Independent Travel - Serbia Travel Club & Academy of Free Travels (Russia)

Uploaded by klubputnika on 07.03.2012

That story begins in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
We stayed there for two nights, with an elderly lady
whom we had met on the Hospitality Club website.
It's one of the websites on which people exchange hospitality for free.
We stayed there for two days.
After that we went to Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Here are a couple of photos from Osh.
We found out that the Russian organization,
similar to Serbia Travel Club,
called Academy of Free Travels,
whose president and founder, Anton, is here today,
had its "House for all" there.
"House for all" is an interesting project.
Their members collect money together
and rent an apartment somewhere in the world.
That apartment is their base for traveling in the region
and exploring neighboring countries.
Every traveler can stay there for free.
Not only their members,
but any traveler that drops by.
We found out about that and contacted them
and we stayed with them for two days.
While we were in Osh,
Russian travelers told us how to travel from Kyrgyzstan to China.
We found out that there were two border crossing and two roads,
actually one and a half road between Kyrgyzstan and China.
The first border crossing lies on an asphalt road,
and there's organized transport there, buses and so on,
but you have to pay a very high tax for crossing there.
The other border crossing between Kyrgyzstan and China is free,
but there is no road. Actually, there is a dirt road
which occasionally disappears and reappears.
There's no organized transport.
The only way to get there was by hitchhiking.
So we got up early and went to the outskirts of Osh,
next to the sign in this photo, and started hitchhiking there.
After a couple of short rides, a Kamaz picked us up.
Kamaz is and old truck, former Soviet, now Russian,
a virtually indestructible vehicle,
one of the few vehicles that can go on these roads.
They transport huge amounts of cargo between Kyrgyzstan and China.
They go to the border, leave the cargo there and go back to Osh.
The man you see in the photo was our truck driver.
A strong Kyrgyz man with a long braid of hair and a deep hole in the nape of his neck.
He turned out to be an ex-convict,
who had spent most of his life in prisons, but he was a very nice man nonetheless.
When we entered the truck,
we noticed that everything inside was broken.
The glass was cracked, all the plastic parts were broken,
seats were rocking and everything you touched stayed in your hand,
that's how destroyed everything was.
We soon understood why it was like that.
The road often disappears or is so bad
that the truck leaves it and goes over ditches and rocks
with crashing noises and us flying around the cabin.
We literally had to push our backs into the seat
and put both feet on the plastic next to the console,
and clinch the seat with our hands in order not to fly around.
But despite all that the door would sometimes open,
usually at the edge of a cliff, and we had to hang
and close the door with the other hand.
That was our Kamaz truck.
At one point we reached the Taldyk pass.
It is one of the highest mountain passes,
the places where the road goes over the mountain, in all ex-USSR.
As you can see, the altitude is 3630 m.
The road started going up and we finally reached the pass.
This is the view of the road, from the top.
After the pass, the road became even worse,
and we literally drove over the pastures.
Some main axle on the truck got broken twice,
so we had to wait for 4-5 hours
in some small villages, for it to be repaired.
It's interesting who repairs the truck when it gets damaged in a place like that.
Those are the self-taught road mechanics who live in the villages
and survive by fixing trucks that get damaged all the time.
Each truck breaks down a couple of times on each trip.
They crawl under the truck and take everything to bits.
They have welding machines, and when they crawl out, black form the oil,
the truck moves on.
These are some of the landscapes that we saw.
All the trashing and jostling didn't give us much chance to take pictures,
but we would occasionally ask the driver to stop so that we can do it.
When it got dark, we arrived to Irkeshtam.
It's a town made of metal.
A town made of old trucks.
Houses are trucks and trailers.
Stairs are stacked truck wheels.
You can't tell from the photo, but it's a big settlement.
It's the last Kyrgyz settlement before you enter China.
Since there was no proper road there and the crossing was problematic,
not many people used to take that road.
It's a truck cemetery inhabited by people.
When we arrived, it was already night.
Our driver found us a place to stay, with his friends or relatives.
We stayed there. We woke up early.
We were supposed to continue hitchhiking over the Chinese border and further on, to China.
The driver was going back to Osh. He had helped us a lot.
He had given us a lift on the road that wasn't very long,
but it was extremely exhausting and impassable,
so we wanted to thank him somehow.
But we had nothing that we could give him.
We had some Kyrgyz money left on us,
so we decided to give him all we had in our pockets,
although money is not the best way of thanking someone,
but we had nothing else.
He took the money and told us to wait there for five minutes.
He really came back in five minutes. He had gone to a small store.
The only store in Irkeshtam. And he bought us food for all the money.
He gave us a bag full of food and said: Here, this is for the rest of your trip.
I was traveling alone and I met a guy named Sam.
He lived with his aunt and was very poor.
His parents were dead, but I didn't ask why, because Rwanda was near,
and they might have been killed during the war.
He was still in high school, even though he was over 20.
A tropical rain stared. A real downpour. We sat underneath an eve.
Everything was very gloomy, but all of a sudden he said:
You know what? I'm a very happy man.
I asked why. He said: Because I like to draw.
I took out my notebook and gave it to him,
to draw something for the readers of our blog.
Then he made these drawings, here on the left.
We published them in our blog. He also wrote his email there.
It was
People have emails there, even if they are very poor.
They all have mobile phones and there are cyber cafes even in some villages,
where they can get internet access.
When we published it, some of our readers wrote to Sam.
They said his drawings were great and he should keep on drawing.
Here, on the right, are the new drawings he sent them.
A beautiful communication started, just through drawings.
Words were not needed at all.
That was interesting and I wanted to share it with you.
These are paintings made by painters from Rwanda.
Rwanda is, as you probably know,
a country where one of the most horrible genocides in history took place.
In 1994 Rwanda lost almost a million people in three months,
which is a couple of people per minute.
That is unthinkable even for the standards of our, Yugoslav wars.
I was expecting to find a paralyzed, devastated country,
buy I found a tidy country where plastic bags are forbidden by law,
where the majority of parliament are women, motorists wear helmets,
and socially useful work is compulsory once a month.
I found a beautiful cultural center where young artists
are trying to build new Rwandan culture. And they told me something that I want to tell you.
They told me that hard history, war and poverty mustn't be an excuse for apathy and passivity.
Apart from all this, the blog was our personal journal and the beginning of a future book,
that is due in a couple of months, and that will contain all these stories that you've heard.
But this is just a fraction of what we've seen and experienced,
the stories of small, unimportant people, uninteresting to the media,
but important for us, for we believe that such stories are important.
The stories of ordinary people trying to find their answer to this life and this world, just like us.
It's the constellation of stories that we mentioned earlier.
We are connecting stories and destinies on a big map.
The book will have a lot of graphic elements and all the stories will be marked on maps,
illustrated maps, so you'll be able to read it linearly,
but also as you touch the pages of an atlas,
imagining you're traveling there, as Joseph Conrad said.
So the experience of reading should be similar to the experience of traveling.
I will repeat once again what Serbia Travel Club is trying to do with our projects.
Traveling is not just a very important tool
that enables us to experience the world personally, to feel it and to understand it.
Traveling can be more than that. A creative act,
that transforms personal experience to something of public importance.
Each of you can travel with the money you have in your pocket at this very moment.
You can travel with a lot of money, and you can travel without any money.
Money and time can replace each other.
The more money you have, the less time you need and vice versa,
the less money you have, the more time you need for traveling.
Traveling lengthens our lives.
When you're traveling, more things happen to you than when you're at home.
You get more information, more experiences.
A day on the road is equivalent, in experience, to a week spent at home.
In a week on the road we get more experiences than in a month spent at home.
A year of continuous traveling can bring you as many experiences
as you would have in ten years of living in one spot without going anywhere.
Of course, not everyone likes to travel. That would be hard.
To travel, you need to have a strong wish to do it, and not every person has that wish.
If you want to travel, you mustn't put it off for longer than a year.
The same goes not only for traveling, but for any important thing that you want to do.
Try not to postpone, because with every new year you'll have less and less free time.
You'll have more money, but less time.
The more you procrastinate, the more expensive it will be for you to travel.
If you make a lot of money, traveling is something very expensive for you.
While you're standing on the road, hitchhiking,
you're thinking how much money you could've made in the time you've spent hitchhiking.
If someone makes 50 $ an hour, for example, for him hitchhiking can actually
be extremely expensive.
Don't wait to become rich in order to go on the road.
Our most important commodity is our free time.
Most people don't need to travel at all.
Do what you love doing the most.
If you're currently doing something you don't like, stop doing it.
Do what you love doing more than anything else in the world.
Keep in mind that everything that happens, happens for a reason.
Every day brings us people, events and encounters.
We keep meeting people from whom we can learn something,
and who can learn something from us...