Pablo Berenguer (third on the left) at a border control in Afghanistan / sur

Pablo Berenguer, the man from Vélez-Málaga who hitchhiked 24,000 kilometres through 15 Asian countries

The artist and juggler has published a book about his two trips which he completed on a budget of just 1,200 euros

Eugenio Cabezas
EUGENIO CABEZAS

Pablo Berenguer, a 47-year-old from Vélez-Málaga, admits he is "a passionate traveller and a dreamer". 'Goyum', as his friends and family know him, has a degree in Fine Arts and worked for some years as an Art teacher before giving it up to focus on painting and juggling.

Over the last decade he has undertaken two long journeys through Asia, which he says have completely changed his life. Between 2012 and 2013 and then in 2015 and 2016 he hitchhiked a total of 24,000 kilometres, crossing 15 countries in Asia on a budget of just 1,200 euros. "I lived to the maximum with the minimum,” he says.

The traveller has captured his experiences, images and memories in two books, each containing 400 pages and around 500 photographs. In the two volumes of El Sol de la Seda (The Sun of the Silk, a reference to the Silk Road trade route), Berenguer shows the landscapes and "wonderful people" he met in Thailand, Laos, China, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. "People were so excited about having a Spaniard in their car," he says.

The first of these adventures began in the spring of 2012, when he and six friends flew to Bangkok. There they intended to set up the project 'La Caravana Picartista', with the idea of returning to Spain in a convoy via the legendary Silk Road, performing artistic juggling shows and video projections in the streets as they went.

"Incredible and fun encounters with the locals happened in each country and unforeseen events came up that completely changed our course," he says.

During the journey the artist says he was always accompanied by his coloured juggling hoops with which he played his games to gain the trust of the local people.

"They were my passport to enter each village, I would start doing my act and the children would come. I also know various magic tricks and they were also very useful. For example in Afghanistan things got very bad at the border, even though I had my passport and visas in order. But I ended up having my photo taken with the soldiers and being asked to explain how I had done it," says the adventurer.

If there is one thing that stands out about these two trips, he adds, it is that the people are "super hospitable, they didn't see a foreigner, but someone who wanted to get to know them", admits Berenguer, who speaks very little English.

No means of communication

"With a smile and good manners, you can get anywhere," summarises the adventurer, who adds, "You can travel with little, and yet receive a lot in return."

The convoy broke up in Mongolia and from then on Berenguer decided to continue on his own. "I had no mobile phone or computer, just my camera and a tent, I slept in the open whenever I couldn't stay at a local's house," he explains.

Buddhist temples were one of the places where he felt most welcome. "The monks live like a group of hippies, they were very cheerful, there was a very good vibe," he recalls.

"They are very poor countries where people have nothing to lose and trust more because of their nature," says Berenguer, who sees the two books about his travels as "a cheerful and optimistic chronicle in the face of adversity".

Captivated by Berenguer's travel stories, the filmmaker Javier Gómez Bello made a short film in April 2020 in which he summarised the adventures, winning him eleven international awards.

"Travelling is discovering new things, sharing with people, it removes prejudices and the fear of the unknown," says the adventurer.

Berenguer says that he only encountered one serious problem in his two trips through Asia. In Afghanistan, on the first journey, he explains that some young men who offered him a lift in their car stole a backpack containing his belongings and documents.

"It was very unpleasant and forced me to return to Spain," he admits. But as he says at the end of the short film, his magic recipe is always "love, humour and respect".

Three images from Pablo Berenguer's two trips across Asia / sur