeonnet and her little son Arthur undertook the same adventure on August 2th 2018. From Portbou they followed the trail along the coast as far as they could and then started swimming.

esfr-map-bm600-602-googleearth-swimming-to-bm602-by-corinne-and-arthur

And that’s not something to consider lightly: it implies swimming 700m to the cave and 700m back. To remind you: Arthur is only 9 years old but – as his mother wrote me – a good swimmer.

gp-esfr602-20180802-with-arthur-photo-by-corinne-gourgeonnet

And the young Arthur may behold the future of our bordermarker-interest. Corinne is since a few years an impassioned searcher of bordermarkers and Arthur joins her regularly and who knows ….

gp-esfr023-024-2018-unnumbered-cross-in-between-with-arthur-photo-by-corinnegourgeonnet

Arthur is his habitat to be perhaps. Picture taken this spring in the Basque country between bm022 and 023.

Oier Gil: artist on the border

On June 2th 2018, I – with my companion Jan-Willem Doomen – met Oier Gil and his girlfriend Judith Sanchez at bm196 near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We had a very interesting conversation about our mutual border experiences.
oier-gil-meeting-at-bm196Oier (second from left) is an artist and originates from Irun along the Bidasoa-river which is the border with France in the Basque country. He – being so close to the border in various senses – has been intrigued by the concept of the border and its real-life implications. It has resulted in remarkable art-projects -> see his website and/or his videos.

Let’s focus on two projects, both supported by the Bilbaoarte Foundation:

Sauf Desserte Locale, a video in which a sort of bordermarker is driven around (fast motion) in a carrier tricycle through the towns of Irun and Hendaye at each side of the border-river. I liked the marker-design: they should hire an artist whenever a new bordermarker has to be made.
oier-gil-sauf-desserte-locale
Another project was a midnight’s recording on the Île des Faisans, an island shared between France and Spain with a shift of ownership twice a year: at midnight at January 31st and July 31st. That fascinates Oier. If you are on the island at those precious moments, then you are not crossing the border but the border ….. crosses you!

oier-gil-isla-de-los-faisanes-at-midnight-jan31stThis picture (of Oier): the island at midnight at January 31st 2018. The video with Oier’s own ‘Rite de passage’ can be seen on https://vimeo.com/247877249
oier-gil-isla-dlf-crossedby
Access to the island is forbidden but Oier told us that at low tide (especially when full moon) the access from the Spanish side is fairly easy on foot (but still illegal). A bit like when we passed the island on april 1st 2009:
esfr-trip-20090401-photo12with the riverbed being sandy, not muddy.