In January, New Zealand had its first community case of COVID-19 in more than two months.

Three guests from one of the managed isolation hotels in Auckland tested positive several days after leaving quarantine.

Fortunately, there’s been no further transmission within the community, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ve had yet another lucky escape. Seriously — it feels like New Zealand has been dodging bullets for months now!

It is, however, a reminder that nowhere can be entirely pandemic-proof and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get complacent.

At what point will my phone’s camera roll stop being 90% photos of crowds?

When I left you last, I had rung in 2021 in Hanmer Springs with little idea of what the new year would have in store for me. Dave and I have a long-held tradition where, every time the clock strikes 12, we turn to each other and announce, This is going to be our year.

It felt a little too much like tempting fate to say it in 2021, so we dampened down our optimism and set off for Christchurch instead.

Cricket!

I’ve become a full-blown cricket fan over the past couple years, and it’s a sport that brings so much joy to my life. So of course, I jumped at the opportunity to spend time in the sunshine with Dave and his dad.

The Pakistan cricket team had travelled over to New Zealand for a series, and we bought tickets for the first two days of the test match in Christchurch.

With beautiful weather, happy people, and the largest crowd I’ve ventured into in over year, it was yet another reminder to count my blessings.

“How did we get to be so lucky?” I asked Dave as we wandered on to the ground at lunch to surround ourselves with a thousand-odd people.

It always feels like I’m back in the U.K. when I venture into Christchurch

We were in Christchurch for admin reasons, primarily, to get those tasks done that we couldn’t safely do in the U.K. Dentists, hairdressers, doctors, and catching up with our friends in the city.

I’m not much of a fan of Christchurch, though, so I was out of there before you could say fuck the easterly.

(Many afternoons, a cold easterly wind races across Christchurch, causing the temperatures to plummet and my teeth to start chattering.)

The hiking in Wanaka is amazing!

Onwards to Wanaka!

Wanaka is one of my absolute favourite spots in New Zealand; a town I adored when I spent a couple of weeks there a year ago, and it’s somewhere I could see myself being very happy. Dave and I spent two weeks in town this time around, trying it on for size.

I mentioned in my previous monthly summary that one of the joys of New Zealand travel right now is the near-absence of international tourists. Nowhere was this more prominent than when I scrambled to the top of Roy’s Peak: arguably the most famous viewpoint in the country.

In pre-pandemic times, you typically have to queue for 30 minutes[!] to take a photo that makes it seem as though you’re the only person there:

But when we made it to the top, we had the entire viewpoint to ourselves for a full 20 minutes:

It was a pretty special experience; well-worth the five hour trek to the top and back.

When I wasn’t wincing at the prices of real estate, I made sure to do all the other touristy things that makes this part of the country so popular with Instagrammers, like posing in a lavender field:

And checking out #ThatWanakaTree:

We even got to hang out with Simon and Erin, who we last saw in Wanaka almost one year ago to the day, back when all of our travel blogs were thriving and we had no idea what was about to hit us.

From Wanaka, I ventured back to Christchurch to finalise my residency application, then made my way up to the northern coast of the South Island.

Walking the Abel Tasman track

We were based in Takaka for several days, there, and used it to help us explore some spots in Golden Bay we hadn’t visited before. This is the hippiest of hippie enclaves in New Zealand, all about the yoga pants, dreadlocks, and super chill vibes, and I loved it.

One particular highlight was Te Waikoropupū Springs, one of the clearest bodies of water on the planet, with visibility measuring as far as 80 metres (260 feet).

One day, we trekked along the final day of the Abel Tasman Great Walk, and it only left me itching to return next summer to help me complete my Great Walks set.

Hiking in Cable Bay! I was obsessed with this two-tone water feature

We rounded off the month in Nelson, a sunny town that’s one of my favourite spots in the South Island. And as much as I love Wanaka, Nelson feels just that little bit more liveable.

Beautiful Nelson!

While we were there, we busied ourselves with day trips to beaches and islands, ventured out on plenty of hikes, and filled our stomachs with all the delicious food. The fact that all three were so accessible made Nelson feel all the…

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