Matt Rayner - Blog
25 March 2020
What an eventful week! This is the week when everything changed for me - here in New Zealand and back home in the UK. As of midnight tonight New Zealand is in lock down, similar to how the UK is right now. We are earlier on the coronavirus timeline than the UK, so I think it's a positive move by the government to move into lock down now. I don't know what response the UK government is getting for the decisions they are making but I overwhelmingly hear positive responses towards New Zealand's government for acting fast and tough.

What this means for me is a total change of lifestyle. This morning I got news that my campsite was only allowed to remain open to self contained vehicles (that is vehicles which have everything necessary for day to day living built it; i.e. a kitchen and a toilet) and therefore I'd have to leave. I knew this was a possibility but that doesn't mean I had a plan. My options were few and far between, and continuously becoming more difficult to achieve.

For some days I had been trying to buy a flight back to the UK, but with the closure of transit hubs such as Singapore and Dubai, and travel restrictions such as in the USA, it was almost impossible to fly between New Zealand and the UK. I heard there was a flight today departing Auckland for Darwin, Australia, where a connecting flight would fly to the UK. That would have been a 17 hour non-stop flight! I guess that flight was real (I suppose it would be in the air as I write this) but I wasn't able to book a seat on it or even find it online. There are calls from other Brit's stuck in New Zealand for the British government to charter flights home for stranded brits. I suspect this won't happen, although Germany has done just that for stranded Germans. It is now certainly not possible for me to return home without a British government charter flight. And when will airlines (the ones that survive) offer commercial flights between New Zealand and the UK again? Who knows. I am here until they do, but there's many worse places to be stuck.

So, I'm staying in New Zealand. I was told I needed to leave the campsite this morning and the full lock down comes into action this evening. I couldn't fly (not even domestically - google recommended flying to Auckland or Christchurch via Australia!) and national buses were either cancelled, fully booked or exorbitantly expensive. Queenstown it is. I cast my fishing rod of hope into a pond of dreams and hoped to catch a nibble of something. Someone's garden where I could pitch my tent? A room in a house? A pitch on another campsite? With some help from an unlikely source, a handful of phone calls and a tiring ten minute walk with my belongings (and some more) I was booking into a hostel. They were one of just a few taking new guests today - but by midnight we'd go into lock down and no new guests could check in. The hostel is on the quieter side, perhaps only half full. The rooms are shared (three of us) and we have en-suite facilities, all for a significantly reduced price. It seems nice so far. I am happy with this outcome as I am able to make new friends and spend my self isolating time with company - somewhat ironic. Updates to come.

Stay safe and indoors people.
A completely packed campsite just a week earlier
With people gone, the quails were happy
With people gone, the shelducks were happy