Epic ad­ven­ture fol­low­ing no­mads

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

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.

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