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The Slow Down: Riding New Zealand on horseback when Covid-19 lockdown was announced

When Jessica Mullins and Bijmin Swart set off on an epic 3000km horseback adventure through the heart of New Zealand, they weren’t expecting the world to go into lockdown.

Horse riding in New Zealand

The couple – horse riding guides who met while working in The Man From Snowy River country in Australia – started their ‘Rewild Project‘ by breaking in three Kaimanawa stallions before setting off into the wilds of New Zealand’s South Island in October 2019.

When they were within pinging distance of WiFi in early March 2020, they suddenly found themselves with 48 hours to get to the town where they would need to undertake compulsory lockdown –  the chaos and pandemonium of COVID-19 nipping at their heels.

We came across their journey on 18 March when they posted this on Instagram:

“Two days ago we emerged from the wilderness to find ourselves in a very different world to the one we left a month ago… After nearly 6 months on the trail, exploring the wild places of New Zealand, living out of our little pack pony far away from civilisation, we realised we’ve accidentally become somewhat experts in isolation… and we’ve never been happier, healthier or more connected with ourselves and the wider natural world around us.”
Horse trek Raikaia River New Zealand

During our #iso conversation, The Slow Down, we talk about:

  • Slow travel and why it’s so important now more than ever
  • Meditating with horses
  • What being in the wild for six months has taught them about the world and themselves
  • How working with horses has affected their lives
  • And how a simple lifestyle tweak propelled this incredible expedition in the first place
Lake Geyon New Zealand
Camping New Zealand
Watch the full conversation in the video at the top of this page.

And subscribe to our YouTube channel to be alerted when the next episode of The Slow Down is released.

Follow the rest of Jess and Bijmin’s journey when they return to the trail (once restrictions are lifted!) on Facebook and Instagram.

All photography courtesy of @humanandhorseNZ

Celeste Mitchell

Life Unhurried co-founder, Celeste Mitchell, is a professional journalist with a passion for sustainability and slow travel. For the past seven years she's been wandering the globe and penning words for the likes of Escape, Australian Traveller, get lost, Jetstar, QANTAS and more.