4 Germans sheltered by New Zealand family to fly home

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Four German students say they're glad they'll finally get to fly home Sunday but also sad to say goodbye to the New Zealand family that sheltered them for 2 1/2 weeks during a nationwide lockdown.

The adult students had planned to be traveling around New Zealand when the country imposed the lockdown in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus. They are among 12,000 German visitors in New Zealand who are returning on flights chartered by the German government.

'“It's been a different vacation,” said Julia Betz, 23. “But it's been a great experience anyway.”

Betz said she'd like to return one day to hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track, listed as one of New Zealand's 10 Great Walks.

She and Laura Spottke, 22, had traveled to New Zealand to join their boyfriends Felix Gard and Thomas Metzler, both 23. The men are final year veterinarian students and had earlier spent a month working with horses near Cambridge under the tutelage of New Zealand veterinarian Kate Dingemans.

She had stayed in touch with the students as they began their travels and insisted they come stay with her family during the lockdown. Dingemans said she and her family of five had gained “so much" from their time with the students.

“It will be a strange feeling when they leave," she said.

Good weather meant the students were able to spend time on the rural property swimming in a river and playing soccer.

They also cooked meals for their hosts. Spottke made käsespätzle, a Bavarian dish with similarities to mac-n-cheese.

“I think they liked it,” she said.

The four are a little nervous about their health while traveling and returning home to a country with higher infection rates but are eager to see their families.

New Zealand has had 1,330 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths. The number of new cases has steadily declined over the past week, giving rise to hopes the lockdown is working.

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