Happy ending as Wigan woman is reunited with partner after 18 months apart

A Wigan woman is finally starting a new life on the other side of the world, as she is reunited with her partner after 18 months apart.

Strict travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic meant Pippa Leslie, from Ashton, could not travel to New Zealand to be with Chris Mortensen.

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For more than a year they only saw each other’s faces through screens and had to work around a 13-hour time difference.

Pippa Leslie and Chris Mortensen are finally together in New Zealand

But finally they have been reunited, as rules for travellers from the UK were lifted in early May.

Pippa, 31, was delighted to see Chris again – and he had a surprise as she landed in Auckland.

She said: “As I came through arrivals, he was crying his eyes out and he got on his knee and proposed. It was actually his 50th birthday too, so it was a really special day.”

Pippa got to know Chris, who is American, after listening to a podcast he made and contacting him through through Instagram in 2019.

The couple plan to marry in December

She said: “I was bold and got on a flight to Los Angeles in the December and it was love at first sight. It was a whirlwind.”

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Pippa returned to the USA in February and Chris was at the airport to travel to the UK in March 2020 when flights were halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.

He got to Wigan in May 2020 and spent six months with Pippa, before flying to New Zealand, where his two sons live.

She had hoped to go with him, but was not allowed due to strict travel rules.

Unfortunately for the couple, the rules stayed in place for more than a year and they could not be together in person.

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Pippa had sold her home, shipped many of her belongings to New Zealand and was living with her parents as she waited to travel.

In February this year she decided to go to Australia, as she was concerned about the potential impact of the war in Ukraine.

She spent time travelling and seeing friends, while the much-reduced time difference made it easier to communicate with Chris.

And finally the travel restrictions preventing her journey to New Zealand were lifted in early May.

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Pippa said: “It feels surreal. I am such a Disney fanatic and like the happy, ever after and it feels like my fairy tale has come true. It was just magical.

"It was like a blur. The flight from Brisbane to Auckland was three hours and those three hours went by so fast. I was smiling my head off.”

The couple now live in Huntington, in Hamilton, and are planning to get married in December in Australia.

Pippa said: “Now we are reunited, it feels like we have never been apart. He has his two kids and I have just slotted in amazingly.”

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Pippa encouraged other people in long-distance relationships to focus on why they love their partner when things become difficult

She said: “It reminded us that we are grateful for each other and will always put the effort in. You don’t know what’s round the corner in your relationship, so it’s important to be present and find ways to love each other and find ways to grow.”