Meet our Team
Our Tour Leaders:
All of our tours are led by two of our New Zealand based Escape Adventures leaders. We pride ourselves on the calibre and resourcefulness of these great people who you will be spending your adventure with. Our leaders are passionate bikers, great foodies, bike fixer-uppers, trained for health support (Pre-Hospital Emergency Care), and they are focused on making sure that your cycle tour is a fun, safe adventure of a lifetime. All of our tours also have a wonderful local support team, interpreter and drivers.
John is the founder of Escape Adventures, company director, trusty team and tour leader, bike fix-it man, new trip dreamer upper-er and vital cuppa tea boy.
Escape Adventures began one day in 1999 when an idea planted took seed and grew into a plan. John put on his tool belt, made a few alterations to an old land cruiser, put in on a ship to Kenya... and off he went!
Many years on, John continues his passionate work to finding the most amazing cycle touring routes around the world and developing relationships with people in remarkable places which has grown our cycle tours to what they are today.
I once saw an add in a kebab cafe in Motueka that said “Bike Guide Wanted for Africa”. I sent John an email that said ”You need me!”...
...and he did! Mandy joined Escape Adventures in 2004 as a co-leader on our Kenya & Tanzania cycle tours. Since then she has mastered the art of multi-tasking. Not only is she is our ‘Chief Office Hussy’ – answering all your emails and taking your bookings but she also puts the finishing touches on all of our new cycle tours, leads our cycle tours as often as possible and in her spare time... she rides her mountain bike!
When Ash left Phoenix, Arizona in 2005 for a study exchange to New Zealand her 'mom' thought she'd be back in 6 months. Years later... she's still here.
If you live in Wellington and ride a bike, chances are you've come across Ash. Her infectious laugh can be heard in the hills and remote mountain biking tracks around the city. Ash is the director of WORD - Wellington's non-profit kid's mountain biking programs and she runs her own business Joyride inspiring the love and joy of mountain biking to riders all over New Zealand.
Ash's been hounding our office for a few years to work with us, and now that we really want her... she's too busy! We're excited (almost as much as Ash) to have her making cameo appearances on a couple of our cycle tours each year.
Leaving 'the professional life' behind her - Leigh hung up her stethoscope in exchange for a bicycle and dived into 'a more adventurous lifestyle'. In the New Zealand summer she works as a heli-mountain bike guide in Queenstown... which some would call the dream job, and during the New Zealand winters she leads our cycle tours in Madagascar, Fiji Islands, China & Tibet and Cambodia which everyone would call the dream job!
Leigh is a bit of a funky-nut and calls Queenstown home, where she loves living among the mountains and making the most of the adventures they offer. She is super excited when on tour and brings her cycle touring and guiding experience and excellent snacking ability...both eating and making! And by the way - if you fall off your bike, she'll patch you up like a pro... but don't expect any sympathy!
Hamish 'Mushi' Brown
Hamish - more commonly known as “Hey Mushi!” joined us straight from the icy depths working as a Glacier Guide on New Zealand's West Coast. Sometime back Hamish realised that "a normal job would not work for him"... He spent the best part of a decade giving haircuts to fully grown trees, living for a time in Scandinavia and travelling the world and now has finally come to his senses and joined the Escape Adventures team.
Heidi has her fingers in a lot of pies, and the Escape Adventures pie is her favourite! Heidi is our 'Office Hussy number two', in charge of marketing and making sure John and Mandy get their office work done BEFORE they go riding!
Having spent much of her life being nomadic she is really happy to be putting down roots and calling Nelson home. When she’s not here at Escape Adventures HQ, she works for a local architect doing interior design. In previous jobs she’s been a builder, insurance underwriter, administrator, retail assistant and snowboard instructor. Heidi is in her happy place when out biking or running Nelson’s awesome trails; or at home doing DIY with husband Ollie, and son Max.
Perryn is an avid traveller with 15 years of outdoor guiding under her belt - skiing, hiking, caving, kayaking and of course biking! For a long time all she thought about was snow, but the year she discovered biking in Alaska everything changed! Since then Perryn has spent her time riding as much as possible and getting people stoked on bikes!
Perryn is a newly graduated paramedic, loves food, especially chocolate! and has a smile to rival Mick Jagger!!! In 2019 Perryn will be teaming up with Alice and Joseph on tour in Kenya & Tanzania.
Alice packed her bags and moved from the UK to New Zealand in 2013. Maybe she’ll go back one day, but right now, the Nelson NZ MTB community and world travel have a firm grip on her spirit! After only a short time in New Zealand she realised that bikes were way more fun than horses and they do as they are told more often (most of the time) although Alice does still guide horse-back trips from time to time!
When Alice first applied to help in our office… we rejected her… opps!… but we are sending her to Africa to ride with you instead! Alice loves seeing others progress and finishing a ride with a real fruit icecream! She’s had loads of experience in restaurants, functions and hospitality but is just so much happier spending her summers coaching mountain biking, brewing great coffee and her winters with you in Kenya & Tanzania!
Meet Bruce. He looks a bit grizzly in this photo, but that happens when you spend weeks at a time on your bike! But he does scrub up OK. Bruce reckons he’s finally qualified after training for this job for decades. He’s been involved in tourism and hospitality since before others on our team were born (true!) through sea kayaking, charter yachts, cafes and restaurants, and more recently setting up a lodge on one of New Zealand’s cycle trails.
Bruce lives in the bush in New Zealand’s King Country and he’s happiest on his bike, or standing knee deep in one of New Zealand's wild rivers fly fishing for lunch, and camping out by night. This year he will be leading our cycle tours in Kyrgyzstan and China & Tibet!
Sarah (Sara) Bates
Meet Sarah… pronounced Sara… but spelt Sarah… which may sound a bit Irish, which would be true because she is…. or was… now she is Belgian… although she lives in New Zealand. Confused? Sarah (Sara) started mountain biking in Belgium except there were no mountains… so it was just …biking. So she began a search for a mountain to put in front of her bike which brought her to New Zealand. Yay!!
Sarah just loves being outside biking, hiking, exploring, traveling and being involved in the local mountain biking community here in Nelson, NZ. She buzz’s off the happiness and freedom that bikes bring to people's lives. When she is at home she works as a Physiotherapist - now that's useful on tour! Except she says “Don’t be expecting massages at the end of every day!!”. And when she is with us… you’ll find her practicing her Spanish on tour in Colombia with you!!
Tim & Theresa Bygate
Jambo Jambo!! The T-Team is back!! Affectionately known as Mumma T and Timbo on tour in Kenya & Tanzania - they joined the Escape Adventures team back in 2011 & 12. And now we have managed to drag Tim & Theresa back for an encore appearance!
Tim has been busy with his building business and training for the Godzone and various other Multi Sport Events while Theresa has enjoyed an office job and riding any track in the top of the south she can. They are both super excited to head back to East Africa, joining Joesph in leading our Kenya & Tanzania cycle tours later this season.
I’m Kier, and that’s my Dad and Mum up there at the top of the page.
Kier joined us in January 2007 – and is Escape’s trainee bike guide and consultant for our family cycle tours in Fiji, Cambodia and Kenya & Tanzania. He's pretty good at cleaning muddy bikes down and we expect he will make his debut as tour leader sometime around 2025.
Our Local Team Members
Joseph Njenga - Kenya & Tanzania
Jambo, I’m Joseph from Nairobi City in Kenya. I am a family man and father of two. I have been working with Escape Adventures Kenya & Tanzania Team since 2008 as support driver, interpreter and local knowledge man. In the months that I am not working with Escape Adventures, I have been studying business law.
Joseph is an essential part of our Kenya & Tanzania team – “the glue” holding everything together. You’ll find him behind the wheel of our support vehicle, in the kitchen and anywhere that anything needs doing! He will give you a real insight into life in East Africa and the occasional Swahili or bongo drum lesson.
Alexander Rodriguez Arcila (Alex) - Colombia
Alex is an ex Colombian policeman with the anti-narcotics special division (yikes!) - now with 3 years training as a professional tour guide he has in-exhaustable knowledge of everything Colombian and loves to share his country with you. In his spare time he loves to read, cook and take his family and wife Paula on weekend excursions.
On our Colombian tours Alex is our interpreter, fixer and local legend teller, and he "loves it when a plan comes together!"
Dezy Randriamihaja - Madagascar
We love this man! Dezy is our man in Madagascar - born in Antananarivo of the Mirina tribe, he lives in Tana with his wife Asmira and teenage daughter and son. Dezy has been working as a freelance chauffeur and tourism guide since 2003. Along with Tuki and Erick, he looks after us for everything Malagasy, drives support vehicles and an awesome ambassador for his country.
In his younger years, Dezy managed to escape the boredom of studying economics to play football for the Madagascar National football team - so he is not only our star, but is a bit of a star with the local kids on our riding route!
(Thy) Un Chanthearith - Cambodia
Meet Thy (pronounced Tee). Thy is our local go to, fix it man and interpreter on our Cambodia cycle tours. We have been working together since 2014. He runs his own small tour company in Cambodia which he loves as he says "every 2 seconds is a new adventure!"
Born on New Year's day, Thy lives in Siem Reap with his wife Thorn Chan Tha and young daughter. Thorn Chan Tha is a cook, but Thy likes to cook as well and his signature dish is stir fry with ginger and lemon grass. In his spare time Thy goes to the gym, plays volleyball, enjoys music and riding BIKES!!
Nuraiym Syrgak - Kyrgyzstan
Based in Bishkek city, Nurai comes from a small mountain village in northern Kyrgyzstan. Born at the time of independence, Nurai is part of the new vibrant and progressive Kyrgyzstan. She studied Education, English and Tourism at the Kyrgyz National University and is now a tour guide for walking and horse trekking tours through Kyrgyzstan.
Nurai is an absolute gem. She is our wonderful interpreter and a fountain of knowledge of all things Kyrgyz. We are sure you will love her as much as we do when you join us and her on our Kyrgyzstan cycle tours.
Paula Masirewa - Fiji
This is Paula (as in polar bear) and just as cuddly, but a lot less dangerous! Paula is from Vuna on the garden Island of Taveuni - he is one of 11 siblings and one of three sets of twins in his family! When Paula is not on tour with Escape Adventures he works as a truckie on a road construction gang, and cooks his favourite dish of lamb curry for his family and friends (of which he has many!). Actually if you hang out with Paula, one might get the feeling that he is famous!
Paula is the most kind hearted, outgoing, friendliest man you will meet - and he has no frown lines! He is an awesome ambassador for his country and really loves to host us while we are on tour in Fiji!
Wen Chen - China & Tibet
Nihao/Tashidelek/Rimagenie (Hello in Chinese/Tibetan/Yi). I’m Wen Chen. WEn Chen has been working with us on our China & Tibet cycle tour since 2017, where he leads us through the back streets of Chengdu, helps us navigate the intricacies of the local bureaucracy and provides insight into the customs and cultures of the local tribes.
Prior to joining us Wen Chen completed a couple of long distance self supported cycle tours in Asia, has worked in 5 star hotels and in fitness centres and keeps his english language skills in order by watching “Desperate Housewives” in his spare time!