The Brazilian Miyuki Okabe and the Spanish Eneko Etxebarrieta were listening to the radio in Spain, in November 2003, when, for the first time, they heard about the Millennium Development Goals, established by the United Nations (UN) to turn around some of the main global problems by 2015, among them hunger and poverty.
At the time, the couple was preparing a bicycle trip around the world and were seeking a noble objective to fit into their route. It was with this in mind that in 2005 they got onto a two-seat tandem, in the Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, to pedal around 120,000 kilometers (75,000 miles) and promote the Millennium Development Goals in 80 countries.
Miyuki, a telecommunications engineer, and Eneko, a teacher and photographer, have already pedalled through Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Uruguay. Now they are in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, from where they will soon leave to Venezuela.
The Arab countries are also included in the trip that the couple is going to take. Beforehand, however, they should visit other parts of America and should also visit Eastern Asia and Oceania.
Eneko stated that the cyclists plan to cross Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan, in the Arab world. "We believe they are very interesting places, with extremely rich traditional values, like hospitality and friendship," stated Eneko.
It is possible that the couple will decide, further into the trip, to add other Arab countries into their route. In the Middle East and North Africa, Miyuki and Eneko should also visit Eritrea, Iran and Pakistan. The couple promotes the Millennium Development Goals through interviews and talks at sites like schools and cycling clubs.
"We are making use of the interest that our trip around the world is generating to promote the Millennium campaign on television, printed press and radio," explained Eneko. They have also established a site (www.acercandoelmundo.com), where they report the trip and promote the Goals.
On the trip, Eneko and Miyuki visit projects developed by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and photograph them. There are eight Millennium development goals: Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger; ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling; eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education; reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five; reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio; halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.
"Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is very important and urgent as they generate other problems. To us it is also fundamental to manage universal primary education as education is the instrument that makes it possible for people to develop and create a capacity to better defend themselves against injustice. But all the Millennium Goals are important and basic to reach sustainable improvement," stated Eneko.
He explains that when they learnt more about the Goals they found them marvellous. "For the first time in history the problem of poverty was being thought of globally and a deadline was established to fight it," stated the photographer.
Even before travelling, Eneko collaborated with a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) in solidarity campaigns in Spain. This, however, was even before he took his first bicycle trip. Miyuki and Eneko, he aged 40 and she aged 35, met in the city of Curitiba, in 2002, when the Spaniard was cycling around the world alone.
"I had been travelling for three years. I gave a talk about my trip at the Spanish Cultural Center in Curitiba, in which I projected photographs, and Miyuki was present," he explains. They were introduced, started going out and the Brazilian decided to start travelling with Eneko.
At the time, however, they only travelled the Brazilian coast, and soon travelled to Spain, where they started planning the current route. While they travelled, they stayed at cheap hostels, friend's houses or even in tents.
They later changed their Spanish tandem for a reclining tandem bike developed by engineer Pedro Zorher, who they met in Rio de Janeiro. "They are much more comfortable than the traditional ones, as we sit in chairs with a backrest and pedal with our legs higher up," explained the Spaniard.
Language is no problem for the two on their trip. Eneko speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Basque and English, and can get by in French and Italian. Miyuki speaks Portuguese, Spanish and English, and can get by in Japanese and German.
Anba – www.anba.com.br