Timothee Gagnon had hoped to experience the wonders of New Zealand while walking the length of the North Island. Instead, he's stuck in Auckland learning about life under lockdown.

Now that stranded foreigners are able to start returning home, the 20-year-old French sports science student has accepted he won't complete the 1600km walk and is waiting to find out when he will be able to return to Paris.

He arrived in New Zealand on March 7 with the plan to walk from Cape Reinga to Wellington on the Te Araroa Trail. He had been in New Zealand once before, when he was 4 and his family toured in a campervan, stopping briefly in Auckland to stay with his mum's distant cousin, Fabienne Gillies.

He set off from Cape Reinga on March 10 and hitch-hiked and walked to Ahipara, checking updates on the emerging coronavirus crisis whenever he had cellphone coverage.

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After spending six days in Ahipara, he set off through the Raetea, Omahuta and Puketi forests, arriving in Kerikeri on March 23 to find the crisis had quickly escalated.

Timothee Gagnon has been taking walks around Sandringham during the lockdown. Photo / Sylvie Whinrau
Timothee Gagnon has been taking walks around Sandringham during the lockdown. Photo / Sylvie Whinrau

"I did not have any news during the four days I was walking between Ahipara and Kerikeri and a lot had changed," he said.

Realising her son was unlikely to be able to leave but would face new challenges if he stayed, Gagnon's mother Delphine contacted Gillies and arranged for him to stay.

"I was pleased to have relations to stay with," he said. "I know a lot of people have not been so lucky."

Lockdown has meant Gagnon has been making short walks around Sandringham instead of trekking through the bush. But it has already been a memorable trip, and not just because of the coronavirus crisis.

"I have seen a lot of beautiful scenery and experienced a lot of hospitality. Hopefully I will return and see more in the future."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website