Tim Cope is making an amazing journey from Mongolia to Hungary - and makes Long Rider history by emailing this picture and the message below from the wilds of Mongolia!
Here at The Long Riders' Guild we do not know of anybody who has ridden from Mongolia to Hungary since the dark days of Genghis Khan!
Tim Cope, an Australian adventurer, is now in Mongolia and has set off on this journey.
Tim has already undertaken numerous journeys, mostly in Russia, Finland and Mongolia. He has also trained as a Wilderness Guide in the Arctic and forest regions of Finland and north-west Russia, ridden a bicycle for 10,000km across Russia and Mongolia, and rowed a wooden boat through Siberia to the Arctic Ocean.
But this is Tim's first equestrian journey, and Long Riders from all over the world have given Tim the benefit of their experience, including Catherine Waridel, who made a Long Ride in the opposite direction - from the Crimea to Mongolia.
To read about Tim's hair-raising experiences trying to cross the border from Kazakhstan into Russia, please click here.
Tim has sent another email to The Guild, with another horror story!
Flowing from Mother Russia the enigmatic Volga River passes through the heart of Cossack, Tartar and Kazak country on the southern steppe eventually reaching the Caspian Sea. Here on the delta in Astrakhan province a diversity of cultures and countries have mixed and conflicted for millennia. These include the mountain dwelling Caucasus people –Chechens, Dagestanis, Cherkes, Ossetians to name a few-, the nomad tartars, Kazaks, Kalmiks and Nogais, free-roaming Cossacks, and the settled Russians who arrived to take advantage of trade routes across the Caspian and the abundance oil and of caviar-rich fish. Having entered this region of southern Russia from Kazakhstan and travelled 19 months on horseback I was essentially arriving on the fringe of the ancient battlefront between settled peoples and nomads.
Approaching the city of Astrakhan - the first major post of European-style ‘settled people’ for my journey to date- I must admit that I was not overwhelmed by the culture or architecture – the so-called trademarks of ‘civilization- but the sheer change in environment. Here I was in December, and green, long grass!!! Trees! A thousand rivers! And not a sign of snow! So much fodder and water that to a nomad, living in such an obese land must have seemed pure gluttony. It was a shock to realise that issues of water and grass – the main trial of life on the steppe- passed into irrelevance. Crossing my first bridges into large towns and villages I was also struck by the numbers of people walking, and riding bicycles. In all of my time in Kazakhstan I could count on one hand the number of pedestrians I had seen on roads and the steppe. At best was to own a horse or car – at worst a donkey. But by foot!! The shame of it!
In the 13th century one of Ghengis Khaan’s sons, together with the main general Subodei travelled here on their homeward route to Mongolia. They must have been delighted to find such a rich and familiar steppe pasture divided by the Volga which provided an additional abundance of water and food, and the perfect place for resting and grazing an army during any future advance further west or north.
Two days ride from the border I left my horses with some Russian Gazprom workers and made my way into the city. The centre of the old quarter in Astrakhan is still dominated by a Fort that was originally built in the 16th century against the threat of nomads and other steppe dwellers. With the local newspaper correspondent Inna, I spent some time wandering about the old stone walls and greenery surrounding the twin cathedrals.
In Astrakhan I was looked after by Liudmilla Kiseleva, a professor of biology, and good friend of Anna Luschenko of the Russian Academy of Science. Apart from helping me get registered and acquainted with Astrakhan she was prepared to help scout out a route through the city for my horses, and later help escort me through. Usually I avoided cities altogether but here the only bridge across the main channel of Volga was smack bang right in the centre of Astrakhan. My worries about the city crossing were partially soothed by Liudmilla’s generous hospitality, in particular a feast of green broccoli and blue cheese- luxuries that I had almost forgotten about during my time in meat-loving Kazakhstan and Mongolia! We found an Azerbaijan farm run on the edge of town where the owner would be happy to greet me on the horses, and a Kazak family on the other side of the river who would be able to help put me up later on.
I returned to the horses and two more days of riding brought me to the edge of the city where I was bathed in hospitality by the Azerbaijan family. Over generous cups of kompot, wine, conserved berries and boiled lamb they began to tell tales about the legendary hospitality and land of Azerbaijan, suggesting that no other culture or country even came close to its unique wonder. I felt disappointed that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel through the Caucasus, but then again, just trying to take in the tangled puzzle of cultures on the steppe was energy and time-sapping enough. I should say too that the more I travel the more I understand the following Russian saying: “Every woodpecker boasts about his swamp!” No country is devoid of cultural and natural riches, and in actual fact I would say that a healthy society is one that takes pride in its own original heritage, but one cannot be said to be more beautiful or wondrous than another.
After a press conference arranged by Inna – that was held in the local ecological centre where the budgies started chirping every time I started with an interview and were consequently cursed by all the journalists- the day finally came to travel through the city. I left early, escorted by a young Kazak man on horse who was working as a herder between school and finding work. He had been denied entry to the army on medical basis and found himself without task since he had not applied for institute or university. We rode together to the edge of the city, shook hands and said goodbye. From here it was time to face my fears- riding through a city on horseback. How would the horses react? What about the traffic on bridges? What if the horses just freaked and bolted, or shied in front of a semi trailer, tram or bus? I knew it would be hell for these steppe dwellers and it was up to me to remain calm and be very, very careful.
Things started well as I sat straight-backed and trotted through the narrow streets on the edge of the city lined by old wooden homes. Tigon pranced about proudly ahead as my scout, scaring off pedestrians ahead of time and clearing the way for my caravan. Most people tried to avoid eye contact, not sure of whether to run and hide, ignore, or laugh at this apparition. Of course my plan was just to ride through as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Liudmilla and Inna met me soon later and scooped a very disappointed Tigon into the car. He was desperate at first trying to leap through the window and rejoin the adventure but when he realised I had not abandoned him he curled up and went to sleep on the back seat.
Soon I was in the thick of things as we pulled onto a major roundabout where road police fondled with automatics, laughed, and asked where I had come from. Approaching my first of four city bridges, Ogonyok, my tail-end packhorse, was looking terrified, not knowing which way to run. To our left, and from behind, trucks with their air brakes, trolley buses, and cars whizzed past, all less than a metre from the narrow pedestrian strip. To my right I looked down a dizzying 20m to the river. Forced on, Ogonyok sweated, farted nervously, and tried to hide behind the tail end of Kok, who was just as terrified. Only Blackie, my trusted old hand horse remained calm and led the way, pushing the others on. From the saddle I could spin around and see the frightened eyes of Ogonok and his pack boxes rocking from side to side. At one stage he decided to leap onto the road but quickly jumped back on the pedestrian strip when a Russian truck threatened to eat him. Finally we made it over the bridge and pulled onto a little pedestrian walkway under an avenue of trees. Things were just getting started though. Here at close quarters groups of school children laughed and poked at the horses from bus stops, and some times front gates flung open followed by very surprised looking locals who usually then took a step back and returned inside. Some children ran along asking for autographs since the material from the press conference had already gone to air.
The horses by now were resigned to terror and somehow realised that the only way to hold back the panic was to keep moving. The second bridge arched high over a major channel of the Volga offering views of extensive ship yards, barges, smoke stacks, clumsy looking industrial sites and a blur of old Russian homes along the river’s foreshore. This river occurred to me as a corridor of ‘settled people’ and so removed from anything I had come across on the journey to date. From here ships move to and from Iran, Azerbaijan and central Asia carrying everything from dates to sultanas, oil, gas, and steel.
Now I was getting close to the centre. Trams creaked and rattled past, windows were squeezed full with captured faces, and I began to negotiate through crowds of pedestrians. It is amazing how quickly they cleared the way. Mothers took good hold of their children’s hands and made very wide arcs while others unashamedly leapt for safety. The city streets became so full of cars that it was safer for me to travel by footpath, yet this meant also negotiating the many food stalls and new-year celebration markets. In particular was the new-year tree selling man. The avenue between all of his trees for sale was so narrow that all customers were forced to clear the way. “What the hell are you doing, your horses will break my trees!” screamed the seller. To my delight though my horses trotted through without incident and soon later I found myself at a pedestrian crossing. There was something amusing, yet telling about the incongruence of our caravan in the thick of modern city life.
I tried to think of what it must have been like for the first nomads who came trotting into cities from the steppe. The looks of astonishment and terror I was seeing offered some hints. Back at the time of the Scythians – one of the first known steppe nomads to tame and ride horses- Europeans, Greeks, and other civilizations had possibly not laid eyes on a horse in their lives, let alone a rider coming galloping in at full pace with bow and arrows and swords. No wonder then that the legends of the ‘Centaur’ came about. It is true too that from horseback you are higher up and feel far more protected and powerful. Perhaps for Nomads who came sweeping in from such harsh lifestyles, these pale-looking settled people who complained about a sniffle of cold were easy game and seemed to inhabit an inferior way of life. Certainly the very thought that settled societies did not ride horses must have made them appear very backward indeed! Of course that all eventually changed and the horse became the engine of the economy, life and development of the western world. It is then stunning to realise how quickly we have adjusted to motorized transport in the past century.
Our third bridge crossing was set to be a breeze as the local Television crew began tagging along. I was surprised just as we reached the top arc of the bridge by Blackie though who stopped dead still. Cars and trucks continued to whiz past and Ogonyok seemed poised to leap frog us all in his terror. Again I pushed Blackie on but he shied and pulled back. To our right I looked nervously down to the water, and to our left over a rail that hemmed us into the narrow pedestrian strip. There was no warranted reason for Blackie to be scared and in any case I could not turn the caravan around in such a tight space. True, there was a manhole lid directly in front of us but we had passed over hundreds of these already. A little desperate I pushed my heels into Blackie’s ribs and he moved reluctantly forward. I knew my mistake just as suddenly as we fell and I recalled the wise words of one horse traveller: “Always trust, or at least try to understand a horses judgement.” Now my leg was wedged between the rail and the horse. I held on for life petrified of the chance of being flung over the other side into the river. Again Blackie leapt up and forward but again we fell. Kok was now right behind leaving no room for retreat. One glimpse below the horse was enough for me and I dared not look down again. The lid had spun open and one of Blackie’s legs was dangling into the man-hole. A metre or two down lay a tangle of pipes, cables and grates, and far below them was the river. I let go of Kok’s rope and Blackie somehow leapt forward and out of the hole. Fast now I tied Blackie up and raced back to prevent the other two horses from coming any further forward. It took some time but I eventually led the horses one by one to the far side of the bridge. The news-crew was fuming mad that they had had to wait so long. I didn’t bother trying to explain that the expedition had just nearly ended.
Three o’clock pm and the novelty had worn off. A cold wind was raking across the city with gloomy grey clouds that promised to bring a premature end to the sun for the day. I just wanted to get out of the place and let the horses calm down before it was too dark. The final bridge crossing remaining was a four kilometre-long monster. From its great height the muscle and current of the Volga could be seen passing on its journey south. Even the container ships were dwarfed by the sheer width and openness of the water. We passed over without incident and finally onto the quieter industrial sector on the edge of the city. Liudmilla and Inna trailed along in the car and only let Tigon out when a local herd of horses came to check out our caravan. The stallion of the herd was not impressed by these tourists and attacked repeatedly, only retreating at the last minute when I hurled all manner of rocks and bottles and anything else at him that I could find on the roadside. Tigon who usually chases away pesky horses was still sleepy after his luxury coach ride and much to my disappointment was content just to tag along and watch the show. My main concern was not so much the attacks by these horses but the chance that they could follow me for a long period and I would then be accused of stealing them. On one occasion in Kazakhstan a horse in hobbles managed to follow us for three days until I finally convinced a local to catch and tie him. After six kilometres or so Liudmilla finally managed to scare off the horses by charging them with her car and then chasing on foot with rocks.
It was well and truly dark by the time we passed the military depot on the outskirts of the city and reached some open steppe. Near the main highway intersection I said goodbye to Liudmilla and Inna and decided to make camp. It was so dark that it was hard to assess the grass and know if I was a safe distance from homes and roads. I had broken my rule of never stopping in the dark but with little choice I dismounted and began unpacking. I had only untied the pack rope on Ogonyok when thing started to go wrong. As I lifted the canvas bag from the top of the pack-boxes the handle strap became snagged on the saddle. Ogonyok leapt forward in fright with his typical nervous flatuation. Initially I wasn’t worried- this had happened on many occasions- but as I tried to remove the bag he jumped again. This time the bag was hanging off the back of the saddle and flapping around his rear end- for Ogonyok this was akin to one of those nasty trucks about to eat him all over again! The more he leapt, the more the bag flapped up and down, and the faster he raced. Now totally in flight mode the other horses decided that there was something to be worried about. Within a few seconds I watched the silhouette of my entire expedition disappear at full gallop over a rise…. headed back to the city!
Still coming to terms with what had just happened I collected the rope and shot off after the horses. By the time I reached the rise though it was too late. Below was the five-way highway intersection ablaze with lights, heavy traffic, a road-house café, and no sign of the animals. Usually I would not have been overly concerned about my horses running away. I knew that they would just run until they found some good grass and stay there for the rest of the night. One of the horses had a special bell that could be heard from miles on the steppe, and by lying down on the ground I had become a specialist at picking out the ever so fine silhouette of my animals. Furthermore I usually spent the last hour or two before camp taking careful observation of the lay of the land- in particular places where horses would probably run to.
Tonight however was unique in my experience. For starters the horses were in a very stressed state of mind after the city trauma. Maybe due to this they would run much further, or until the bag finally ripped and fell off? The city lights spoilt any chance of night vision, and the traffic drowned out the sound of my horses’ bell. Since I had ridden in the dark I had no understanding of the lay of the land, or even where the local villages and homesteads were. They had run in the direction of the city suburbs where all manner of things could happen. Worst of all, this was the first time that my horses had ever disappeared with all of my equipment. I had no tent to last the cold night, no food, nothing apart from my satellite phone and a thermos. What if the horses stumbled into a village? Or onto the busy road? What if locals found the horses- there was a good chance that my horses and expedition gear to boot including computer, films, cassettes and diaries could disappear for good!
I still had Tigon at least and so we set off hurriedly. After an hour or two of fruitless searching I decided that it was hopeless though. On all sides of the intersection lay a stretch of steppe, but beyond that we were surrounded by city suburbs, a military airport, and several villages. Trying to predict where they had run had me puzzled. Tigon kept on disappearing into the night and I was sure that he knew very well where the horses were. It was too dark to keep track of him though. If only he would tell me! Reluctantly I rang poor Liudmilla. I knew she was scheduled for a very heavy day or two of work after taking so much time off to help me. She later recounted how she called Inna and told her about the situation. “Inna, just to let you know, if you thought that things with Tim had come to an end, then think again. Things are just getting started!”
She soon arrived and unexpectedly for me was followed by the local emergency services in a Russian jeep. The captain dressed in his military-style clothes stepped out and shook my hand with a concerned look. He had a neat greying moustache, and to my relief a kind smile. “Right, no problem, we will find them!” The local police wielding machine guns also turned up. They had at first thought it was a bad joke when they were called by radio and told that an Australian had lost his horses. They set off in the direction of the military airport as we began to scan the steppe in the four-wheel drive. Liudmilla and I sat in the back bouncing up and down as we rattled and swayed over uneven ground. The radio equipment crackled frequently and it seemed that the entire emergency services knew about my plight. At one stage when asked if he had found the horses the captain replied: “Well, if the horses were stuck down a well I would have found them long ago! But they have disappeared onto the steppe!” He called for reinforcements in good humour– that is more vehicles- but naturally they never came. For two or three hours we continued the search and I began to worry. Not only was I embarrassed, but beginning to come to the conclusion that perhaps the horses were stolen. We met with the police again at the road-café and over coffee discussed the possibility. They were almost sure that locals had already found the animals and taken off with everything. “Pray to God that no one has seen your horses, because in this neighbourhood you can kiss your horses goodbye. Of course it’s possible that they are still wandering about but I can guarantee that if we don’t find them by morning we will never find them.”
As it happened the police station’s only vehicle was in for repairs. They were driving their own personal Lada and had no money for petrol. I agreed to fill up their tank, and again we set off. This time I went with the police and we managed to trace the original hoof-prints of the animals. Unfortunately they disappeared at the intersection and from there it was anyone’s guess. There was one other thing that worried me. While searching by myself I had bumped into a strange figure on the road near the intersection. In the dark he came across as an unfriendly local that was probably hitch-hiking. He promised that he had not seen the horses, but as I said goodbye he tried to take Tigon from me. Fearing I could lose the dog as well I had him on a lead. Perhaps that man had something to do with the disappearance of the horses?
As the clock clicked over to midnight a thick mist set in and it genuinely seemed that everything was against us. At 2.30am we met again at the café with the Captain. His driver was now asleep at the wheel and he was looking pale and haggard. Liudmilla was a walking ghost, and as she said, the only happy one among us was Tigon. He was curled up asleep on the back seat of Liudmilla’s car. We decided that it was pointless to go on and that it would make more sense if I went to the police station and made it official- my horses had been stolen. Liudmilla agreed to take Tigon back to Astrakhan for the night while I returned to the police station. The station master was excited to meet me and in their bunk quarters- only minimally more comfortable than the holding cells- we drank tea and discussed things. They were Kazaks and had an inherent interest in horses. They seemed to sense that for me losing the animals was a real disaster but at the same time they were realistic. “Last year my brother lost 70 sheep in one night. They were stolen right from his yards. We never found a trace of them!” They argued among one another as to where I should sleep. Eventually it was decided that as I was a guest I should be offered the cleanest of all the old spring beds.
If I had indeed lost the horses I was at least in the company of people who cared.
We had slept a mere two hours when Nikolai, the most gentle of the men, woke us up. “Tim, I have had a dream, and I believe we will find the horses. In my dream I was fishing and caught a grey, red and dark coloured fish, and that is the same colours of your horses!” They all changed their mind about an official statement “Ah Tim, if you write a statement it will just sit in our tray and no one will do anything about it. And you heard Nikolai, we will find them!”
Again I filled their car with petrol and we sped off across the steppe. The mist had cleared, replaced with rain and hail. Although the shadows of night were lifting the steppe was just as empty as it had been overnight and it was now clear to me that the horses could have very easily wandered into a village. Apparently too, when livestock were stolen in the region it was usually blamed on the hungry soldiers at the airbase. This airbase was a mere kilometre from where my horses had run off. It was from here by the way that the majority of bombing missions in Chechnya set fly in the 1990’s.
After again much fruitless searching we arrived on a slight rise and paused. Nikolai got out and scanned carefully with binoculars. “Hey! Horses! I see horses! One, two…….three!” It was almost unbelievable, but as we raced closer in the car it became clear that we had found them. Still some distance we stopped and I walked on alone. Kok and Grey had already caught sight of us and began to run. At first I thought that they were again preparing to bolt when I realised that they were moving at a gallop straight for me! They came within ten metres, paused and hung their heads with miserable looking eyes, begging forgiveness. They knew that something was amiss. For starters, why hadn’t I removed their saddles or fed them grain or water? I took them by the lead ropes and tied them to a telegraph pole.
I thought it odd that Ogonyok had not joined them but soon understood why. He stood as composed as a statue and didn’t so much as blink when I approached. The terror was just too much and he had passed out into a state of shock. His lead rope was tangled around his hobbles and the saddle had flipped around onto his chest from which hung a twenty-five kilogram pack box. He could not lift his head, sit down, or move in any direction for that matter. The two-kilometre trail of gear told the story of the night. Having crossed diagonally through the intersection they seemed to have calmed down a little when suddenly something extraordinary happened- one of the ropes from which the pack-boxes were hanging snapped. This would have set Ogonyok racing again, and this time the bag –still hanging off his rear end- ripped and the contents began to fall out one by one. What’s more the uneven weight now made the saddle gradually flip over until the other monster green box was knocking back and forth under his belly. Finally the bag had fallen off and unable to move he had probably been standing like this for a good ten hours or so. Ironically we had passed within a mere fifty-metres or so of them in the emergency vehicle overnight.
Nikolai, with machine gun slung over his shoulder, approached Ogonyok. “Tim, I love horses.” With that he bent forward and kissed him on the nose. It took a good few hours to mop up and re-pack the animals. The only loss was my Petzl head torch which was insignificant compared to what could have been. The local sheriff soon greeted us and suggested that I could rest for a day or two in the nearby village of ‘Mirni.’ Today was Christmas eve and the thought of setting off again today didn’t seem worth the risk- better to stay put, let the horses regain their composure, and gather my thoughts. Patience, once again was the key to survival on this journey.
Mirni was a small village of primarily Dagestanis, Chechens, and Kazaks. In fact later on when I visited the school I was told that of the 90 or so students only one was Russian. At the front gates of a grand looking two-storey home I was met by ‘Zagir.’ Not only was he the English teacher at the school, but ran a livestock grain business. With mountains of grain on offer to the animals, the famous Caucasus hospitality, and a warm welcome we had arrived in paradise, and just in time for Christmas.
Zagir’s family and workers all gathered around and helped me unpack before inviting everyone inside for lunch. I thanked Nikolai and gave him a photo and several other little gifts from Australia. Nor he or anyone who had helped me search had ever looked down at me or tried to blame me for creating this mess. All too often you hear of authorities quick to discredit adventurers and travellers who get into trouble labelling them as irresponsible and poorly prepared. I was just so grateful that all had been so genuinely concerned for me and never pointed the finger. Of course the responsibility lay with me, but the set of circumstances had created a situation that I would never have predicted.
After lunch Liudmilla and Inna arrived. A very rested and happy looking Tigon stepped out of the car and did his stretches. He had been fed salami, canned meat and biscuits, and slept on the floor in Liudmilla’s warm city apartment! Inna was buzzing with excitement since the story was getting more and more intriguing and it was a chance to catch up again. It was all the more interesting because most people in Astrakhan were very well aware of the disaster that befell Jacques Cousteau in their region. His entire boat and motor were stolen and never recovered on the Volga near the city. He was quoted as saying “even in all my time in Africa, Asia, and South America I never had anything like this stolen!” Perhaps as Inna said this was a kind of Bermuda triangle for travellers. The next day the local television crew turned up to find out the details of this near disaster as well.
When everyone had left I crashed into sleep and was only woken late in the evening for dinner. Zagir his three children and wife sat were excited about this sudden drop in of a guest. They told me about their homeland, and a joke regarding why so many languages and cultures –about 35- live in the small republic of Dagestan.
“When God was dropping languages on the land from the sky he tried to keep the languages sparse and well distanced. As he flew over Dagestan however his bag ripped open and all manner of languages fell out!”
Christmas day, and although not a day of celebration for Russians – their Christmas being the 7th of January- a sheep was slaughtered and while the horses rested we dined on fresh meat, conserved fruit, and wine. One by one throughout the day I was introduced to nearly all of Zagir’s four sisters and seven brothers. They were all building mansions in the village and ran businesses to do with the production, transport, and selling of animal feed and hay. Zagir’s parents lived out on the steppe on a homestead still tending to herds of sheep and cattle.
I spent a lot of time with Zagir’s own children showing them photos of Australia, film of the journey and answering hundreds of questions. In the evening I called home to Australia, and to CuChullaine of the Long Riders' Guild, to let them know that everything was OK.
Like so many times during this trip I had re-found my feet thanks to the warmth and generosity of locals. No matter how many bags of gifts I went through I was indebted to so many that it boggled me to think of how much energy was required to get this caravan to Hungary.
I reflected too that one year to date I had been feasting on boiled pigeon on the frozen steppe of Kazakhstan. I had come a long way, if not in kilometres then in terms of learning and accumulated experience. The thing was to last, and not to rush, and with another three thousand kilometres or more to go and winter already setting in it was foolish to think that things were even close to being over.
Tim called to tell The Guild that he is leaving Savropolski Krai and moving into Krasnodarski Krai - he is now more than half way between the Caspian and Black Seas. One week ago he left Kalmykya and for the first time in his entire journey - more than four thousand miles - he is riding through fields and ploughed land! The local people still use horses and carts, and he feels that 700 or 800 years ago the nomads and the sedentary people must have felt pretty much the same about each other as he and those farmers do today!
Please click on the link to see photographs of this part of the journey: http://www.timcopejourneys.com/index.pl?page=2422
After many adventures, Tim is now in the Ukraine, and becoming increasingly concerned about his ability to get his brave (and very healthy) horses into Hungary, which is now part of the EU (European Union). The Long Riders' Guild is doing everything to assist this courageous young equestrian explorer.
|Tim has been named 2006
Adventurer of the Year by the Australian Geographic Society!
The brave traveller has already received the Australian Geographic's Spirit of Adventure and Young Adventurer of the Year awards, and been listed by the US magazine Outside as one of the top 25 young explorers in the world today.
Click on picture to read the document.
Tim has unexpectedly had to return to Australia because his father was tragically killed in a road accident.
June 2007 - Click here to learn the Central Asian packing secrets which Tim reveals.
August 2007 - Tim has made it to Hungary!
"Well my god,
what a time its been, nightmarish for about a month, and then late evening on
2nd of August, I rode with Taskonir, Ogonyok, and Kok, across the Tisa river and
into the hands of the Hungarian officials!
"Congratulations! And welcome to Hungary" said a senior official.
It took a great deal of diplomacy to get this far including dealing with immigration, customs, and vet controls on both sides of the border. The Ministry for culture in Ukraine, The Long Riders' Guild, The Hungarian Consulate, and Oksana Xlobas were instrumental in helping me convince authorities of the impossible, and on the Hungarian side it was orchestrated by Janos Loskas. When I arrived in his safe hands at vet controls he whispered to me:
"You are now in Hungary. Nothing can stop us now. Nothing!"
He was right, by midnight I was riding under a bright moon along a grassy path in the land of the Ciskos!!!! The last two weeks in particular have been very exhausting, and I won't try to recount the events now, but essentially I rode the horses 100km or so to the border over three days, at night dealing with bureaucracy so I hadn't slept for about four days by the time I was in Hungary. It almost fell apart the night before I was supposed to start, but another half day on the border with Slovakia and in Uzgorod and I had everything back under control.
So now I am planning the end of the journey, lifting my head up from my feet to seek out the edge of the Eurasian steppe! Its been three years and two months in the making."
Tim's ride will
end at Opusztaszer, a national heritage park on the edge of the Eurasian steppe
near the Danube river. Here there is a 1800sq metre oil painting depicting the
journey and origins of the Hungarian people from Asia to Hungary. Living in and
near the park are Hungarians with felt Yurt tents and herds of horses. At this
visually stunning and historical site, Tim will be met by the Kazakh, Mongolian,
and Australian ambassadors, a group of school children, many, many Hungarian
people from across the country, and most visually capturing a display of 100
horses with a traditional Hungarian horsemanship on show- including archery,
breathtaking tricks, and outfits dating back to the time of Genghis Khan and
On September 22 when Tim finishes this epic journey in Hungary he will have made it to the edge of the Mongol Empire, where in 1241 the Mongols were on the verge of conquering Western Europe. It was in this same year however that the great Khan (Ogodai) died and the Mongols returned home to elect a new leader, never to return with aspirations of conquering Europe again.
For Tim, just as significant is that Hungary is where the great Eurasian steppe gives way to the temperate climes and landscape of Europe. Here at the very fringe of the steppe, and therefore the end of the nomad's world, Tim can rest in the knowledge that he, like the common Mongol soldier, can pack up and go home, mission complete!
To add to a sense of History Tim arrived in geographical Europe in the 800th year celebrations of the founding of the Mongolian empire. Genghis would surely have approved!
If any Long Riders are interested in joining the mounted cavalcade which will greet Tim at the conclusion of his journey in Hungary, please contact The Guild.
Tim has successfully reached his goal and finished his ride! Congratulations, Long Rider!
|"Cope was received by officials from the Australian, Mongolian and Kazakh embassies upon his arrival. Csongrád County Council chairwoman Anna Magyar said in a welcome speech that "Cope's enterprise could set an example to all Hungarians, as this is a triumph of willpower, which sends the message that one can delve into the past to gain strength." Park director Gábor Horváth announced that a garden paying tribute to world travellers will be established.” –caboodle.hu|
"After a year of raising funds, and preparing all the documents, getting all the necessary vaccinations and blood tests, and with much help from the Loska family in Hungary, and veterinarian 'Edit Budik,' I am excited to say that Tigon, my fearless canine companion touched down in Australia today!" Tim wrote.
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