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River Free Camp

by Tyler

It is 2am as I write this. I have been responding to emails and working in our tent for the last several hours. Two feet to my right there is a shallow stream rythmically babbling away. Directly to my left, Tara is sleeping with her mouth wide open. We are free-camping, a welcome change after escaping the crowded and wildly expensive French Riviera. Our current destination is Verdon Gorge; a friend of mine tells us it one of the most beautiful sights he has ever seen!

We'd hoped to make it to a campsite near the gorge today but the weather and terrain had other plans. We cycled a short, excruciatingly hot 40 kilometers into the mountains this afternoon (500m climb). We didn't eat nearly enough food, or drink enough water and we were both very fatigued. We were in the middle of nowhere, running out of water, and only had enough money in our wallet for a campsite.

Hilly View

Just when things were starting to look pretty dire I spotted a tiny river off the road while at the same time Tara found a house where we might refill our water supply. I went down to investigate our possible swimming spot while she paid a visit to the house, all six of our water bottles in hand. She returned cheerfully a few minutes later with a fresh supply of water and an additional two cold plastic bottles of water from their fridge!

Three bottles apiece are no longer enough to make it through a day; summer in the south of France is no joke. Before we left I was secretly dreading learning to cope with heat, as over the years I have come to realize that I like cold weather. You can always put more on to keep warm but you can only take so much off. I didn't think I could handle cycling in 90+ degree temperatures without absolutely hating it, but thankfully I have learned to both ignore the heat and the sensation of being completely covered in sweat. Today it was so hot I gave Tara my boxers to ride in as her cycling capris proved to be too hot. Until we order her some riding shorts, my boxers (with electrical tape patching a hole in the rear) will have to suffice.

After she returned with the water bottles I showed Tara the way down to the stream, thinking we'd go for a swim before finishing the last 20km to our campsite. Realizing that we were in no shape to cycle another 20 kilometers, and loving the spot I'd found, Tara suggested we free-camp and call it a night. I heartily agreed, and after swimming for a bit, and taking pictures of this bug who skirts across the water without breaking the surface tension (so cool!), we began preparing our home.

Waterbug Waterbug Close Up

It was a sharp drop down to the river and the process of moving in was very involved. We took all the panniers off the bikes and Tara began hauling them down while I wheeled the bikes down the steep dirt slope. We carried everything to a small rocky island, feet soaking in the cool stream with each crossing. Despite the lengthy moving process, we were very happy to be "home."

We set up camp, surrounded on all sides by clear running water, and Tara went through our food supplies, organizing our newest purchases and deciding what to make for dinner. She started right away on the dessert—zucchini-bread fritters. Feeling "too lazy" to finely chop zucchini, she instead set about making a grater! Dumping out a can of instant chicoree-coffee beverage that she bought but never actually drank, she bent and cut it until she was satisfied. Happy and proud of her new contraption, she grated zucchini for her creative dessert idea and set out hotdogs and all the fixings for dinner.

Tin Can Grater

While Tara was preparing our food, I wandered around collecting rocks to make a fire pit and some of the abundant bone-dry wood for a fire. Soon we had a goodly little campfire roaring on the rocks by the stream. We used it to roast hot dogs and to warm up after swimming in the nearby pond where the stream empties. Sitting by the fire roasting hot dogs and listing to all the nature sounds for free was fantastic; last night we paid €15 for the pleasure of listening to blaring techno until 2am.

Gathering Wood Preparing Fire Campfire Camp Hot Dog

We are both incredibly relieved to be in the quiet of nature again.