SA wedding photographer stuck in New Zealand on lockdown - 'Flights were between R30 000 and R110 000'

Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
Illustration. Photo by Getty Images

Nadine Aucamp is a Cape Town-based photographer, and she has been in New Zealand for three weeks, unable to return home due to global lockdowns.

When she tried to return home to South Africa, most airlines had started grounding their flights in adherence with various nations' health regulations brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. 

At the time of writing, Nadine had attempted to find a flight back home but was not allowed into the airport in New Zealand as she did not have a flight ticket in hand – a single flight ticket to South Africa at the time would have cost between R30 000 and R110 000. 

At this stage, the quarantine period in New Zealand is scheduled to end in the third week of April, meaning if Nadine is able to return home, her two-week trip would have been extended to six weeks.

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Here's Nadine's story:

In a time where we're filled with uncertainty, fear, and anxiety, all you want to do is be home, surrounded by loved ones. Most people are doing precisely this during South Africa's 21-day lockdown, while I find myself stuck in an unfamiliar country, over 11 000km away. 

My story began on the 31st of August 2019 when I received an email inquiring after my photography services for a wedding in New Zealand. After a couple of emails back and forth and a quick skype call, the bridal couple decided to book me!

With the deposit paid and contract signed, I sat there with the biggest smile on my face and started to count down the seconds till the big day.

Everything was falling into place, 2020 was going to be my year! Full of incredible adventures and growing my business, taking it to new heights.

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Fast forward through a beautiful, busy, wedding-photo-filled summer and on the day before my flight to New Zealand I photographed my last March wedding in South Africa.

It was a beautiful intimate affair, done and dusted by 4 pm.

I headed home with tired feet but a happy heart, making plans for one last night out with my boyfriend for a proper goodbye and a final hoorah to my New Zealand trip.

I soon found myself drunk on love, happiness, a bit of bubbly, and all the opportunities that awaited me on the other side of the globe. The flight I was looking forward to so much promised to be around 36 hours from start to finish, so the next morning, I headed off to the gym for one last workout session.

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As I left our home, my phone exploded with texts and missed calls from my New Zealand friend who I was planning to visit, the bride to be, my mom and dad.

Overnight, our internet stopped working, and our cellphone signal was non-existent. New Zealand had just announced that visitors arriving needed to self-quarantine.

I didn't know exactly how this would work, how serious it was if it would apply to everyone or just people showing symptoms? All the info was a bit vague.

The trip was paid for, planned out, and my flight was leaving in a couple of hours. So I decided to go for it.

Within seven days of arriving in New Zealand, we went from ordinary life to a four-week countrywide lockdown (with South Africa following shortly after with the 21-day lockdown).

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I got a 48-hour heads up that flights back home would be canceled and was urged me to make a new booking, but all we had was one phone number to call that kept you on hold without an answer for most of the day. 

Out of sheer desperation, I packed my bags and drove the airport, hoping I'd find more answers there, but I wasn't even allowed to enter the building without a plane ticket. I've never felt so helpless.

I saw my last chance to get home and yet not be able to do anything.

I count my lucky stars that at least I have friends I can stay with. They're the best; if it weren't for them, I'd probably have lost my mind by now.

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I know I have nothing to complain about and that my situation could have been much worse, but I still feel anxiety, fear, and stress from being away from my home, family, and friends during the pandemic. 

Knowing that my boyfriend is entirely alone for South Africa's 21-day lockdown, my older brother and his wife expecting their first child in a couple of months, my parents and grandparents all alone and isolated is hard.

I'm always glued to my phone, scrolling through news sites and social media hoping everyone's okay while everything slowly worsens. 

I'm living off savings that don't mean much after South Africa has received junk status. I'm unable to work and earn money, and due to cancelations and postponements, the next wedding photo session I am booked for is only in September, while I still need to pay rent and other bills. 

I added myself to a South Africans trapped in New Zealand and Australia Whatsapp group yesterday. We went from 92 people to 126 people in the last 24 hours. Most of them say they've only been able to find flights scheduled in May. I can't help but feel that we've got a long road ahead of us.

How have you dealt with the national lockdown? Tell us about it here.

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