Epic adventure following nomads
Australian Tim Cope had ridden a horse once in his life. He was seven-years-old, it threw him and he broke his arm. Hardly an ideal background for a three-year nomadic horse trek across the Eurasian steppe.
But after his first glimpse of the nomadic cultures of Mongolia while riding a bike across the deserted land, he was determined to give it a shot.
‘‘We were pushing our bikes along these miserable tracks that had a predetermined kind of path and these nomads would appear from nowhere. They would come galloping over and disappear.
‘‘It just dawned on me they had an approach to life where there were no boundaries, no fences, no such thing as private property.’’
He found the lifestyle intriguing – living in gurs, or collapsible tents, with only a couple of inches protecting them from climate conditions as extreme as minus-50 in winter and 50-plus in summer.
On his return home he dropped his law degree, studied up on nomadic culture and prepared for an epic trip.
In June 2004 he set off on his journey, 10,000km from Mongolia to Hungary by horse – a journey that eventually took him more than three years and led him on a deep journey into the fabric of nomad society on the Eurasian steppe including Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea and the Ukraine.
He collected 137 hours of film and eventually created his award winning documentary series The Trail of Genghis Khan, and spent four years writing his book On The Trail of Genghis Khan, An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads.
At this year’s Mountain Film Festival he will share his story and behind the scenes footage from his documentary.
‘‘You have to remember that Western culture perception of Nomadism has been completely determined by this belief that Nomadic people are fringe dwellers, pushed to edges,’’ he said.
‘‘In a place like Mongolia, Nomadic culture is the dominant way of life and it’s successful. Nomads are very well to do. Some of them have thousands of animals. the children are well educated – they go to cities and universities.’’
However, much of that was changing with the discovery and development of mining resources.
In 2011 Mongolia was the fastest growing economy in the world due to international mining investments. Growth was almost triple China but there was huge inflation. People began to aspire to a new way of life with a Landcruiser and a house in the city rather than a herd of horses.
However, he did not believe it was inevitable the nomadic way of life would peter out.
Nomadism was still protected in the constitution of Mongolia.
‘‘It’s a living part of our heritage,’’ he said.
Wht a view: Tim Cope, on his Mongolian mount, Rusty, surveys Khokh Nuur (Blue Lake) near the 9840 foot high pass between Kharkhiraa and Turgen Uul in Western Mongolia.
In transit: A proud nomad leads her caravan down from the Kharkhiraa-Turgen Uul massif to the plains for autumn camp in Western Mongolia.