New Zealand implemented a 4 tiered level system to denote what citizens could and could not do in each level and to expectation set during the pandemic. Honestly, auntie Cindy and her crew really freaking nailed it. Level 3 said people could expand their bubbles by 2 and you could move one direction. Meaning if you needed to get home or move, you could do so, but you could not take a trip anywhere.
April 29, 2020 marked the day we finally got to leave our little oasis of Governor’s Bay and we wasted no time in purchasing an SUV, packing up our little apartment and moving to Queenstown on the precipice of winter. Rerouting our snowboards from the US to NZ proved to be a massive 3-month long headache, as US customs were…. idiots to say the least. Luckily we had until June and they came just in the nick of time. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Roadtrip Landscapes, Happy Campers & The Turquoise Waters of Lake Tekapo
Honestly, and with the full knowledge that this saying is used way too often, words do not do justice for the beauty of New Zealand. Even looking at some of my pictures knowing full well I was there, I can hardly believe it’s real. After thoroughly exploring one sliver of New Zealand for 6 weeks, my face says it all at how stoked I was to even just be driving through new places. 7 hours straight of driving is usually tedious, but every moment of this trip was delicious.
Driving along the normal path and with no plan or expectations, every place we landed was a happy surprise. Most of which was probably Lake Tekapo, whose turquoise waters look more like a slushi from 7-11 than a lake.
Queenstown & Lake Wakatipu Explorations
Settling into our new home took little time. This time we made sure we had a great view, a huge kitchen, plenty of space, a tv, Wifi, a bath, and a hot tub since we were still in lockdown and unsure for how long. It was truly a paradise and I reveled in such small joys as a full fridge and movies.
A couple friends I had met at my best friends wedding in Thailand the previous year lived in Queenstown, so we also had the privilege of expanding our bubble and hugging other humans. I had only spent a few days with Roni and Tom, but with the excitement of getting to interact with new people, we all became fast friends. Level 3 also opened up take-out and we wasted no time in ordering some thai food and celebrating with a cheers. I honestly still dream about the soft shell crab curry. The night ended with a dip in the hot tub and plenty of respective silly stories about how we spent 6 weeks locked up during quarantine.
We spent the next 19 days cooking in our large kitchen and hiking around Queenstown. We did a hike right out our backdoor in the rain, a sunrise turned all day hike of Ben Lomond, Moke Lake, and Jack’s Point. Gearing up for backpacking, I also ordered a backpacking tent (not realizing New Zealand is full of hut systems) and had a little camping trip in the living room.
Level 2 Freedoms
Once the day was set for New Zealand to go to Level 2 – which allowed tourism, shopping, and restaurants to open with limitations, we wasted no time in booking bungee jumping and a wine tour. On the wine tour we made friends with a couple, Sam and Tess, who ended up introducing us to the rest of our friends. Queenstown being a mountain biking mecca, we decided to upgraded our hybrid bikes for the real thing and Sam took us on a track that was just a couple blocks from our house. McNearly Gnarly remains to be one of my favorite trails.
In an attempt to get into the fall spirit I hosted a friendsgiving in the same way a half birthday works. May 30, 2020 I had my first ever Thanksgiving meal in what I used to consider the beginning of summer. Finding pumpkin is surprisingly hard in New Zealand and all I managed to find was frozen pumpkin chunks, so I also made my first ever mini pumpkins from scratch, slow roasted beef for 12 hours, made my own garlic, rosemary, cabernet infused olive oil since I couldn’t order OMG oil in NZ, mulled some wine and had a perfect fakesgiving.
Needless to say, Queenstown became our happy place and our home away from home. Fall was spent mountain biking, hiking, and doing our snow dance for our second winter in a year.