Mar 062012
 

mapo 6

Campulung - Laza. Click to enlarge

With the daylight it came the calm. But when I got outside and thought the last night’s tight spot, I discarded that it was a bear. For the trajectory of the beast, when it touched my little tent had surely passed under the guy rope, so it couldn’t be that big. And as Romania is the country of the vagabond dogs, I supposed it was one of them.

Adrian was my first lift of the day. He was a quads mechanic and 4×4 mountain races driver on his free time. He was pretending to be angry because I wasn’t making so many photos of the landscape, which he considered very stunning – and it actually was. Finally he stopped his car in the top of a mountain pass where I was obliged to make some shots. Here you have one of them:

Fundata

Around Fundata, between Campulung and Brasov

Concrete lorry full of decorating souvenirs

Cabin of the concrete lorry, full of decorative souvenirs

Then we went to his business, a house full of quads, paintball stuff and 4×4 cars, all made to attract tourists on summertime, he explained me something about all the show and gave me a jar of delicious marmalade. From there I jumped into a funny concrete lorry with souvenirs from all over Europe decorating the cabin. The driver had been to the Vatican and was very proud of it, but it was the only thing we could exchange: he didn’t speak any language but Romanian and was incredibly bad in understanding the body language. He even couldn’t understand what my name was. But for some strange reason – maybe instinct – he dropped me in the exact place I wanted to go: the Bran Castle.

The Bran Castle is part of the Dracula industry in Romania. Even thought there’s no historical evidence that Vlad Tepes had been in the castle, its walls are covered with Dracula’s illustrations, genealogical trees of his family and other stuff about him. But why not? It’s a beautiful castle in the middle of Transylvania, so even it’s too modern for a middle ages castle, let’s believe Dracula lived there, make many photos and say “hey, I set the foot on the same floor Dracula did!”

Bran Castle

Bran Castle dominating the village

From there, a surgeon brought me right to the center of Brasov. I decided to look for a hostel, it wasn’t hard to find.

I spent two days in the city . With a center full of colors like many other Central European cities, Brasov has a small center that is rapidly seen. Then some tour on the nearby mountains and it’s done. And comes the time to join the every night party in the hostel, drink many beers and meet new friends. That night it was the World Cup 2010, playing England against Australia. There were many Australians and English in the hostel, so it was not difficult to find a subject to talk about. The Koreans were more quiet, and a French girl told me stories of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, where she had been to and I was heading for. But I stopped the conversation afraid of getting ti know too many things, because it’s always better to discover them by yourself.

After two nights, on a rainy morning, I was next to Otniel as he was driving me some towns away from Brasov, where Daniel picked me up. He was a dentist going to Hasi to make an exam to reaffirm himself as a good doctor, and he decided to take me until Bacau (that is quite a long ride). He was complaining about his country. He was not agree about the measures to be implemented by the Romanian Government against the upcoming crisis, that was going to cut the public employees salaries by 20%.

“And nobody protests in the streets! We don’t know how to fight for our rights!”

Then he complained about the Romanian drivers, telling that people drive too dangerously in his country, criticizing all the cars that were overtaking us… until he made a mistake and we nearly had a small crash. He said shyly “sorry”.

But despite this, it was a very nice ride, maybe the best I had until the moment. We talked a lot about the revolution against Ceaucescu – killed by Romanian people -, the Franco dictatorship in Spain, and other political facts. In one moment, he revealed himself as gay, so I gave him the advice to come to Sitges, a famous gay destination near my town, and he got happy when I told him gays could get married in Spain.

“You are an advanced country!”, he said. But I didn’t know what to answer.

Once in Bacau, I got a lift with Radu, who had become father some days ago and was very happy. He was still a student, and now was going to spend some days in his family cottage in the town of Ivanesti. There he had a vegetable garden, some livestock and bees that made exquisite honey. He said he liked more to work in the field than the engineering he was studying, but there was no future there.

There I took the last ride of the day. As I was planning to reach Moldova the next morning, I didn’t exchange more money. And the driver of the next car wanted a bit, the first of the whole trip who asked me for this. I told him I had not enough, to stop the car so I would wait another, but he was not stopping. Finally he agreed to take my little money and threw me out of the car after the next curve.

But sometimes fortune smiles to someone, and as I looked around, I discovered I was in a wonderful place near a lake, not far from the town of  Laza.

Romania Laza

Near the lake in Laza

Feb 122012
 

Doboj - Beograd

The rain wasn’t stopping. All over the Bosnian valleys, through the happy character of its people and their Balcanic enthusiasm, the rain satisfied the thirst of those green trees and bushes, and filled the rivers to its limit. But I didn’t give up. I kept hitching the road, thumb by thumb, from one car to the other, from a mechanic who went to buy tools to a wedding car all covered by shabby ribbons and bows of doubtful elegance. One Imam, orthodox Serbs, returned emigrants who made money in Italy or Switzerland and now where living an easy and wealthy life in their hometown… resuming, many singular people, all of them with their peculiarities, different and original, genuine as the country itself, talking about a better future or a sad past, and absolutely, all of them, funny and talkative and kind.

One of them was Stefano, a 64 years old man who lived in Switzerland for 35 years. Now he was back in Bosnia for the rest of his life. He spoke Italian very well and, encouraged by my Spanish origin, was saying all the time:

“Si, si, si! Si señor!”

It was a good time with Stefano. He talked to me about the war (which he had not lived), about his sons, one working in Italy, the other in Beograd. Happy for the meeting, he drove me 35 km further than he should, dropped me in Bijelina and I began to walk.

Bijelina, Bosnia

Bijelina, Republika Srpska, Bosnia

Bijenlina is right in the bordering region with Serbia. It seemed a richer place, full of colorful little houses with gardens all over kilometers of road, and I had nowhere to place my tent. Finally I found an abandoned house, and I slept on its backyard. Next morning the house was full of people. In the garden, inside the house… and around my tent. As I discovered, it was some sort of communal house that was burned some time ago, and the neighbours where repairing it. All of them looked at me as I was packing my things, and they didn’t say anything, as if I was a strange apparition. I said goodbye and hit the road with the feeling that something was wrong.

Although I had to wait a long time for a car, I crossed the border and arrived to Beograd in the early evening of a long day of June. That was fine enough. A new place to discover through the slope.

Beograd Caslte

Beograd Castle

Beograd caused me a good impression. Although it’s lack of some great monument (the castle is less impressing than the ones you can find in many places of Italy, France or Spain), and although the smallness of it’s center, it gave me good vibes. The Serbians are kind people, and the girls are really attractive. On the castle walls, groups of young people drank beer and stronger things inside the warm June nights. I could talk a little about basketball, Partizan and Bodiroga and so on, but I came back early to the hostel to wash my clothes. Something that was really needed.

Beograd market

Beograd market

Jan 172012
 

I left Catalonia with many doubts, but I had a plane ticket and I had no choice. Slowly, the flippancy of the travel invaded me. The plane took me to visit my cousin in the beautiful city of Bologna and then it came the night. It was fine in the young Bolognan nights, full of spanish students. The alcohol stopped in our hands for a while, and some music passed by. I didn’t get any girl those nights. But it’s fine. After 5 days I was on a train that took me to Bentivoglio and it was the beggining of it all.

Outside Bentivoglio there’s a hidden entrance to the highway, a hole in a fence that lets you get inside. I found it, and slept on the service area near the motorway. Next morning I began to hitchhike. Italia is not a good country for hitchhike, but a crowded highway heading to populated areas is always fine. It was early morning when the first car stopped. It was a Russian man, he let me into his car and we crossed the lowlands of the Po Basin until Venice. He was a tourist guide operator and he disliked his job, all the time bringing tourists to see the same monuments and all the time making the same jokes. Yes, the first ride was a nice ride, fast, funny and long, and my spirit was growing high.

After a couple of rides, in Udine, I met Giorgio, a gravedigger who was going on holiday to Croatia, up to my way. It was the first time I was inside a hearse. “Probably, next time I won’t be able to appreciate how it is”, I thought.

Despite his work, Giorgio was a funny and cheerful man. He talked about reggae music, about some joints he used to smoke when he was in Spain, and some other things I quickly forgot. I couldn’t stop looking at the hearse. It was real and I was inside there. There were two rails and a couple of lockers to keep the coffins fixed. Some green hills scattered by the road, but the fun was not there. The car, the leather seats, the curly haired man full of happiness and his heavy guffaws inside that sad envirointment completly impressed me.

Croatia shore in Senj

Croatian shore in Senj

We crossed the border to Slovenia and then we made it to Croatia. I got down the car in Rijeka, and kindly gave thanks to Giorgio. It was a small win: it was still lunch-time and I had already covered almost 400 km.

I was walking through the town when it began to rain. That ugly rain… it followed me everyday until reach the Romanian lands. That’s why the 400km didn’t seem that much after some hours waiting for the sun, that made himself visible atop of the sky in the early evening.

The next car to give me a lift was a good one. While the father was shouting loud the names of some football players and talking by cellar phone,  his son was changing the gears. They were understanding each other perfectly: the father was taking the wheel and accelerating, and as soon as the car was starting to make sound, he pushed the clutch and the son changed the gear. It had a good result, the son enjoyed his job and the father could talk by mobile phone for a long time.

Hitchhiking to Bosnia near Prijeboj, Croatia

Mime and Alberich hitchhiking near the Bosnian border.

The shore in Croatia is a thin and steep thing, and there are not wide places to plant a tend, so I just extended my sleepnig bag between some bushes. There, looking alone at the sunset I could feel the satisfaction of the things well done. The experience of the first day just confirmed me something I already knew before: the variety of people I can meet in the cars is awesome. In the next few days followed deep christians, funny grannies with their grandsons, dirty bear hunters, bosnian muslims, old communist nostalgics, heavy metal fans and responsible people going to work. Everyone with their own history, everyone with a story to tell. And they got rougher when I got deep into Bosnia.

Jan 122012
 

I always had the sensation that going to the east was something special. Probably this is caused for my location: Spain is in the very West of the Eurasian continent. My first idea – cross the land from Spain to Magadan – is one of the longest straight ways that can be made without crossing any sea, and this had something that made me dream. The same piece of land should be all the same, but it is not. Everything, the landscape, the people, the nature, the food… everything changes little by little, and in the end you look backward and nothing is like it began. Being an observer of this film was my fantasy for a long time and finally I decided to do it.

Whatever it was, I decided to go straight to the East, always stepping forward with the Sun lighting upon my forehead.

Crossing the Eurasian continent

The Sun in my Forehead and other recent route

As I look back, the route is quite different as I planned before. But this is something that easily happens in long travels like this. Europe is easy to hitchhike, and arriving to Ukraine was an easy task. Then I had to cross the Black Sea by boat for made it to the crazy Caucasus lands. From there, I passed through Central Asia – probably the most interesting part of the trip – until the Chinese border, and by several means of transport I arrived to Southeast Asia. There I stayed for six months, a one-moth scape to India included. And still smarting from that Russian disappointment, I flew to the north of the country and crossed down until Ukraine.

After all, I came back home, with my backpack full of stories, tips and photographs to share with all of you.

Oct 082011
 

It didn’t begin looking at the white sea-foam on a sunny afternoon, nor looking the horizon on a high peak dominating the plains. It was just a matter of time. Time by time, little by little, I realized that the crazy long travels I read on the books were not unachievable targets, they were not heroic deeds done by amazing people with lots of funds, it was only the decision of simple people who wanted to change a little bit their life. And they found somewhere the bravery to do it.

Despite all this, I was never sure to begin the adventure. It was just not easy to give up it all, leave everything and everyone and take a round over the world. Not everyone understands it, mostly the family or the father who always talks about work. Until one day I began to plan everything. Everything became clear, everything looked as easy targets, the impossible connections I thought before were little by little turning to reasonable objectives, the unknown countries didn’t seem that strange after getting some information. The forgotten paths, the visa issues, there’s nothing impossible for a person who really wants to do this.

But, anyway, I was still afraid. Maybe not afraid, but unsure of it. I had planned many things, but didn’t fixed a departure date. It was difficult for me to set a departure date. One thing is to dream, and another is to say “ok, I’m REALLY gonna do this”. Until one book came to my hands. It was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and it really changed my mind. Yes! There’s no need to be scared, that’s not the spirit you may take. Just go there, rise the thumb and hit the road. That’s all, there’s nothing more to think about. It’s not just a dream, it’s my dream and I can do it. And after some time it becomes a way of life.

UlughBeg Madrassa in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh Beg Madrassa in Samarkand

Choosing the route was an easy thing. For years the ancient city of Samarkand was the point were all the wishes started and the thoughts were coming from. Samarkand the Great, Samarkand the Mighty, Samarkand the land of the Monster, Old and Elder Marakand. Once destroyed by Alexander the Great, then governed by Tamerlan, forsaken into the desert sands when the Silk Route fell down, now was an unknown place in the forgotten country of Uzbekistan. The beauty of its buildings, the legendary name of the place, the far it is from everywhere… everything made Samarkand a magic place, a place were I didn’t know what to find, a place of legend, the rule of communism, the turkish muslims and the Mongol facial features.

Well, it’s true, I had some point to shot my mind. And that’s a lot. My plans would go straight to Samarkand, crossing Europe, the Caucasus, the Kizilkum desert from the new sands of Aral since arrive to the old powerful town. After that, all the plans seemed so far, so long, like talk about fantasy or sci-fi. I did plan to go up to the north through the Kazakh steppe, cross to Russia and find the Kolyma Highway after Yakutsk. The plans then included Japan and America until the south… but it’s talking in vain. I changed all my plans after the Central Asia shake.

And what’s the point of all the speech? Well, probably there’s no point at all. Just to share what I took and what I owned. You can plan a big trip if you dream of that, you just need some stimulation, an objective, and a spear to make it all explode. And to find this things is quite an easy thing!

Go there and find it out!