Tag : Expedition

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PLUS7dní – Jojo’s trip over Europe and Asia: Belarus drama is just an uncomfortable memory, Russia an uplift

 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!”

 

Suspicious

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.

 

Russia

“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.

PLUS7dní – Jojo’s trip over Europe and Asia: Prestige photographer’s surprising drama in Belarus

Do people at the bottom have dreams? Yes, they do. They can even make them come true. Jojo Samek is a proof: From the streets he has become a prestigious photographer and today he’s on a 60-day trip around the world.

Jojo has begun his trip on 1st of September from Dunajská Streda. The whole start was wholesome and surprising to the crew – Jojo Samek, who came up with the whole idea, and the driver, and his cameraman Zoli – a lot of people attended their departure to wave and say their goodbyes. On these long 60 days, Jojo lives his dream.

Sleeping bag in sand

“I don’t even know where should I begin…”, Jojo says after his first week on the road. In his voice you can hear how tired he is, but it swaps between euphoria, too. His humor doesn’t leave him despite the hardships he went through his first few days.
“Seven days have passed. Seven special days. The first few were more than amazing. We laughed, met a whole variety of people, and we were just enjoying it. It was great. The road was problem-free, people waved to us, everyone was interested, they asked about our expedition,” Jojo talks about the first moments since the start. “We went through Slovakia and arrived to Poland, and even the police helped us find a place to stay.” By that, though, he doesn’t mean a 5 star hotel. Jojo has his priorities: the important thing is to relax, not to sleep in luxury. And so, by Poland’s policemen’s advices, they went the way they were told to. They managed to fall asleep at 1 in the morning in their sleeping bags.
“When I woke up in the morning, I found out that we slept in the middle of a playground. Our sleeping bags were covered in sand, we slept in a sandbox,” says Jojo, laughing about his first night. That morning they packed their belongings, cleaned after themselves and went to the Belarus border.

On the edge

In Belarus they were left perplexed at the sight of barbed wire and armed customs. “When you live in the heart of Europe, you don’t really realize it that there is still a huge barrier with barbed wire, that should work in protecting our children’s sleep,” Jojo describes his first impressions from another country that awaited him. They didn’t welcome them with open arms, despite how it may have seemed before. “Going through the Polish checkpoint was a breeze. On the Belarus border however, we started signing immigration papers and declaration about our vehicle. They took out completely everything out of our car… And between our medicines that we took with us, they found two boxes of a certain type that’s considered a drug in Belarus,” Jojo adds to his adrenaline inducing experience.
They put their car to the side, and then into a garage. “We use a special kind of wheel-lock, that if you try and move it, it’ll puncture your tires.” The customs took Jojo’s keys, and they separated both him and his cameraman apart and now came long hours of waiting. “I started regretting that we took the medicines with us. Why did we even take them?… Cough syrup. We’ve got something for everything. Chosen cautiously. Even stuff for neurosis. They were there, and when they asked for who they were, I said that I got them as a sponsors’ support,” says Jojo, and it sounds like this experience will still resonate in his voice for a long time. “Between the customs, who slowly started bullying us and treating us like terrorists, came an older, bearded man. Really nice and friendly, tried to understand Russian. When I told him how we came across these things, he apologized and said that these are their laws, and have to wait for other investigators who are already on their way. I’ll be most likely held here until the whole situation gets resolved. And that can be a day, two, a week, if it went to court, even a month. In that moment I was covered in cold sweat. I realized that I didn’t even leave, and was already finished.”
An unlucky turn of events put the trip to a pause, and the joy from the beginning was replaced with hopelessness. The crew went through a physical exam, the car was x-rayed and investigators wrote notes. After a long while of uncertainty victory finally came across, but it didn’t taste pretty well.
“We’re continuing on our trip, the story has a continuation. The medicines in question were confiscated and sent to a laboratory, and then they’ll be sent to court. Hopefully it’ll be sorted in a form of a fine, otherwise this bad luck could’ve locked away the rest of the world to us,” Jojo sadly notes. The test results will be sent in a month and for now he can only hope the rest of the trip won’t be in danger.

Jojo’s trip continues to Russia and about when and how he arrived there, and what he experienced will be revealed to you soon.

Author: Janka Fialová

Translation: Jozef Samek Jr.

link: www.plus7dni.sk

PLUS7dní – Daring Adventurer

Daring Adventurer: From being homeless, Jojo has become a prestigious photographer, and now he’s starting to travel around the world

Jojo Samek has went through a lot in his life. His own business put him on the street, today he’s a prestigious photographer and he’s setting off to an adventurous expedition

Jojo trusts people. Despite the fact that he bruised against the very bottom, he doesn’t give up and keeps on fighting. Fighting everything that comes in his way, including cancer. Although it didn’t hit when he was homeless, it hit just after he got out of it. One would say he shouldn’t be hit again, but Jojo believes it doesn’t work that way.

On the Street

The word “unlucky” chimed in for the first time when Jojo made his own business. He paid for it with his trust in others and inconsistency. “I am a person who believes in friendship. But most of the time, it always backfired on me,” he says. His colleagues from the business that he left didn’t pull official matters all the way through. And so the overdraft loans that accumulated and weren’t paid for have landed on Jojo’s shoulders. He ended up on the street, alone, with two plastic bags. In one there were a few things that as a homeless person you couldn’t put on, because you don’t even have a place to change. In the other had the most important things; a notebook and a camera. In retrospective, Jojo said that he considered that time the most motivating: “If you don’t have anything, you’re at the very bottom, you can say that you are free.” The freedom, although forced, Jojo has enjoyed it in a different way. The homeless life he lived was with a camera in his hand at all times. Although, yes, if he sold it, he’d have money for food. But he didn’t give up on it, even for the price of hunger. An incident with a child’s father, whom he was taking pictures of, a sudden guardian angel has stood upon him. The mother of the photographed child was the person who defused the conflict and single-handedly has changed Jojo’s life. After a week there were many other families who went after Jojo to take pictures. And as a homeless person, who sometimes doesn’t eat for whole days, or doesn’t drink for a day, suddenly has enough for both. Enough to rent a studio room. It looked like he was out of the worst.
Slowly, one step at a time, the name Jojo has built up more and more positive reviews, and he has gotten out of the street back up. Into a studio, back into a normal and happy life. Up until cancer slowly showed up. “I started doing good, but then I got ill.”, Jojo thinks. He’s not complaining, just pointing out the facts. “Suddenly you don’t work for a year, clientele is no more…”, says the person whose fate has been tested. One of the last projects he did was with the cooperation of rapper Kali. Humility, thankfulness and responsibility were an ensured way of a continuation. And so he has gotten out of being ill and hard times, Jojo has gotten back up, but how many times?

Expedition

Jojo doesn’t run away from challenges. And if these challenges don’t come to him, he’ll come up with one. Just like this expedition. “Sixty days around Europe and Asia”. A dream come true, or an escape from reality from these times? On this road he’s going to sit behind the wheel 10 hours a day. Is that even possible? Theoretically, yes. Practically? Time will tell. Just so it’s not that easy, a suggestion came through: “Just do it all alone! Let the cameraman just record it all!” And so Jojo once again stands before a challenge, who he has come up with himself, staged, dreamed, and… 1st of September, he departs for his trip around the world.

The plan is to travel 31 693 kilometres. That means that’s about 460 hours of driving according to Google Maps. In his own car, Jojo will go through twentyone countries: Czech Republic, Poland, Belarus, Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. The estimated date for his return is 30th of October.

“A crazy absurdity even for me. The thought of sitting behind a wheel daily for 10 hours. If the roads are going to be bad, and believe me, they will, then it’s really becoming a challenge. Finish the thought with usual car problems on the road, or technical problems, sometimes falling into a ditch, flat tire, being tired or stress. Mix it with driving through borders, because you never know who is having a bad day so they could let it out on you. Driving through mountainy areas, crowded places, food that you are definitely not used to, and you have a base for a lot of different experiences,” he expresses his expectations. Still, it’s crazily absurd. Although Jojo is not scared. He’s looking at it as one big adventure.
You can go through anything. Rises and falls. You can get used to the street, even a fight that goes on forever. Winter, cold, helplessness and illnesses. How Jojo will apply his experiences on his trip across Europe and Asia, only time will show! We’re crossing our fingers and wish him good luck on his trip!

The information about his adventure will continue from Saturday. Jojo has even promised us, that for Plus 7 Dní he’ll prepare a small trip journal, complete with his pictures. So you can see the whole trip on our website from Jojo’s own eyes.

Author: Janka Fialová…
Translation: Jozef Samek Jr.

link: www.plus7dni.sk