3 for the road: Couple, their cat hitchhike from Bulgaria to India

  • Smitha T K, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 19, 2015 12:47 IST
The Bulgarian couple Boris Kanev and Marta Samalea have hitchhiked for 511 days across Asia to reach India. (Credit: Twitter)

‘Boris, Marta & Burma (2 humans and 1 cat) found their way to India overland. #Hitchhiking Asia since 2013.'

The description of the Twitter handle @RovingSnails, which belongs to Bulgarian couple Boris Kanev and Marta Samalea, says it all.

In this era of smartphones and GPS, the couple and their pet cat are making their way across Asia on foot with a simple old Nokia phone. Basic maps have helped the duo through thousands of kilometres.

In 511 days, they have made their way to India after hitchhiking and trekking through countries such as Turkey, Myanmar, China, Iraq.

The couple managed to stay in touch with the rest of the world through occasional phone calls and they’ve been posting their adventures and even misadventures on the blog rovingsnails.com.

"We drew a map following weird signs, incomprehensible words, and often contradictory statements (of the people they asked for directions). We suppose one can end up in the same spots with the right coordinates, but we find some magic in not knowing for certain what's beyond each turn," Samalea writes on the blog.

Burma, the kitten that they picked up on their way became their third companion in the journey.

A netbook, a DSLR camera and an ebook reader were their only gear for the trip, apart from the old Nokia phone "with an unreliable battery and a failing charger", Kanev told NDTV.

Kanev and Samalea had always wanted to set off on a journey to faraway lands and had set their minds on the idea of hitchhiking to India just a few days after they first met.

"We both wanted to reach the subcontinent overland, to take every step, and cross each border, to fill the map with pictures of real places, flavours and faces," writes Samalea. "An old map of Asia, invisible routes and more imagination than certainty set the travel plan in motion."

During the course of their journey, they’ve tweeted their experiences of how difficult it was to navigate because everyone assumed you should have a smartphone. But they also realised that not carrying a phone has quite a few benefits.

"Probably the main advantage is that we spend more time looking out of the window than into a screen. There is a certain joy in disconnection, in spending days in nature without ringtones or the chance to check Facebook," Kanev writes. "You just live your days fully in the place where you are without the temptation of continuously browsing out of habit rather than need. Plus you don't even have to worry about finding a plug to charge your device."

Their blog, where they write about their adventures of meeting new people, fellow travellers, stranded animals and lost routes, has gathered a lot of attention from travellers round the world.

One of their vivid experiences in India was at Unakoti hill in Tripura, where they met a sadhu who could speak a little English and claimed to speak to God over the phone.


(Credit: Roving Snails)

Salmea writes: "'Alpha, beta, Hareee Rama!' - he grabbed his horn and pretended it was a phone, turning his gaze towards the sky - 'Haree Krishna! Tourists ask if it will rain tonight.’ A conversation unfolded, in a mix of Bengali and military code words, but we only understood that the gods had responded when he thanked them and said 'over', hanging up the made-up phone which turned back into a ritual horn. 'Slightly' - he said - 'no need for a tent.’

“With thunder and lightning in the background we went to sleep under a mere mosquito net, trusting the holy message in a leap of faith. In the morning, Sadhu Baba was smiling with a cup of chai. He had been right, proud of his diviner's skills, and glad that we were all dry."

Spending even a day without a phone and internet might seem too much to ask, but here is a couple who have trekked across a continent with that tiny old Nokia phone.

You can check their blog at rovingsnails.com to learn more interesting details of their experiences.

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