NZ terrain takes bike out

They've travelled 30,000 kilometres from England through Europe, the deserts of Khazakstan and the Mongolian steppes, but it was crossing a river near Molesworth Station that finally took Kevin and Karen Browne's adapted motorbike off the road.

The couple set off from England in May, riding their Moto Guzzi Spada bike through Europe, central Asia, Mongolia, Russia and Japan before coming to New Zealand.

They are able to carry three to four days' water and had a range of about 450km which, in the more isolated parts of their journey, was only just enough.

They were in Christchurch on February 22 when the earthquake struck, adding to their list of adventures on their "two-to-three-year" trip, but they left the city soon afterwards despite an urge to stay and help.

"We were staying with someone down there and the water was cut off. He had a stash of water and we had some on the bike, but if we had stayed there would have been three people using the water and food rather than just one," said Karen.

"We were just outside the central district but we were going to go out to the peninsula because we had been told how beautiful it was. But it was drizzling that morning so we didn't go.

"Then just before the earthquake struck we were getting ready to go into the centre to pick up the PVC roof to our bike which was being repaired so we really had two lucky escapes that day."

In the moments after the earthquake, Karen and Kevin discovered the house had electricity but no water.

"I turned on the TV to see what was happening and Coronation Street was on," said Kevin. "Then after a few minutes updates started to come on."

Heading up to Blenheim where they stayed with Murray and Alison Cheer, they went to Molesworth and Rainbow Hut on a short excursion.

They were crossing a river and became stuck and were too far from the other side for their specially adapted winch to reach. The clutch broke and so they waited in Blenheim for a part to arrive before Kevin – a former engineer – could set about fixing it.

They have been in New Zealand for just over three months and are very impressed.

"You see a lot of New Zealanders who travel, obviously because the country is quite isolated," said Kevin. "But you really don't have to – you have everything here.

"Molesworth was probably the best off-road ride we've done.

"We met some people up there and they were asking us what Mongolia was like. We said `it's pretty much like this. Just take away the pylons and you're almost there'.

"Mongolia was the hardest riding and living but it was probably our favourite part of the journey. But New Zealand is our favourite `place-place'."

As soon as they are back on the road the Brownes will tour the South Island before travelling to Australia then South, Central and North America before heading home. See guzzioverland.co.uk.

The Marlborough Express