Another great family we met and befriended here in Rio Dulce Guatemala are Jana, Josef, Kachka, and Anichka, living and cruising aboard Blizzard, a 1982 32 feet Beneteau. They are from the Czech Republic and that is why we call them the Czechs.
Together with the Czechs and with the FriendShip family (read about the extraordinary story of the FriendShip family here) we spent over a week sailing around Lago Izabal, Guatemala’s biggest lake. We visited a mining village, explored a cave-river, went for a swim in a canyon, climbed a mountain, and took a dinghy ride down the Polochik River with howler monkeys in the trees around us.
The Czechs captivating stories of most unusual travels and adventures invigorated us and gave us a new charge for living. Here is a fraction of their journey; the entire story would take many pages to write.
Josef 37, and Jana 30, are the sweetest most humble ever-smiling people, as if surrounded by a transparent cloud of serenity. Truly Zen. Kachka 4, and Anichka 2, on the other hand, are two wild water creatures who will scream and cry and throw things to the ground out of sheer boredom, but are thrilled when it comes to swimming inside a completely dark cave-river or a freezing canyon. You won’t believe what these two little girls have been through during that memorable week I mentioned. Heroes. But you wouldn’t be surprised that Katchka and Anichka are such adventurous brave little kids if you knew their parents.
Josef and Jana share an extreme passion for heights.
Jana studied Economics and Operational Air Transport and worked in Aircraft Maintenance back in the Czech Republic. In her pastime she flew glider planes, the ones without engines, solo. „Nothing serious, it was just a hobby, she says. Up there, you look for the hot currents, not so much the wind. Once I flew 300 kilometers and the trick is that you always have to come back to where you started from.“
Josef, as tall and as strong as a pine tree, is a professional arborist and his specialty is high-rise work. It means, he is a professional tree-climber. His favorite job is picking pinecones from tall needle trees, the taller the better. The highest job he has done was installing ground lines for lightning on an atomic power station. So, when we saw him climb up the mast of their boat without ropes or harness in order to photograph Blizzard, Fata Morgana and Friendship sailing together, we just smiled and posed for the picture.
Josef and Jana also share a passion for traveling and adventure.
“ I have this urge to go and see what lies beyond the last thing that I see in the distance“, says Josef. He first left the Czech Republic when he was 16, heading east. He went to Romania. He kept a travel journal and painted the landscapes on the way as he didn’t have a photo camera back then. Since, he has been traveling in many different places of the world.
He toured Turkey and Bulgaria on a bicycle. In Greece, he worked picking olives.
He helped a friend sailing his 15 feet boat from Italy to the Caribbean. This was his first time sailing.
Josef didn’t comeback from that sailing trip, he stayed in Capes Verde. When he finished the money he started working with Senegalese people polishing wooden sculptures. Thus, he became interested in Senegal. So, as soon as he earned enough money for airplane ticket he flew to Senegal. But he had no visa, no passport, and no documents of any sort. It was a huge problem at the airport, they wanted to arrest him. But he somehow managed to escape. Josef never felt freer once he was out of that airport, even though he had no money, no luggage, and no papers. Hard times followed: he was homeless in Senegal, slept on the streets, worked on farms for food.
Then he had the idea to walk back to the Czech Republic. From Dakar he went to the border of Mauritania. There he was “offered” to go to prison because he had no papers. In prisons in Mauritania food is not included in the services; friends and family are expected to bring food to inmates. But Josef’s friends and family were too far away. When he was very hungry he would bang on the walls of his cell until the guards or others prisoners would give him something to eat. Finally, after 10 days, the Czech ambassador got him out and he was sent back to the Czech Republic.
Free again, Josef went on another trip, this time to South America. He started in Venezuela and finished in Bolivia on a bicycle he bought for 2 dollars and sold for 20. In Bolivia he worked for a bit shining shoes on the street. But he was much better off this time, he remembers. He had not only a bike but also a comfortable tent to sleep in and a sleeping bag.
Next, he went back in Africa this time with a tent, a bicycle and papers traveling from Morocco to Mali. There he built his first boat in a very slow river in Niger. “It was not moving much”, he remembers. The boat was two meters long made from plastic water tanks. When it was time to leave again, he bestowed the plastic boat, as well as his 90 years old bike which was very heavy, to the local people and he hitchhiked back to the Czech Republic.
There he made another boat, this time a catamaran. It was about two meters long, made from two old surfboards and a sail. Yea, it was a boat!
Jana’s travels before meeting Josef were mostly within the Czech Republic’s skies.
“Once I finished in a field with my plane near a very small village. I got out and started walking to the village. On the way there I met this lady and asked her where I could find a phone. In a hurry, she told me which way to go and where to find the phone. ‘And I’ll go look at the dead pilot’, the lady added and she kept going in the direction of my crashed plane.”
When Jana met Josef their travels together began. Today they sail around the world and raise their two little girls aboard Blizzard, inspiring people everywhere they go.