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A road less travelled

  • Published at 06:15 pm November 16th, 2016
A road less travelled

In an interview with New York Times, published in August 2015, Australian adventurer, author, film-maker, and public speaker, Tim Cope, spoke passionately about his fascination for the lifestyle of Mongolia's nomadic tribes. As an explorer and someone who is enchanted by all things to do with the great outdoors, Cope set out on his journey in the pursuit of discovering and understanding a unique way of life of “great freedom”, where “there are no boundaries” and “anything is possible”.

In 2004, inspired by a desire to understand the nomadic way of life, Cope embarked on a remarkable journey on horseback. On a journey that took equestrian long-riding to the extreme, Cope spent three years and four months to become the first person in modern times to follow Genghis Khan’s march from Mongolia to Hungary. He travelled 6,000 miles across the Eurasian steppe from Mongolia, through Kazakhstan, Russia, and the Ukraine, to Hungary.

From novice rider to travelling three years in the saddle, accompanied by his Kazakh dog, Tigon, Cope learnt to fend off wolves and horse-thieves, and grapple with the extremes of the steppe as he crossed sub-zero plateaux, the scorching deserts of Kazakhstan and the high-mountain passes of the Carpathians.

Five years in the making, On the Trail of Genghis Khan is Tim’s personal story of adventure, endurance –and at times tragedy-, and eventual triumph. Intelligently written, it is a narrative full of romance, history, and drama that ultimately celebrates the nomadic way of life —its freedom, its closeness to the land, its animals, and moods. In 2013, Cope's book was the recipient of the Grand Prize at the Banff International Mountain Film and Book Festival and in 2014 was shortlisted for the non fiction category of the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA).

Cope was born in 1978 and raised in Gippsland, Victoria, the eldest of four children. His father, Andrew, an outdoor educator, often took Tim and his siblings on bushwalks, ski and kayaking trips, instilling in them a love and respect for the bush.

In 1998–99, Cope set out with fellow Australian Chris Hatherly, on an ambitious expedition to ride recumbent bicycles from Moscow to Beijing, where the duo encountered Siberian forests, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and Chinese bureaucracy before rolling into Tiananmen Square, 14 months and 10,000 kilometres later. He later went on to write articles, a book as well as a film about his Moscow to Beijing cycle expedition

In 2001, Cope embarked upon yet another expedition, with three others, this time on a five-metre boat, which they repaired by themselves. They rowed 4200 kilometres down the Yenisey River, from Lake Baikal in Siberia, north to the Arctic Ocean. It was during this gruelling expedition that Cope realised he measured the success of his adventures by how much he learned about the local people and their environment.

Tim Cope has earned both Young Adventurer of the Year and Adventurer of the Year awards from the Australian Geographic Society, and Adventurer of the Year from National Geographic. His books and films have inspired audiences worldwide.

5 questions with Tim Cope

  1. Favourite method of travel.

Travelling by horse and camel for me was a way to connect to the landscape, people and their culture, and in a way allowed me to transcend the modern era.

  1. Most bizarre food you've tasted on your travels

To start with, eating the head of a camel or horse, or boiled intestines was very difficult but over time I came to understand that out on the steppe, the miracle of life is that animals can transform what little grass is available in to meat and fat – which in turn supports human life.

  1. What you're reading right now

I just started reading Richard Flannagan’s narrow road to the deep north.

  1. Favourite travel song

You Will Become by Glen Hansard – just love this song, not just for travel but generally.

  1. One thing you can't travel without

My diary.