Locked Up in New Zealand – Days of Covid-19 Lockdown

Auckland City Lookout in Waitakere Valley

How did we end up in New Zealand

More than a year ago, Estralians decided to leave The Philippines behind and move to New Zealand. We are not going deny that it was an easy decision for us. We had already lived in The Philippines for a year and started to get tired of the pollution and on top of that the 6 month long wet season had taken away all our energy.

Lions Head Lookout, Baguio, The Philippines
A sunny day in Baguio, Philippines

Also, The Philippines was always supposed to be just a pit-stop for us until our visa to Australia was getting sorted. But as many of you know, work visas to Australia can take quite long and for us it was taking too long. So, when one day we decided that we have waited enough and it’s time to move on we did not wait and plan our move, but booked our tickets to the closest country to Australia on the following week. Luckily, Simon’s work and business partners he works together with are so amazing that there was nothing stopping us.

Pre lockdown

Fast forward 5 months, lets jump to our prior “lockdown” plans in New Zealand. After spending an amazing 5 months in New Zealand, our visa was about to end, and we had to make new plans.

Lockdown walks in New Zealand
Waitakera Ranges, New Zealand

Scrolling through different travel destinations we found affordable tickets to one of our bucket list destinations -Tahiti. Without thinking about it for too long, we bought the tickets to Tahiti for late February and were also thinking about going to Estonia for a summer holiday. It all looked neat and amazing on paper and we were excited about Tahiti as well as seeing our parents and friends over the summer.

A summer-night with fam

So, what happened? It was late January when we first saw an article about an unknown virus mingling around in China. We didn’t think much of it as China is far away and it didn’t seem like a big deal. Unfortunately, as we all know, s%#t got real very quickly, and global panic was inevitable. By mid-February everybody was talking about it and travelling company’s started cancelling bookings from left to right. Just in case, we too decided to cancel our tickets to Tahiti and instead extended our stay in New Zealand for another three months.

Alarming decisions

A month after our decision to cancel our flights, on 25th of March 2020, New Zealand entered Level 4 lock down. This came out of blue for everyone. Only 2 days prior to Level 4, New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern announced that with 102 Covid-19 cases in NZ the country will immediately enter Level 3 lockdown and Level 4 in 48 hours’ time. In other words, everyone in NZ, where urged to go into self-isolation with the rights to leave their premises for only essential needs like food, medication and hospital.

Covid-19 in New Zealand 2020
New Zealand Covid-19 Levels

Well-well, what do you know. It felt like the word lockdown was chasing us. It was only 3 months ago, when we had gone for a short holiday to Samoa, where we stayed in lockdown for 2 days as they had measles outbreak in there.

Taufua Beach Fales in Lalomanu Beach, Samoa
Simon in Lalomanu Beach, Samoa 2019

After hearing the news about the New Zealand Level 4 lockdown, we wondered what the real reason behind the lockdown could be. It can’t be that just a random virus makes country’s close borders and apply such inhuman restrictions. Anyway, the real reasons won’t probably be revealed for decades, so there is no need to speculate. We all have our own opinions, and this article isn’t about what is our take on Covid-19 but how have we managed it 🙂

How did Estralians take the news

So, to start off, working from home is nothing new for Estralians. We’ve been doing it for years and love it. It gives us the freedom to travel and move around as often as we like. Wait…Jacinda just announced that we can’t do that anymore! Hmmm, okey well it’s only for 4 weeks and then everything will be back to normal again. Until then, we’ll just enjoy our new “home”, deep in the Waitakere Ranges, where we had moved a week prior.

Lockdown in Waitakere Ranges
Wake up-stack wood-burn wood-enjoy the fire

I use exclamation marks on the word home because it wasn’t really our home. As we move around a lot, we’ve started using the word home whenever we talk about the places where we’re staying 🙂 Home is where your partner is in our books 😍👩🏼‍🤝‍🧑🏻

First 4 weeks in lockdown

Anyway, our first 4 weeks in lockdown went pretty quickly. Besides us, we shared the house with the landlord and another person. We had a great atmosphere in the house. Beside working, every Friday we had dinner parties and on the evenings we would light up the fire and watch movies or “soap operas” ;D . And on the weekends, we enjoyed our ~5km walks around the neighbourhood and other nearby scenic places.

Of course, it wasn’t only fun and games. We also helped out with some chores around the property. Like getting rid of dead trees, chopping and stacking wood. We even tried to build a parking spot for a caravan that one of the family members was planning to buy for self-isolation (compulsory quarantine).

Life in Waitakere Ranges during lockdown
Weekends of hard yakka

As we had heaps to do, we didn’t really feel locked up. By the time New Zealand announced that they will extend the lockdown, we were not troubled at all. It also helped, that NZ government had decided to extend almost everyone’s visitor visas until the end of September. For us that meant that we weren’t pressured to leave New Zealand. The only hard decision that we had to make was to postpone our summer holiday to Estonia.

Last night of the last time back home with fam

It was devastating telling our parents that we won’t be spending the summer together with them but with all the border closures it just didn’t seem like a smart idea to travel all the way to the other side of the world.

How much longer

As another month of lockdown went past, we started getting anxious staying put without knowing when will this end. Catching up with friends and having a cup of coffee or drinks with mates seemed all we thought about.

Alcohol shop line ups in West Auckland during Cocid-19 lockdown
A lineup to the bottle-o in West Auckland

Luckily as New Zealand started seeing lower cases, they began lowering lockdown levels and rules. For us, this meant that it’s time for a further day-trips. One of the first ones we did was a trip down to Whatipu Beach.

Day trips during lockdown in New Zealand
Simon climbing at Whatipu Beach

By mid-June, New Zealand was on Level 1. As the travel restrictions had drastically changed, we started planning for a much longer road-trip. Instead of staying in Auckland, we decided to back up our life in Auckland and head down to Queenstown. Don’t worry guys, we are not going to talk about our 3-month long road-trip on this post. All you need to know is that it was awesome and and it felt like a breath of fresh air after the 3-month long lockdown.

Back to lockdown

Now, as some of you might know, while we were having a road-trip, Auckland went back to lockdown. At the time of the decision we were visiting our friends in Christchurch. On our last night there, while watching TV, we saw the announcement came on. Apparently, there had been some new cases in Auckland. (4 to be precise). Because of that, New Zealand government decided to place Auckland back to Level 3 and the rest of New Zealand to Level 2 by noon the very next day.

Covid-19 lockdown Level 3
Auckland back to Level 3

Luckily we were far away from Auckland and thus didn’t have to stop our road-trip. Our only worry was whether or not we would be able to catch our pre booked Picton-Wellington ferry the next day. We knew that we’re allowed to travel on Level 2 but as the capacity of the allowed passengers on ferry is lower on Level 2, we were not sure if they will let us on board. To make sure that we won’t be left on the shore we decided to drove to Picton bright and early.

Traveling on Level2, New Zealand
On our way from Picton to Wellington

PS! It was one of the choppiest rides we have taken. The waves where crushing high up over the lower deck. Inside the ferry it felt like we were in a washing-machine 😀

Where to next

During the time Auckland was on Level 3, we had amazing time in Taupo. We had traveled through this beautiful lakeside town before but had never actually stayed there. This time we stayed in Taupo for two weeks.

Lockdown Level2 in Taupo, New Zealand
Beautyful Taupo

As winter was ending and spring started showing her warm days, we needed to start planning our next move. We had 4 weeks of visa left and the borders to many country’s where still closed. We had no idea what to do or where to travel next and just kept postponing the decision. Well, what a great choice that ended up being. Two weeks before the end of our visa, NZ government announced that they will be extending visitor visas for another 5 months. When we first heard about this, it seemed like someone was making a bad joke on us. In another word it sounded too good to be true 🙂

To be continued….

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