Wanaka husband and wife Andi and Ellen
Wanaka couple Andi and Ellen Delis are planning to ride
their motorcycles from Alaska to Argentina. Photo by
Delis are about to turn their dream into a reality, writes
In any couch surfer's life, there comes a time for putting
words into action.
And with the years slipping by as speedily as smooth tequila,
Wanaka husband and wife Andi (45) and Ellen (43) Delis have
decided now is the time for adventure.
On May 4, after saving for three years, the couple will begin
a motorcycle trip from Alaska to Argentina, a ride which
might take up to two years.
Mr Delis, a self-employed Wanaka quantity surveyor, has
relinquished his role as president of the Wanaka Motorcycle
Club and Mrs Delis is leaving her job as an accountant with
the Wanaka branch of WHK.
They have found tenants for their house and two Suzuki DR650s
await them at Anchorage, Alaska.
"I am aware that in later years it is going to be more
difficult [to travel]. And I'm not getting any younger," Mr
When Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara travelled the
continent, he rode "The Mighty One", a Norton 500
single-cylinder motorbike, which suffered terminal mechanical
failures before the end of his journey.
The Delis' have chosen the Suzuki DR650 single-cylinder model
because it is 150cc bigger than "The Mighty One" and more
suitable to back roads.
Classed as an "adventure bike", it fits in between a trail
bike and a road bike "thus it is very suitable for riding
over back roads, and it is a 650cc air/oil-cooled engine,
producing a lazy 43hp", Mr Delis says.
"The low-stress, low-compression engine does massive,
reliable mileage because of this. One bike, which was on a
round-the-world trip, has completed over 200,000 miles
(320,000km) without being pulled down for repairs."
There's one catch - the seat is not known for comfort.
However, the couple have been given two comfortable
aftermarket replacement seats.
Mr Delis has long dreamed of a pan-American motorcycle trip
but it wasn't until his Beijing-born wife agreed to go with
him that the dream became a reality.
Initially, Mrs Delis planned to ride two-up behind her
husband for parts of the trip but she has been convinced to
get her own licence and ride her own bike.
Mrs Delis began adventuring 15 years ago when she still lived
in Beijing and adventuring was regarded as "crazy".
She joined a club of skiers, climbers, divers and paragliders
and has continued her outdoor pursuits since moving to New
Zealand 12 years ago.
"Back to my day, everybody thought adventure was crazy but
now it is not. It is just popular. It is the fashion," Mrs
The Delis have welcomed travellers from all over the world
through the couch-surfing network and some of their guests
have had similar adventures.
Wives of other motorcycling couples were particularly
enthusiastic for Mrs Delis to ride rather than catch up with
her husband from time to time.
Mrs Delis was scared the first time she rode a motorcycle but
now feels more relaxed.
"It is not like my pushbike which is so easy to manoeuevre.
"If you fall, there's no way I could pick it up. It is scary.
But I learned two pieces of very good advice that I will take
with me for ever. Using a little throttle more than normal
will usually take you out of trouble. I have always been on
the slow side so I know I will generally have a little more
throttle. That is very valuable for me and I think for other
lady riders it will be the same."
"The couple have spent months reviewing their equipment and
refining their gear lists.
"We have done right down to how many Panadol we take. We have
learned a lot from internet forums. And I do have 33 years of
motorbike experience," Mr Delis said.
Mr Delis has made luggage racks for the bikes and each will
carry two 32-litre plastic boxes and one top case.
They intend taking just three sets of merino clothing with
them, because the fabric is warm, easy to wash and dry, light
and wearable in temperature extremes of 45degC to -10degC.
"It is gear that is plain and tidy, smart and simple but
industrial," Mr Delis said.
They will also carry camping equipment, toolkits and
communications equipment, including a cellphone, a Spot GPS
tracker and Garmin GPS navigation devices.
They have been conscientious about selecting light gear, for
example titanium knives and forks.
"The challenge has been finding things that can perform two
if not three other functions," Mr Delis said.
Their route begins at Anchorage and heads up to Dead Horse,
Dawson, Inuvik and the Arctic Sea, before turning south and
heading towards Ecuador and Bolivia.
They aim to get to Ushuaia in southern Argentina before the
end of February 2013. Any later, and they would be likely to
encounter heavy snow and would need tyre chains.
The only place the couple have committed to going to is
Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada, where they will attend
the Dust to Dawson gathering.
"We don't want to have commitments to must-have times. If
we've got no rules, there's no rules to break . . .
"It is a turning point in our lives. We are hopeful we will
still think that at the end, assuming we are alive. And the
whole trip is built on that assumption we will survive. We
are planning the next one already. I want to go to Iceland,"
Mr Delis said.
• Buying motorcycles in the US is cheaper than shipping
them from New Zealand. Mr and Mrs Delis spent $7600 ($US5800)
each on a bike.
• Budget (per day per person in $US): $60 in North America;
$40 in Central America; $30 in South America.
• Preparation: They have spent almost $30,000 on gear,
airline tickets, shots, immunisation, fees, taxes, insurance,