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Pedalling for the planet
The trip of a lifetime for two men from South America has landed them, by chance, in the Tournament Capital.
Almost two years ago, Gustavo Nemitz and Santiago Sarmiento set off on a round-trip bicycle journey from the southern tip of Argentina to the northernmost point in Alaska accessible by bike.
They’re on the back end of the titanic trek — and are now spending a number of weeks in Kamloops.
Calvary Community Church pastor Don Maione said Nemitz, 31, and Sarmiento, 36, showed up at his church on Sept. 5.
“They’d been biking in the rain and they wanted a place to stay,” he said.
Maione agreed to put the men up for as long as they’d like and he has helped to find them odd jobs to raise some money to continue their journey.
“They haven’t been doing anything to raise funds along the way, other than busking and some work here and there,” Maione said.
“They told me they spent $7 in accommodations for the entire trip — and that was for camping.”
Nemitz, who is from Brazil, and Sarmiento, from Argentina, have been friends for six years.
Both men live in Buenos Aires when not out traversing the Americas.
“One day, we take the bicycles for training — only for sport,” Nemitz told KTW.
“Santiago asked me, ‘Do you want to go to Alaska on a bike?’
“I say, ‘Yeah. Now or never.’”
Neither men spoke English prior to their journey. Knowing they would be spending time in the United States and Canada, they each took a four-hour language class in Buenos Aires before departing.
The rest of it they have picked up along the way.
Unlike most long-distance bike journeys, the friends are not seeking to raise money. Instead, they want to increase awareness about the planet.
To that end, they’ve been speaking at high schools and universities along the way — mainly in Latin America, but also in the U.S.
They even made a sit-down appearance on CNN — in Spanish and aired on CNN Mexico — when their journey took them to Atlanta.
“We think maybe it’s a good idea to make something to share for the people,” Nemitz said.
“Share the travel — encourage the childrens, the people.”
Sarmiento said he hopes their journey can inspire other people to follow their dreams and to take care of the planet.
“We like to share [these ideas],” he said.
“The first idea is very personal. The project started when two guys talk.”
Nemitz said the ecological issues encountered have varied across the Americas.
“When we travel, we learn different things and different problems about ecology,” he said.
“This information, we share it in the schools.
“Every country is different — different problems. For example, in Central America, people don’t have education and the trash is everywhere.
“In the United States, it looks very clean, but people are very consumer. You don’t see the trash in the United States, but the United States makes 60 per cent of the world’s garbage.”
Sarmiento said the bike journey has allowed both men to see things they never would have otherwise.
“It’s very good, this style of travel, because when people travel by bike or walk, you meet other people,” he said.
“You talk with the people, you share the time with other travellers. This style of travel, you learn.”
Nemitz and Sarmiento plan to stay in Kamloops for a number of weeks. Their next destination is Seattle, but they don’t have to be there until early November.
In the meantime, they are looking to give free talks to local schools and university classes.
Both men are also accomplished musicians — something that has come in handy on Sundays at Calvary Community Church, and something that also usually plays a role in their speaking engagements.
Maione said he took the pair to the Kamloops Farmers’ Market earlier this month and the crowds were impressed with their performance.
Sarmiento said he’s very thankful to have wound up in Kamloops, even if just temporarily.
“It’s important people know that Kamloops helps us through the church here,” he said.
“The real sponsors for us is the people like this.”
For more information about Nemitz’s and Sarmiento’s journey, go online to ecovuelta.com.ar.
To find out how to line them up for a speaking engagement, call Maione at 250-374-2888.