Most of Month Fifty Nine was pretty much the same as the previous month, in lockdown in New Zealand.
The first two weeks of month fifty nine were all about the simple life and I was still very much enjoying my daily walks to enjoy the sunshine and autumn colors, frequent phone calls with friends and family, experimenting with new recipes, reading lots, writing new posts, working on the website, and watching a lot of Netflix.
Less than a week into the month, New Zealand dropped to a less strict lockdown – Level 3 – which meant that me and my brother could expand our bubble to include my Dad and it was great to be able to see him properly.
It also meant that restaurants would reopen for takeout and delivery, so I treated myself to a few great coffees and got takeout from a few of my favorite Auckland restaurants. The city started to wake up from its four week ghost town slumber.
Two and a half weeks after going into Level 3, we dropped to a Level 2, and then it really felt like we had gained our freedom back. Restaurants opened for dine in (with social distancing measures in place), most businesses reopened, we could see anyone we wanted but only up to ten people at a time, and we were finally allowed to travel freely within New Zealand again!
I spent a few more days in Auckland, doing a hike out on the West Coast with one of my best friends, and catching up with another in pretty Devonport and Takapuna Beach, then I drove across to my Mum’s in Papamoa. It felt so good to be on the road!
I had planned to spend a week at Mum’s before driving back to Auckland then traveling in the South Island with my Dad, but instead, I read that the green card rules in regards to how long you can leave the country for had changed and I freaked out.
I was so worried that I might not get let back in that I scrapped all my plans and rebooked my flight to leave to the U.S. two days later. So after only two nights at Mum’s, I drove back to Auckland for a night, which I spent having a fancy dinner on top of the Sky Tower with my bestie, Dad and brother.
And then I flew back to Denver, via LA.
Turns out that I had no problems at all reentering the U.S., but there was no guarantee. I was so relieved that it all worked out!
I spent the last two nights of the month reunited with Toby in Denver, and it is great to be back.
Now onto the stats.
Countries Visited: New Zealand, USA
- New Zealand: Auckland, Papamoa
- USA: Denver
National Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: None this month
Islands Visited: No islands this month
Best Meals: Chicken pita from Nandos in Auckland; Portobello Mushroom burger from Better Burger in Auckland; Chicken breast with carrot & orange velouté, and grilled cauliflower from Orbit Restaurant in Auckland; Afghan biscuit ice cream in a waffle cone from Giapo in Auckland; Gorgonzola pizza from That’s Amore in Auckland.
Worst Meals: Soggy and greasy KFC chicken – so disappointing after looking forward to getting it after the 4 week lockdown.
Best Craft Beer: White Mischief Salted White Peach Sour from Garage Project in Wellington – the best (and one of the only) sour beers I have had in New Zealand!
- Hobson Bay Walkway in Auckland 2km/1.2 miles
- Mount Hobson and Mount Saint John loop walk in Auckland 4km/2.5 miles
- Te Henga Walkway (halfway and back from Muriwai) in West Auckland 10km/6.2 miles
- Mauao loop walk in Mount Maunganui 3.4km/2.1 miles
Watching: The Last Kingdom, The Luminaries, After Life, Hollywood, Ozark Season 3 – yep it’s been a busy month!
Reading: In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn, Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah, Maybe This Time by Jill Mansell
Posts Published on The World on my Necklace This Month
What Life is Like for a Nomad on Lockdown in New Zealand – Last month’s recap was a bit different as I was on strict lockdown for the whole month and I wanted to give people an insight into what lockdown life in New Zealand is like.
The Best Long Weekend Blue Mountains Itinerary – I updated an older post into a more succinct itinerary for how to spend a weekend in the Blue Mountains of Australia.
World Dishes: Italian Gnocchi With Cherry Tomatoes, Asparagus and Olives – I put together this easy and delicious gnocchi recipe that I loved making, and enjoyed eating even more. If you are missing Italy, then you should definitely try it.
The Perfect 2 Days in Yangon Itinerary for Your First Visit – Another older post that I reformatted into itinerary form to help you get the best out of a short visit to Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
Visit Telluride: The Best Mountain Town in Colorado – An updated post about my favorite mountain town in Colorado – Telluride!
Ultimate Colorado Itinerary for an Epic Road Trip – A post that has been in the works for a long time – this 8,000+ word guide to roadtripping Colorado takes you to all the best places in the state including mountain towns, scenic drives, stunning hikes, ghost towns, National Parks and Monuments and more, and includes accommodation, food and drink options for 3 – 6 weeks in Colorado.
Regaining Some Freedom When the Lockdown was Loosened
As I spoke about above, the last month saw New Zealand going from a strict Level 4 lockdown, to a slightly looser Level 3 lockdown, then finally to Level 2 where things really started feeling like they were almost back to normal.
I was excited for Level 3 as restaurants reopened for takeout and we were allowed to slightly extend our bubbles, so me and my brother started seeing our Dad.
Once we went to Level 2, we were allowed to move freely throughout the country, most businesses reopened, we could see anyone we wanted just no more than ten people at a time, and restaurants started doing dine in again with social distancing in place. It sure felt like freedom!
Hiking up Two New to Me Volcanoes in Auckland
When I am back in Auckland I regularly hike up Mount Eden, the tallest volcano in the city, and I have been up a number of the other volcanoes in Auckland’s volcanic field over the years.
But crazily enough, I have never been to the top of Mount Hobson and Mount Saint John, despite them being right near where I grew up and within walking distance of the city centre.
I spent one sunny afternoon walking through the city and summiting both of them. Turns out Mount Hobson has stunning harbor views – even better than Mount Eden, and I loved walking around the crater edge of Mount Saint John.
Spending the Day Hiking and Hanging out with my Bestie
Within a couple of days of New Zealand dropping into Level 2, I organised a day of hiking with my bestie Kurt, who I hadn’t been able to see in the higher lock down levels.
After grabbing McDonalds for breakfast (I missed those McMuffins!), we drove out to the West Coast of Auckland to Muriwai to see the gannet colony and to hike part of the Te Henga Walkway.
Unfortunately most of the gannets had already flown to warmer climes for winter but there were a handful of stragglers and babies still there.
We hiked half of the Te Henga Walkway which follows the rugged coastline from Muriwai to Bethells Beach, then turned around and hiked back as we didn’t have time to do the whole 20km return hike. It was gorgeous and it was so nice to catch up with my friend.
After the hike we grabbed some takeout roast and took it to another friend’s place. Life felt normal again and it was amazing.
Two Days in Papamoa and the Mount
I was meant to spend a week with my Mum in Papamoa and because of my change of plans, I ended up only spending two days there.
But it was a great two days and we did a couple of my favorite things – Fish and Chips from Papamoa Takeaways, walking around the mount and grabbing a delicious waffle cone from Copenhagen Cones. We even saw a seal when we were walking, only my second time seeing one there.
I also really enjoyed the drive there and back which really felt like freedom. It was a beautiful day both days, and New Zealand was looking as beautiful as always.
Dinner With a View at Orbit Restaurant in the Sky Tower
Despite growing up in Auckland and spending most of my time there when I am in New Zealand, I had never been up the Sky Tower. I guess I always just thought that is what tourists do, not locals.
But, I decided this visit that it was about time I did it, so me, Kurt, Dad and my brother Robbie went up there for dinner on my last night in the country.
We spent 45 minutes before dinner at the Observation Deck admiring the view of the city and harbor as the sun set, then we had a lovely dinner at Orbit revolving restaurant, my first time dining in a revolving restaurant too.
The views were outstanding, the company was the best and the food was actually really good. I don’t know why I waited so long.
Getting Back into the U.S. With no Issues
After reading about the harsher green card rules and absolutely freaking out, my anxiety was at its highest when I was exhausted, standing in line for ages to get through Immigration at LAX. When it was finally my turn to go up to a counter, it ended up being the biggest non-event ever.
The Immigration Officer was the friendliest I have ever come across, he barely asked me any questions and didn’t even want to see my Marriage Certificate (my passport has my maiden name and my green card has my married name).
So I stressed and changed my plans for no reason, although it could have been a very different story if I had someone else that wasn’t so nice. So I just feel very lucky to be back in the U.S.
Finishing my Epic Colorado Road Trip Post
I had been wanting to write a big post about how to do an epic Colorado Road Trip for a long time, but it seemed like such a massive post to write that I just kept putting it off. Well, with being stuck in New Zealand in lock down, I finally had the time to do it, and I am really happy with the result.
I believe it is the most detailed Colorado Road Trip post on the internet, and I hope it helps lots of people plan a big Colorado road trip this year or in the future.
Freaking out About Green Card Changes
I had no idea about the changes in green card rules until I saw someone talking about it on one of the travel Facebook groups I am a part of. So apparently now if you leave the country for more than six months, there’s a chance that you will be seen to be abandoning your green card and refused entry back into the U.S.
Well, I had been away for nearly seven months so I freaked out and changed my flight to come back to the U.S. early.
I ended up getting in easily with no hassle but you just never know what could happen and I felt like coming back earlier was the right thing to do.
Not Ready to Leave New Zealand
Although I am mostly enjoying being back in Denver now, I was absolutely not ready to leave New Zealand when I did. It was a hard decision to make – going from one of the only countries in the world that has COVID-19 under control, to the epicentre of the pandemic. But I just couldn’t risk losing my green card and I think I made the right decision in the end.
But I can’t say that I am not heartbroken that I didn’t get to spend more time with my Mum, see friends that I didn’t get a chance to, and travel around the South Island in one of the only times there are hardly any other tourists. I do feel cheated, but it is what it is.
Still a low spending month despite eating out a lot more once restaurants reopened. The exchange rate for the New Zealand dollar is really low against the US dollar so my money is going a lot further than it usually would. There were no really big expenses for this month, just a few gifts to take back to the US and my US domestic flight.
I spent most of the month still staying with my brother in Auckland and paying rent there – 25 nights this month. I also spent two nights at my Mum’s in Papamoa, one night at my Dad’s in Auckland, one night on a plane and two nights at my brother and sister in law’s place in Denver.
Food and Drink $397
As well as buying groceries, I also spent a bit on takeout meals, and one fancy meal at Orbit Restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland where my brother and I treated my Dad for his early birthday.
- Return Devonport Ferry from downtown Auckland $9.50
- Petrol $30
- Flight LA to Denver $78
I don’t include international flight costs in my recaps
- Toiletries $2.50
- Phone $23
- Hulu $6
- Patreon $5
- Kindle Unlimited $11
- Skype credit $3.50
- Clothes dryer $2.50
- Gifts $43.50
- US SIM $4
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van Costs $50
- Memory Foam Mattress for the Van $50 (my half)
What’s in Store for Next Month
Well, I had been expecting to still be in New Zealand for at least the first couple of weeks of the month, but here I am back in the U.S.!
We will be spending the first couple of weeks of the month in Denver, catching up with friends and family and enjoying the hot summer weather by hiking, boating and drinking beer in the sun.
After that, we want to do a Colorado road trip, hitting up a few of the spots that have been on my wish list for a while, and hopefully heading down to see Toby’s Dad in New Mexico if we have time.
Toby has a couple of job opportunities in the works for Oregon and Idaho so we may end up at one of them before the month is out, otherwise we will be heading back to Denver after our road trip and will take it from there.
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