For Elli Kämpf and Anouk Loman, quitting the Te Araroa Trail was like leaving a chapter in a book unfinished.
After meeting on the trail near Kaitaia, the south-bound pair barely left each other’s side, and when news of the lockdown reached them just 300km from Bluff, they decided to stick it out together.
“At first we thought maybe we should get some food and try to hike on, but as soon as we got reception, it became really clear it would be unwise,” Loman, of the Netherlands, said.
They planned to hitch to Te Anau to hunker down, but an accommodation offer from trail angels Neil and Gaye in Banks Peninsula saw them cross the highway and hitch north.
In Queenstown, they hired a car with another walker, and drove to Christchurch, making it to their destination in time for lockdown.
“At the beginning of lockdown, we were extremely hungry all the time and we were eating so much – it was a weird switch, but we slowly eased into a different routine,” Loman said.
Now returning to the trail, the pair said there is nowhere they would rather be.
“We both have the feeling it’s the best place in the world to be right now. When I hear the news from home in Germany,I think I don’t want to be there,” Kämpf said.
Mirjam Kallis was just 200km from Bluff when she received news of the lockdown from another tramper.
She moved in with a friend near Christchurch and is now completing the final leg of the trail.
“I wasn’t ready to let go of the trail,” she said. “To get so close and to have one week left, it was like snatching away the finish line when you can see the end.”
Once she completes the trail, Kallis may try to fly home to Finland but she is glad to have been locked down in New Zealand.
“In so many other places around the world, I would have been desperate to get home, but from a safety point of view it’s been extremely good and I love it here.”