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Wild Camping With Friends

by Going Slowly

A golden sun is sinking fast behind the mountains, urging us onwards in our futile attempt to reach the highway before dark. At the crossroads we're looking for, where dirt meets pavement, there is sure to be a guest-house. But the road ahead is long and twisted and rutted, and our slowness is no match for the fading light. The truth is, we've gone too slowly; we aren't going to make it, and none of us are willing to ply this increasingly rough track by night.

Lao Village at Sunset

We're left with two options: free-camp, or try to pay a villager to take us in. We know that spending a night in these mountains will be cold, and we have neither tents, nor sleeping bags, nor hammocks to protect us. With no other plan to speak of, we stop in many of the villages we pass, asking if we can stay the night.

Lao Village Kids (By Natasha) Lao Kids Waving Hello

Unfortunately, though we attract plenty of attention, and we're using the universal sign for sleep (hands folded together under a tilted cheek) no one seems to understand us. Our only option is to push on, but just to be on the safe side, I buy some ramen from a tiny local grocer, and top up our water supplies so we'll be able to make it through the night if need be.

When dusk arrives, free-camping becomes an inevitability; it's only a question of where to rest our heads for the night. When we pass what looks to be an abandoned market, we stop, knowing we've struck the wild-camp jackpot: we'll have shelter from the wind, and we'll be raised off the cold ground. Satisfied, we pull off the road to call it a night.

Our Home For the Night (Free Camping in Lao) Our Home For the Night (Free Camping in Lao) Tyler Pushing Motorcycle Helmets

As soon as we're off the bikes, all reservations we might have held about free-camping dissipate. This dirt track and the tiny villages it runs through boasts some of the most beautiful scenery we've ever seen. We're actually relived to be stopped; it turns out all four of us were silently thinking that we shouldn't be rushing through this.

Lao Sunset Mountain View

As we fall into the well-worn rhythm of making camp and finding firewood, we are brimming over with happiness. It is such a pleasure to share this with our friends, safe in the knowledge that they are tough, hearty and capable—Natasha and Pete have been avid hikers and campers for years!

Natasha Carrying Fuel for the Fire

Finding oneself homeless in remote, mountainous Laos could be terrifying for some, but the adventure is natural for all of us; having the experience with friends makes it even better.

Pete & The Fire

When camp is made and the fire is blazing, Pete and Natasha go for a quick walk to buy whatever food they can find in the nearest village. They return with beer, coconut crackers, and what looks to be a shrink-wrapped liver. The drinks and snacks complement our uninspiring dry-ramen dinner nicely. No one eats the liver.

Then, just as we have for the last six hundred odd days, we pull out the laptop to edit our photos; Natasha & Pete do the same. For the next two hours, we chat about photography, oohing and ahhing over the scenes from the day.

Us by the Fire (By Natasha)

With our day's work behind us, we all gather round the fire to talk and share in that deep-seated, primal urge to stare at the hypnotic dancing flames of a campfire.

Natasha By the Fire Pete by the Fire Natasha & Pete by the Fire

We find ourselves riveted by Pete's tales of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and soon we're dreaming of hiking it ourselves. We love the idea of traveling even slower than bicycles, going somewhere far away from roads and cars and people, where we could enjoy the quiet of nature and free-camp every day.

Letting the fire die down, we steel ourselves for the cold night ahead, donning every item of clothing we have with us. Then, we sleepily head to bed, making our home in a rickety bamboo shelter. Natasha and Pete generously let us use their pack-towels as blankets, while they snuggle up underneath a pair of sarongs. Still warm from the heat of the fire, we're comfortable and happy, pleasantly tired after an incredible introducion to motorcycling in Laos.

In Years Past and Future
2010 - Matera Sightseeing


You guys are inspiring, looking forward 2 see where the road takes you.
Good luck and good night
Posted by Samuel Conrad on April 8th, 2011 at 1:51 PM
Wow! A new website! I really dig the new look. I love that the nav stays put as you scroll. (Looks like there might be a few bugs - the next and previous post buttons don't work for me (FF4, Win7).

Your free-camp looks amazing! How awesome is that? Just riding motorcycles through Laos... just sleeping in an empty hut you happen to pass by. Sweet!

"Finding oneself homeless in remote, mountainous Laos could be terrifying for some, but the adventure is natural for all of us; having the experience with friends makes it even better." - I love it!
Posted by Greg Burger on April 9th, 2011 at 1:36 AM
HOLY CRAP! Love the new website! Bang up job Tyler you geek! ;)

Can't wait to sit down and chat with you guys when you return. Of course, when you get back to Minnesota that is (if you come back to Minnesota hahahaha)
Posted by Dave on April 9th, 2011 at 2:05 AM
Looks great you guys, good work Tyler! :)

Am I supposed to see two "Previous entry" arrows? The right one (for next) shows previous instead. Unsure if this is because I'm currently on the last post or not!
Posted by Magalie on April 9th, 2011 at 4:33 AM
Thanks so much!

Thanks for the heads up about the buttons, they should be working now. This was definitely one of the coolest wild camping spots on our trip, it's just too bad we didn't have a tent to sleep in! Oh well, it made for a good story :D

Thanks man! I put in like 100 hours on it last week (no joke), always thinking I was almost done. Fit and finish work takes forever. We should put something on the calendar for getting together; maybe we could have our inaugural lunch at Great Dragon together?

Thanks!! I seriously think I am more proud of this than anything I've ever programmed.

There are indeed supposed to be two previous arrows. The buttons mimic the Amazon Kindle, which places next/previous switches on both sides of the reader. In this way, you don't have to move your mouse across the screen if you want to flip back/forward. The buttons do fade in/out if there isn't any further to go.
Posted by Tyler on April 9th, 2011 at 5:13 AM
The new journal site looks very very cool well done to you both.

Now you are in the midst of a publishing frenzy with all your back dated posts we are having trouble keeping up with all the reading but always pick out a few posts to read when we have a break.

All the best Emma + Justin
Posted by Justin + Emma on April 9th, 2011 at 1:30 PM
That sounds terrific Tyler! Since you've been gone however, they opened up an authentic Indian restaurant that I think you guys would LOVE. As much as I know you two love "Dragon", the "Star of India" will be a wonderful experience at home from your worldly adventures. :)

See you guys soon!
Posted by Dave on April 9th, 2011 at 2:01 PM
One of the best days/nights of our trip...until the cold set in. Tyler, the new site is awesome.
Posted by Pete and Nataha on April 12th, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Beautiful looking website and great journal entry!
Posted by Alastair Humphreys on April 13th, 2011 at 9:06 AM
Thanks Alastair :D

I thought of you when I used the acronym HTFU in the next entry. I'm pretty sure the first place I saw that was on your site!
Posted by Tyler on April 17th, 2011 at 2:48 PM
..and then there was this day:)
Posted by Natasha on November 16th, 2013 at 5:38 PM
...yep! And it's about to get COLD!

Posted by Tara on November 19th, 2013 at 8:59 AM
Lovely shelter for a night! I noticed Pete's tattoo from another picture and thought that design looked very familiar :) I hiked the AT in 02! Wonderful blog! We are planning a bike trip after I finish phd and I have found much inspiration here.
Posted by Carrie on June 12th, 2014 at 11:54 AM
Glad to hear it, Carrie! :-)
Posted by Tara on June 18th, 2014 at 7:49 AM