What you need to know:
- “We are friends,” Jahu shoots when I ask about their relationship.
- “We do a lot of fun stuff together,” Slavek adds.
This should be one of those cases where I help and move on, I tell myself. All I should do is direct the white man and woman to whoever they are looking for and I will be out of the office in a jiffy to grab my lunch.
Turns out they are not looking for anyone in particular, maybe someone to talk to but got stuck in a gateway to the lifts at the Nation Centre where no one can enter without a pass. That “someone” quickly becomes me.
They are expert charmers, these two quick-thinking people. Before I know it, we are at an interview table, my recorder is on, and I’m taking notes — to the chagrin of my burning intestines.
The interview goes on for half an hour and as it lasts, I can’t help wondering how daring these people are in their quest to travel the world through very risky and unorthodox means.
The man is Slavek Kral, 30, and has been to 71 countries since 2011.
The woman is Jahu Reznickova, 27, and has set foot in 47 countries since 2014.
“We are friends,” Jahu shoots when I ask about their relationship.
“We do a lot of fun stuff together,” Slavek adds.
They come from different areas of the Czech Republic and they travel in a unique system where they aim to spend as little money as possible on food, transport and accommodation.
For transport, they ask for lifts from motorists. They have even managed to get free rides on aeroplanes.
For food and accommodation, they plead with anyone who can be willing to house them.
“You just say that you’ll sleep outside and they reply, ‘Outside is so dangerous; come sleep at my house,’” Jahu says.
They also volunteer as teachers, casual labourers or social workers to anyone who can take them in, as their way of “making people happy”.
“It is just paying in different ways. You can do their dishes or you can tell them a story that they will never forget,” says Jahu.
Slavek is an organiser of hitch-hiking competitions in Europe. This requires people to visit foreign lands and engage in activities that will see them mingle with locals. One of the highest challenges is to hike a lift on an aeroplane. Jahu has done this thrice while Slavek has managed it only once.
On the afternoon of February 20 when we do the interview, they have just landed in Nairobi from Naivasha. They had set foot in Naivasha after crossing over from Uganda, thanks to someone who gave them a lift.
“In Naivasha we met one really rich guy who bought us tonnes of alcohol; so we had a very big party. And he had a huge TV at the trunk of his car. He played some video clips and we danced all night and there was some wedding that happened to be there, too. So, we danced with them,” Jahu says.
They even charmed their way into entering the Lake Naivasha National Park for free.
“We actually managed but only for like three or four kilometres then they [wardens] said we were not supposed to be there; so they sent us back,” Jahu narrates.
“We saw the buffaloes and hippos and everything and it was really nice. And I’ve seen giraffes for the first time in my life in wild nature,” she adds.
Then a man called Sammy gave them a lift from Naivasha to his home, a few kilometres from Nairobi. “He was a very nice guy and he said, ‘Oh, you can sleep in my garden.’ When we arrived at his home, he was like, ‘Here is food; and you can sleep inside,’” Slavek recalls.
Don’t Kenyans find it strange when white people ask for a lift? I ask them.
“It’s difficult sometimes; but then it’s easier when people speak English,” Slavek says.
They have learnt to keep off long-distance trucks for they are painstakingly slow. Cars are their prime targets.
And even if the world is facing an ever-rising terrorism threat, they say “looking like proper travellers” helps them. They also ensure all they get proper travel documentation to avoid run-ins with authorities.
“I think the world is a safe place to live in; you can go wherever you want,” Slavek says.
But while hitchhiking in Europe a few years ago, Jahu remembers experiencing difficulties getting rides because people thought she was an illegal immigrant.
LEAVING KENYA SOON
Slavek’s stay in Kenya will last three weeks, he tells me. Jahu says she will be leaving Kenya for Switzerland the evening of our interview.
In Mombasa, Slavek plans to volunteer as an English teacher at a secondary school. And he is not planning to pay a penny for transport between Nairobi and Mombasa.
He had come to Nairobi in August 2017 but due to the political temperatures, he went to Tanzania.
He then visited Zanzibar, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Reunion, Mauritius, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda then back to Kenya.
Jahu joined him in Tanzania in January and was with him in the trips to Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda then to Kenya.
They say their stay has totally changed their perspectives. “We’re saying Africa is not danger. It’s not everybody who has a gun here and there are no lions on every corner,” says Slavek.
“And not everybody is trying to rape you; because that’s what people in Europe think,” adds Jahu.
Back home, Jahu is a student at Charles University in Prague, where she is studying to be a teacher. She also teaches English, Spanish and German. Slavek holds public talks about travelling, mostly on how to travel the world without money, besides organising hitch-hiking competitions.
Soon our interview is over and I escort them out. They are glad to go with me to the African dishes restaurant where I take my lunch once in a while. Jahu isn’t very comfortable ordering my favourite meal of tripe; so rice and beef will do for her. Slavek says he can eat anything.
It is quite painful for me to foot the bill for the three of us, given the time of the month, but I chin up. I leave them at Muindi Mbingu Street facing the KICC direction, looking lost. Jahu assures they will be alright.
They walk away carrying their heavy bags and I shudder when I think of how their day will end in this concrete jungle.