New Zealand during the lockdown
“The shortest way to yourself is once around the world.”
With this quote, I make my journey possible, already 11 months I am on the road with my 11-kilogram rucksack (as of April 2020).
At the beginning of December 2019, I travelled from Santiago de Chile across the Pacific Ocean, to Auckland – New Zealand.
My journey through New Zealand
I conquered New Zealand for several months with my camper van – (I lovingly christened it – Johnny) which I bought in Auckland. My everyday life in New Zealand was very simple.
Sometimes I got my surfboard from the roof and rode the waves, dived for lobster, collected mussels at low tide, went picking kiwis in season for 2 weeks, did long and short hikes or just let the day pass.
I had very little social contact with my friends or family, because the time difference to Germany, with 12 hours, was enormous. I couldn't and didn't want to follow current media permanently, as I was not connected to the mobile internet most of the time.
The onward journey from New Zealand
My onward journey to Vietnam was actually booked for the end of March 2020 and so after 3 months in New Zealand, I slowly returned to Auckland to sell my camper van again.
When I arrived in Auckland at the beginning of March, I made Johnny (my van) neat and ready to sell. In Auckland I visited car flea markets, created internet ads and printed out sales ads to post them in hostels.
Each of these sales attempts was unfortunately without success.
First restrictions due to Corona in New Zealand
After I had noticed that COVID-19 is so active that the entry of new tourists is denied, it was clear to me why I do not get my camper van sold and 2 weeks later my flights to Asia were cancelled because of Corona.
COVID-19 was not a big issue in New Zealand at first. (stood 12. March 2020- 2 infected in New Zealand, 2300 in Germany).
I am very lucky to have a Work and Travel Visa, which is valid for 1 year.
Job search during Corona
I looked for a job in Auckland for a longer period of time as soon as possible, as I was unsure how fast this virus spreads in New Zealand.
My first application went to a job advertisement “Post OP Granny- Nanny wanted – 72-year-old woman (Susie) after double knee prosthesis surgery with demented husband (John) and dog (Coco) need home support for at least 2 months”.
2 hours later I met with the couple's son and discussed the procedure in detail.
The next day I moved into my own room, which is what I was most happy about after 3 months of camping in the van. My new host family gave me a very warm welcome in the home environment.
The work as Post OP Granny
Susie, 72 years old, has received a double knee prosthesis and needs support in the daily activities of her life as well as in the household.
Her husband John K., 72 years old, can only support his beloved to a limited extent, as he suffered from dementia 5 years ago, which is in an advanced stage.
However, John is physically fit and can take care of himself for the most part.
The couple leads a happy marriage with 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren who are always at their side.
Coco, the little 2-year-old terrier has a very big place in the heart of the family and gives the couple daily exercise and joy.
I quickly became familiar with the everyday life of the Kiwi family.
An unexpected accident for me
But what came unexpectedly was my fall on the 2nd morning when I was walking the dog.
In the steep courtyard entrance to the house I stumbled and fell on my left elbow. The fact that I had injured my left shoulder strongly thereby became apparent only the next morning.
With immobility and severe pain in my left shoulder I woke up and drove to the emergency room in the hospital. Fortunately, the waiting time was only 30 minutes and I was able to leave the waiting room where coughing people were waiting for their COVID-19 test results. A nurse introduced herself to me and while sitting on a chair I had to answer specific questions, she manually checked my vital signs and typed them into her computer.
A young, energetic doctor came in and introduced herself to me.
After a few movement patterns, which I could not perform with my left arm, I was sent to X-ray for a deeper examination.
The X-ray department was right next door and I was already taken next.
My left elbow and my left shoulder were x-rayed in several planes.
The diagnosis for my shoulder
The doctor was already waiting for me in the emergency room to which I returned.
Together we looked at the X-rays and the positive news for me was “Mrs. Köhler, the bones are already ok, but they will use her shoulder for many years and we have to see now if there is any other injury.
She gave me a note with a phone number and a referral and asked me to make an appointment by phone for a week. A sling to immobilize the shoulder should help me in everyday life and provide pain relief.
The lockdown and rest time for my shoulder
From here on it was clear that I needed some rest for my shoulder and we were in COVID -19 lockdown for 4 weeks in New Zealand, which was my salvation, because the family could not look around for someone new.
I was allowed to stay and continued to do my job as best I could with my shoulder.
Every day I moved Susie's legs through and then my shoulder. I replaced her legs and she replaced my arm. We were a well-rehearsed team.
The hardest part of the whole thing was John, who couldn't follow the meaning of the curfew despite the daily paper, a whiteboard in the kitchen, news on TV, information signs in the house like “Stay at Home” and “Wash your Hands”.
Dementia and the consequences
John's dementia is pronounced and his short-term memory and retentiveness are disturbed.
At the beginning of the curfew he needed a daily check of his walking routes outside the house and we had the same conversations every day. There are days when John is well and motivated, but there are also days during the lockdown that make him depressed and when he withdraws. The fact that John is currently unable to see and be around his grandchildren and children is extremely difficult for him and gives him additional insecurity.
But he is always happy to FaceTime with his family and together with Susie he can create a creative hour for the grandchildren via a virtual meeting where they can do handicrafts for special topics like Easter, because all schools are closed at the moment.
The ultrasound examination of my shoulder
I made the appointment for the ultrasound examination a week later and was allowed to come by on the same day. There was no waiting room and I was the only patient. I had to wash my hands outside and wait in front of the door while the doctor prepared the treatment room and then invited me directly in through the balcony door due to the COVID-19 situation.
A competent young doctor explained everything to me in detail and took a lot of time for me. What fascinated me most about the examination was that the ultrasound gel was even warmed up for me.
Fantastic treatment and good cooperation. He explained to me a little about the result he could see, but due to the existing swelling in the shoulder, he could not give a hundred percent diagnosis.
Further restrictions during the lockdown
Susie's physiotherapy appointments could not be kept due to the lockdown, so I drove her to the beach two kilometres away every day to do walking training and exercises with her on flat ground.
Her daily progress, such as longer running distances, pain relief, decreasing swelling were great to see.
I did the wound treatment at home and sent photos to the family doctor involved in the treatment. All further prescriptions for the necessary medication were sent by e-mail to the pharmacy, which I was allowed to pick up there on their behalf.
Susie is a very positive and active woman, never before have I been able to accompany and support a person in the recovery process after a double knee prosthesis operation.
Exercises for my shoulder and other exercises
Only 3 days after my ultrasound, the emergency room called me because they had received the report from the doctor. My further procedure as before, daily exercises for my shoulder, but also rest and cool down, continue taking medication and hope for improvement in the next two weeks. If there is no improvement, I should go to the emergency room again.
Why I stayed in New Zealand
I was not worried about the whole situation, just like the COVID-19 situation (as of 10.04.2020: 2 dead in New Zealand – 2600 dead in Germany). The recall operation in New Zealand is now over, I had not registered. I feel well taken care of here in New Zealand and it is completely clear to me that I have a lot of time in the COVID -19 crisis to sort out all my previous travel experiences and to get my shoulder back to 100 percent, so that I can leave New Zealand sometime in the future with my 11 kilogram backpack and a happy face, nice new friends and an extra backpack full of experiences and adventures in whatever direction I want to go.
About the author
Victoria is 28 years young and has been travelling the world for several months. Her itinerary went from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia via Panama, Mexico, Chile to New Zealand. The original plan was to go to New Zealand to Vietnam and the Philippines. These travel plans are currently on hold because of Corona.
For more about Victoria and her trip, follow her adventures and pictures on Instagram under the name Reisevicky.
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