In June 2004 Tim Cope set off on a kickass journey, 10.000km (6.200 miles) from Mongolia to Hungary by Horse. His goal was to trace back the steps of Genghis Khan from Mogolia to Opusztaszer, 90 miles south of Budapest. This city has a long tradition (since 896AD) of being the meeting place of leaders returning from Central Asia to divide the land they had conquered.
“Here in Opusztaszer at the Danube River is where the Eurasian steppe ends, with its beginning in Mongolia and Manchuria,” Mr Cope told AP. “So Opusztaszer is the perfect ending symbolically and geographically.”
Originally he expected his trip to take 18 months. However, a stint at home when his father died, no horse riding skills at departure and many other delays meant it took him more than double that.
Throughout the trek he travelled on horseback and relied on the hospitality of local people, including nomads.
He travelled with three horses at any time, one to carry him and two to carry feed and supplies and briefly, whilst in Kazakhstan, also used a camel.
In total he needed 13 horsesl to complete his marathon journey, though two of them – Taskonir and Ogonyok – have been with him since October 2004 when he was in Kazakhstan.
His other companion was Tigon, meaning “hawk” or “fast wind”, a black and white hunting dog given to him as gift in Kazakhstan, whom he now hopes to take home to Australia.
Arriving at his final destination, the Hungarian town of Opusztaszer, Mr Cope paid tribute to the animals saying that they, along with the numerous people who had welcomed him into their homes, were the “real heroes” of the journey.
Both he and the animals faced much hardship as they endured life on the steppes of Asia and Central Europe, experiencing temperature ranging from minus 52C to plus 54C.
On two occasions his horses were stolen and even Tigon was taken whilst in Ukraine.
Mr Cope eventually found him nearly frozen to death, locked inside an ice filled mine shaft.
It took hours in a hot sauna and a diet of raw eggs and vodka to revive the dog, who was not able to continue the journey for three weeks.
Deep bonding & separation fears
Such is the bond between Mr Cope and the animals that he told the Associated Press news agency that he was concerned about letting them go.
“I’m feeling a bit panicky about finishing because I can’t imagine saying goodbye to the horses,” he was quoted as saying.
Six years and 137 hours of film later his experience can now be seen in a documentary series titled ‘The Trail of Genghis Khan’.
The documentary was awarded ‘Prize of the Jury’ at the Graz Mountain & Adventure Film Festival in Austria 2010, ‘Best Adventure Film’ at the Czech Mountain Film Festival in Prague 2010 and to top it all off it won the ‘People’s Choice Award’ at the renowned Banff Adventure Film Festival 2011.
He is currently writing a book about his experiences to be published by Allen & Unwin Australia (Bloomsbury Uk/USA) some time in 2012.