After spending nearly half of 2018 and 2019 travelling I’d decided that 2020 would be the year to stay at home in New Zealand. I was getting diminishing returns from the trips I did, seeing so much in such a short space of time meant that things were starting to seem a little too similar. For example in one year I visited tropical rainforests in the Amazon, Central America, Borneo, and Papua New Guinea (twice).
It was such a luxury to be able to travel but I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I had and constantly being away was disruptive to having a fulfilling life at home. I was frequently jet lagged, and either packing or unpacking, sorting photos and blogs from the last trip, or planning and booking the next trip. I decided to stop booking new trips, and instead plan a move from Auckland to Wellington, where there would be plenty to explore and discover.
I was incredibly fortunate that my last overseas trip, out of choice, took place in February, just as the impacts of Covid-19 were starting to be felt across the world. I know many people who had trips booked and have struggled to get refunds, and those either in or starting retirement who have had to put their plans on hold. I know many people involved in the tourism industry who have been badly impacted, through keeping in touch with guides and tour leaders I’ve met on my travels. And of course millions of people have lost their lives to Covid-19, and many more impacted by it directly and indirectly, which puts everything in perspective.
I’ve been very lucky to live in New Zealand, which after one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, and effective closure of the border, returned to relatively normality compared to most countries. I’ve therefore been able to travel domestically without issue, though I can’t see any trips overseas being possible until at least the end of 2021.
Ethiopia, December / January
A real adventure, in part as we lost the tour leader due to illness (thankfully he recovered once home) several days into the trip, so I helped out using their trip notes until a new tour leader joined us. The trip was the perfect combination of incredible scenery, particularly in the Simien Mountains and around Lalibela, and a huge amount of history and heritage, including the unique rock carved churches of Lalibela and around, the castles of Gonder, the crosses and monoliths of Aksum, and the museums of Addis Ababa. In retrospect I was very lucky again as sadly areas I visited saw significant violence and unrest toward the end of 2020.
Central South Island, January
A few highlights from the road between Christchurch and hiking in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, another beautiful part of New Zealand.
Brisbane to Sydney, February
My last overseas trip for at least 18 months I suspect, a road trip with my parents from Brisbane to Sydney via Limpinwood, Tenterfield, Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle and the Blue Mountains. It wasn’t the best trip to be honest, in part due to the unseasonal weather (though at least the horrific bush fires had mostly ended), and in part as there was surprisingly far less of interest to see than on a similar trip between Sydney and Melbourne.
My first trip post lockdown was to move from Auckland to Wellington, a drive of 9-10 hours which I broke up by spending five nights in Rotorua. There was plenty to fill the days exploring the town and surrounding area, including stunning autumn colours in Rotorua Centennial Park and the colourful (and empty the day after we moved to Covid alert level 2) Wai-O-Tapu.
Himatangi Beach, May
An overnight stay between Rotorua and Wellington, at a gem I’d never heard of before finding a cheap AirBnB. Watching the sunset from the epic beach was a highlight of the journey.
Gisborne and Napier, July
A work trip to one of the nicer parts of the North Island, which I’d visited before but found plenty new to explore, including the coastline north of Gisborne around the East Cape, the excellent MTG Hawke’s Bay museum, and prolific street art in Napier. I also paid a welcome return visit to the photogenic Pekapeka Wetlands.
Picton, September, October, November
Somewhere I’m going to spend a fair amount of time visiting thanks to work, which is a bonus of the job to be honest. One of the best small towns in New Zealand, with a surprising amount to see and do for a place of ~5,000 people.
Between Picton and Havelock on the stunning Queen Charlotte Drive, this was an ideal base for the long Labour Day weekend, walking part of the Nydia Track, cycling part of the Link Pathway, visiting historic parts of Havelock, and exploring the coastal scenery of Pelorus Sound.
A weekend trip to Auckland, my first return since leaving in May. There were even more traffic cones and construction going on than when I left, but I loved revisiting old favourites such as the Domain Wintergardens, and exploring places news to me including Sri Radha Krishna Mandir Hindu temple, St Matthew-in-the-City church, and the CRL Mt Eden train station site. There was also an unexpected Hare Krishna mobile temple on Queen Street!
Weekend trip to Anakiwa, a 35 minutes drive from Picton, and where the Queen Charlotte Track finishes, so I redid part of it as a day walk and enjoyed this stunning part of New Zealand.
Upper South Island, December
Finished the year by taking my first leave in six months, a welcome three week road trip staying in five small towns in the top part of the South Island – Reefton (population 927), Collingwood (236), Tapawera (396), Dobson (678), and Kaikoura (2,400). Did lots of day hikes and the multi-day Old Ghost Road Track, plus explored the extensive heritage (mostly mining related) and incredible scenery of this relatively less visited part of New Zealand.