Backpacking stories: Tales of the legendary Blue shoe

If you ever make a trip to the Green Climbers Home in Laos or happen to meet someone who was there during the early season of 2017, there’s a good chance that they’d tell you about the blue shoe.

The original owner of the blue shoe was a calm Finnish dude named Ilari, who aspires to be “the fainting goat Indian baba” someday. During the early days of his Laos trip, his flip flops broke and in entire city of Thakhek, not a single shoe shop had a flip flop of size EU 44. So he had no other option but to wear his blue Adidas shoe everywhere.

Before entering the main restaurant of the​ Green Climbers, 'the Knee Bar’, one has to remove their footwear outside. Close to this was the area where people smoke and chill out. The area had a couple of benches, a huge ass ash tray and was filled with pebbles. One night a bunch of us were hanging out there and we were bored. One of us came up with the idea of throwing pebbles in the blue shoe and see who gets the most number of pebbles in. After a while, Ilari asked us to cut it out and went in to eat. I put one pebble in each shoe before leaving and also did the same whenever I saw the blue shoe the next couple of days.

A bunch of us meet up every morning in the campsite, outside Gal’s tent, a super generous guy from Israel. He loves hosting people and took the effort to make a small set-up for us to hang out, outside his tent, where he made us superb Israeli coffee every single morning. One of these mornings, Ilari told everyone how pissing off it was to find one shitty pebble in both the shoes. After that, every one in the gang started doing it.

Everytime we entered the knee bar, we made sure to find the blue shoe and put pebbles in it. Also, if we see people chilling in the smoking area, we try and convince them to do it, saying that it is a big tradition and we’ve been doing it for months. The word slowly spread around camp that week and more and more people started placing pebbles in the blue shoe.

A few days passed and the situation went out of control. We found not just pebbles, but all sorts of shit in the blue shoe. Twigs, dry leaves, dirt, honey, dead insects. Once we found the blue shoe filled with pebbles, the laces knotted up and a trail of pebbles leading to the hidden blue shoe.

Ilari knew that this had gotten to a point where it was much bigger than him, much bigger than all of us. So he decided to hide the blue shoe in his tent and go barefoot! The last few days in GCH, before we left for tonsai, Ilari washed the blue shoe and hung it right next to his tent. It was a rest day and I was chilling in my hammock and I saw this random dude, walk all the way to the campsite with a pebble in his hand, just to put it in the blue shoe. That just made my day and I couldn’t stop smiling!

I don’t know if I’ll remember the hard stuff that I climbed in GCH or my projects in a couple of years but I know for sure that I’ll never forget the tale of the blue shoe. There were rumors that there were regular sightings of the blue shoe in the beaches of Cebu, the last month. As you’re reading this, efforts are being taken to restore the blue shoe to back it’s rightful place, outside the Knee Bar.