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  • Writer's picturewanderingmiles

Snap back to reality

Updated: Feb 26

Friends are the the family you choose. I have always felt strongly about this saying and it couldn't be more true to describe my new New Zealand family. Since lockdown we have become a strong group of about 15 people. A mix of woofers and long term guests working and living in Nelson. We do almost everything together in a big group or in smaller groups and I genuinely don't get sick of their company. They definitely could do without me interrupting their Saturday 4pm naps when I roll into the room talking at my normal volume without checking if anyone is asleep...they call me an earthquake so I am trying to be better...

On Monday 8th June New Zealand went into Level 1 which essentially meant back to reality and it didn't feel as weird as I expected it to. We had pretty much been back to normal during level 2 but with a few restrictions on eating out - couldn't be in groups of more than 10, couldn't go to clubs or bars and dance etc. So basically the main thing that changed when we went 'back to reality' was that we finally got to go 'out out' oh and people could finally travel the country again which means we lost some of our lockdown family - but we gained new members who are now people I can't imagine being here without. Our final trip as the big lockdown family was a day out to Nelson Lakes - Lake Rotoiti. We had a beaut day out and did a walk around the lake (almost half way but then we had to turn around because we started late and the sun was going to set, it was not a difficult walk haha but that was good because it meant we could all chat and talk and just enjoy ourselves. It was fab.

As soon as we were able to leave Nelson to travel, Me, Taylor, Nils and Ash went on a day road trip to Wharariki beach, the weather wasn't perfect but the beach was still absolutely beautiful. It's past Abel Tasman and about 3 hours drive there and 3 hours back so it's a long way to go for a day but we split the driving between 3 of us and we stopped in Motueka at a beaut little organic shop and cafe called Toad Hall which I would highly recommend if you're ever out this way and we stopped at hippy Takaka on the way there for lunch and then stopped at the famous Muscle Inn on the way back for tea so it split the day up nicely. I plan to go back there for a longer period and stay in Takaka on the way because there's so much more to see that we didn't - Farewell Spit and Waikoropupu Springs are must sees but the weather wasn't good enough for us to visit (and we kind of forgot to go via there lol).

Since we went back to relative normailty we have been out for various different things on Friday and Saturday every weekend and I don't think I can continue anymore. Turns out I had missed dancing A LOT and there is a Latin party every other Friday night so we can dance to reggaeton alllll night and it's great. We have also found a new bar call Red 16 which is lovely to visit if you're ever in Nelson - owned by a guy from Sheffield and on the first night we went in he came over with a tray of shot glasses and a bottle of tequila and poured us all a free shot and had a drink with us - good guy! We have our weekly Tuesday night visit to Freehouse which has an Irish band rehearse there on a Tuesday so I drink hot cider and listen to live folk music with everyone and it's so nice.

One of the best nights we have had was going to a star gazing party at park about 30 minutes out of central Nelson. It is the first dark sky park in New Zealand which means there is no light pollution and you can see the milky way and surrounding stars and planets and it is INCREDIBLE. There was about 8 of us who went, into a dark dark park where we couldn't see anyone else and we couldn't even see the faces of the guys telling us the facts about the stars but it was so wholesome and lovely and we had drinks as we looked at the stars and it was all Kyra's idea and it was perfect.

We also had a family christmas at the end of June - 6 months until Christmas but winter here so it felt right to have a big christmas party haha. I made Christmas hats and we did a $5 Yankee swap (an American version of Secret Santa where you just buy a present and put them all in a pile and then we picked numbers out of a hat to get the order in which we could choose a present and when you picked you could choose whether to pick a new present or steal one that someone else had already opened. It was good fun and we all cooked different dishes to bring to the table - Kyra and Taylor (but mainly Juliet) made enough Mac and Cheese to feed 100 people so we definitely ate as much as you usually would at christmas hahaha. It was dead cute and it's this kind of thing that keeps you going here through winter because let's face it, there's not much going on - my normal winter I have lots of birthdays, halloween, bonfire night, my birthday, christmas, new year pancake day etc and here there's literally Matariki which is Maori new year and that's about it to get you through the winter months. So we are making the most of every weekend at the moment.

I suppose the biggest thing I've personally done since normality hit is BUY A FREAKING CAMPER VAN. I had to jump at the opportunity to buy one in the current market which is sooo cheap. A lot of people had to abandon their vans with friends when Lockdown starred and they flew home. I actually heard of some people just out right abandoning their vans at the airport and people getting them for free which is CRAZY.

I bought my van from the family friend of a girl who flew back to Germany in March after buying her van in January. I bought it for less than half the price she paid for it and in almost perfect condition. It is a 1997 Toyota Estima and is fully self contained meaning I can camp at any of the free camps across New Zealand and means I have so much more freedom. I now feel like I am going to experience travelling New Zealand properly when I finally leave Nelson in September. I am a bit scared because travelling by yourself in a van, especially as a woman, can be a bit daunting and I think I'll feel a bit vulnerable to start with but as soon as I am confident using my gas cooker and checking into the freedom camps I'll be fine. At the moment I am just using it to get out Nelson and explore more of the region on good weather days and it is amazing. This is what I will spend the rest of my weekends doing for the next couple of months that I'm here. I have been here 6 months now which is mad but I am absolutely loving every second. I have had some sad periods when people left but that's the life of travellers, we all have to move on at some point. I cried a lot when Taylor left but I know I will see her again for her birthday and Michael and Ashleigh are working at Lake Ohau so I will be able to see them again when I travel down south so goodbye is never forever. So this post is basically a big massive shout out to my Nelson family, old and new who are making my time here so amazing and making me grateful every day that I am here and made the best choice to stay.

Side note: Me, Tim, Taylor and Kyra went to Urban in Nelson which has a 'Chef Hat' (Kiwi equivalent to a Michelin Star I think) and the food was incredible so it had to feature. The best beef with potato puree I've ever had - FACT. Also Hardy Street Eatery here has the best donuts I've ever had - even better than Voodoo donuts in Portland which was previously top of my list. They are SO soft and fresh and have a fresh raspberry cream filling which is DIVINE. So basically Nelson does some damn good food.

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