Conversation with Mariusz Jorek, our next man with passion, who has several thousand kilometers of hitchhiking on his account
Years ago you hitchhiked across the Poland, reaching, among others, the Baltic Sea, but also the festival in Jarocin. The same way of transport turned out to be the best when you came to the place where “the devil says good night”. How did it happen that in 2014-2018 you had the opportunity to drive almost along and across such places as Armenia, Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Iran, Ecuador, or Colombia?
It started with the fact that my better half was volunteering in Armenia. It was 2014 and I decided to join her. Of course, I flew to Armenia itself by plane, but Armenia, Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh were hitchhiking. I have always liked this way of travelling. It’s nice to meet new people, learn about their culture, it is interesting to be able to live with the local people. Especially interesting is when you don’t speak the local language and you have to communicate in sign language – this was the case in Iran.
You are a vegan. How did you manage to combine your rigorous menu with the menu of countries where meat dominates the most?
It’s amazing how the locals were able to, but most of all they wanted to adapt to the requirements of their guests, that is us. What surprised us from the very beginning was their willingness not only to transport strangers at quite a long distance, but also to invite them for lunches and to offer overnight accommodation. Sometimes during the trip they took a phone number from us and after some time they called us asking if we have a place to sleep. The great thing was that when I was talking about my vegan menu, suddenly the whole family was able to switch to meals based on what has no eyes, does not consist of dairy products or honey. This was the case in Iran and Colombia, among others.
What was your travel plan like? Is it easy to travel “without a ticket” in the countries you mentioned?
We tried to set a destination so that we could get to places worth seeing. I usually spent a month or two on the trip. I noticed that the richer and more civilized the country, the harder it is to catch a hike. People are afraid that you will rob them of their hard-earned property. Now it is exactly the same in Poland, where the idea of hitchhiking has practically died. In poorer countries they can give you the last slice of bread, because they know that they have nothing to cry for. We were terrified in Iran, where a lorry driver, after driving 200 kilometres with us, pulled out my mobile phone, demanding payment for the transport. Fortunately, we managed to escape. I don’t know what the reason was, maybe we just didn’t understand each other. Other drivers in Iran were very helpful. In Nagorno-Karabakh we travelled with a drunk driver and his equally drunken passenger. As it turned out, these were local big fishes. The men drove us across the front line. I saw Katyusha rocket launchers, prepared to shoot, hidden in weeds. Oh, we edged our fear then. People we met along the way were very diverse. With some people we talked all the way with the use of hands and different languages of the world, others were able to remain silent for five hours. We always made sure to have some small things with us as a souvenir for the drivers and hosts. It was nice when the locals recognized Poland, because it was easier to make contact with them. In Colombia, Poland was associated with Pope John Paul II, in Ecuador – with Robert Lewandowski. In Iran, the owner of a car showroom, who turned out to be a coin collector – just like me – gave us a helping hand. So we gave him the two zloty coin as a gift for his collection.
Which of the visited places do you remember as the most beautiful?
The Galapagos Islands turned out to be such a paradise on earth. We ended up there by accident, because these are the islands belonging to Ecuador, where we were. I was scuba diving with sea lions, sharks and penguins were swimming next to me…. I was lying on the beach, and just next to me a herd of sea lions with their young were warming up in sunlight. We saw great turtles on the walking route. It was the adventure of my life.
Do you have plans for the next destination of your journey?
I dream of seeing giant sequoia with my own eyes. These are gigantic trees that grow in California, among others. So far, hitchhiking in the United States doesn’t seem real to me. However, as it turns out, giant sequoias can also be found in Brwice in the West Pomeranian region of Poland. It turns me on, so I choose this direction in the near future.
Thank you for the conversation, wishing you many fantastic journeys – of course the ones that would be hitchhiked.