Together on life's cycle
TRAVELLING the world on a bicycle built for two is teaching a young couple a thing or two about commitment.
Belinda and Roland Hinmueller of Manurewa are about a metre apart on their tandem bike as they make their way through South America.
They're on a 30,000km journey that began in Alaska 14 months ago and will end when they reach Ushuaia in Argentina later this year.
They've been riding for more than half their married life and say the highlight has been doing the trip together.
And because they're together all day they reckon they've "fast-forwarded their relationship by 30 years".
They've seen spectacular scenery but it's the people they've met along the way that are important, they say.
Both are working as volunteers for the Salvation Army throughout their journey and have met "some pretty special sorts".
They've gained a huge respect for the work the Salvation Army does throughout the world.
They're also learning a lot about the concept of helping, they say.
"It truly has been a pleasure for us to lend a hand and fit in where we can."
Staying with a family in Guamote in Ecuador let them experience life in a small indigenous mountain village where nobody has addresses, Belinda says.
But it was in San Francisco that they really saw how the Salvation Army helps fill the needs of the community.
The couple helped prepare meals for housebound people, did administration work and talked to kids in an after-school programme.
Belinda says she's learned that making a positive impact really comes down to building relationships and knowing the community.
"We have met and seen first-hand the dedicated and hard-working individuals who put themselves in challenging situations in order to make another person's day brighter."
The trip was Roland's idea and his highlight so far has been volunteering in Long Beach, California where the pair spoke to a group of 160 men in a rehabilitation programme.
For most it was their last chance before being sent to prison.
Initially the Hinmuellers were nervous about what they had to offer but the men were inspired by what they are doing.
Roland says community spirit was alive when their bike frame cracked in Peru one Sunday night. Fortunately, five minutes' work by a mechanic fixed the problem – and all for the price of a fizzy drink.
"He could have very easily charged us a small fortune and we would have had no choice but to foot the bill.
"But instead he was more interested in hearing about our travels, our thoughts on his country and helping us in some way."
It's important to be aware about different cultures and values when you're volunteering, Roland says.
"It's very easy to think you have the answers and know what's best for these communities when in reality nothing could be further from the truth."
Belinda and Roland are on the home stretch of their journey and are aiming to return to New Zealand for Christmas.
Once they're home they plan to carry on their volunteering work locally.
See www.cyclingwithsally. com to check out Belinda and Roland's travels.