If 1st of September wasn’t a Saturday,
children would’ve begun their ten month adventure, new school year.
Despite it being Saturday, Jojo Samek has begun one adventure.
During it there are new people awaiting him, new sightings and experiences.
The bad ones are preceded by the good ones, hopelessness preceded by euphoria.
His adventure will take 60 days and during those he’ll go thousands of kilometers.
Drama in Belarus
Hard to tell what feelings are stirring up inside a person who went on a 60 day adventure after their dream and their first negative experience is a possibility of their adventure ending. To get into a situation where you start something and immediately put to a stop can affect one’s self-esteem, digs presumptions and launches an avalanche of questions in one’s head. The only answer in that situation, in which you hope for, is freedom. Jojo has got it. The Belarus drama is only a memory now and he’s currently going through Russia. But entering Russia wasn’t all without some problems. “After my experience with Belarus customs I was putting a lot of effort into not going through any scenic routes, my only goal was to get into Russia,” he mentions. “Two hours in a sleeping bag have given us enough sleep and we went towards Smolensk, straight through all of Belarus. When we arrived to the border, a uniformed Russian armyman came to us. He asked for our visas, looked at us, took the visas to check them. He came back with a smile that it’s all alright, no problem, but we cannot go through here. So he sent us to another border where we could pass into Russia without any problems.” By the armyman’s words it sounded like Jojo had to go just a few kilometers to finally get into a place where he could go through into Russia, a place he has always dreamt of visiting.
“On paper it only looked like a small distance, Jojo was smiling a lot throughout the conversation, and so we have turned and went a little further. We stopped at the closest parking lot and have studied the paper we got and I understood that we need to go another three hundred kilometers to the place where we’ll get through into Russia. After the question of if we’re taking any medicine with us, there wasn’t any mistaking that they already knew about us. Thank god, they have let us through without any problems. It surprised me that on the Russian side, there’s no one who would help you, give you advice, no information. Everything’s in cyrillic, so if you aren’t knowledgeable about their alphabet, you have a problem. I have a service car with full permissions – government approved in Slovak and English. The problem is that there isn’t a Russian version of those papers,” Jojo stumbles yet across another problem. Permission to use the car wasn’t enough in English, it was required for it to be translated into Russian, through government officials.
So they “jumped” another 90 kilometers to find somebody to translate it. “Night time Ukraine is horrible…. Just warnings, ramps and raised gates. A weird atmosphere envelops the whole country. On the next day at dawn, I understood why we didn’t see any houses. Even though the roads are just as wide as in Slovakia, houses are at least thirty meters away from the roads. In Slovakia they’re closer. In the dark you just watch the road, nothing else. The fact that you went through a village that was marked, you don’t even notice it. The whole place has an effect of being abandoned,” Jojo talks about the road for the translation. In the morning they found someone in Chernogode, and they had to wait until the evening. “It’s not a good idea to visit the customs at night, so we returned back to the town maybe thirty kilometers from the border…” After waiting around in the queue line about three hours they went through all the security checks, got the important stamps, showed them the translation – and got an answer: “It is a translation, but it’s in Ukrainian, not Russian!”
So they went back into the car back into Chernogode. The lady who translated it apologized, she forgot to pin a Russian translation to the papers. The delays were pretty stacked, so Jojo went right back to the customs. “At the Ukrainian customs, there were problems as soon as we arrived. Our attempts at crossing the border became suspicious. The two times translation was also suspicious…” And so the crew got in contact with the person who translated the papers and admitted that the fault was on her side that caused these problems. It started looking like Jojo had to wait yet another few hours. The situation got saved by another person of a higher ranking at the customs who explained that the dogs didn’t find anything, everything is alright and the crew can carry on their way.
“It’s been ten days since the departure. So far there have been some complications but it’s alright, we’re just a bit behind.” The whole problem in Belarus caused Jojo’s trip to be a bit behind the schedule, and he’s behind by two days. By his words, Russia is pretty European. At the beginning he was surprised at people’s uneasy behavior. Suspicious detachment but careful nonetheless. Going in a bit further, the situation has completely changed. “Today, wherever we stop, we raise interest. Russia is a huge land. Places, corners that we had the chance of seeing – everything is majestic. To cross five hundred kilometers means nothing here, though.” They didn’t manage to avoid Moscow’s traffic jams: “To sit in between five lanes, surrounded by trucks and cars is pretty stressful… Russian don’t use their turn indicators. It was an adrenaline rush for about 4 – 5 hours…”
The roads during the day are pretty packed. On improving communication people also work on Saturdays and Sundays. There is construction everywhere. It’s not the Russia like it was back a few years ago. “At some customs I lost my bag with chargers and a backup harddrive. I stopped in Moscow and went into an electronics store that had everything from almost anywhere. Everything. From PC’s that were disassembled, iPhones, Lenovo, Motorola, motherboards from all sorts of companies – from known names to unknown. And so I wonder, where is Russia heading? People are smiling, police patrol is completely calm… Where are you going? Vladivostok. They just smiled, go. I’m surprised from Russia, it’s all nice. From the tense beginning, the further I go, the better it is, and I’m starting to like it here. There are about ten, twelve, maybe sixteen days ahead of us until we arrive to Vladivostok. Three days at the border customs, four days of loss – we’re still behind. We’re missing two thousand kilometers that will be very hard catching up to. From tomorrow, we have our alarm clock set to 4:30, cramps in my legs are going away, so it shouldn’t be that bad catching up anymore. But it’s pretty tough. At least Zoli and I aren’t getting enough of eachother, but I think it’ll arrive in ten, fifteen days. So far we’re just enjoying it and I hope it stays that way.”
Socialism in Kemerovo
“Greetings from Siberia!” Jojo announces his current position. Exhaustion from timezone changes and roads has caught up to them, and so from Novosibirsk they have only gone through three hundred kilometers, when they decided to take a break. “From the roads to today – hands down. The biggest pulls that we went through were fantastic. Evidently, it’s a job for a lot of people. This city is socialistic, nostalgia echoes throughout the whole place. Some buildings are unkempt, some have been given a make over. I’m standing opposite to a school that is beautifully repaired, and on the other side is a hotel in which we are staying. Three star hotel that breathes through the 80s. It’s screaming socialism from the inside. And the people, the further we go, the more friendly and talkative they are. But they don’t like having a picture taken of them. I spoke to a soldier yesterday that showed me his work, guard, where he works, what does he do… It’s a welcome change to them, they aren’t no longer so detached from strangers. They’re trying to communicate in English. It’s a weird feeling, it’s as if I was traveling in time. It’s magical. I’m standing in their downtown, walking around. Parents are taking their children to places, it’s Saturday, despite a lot of places still being open. Children were in schools. This morning a man stopped me and asked us where are we from, where are we going and gave us places to check out. He just spoke as if it was just a little departure. But when I checked the map, that it’s 580 km, that would take about ten hours – and we’re not even counting destroyed roads, traffic jams and colonies. It would definitely be worth it, but we’re behind by two days and we’re not having the best luck catching up.
Happy birthday, все лучшее, všetko najlepšie, Jojo!
On his adventurous expedition behind the wheel, Jojo has also celebrated his birthday. We couldn’t not ask if his idea to spend sixty days traveling through Europe and Asia hasn’t come across thoughts of regret, if he hasn’t gotten homesick or if he had a thought about just staying home! He responded without hesitation: “The further we go into Russia, the better it gets. People are much more friendly, considerate… Despite being tired we’re really enjoying this, it’s still fun. This trip is an experience every passing minute. I’m glad that I went and that it’s with Zoli, we’re a great duo.”
Vladivostok is in their plans in a few days. More information from Jojo will arrive soon!
Author: Janka Fialová
Translation: Jozef Samek Jr.