The world of Moon Gate Villa was turned upside down when within a week New Zealand’s borders were closed, our guests all departed and we had 2 days to get ourselves and our lives in order before embarking on four weeks of lockdown in a bid to stamp out Covid-19.  Here’s how it all unfolded.

Something’s not right in the world

I guess like everyone else, we became aware of the corona virus outbreak in Wuhan, China during early January 2020. Lionel & Rob had travelled to spend three weeks in China as recent as September 2019, and we were quietly pleased we hadn’t left it until this year. At first it seemed a long way from us, but by early February there were cases reported all around the globe including Germany and Australia: two countries from where we receive many of our summer guests. A week or so later guests from Germany contacted us to apologise that they needed to cancel their summer stay.  One had a bit of a head cold, and they were worried they may be detained at airports on the way to New Zealand due to COVID-19. Oddly enough, we didn’t receive many cancellations for February to early March.  Many of our guests have the Bay of Islands first or last on their itinerary, and by late February most are at the end of their holiday, and spending a relaxing few days with us before flying home.

The first case in New Zealand wasn’t reported until the 28th February, and I guess that’s when New Zealand’s ‘safe’ bubble was burst.  On the March 19th New Zealand’s borders closed to incoming foreigners, and Kiwi’s overseas were told to return home fast.

“We have 102 cases. So did Italy once.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put it very bluntly: the worst case scenario was simply intolerable. With the pandemic rapidly tearing through Italy and ramping up in the USA, she announced a level 4 alert system for New Zealand’s response on the 21st March. Initially set to level 2, it escalated to level 3 on the 23rd March, and with two day’s notice moved to an unheard of level 4.

By this time, most of our guest reservations for the rest of March and April had vanished, however our last few guests were remarkably calm as all had outgoing travel arranged.  Our final guests were from New York state, and shared with us that they had just completed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and that it was all but deserted!  Those lovely guests left us lunchtime on Wednesday 25th March, and by the following morning New Zealand (and Moon Gate Villa) was in lockdown.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, North Island.

Life in the bubble – March / April 2020

We’ve had a remarkably dry summer, and this continued for most of March into April.  If you have to be locked down for a month, there are worse places to spend than in the sunshine of our large sub-tropical gardens.  Normally we leave any major changes to our gardens until the winter months, when it’s colder, there’s fewer guests – and naturally we are usually less motivated!  This year we had no guests to look after, and the lovely weather allowed us to renovate a couple of our larger garden beds.

Garden renovation 2020

Garden renovation 2020 L.H=BEFORE, R.H.=AFTER!

On the left-hand side is our center garden as it normally looks, planted with summer annuals.  However the older shrubs in the centre date back to the original garden planting and had grown thin and leggy. So there on the right-hand side – you can see the same central garden – with most of the planting removed! We’ll share how this progresses in future posts.

Four weeks passed suprisingly quickly.  Lionel was kept busy with all those small maintenance tasks we normally leave until winter, and Rob still worked his full time (other) job in I.T. albiet locked up in his office space above the garage!  Video catchup with friends and family on social media kept us mostly sane – as I suspect it did most of NZ.  And the kids (Mojo, Max and Whetu) seemed to be delighted to have our undivided attention.

Life as we begin May 2020

We dropped back to Level 3 on the 30th April and this sees a relaxation of rules around businesses that may open.  Even though accommodation is classed as an ‘essential’ service, we’ve assessed that it’s safest for our guest to keep our villa rooms closed during levels 3 & 4.  We have however made our self-contained cottage available to essential workers, and we have a medical worker staying with us during May & June. If you are interested in the cottage from mid-June onwards, we’d suggest contacting us directly, as we will not be making it available for booking via normal channels.

When we drop back to level 2, we will re-open our villa guest rooms for bookings, but with additional measures in place to ensure social distancing, with enhanced room servicing and sanitisation.  This includes:

  • Keeping a minimum of 24 hours (a full day) between guests occupying rooms
  • Following the travel industry and health ministry full recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting rooms
  • Altering our normal servicing and linen/towel change schedule
  • Breakfast ordered the evening prior, and served in-room rather than in our dining room
  • There may be limitations on the use of the dining and lounge areas during level 2. The gardens are still available to explore.
  • A changed cancellation policy during all alert levels. If for any reason a guest cannot honor a reservation due to changes in alert levels or other COVID related circumstances, there are no cancellation charges for all bookings made directly through us.
  • We will reassess when the rules and guidelines are released for level 1

We already have a number of guest reservations from overseas for summer 2021!  This at first surprised us, but it’s great to see people are optimistic about the short term future of travel.  In the meantime, stay safe everyone and let’s explore our own beautiful country in the meantime.

How are you and your whanau doing?  Leave comments below.

Kia kaha. Lionel, Rob, Mojo, Max and Whetu.