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 (email@example.com) 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.
Today I visited the recently installed bordermarkers between Andorra and France, see also the previous post. I checked the gps-readings as provided by the Andorra Cartography Department and they can be downloaded as a gpx or kml.
I was in a splendid company: with Corinne Gourgeonnet, Michel Molia and Jean-Paul Laborie. The last one is a member of the Pyrenean border commission and was highly involved in in the negotiations which led to the new borderline and new bordermarkers. The latest news is that the official inauguration is planned on september 6th.
Jean-Paul guided us along the new bordermarkers, telling about the choices made, his work in general and his relationship with his predecessor Jean Sermet which he admires for his writings and the esteem he had in Spain. Michel had a discussion with him on the decision on the new borderline between bm408 and 409 which he (Jean-Paul) labeled as a political compromise with little chances of reversal (see this post for my opinion on this subject). By and large, we had a very pleasant outing, crowned by a picnic provided by Corinne.
Today I was proud – together with Jan-Willem Doomen – to be witness of the discovery of these lost intermediate markers. Michel Molia has been intrigued by the fate of these missing markers (see this page) and visited this remote mountain slope many times.
Four intermediate markers were placed in 1969 after a shift of the borderline. Markers 408 I and II are still there but 408 III and IV were nowhere to find. It was even unknown where they were placed since the official map was unfindable until recently. Michel Molia did a lot of research in the archives and managed to find the map. It was Philippe Barsacq who converted the original land surveyor-data into modern gps-coordinates.
Today Michel returned with his son Xabi and grandson Thomas for the final search. When Jan-Willem and I arrived at the spot, they had already found 408 IV. In fact it was Xabi who found it first (the man in the middle).
While searching the steep hillside towards 408 II, it was again Xabi who found 408 III which has glided downhill, away from the stream.
So it was the Molia-family who has ultimately solved this mystery, all credits for them. Back at the cabane de Hérechet, a celebration with champagne and a picture of “la troupe de Michel”.
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.