The Trail of Ghengis Khan

  • Director: Tim Cope
  • Producer: Richard Dennison

Three years, four summers, and three winters on in the saddle, Tim has travelled across a kaleidoscope of countries and conditions- including Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Southern Russia, Ukraine and Hungary- in what has become an odyssey reminiscent of a bygone era of exploration and true adventure. At many times, such as when he was invited to meet the deputy prime minister of the republic of Kalmikia and in Crimea welcomed into the Khan’s palace with his horses, he was compared to a modern day Marco Polo.

Nomads live in particularly extreme and dramatic landscapes, and these have been a feature, and inspiration throughout Tim’s journey. Often navigating with just compass and GPS, Tim and his horses have traversed high ice capped Altai mountains, snowy arctic-like wilderness on the ‘Starving Steppe’ of Kazakhstan, Camel country in the burning heat of Kazakhstan deserts, the spectacular black sea coast on Crimea, the forested craggy peaks of the Carpathians and finally the plains of Hungary where the Eurasian Steppe gives way to the temperate climate of Europe.

Experiences among nomads, and sometimes in extreme isolation, have ranged from horse stealing on three occasions, temperatures ranging from -50 to +54 celsius, bungled bureaucracy and delicate diplomacy on national borders, more than 160 families who have invited him into their homes, and a constant struggle to find grass and water for his caravan.

In the searing summer he traveled only at night with the addition of a camel, while in winter he struggled to travel in the few daylight hours when the temperature rose marginally. At one stage he was stuck in no mans land between Kazakhstan and Russia in a bureaucratic battle that eventually lasted almost six weeks. A mix of diplomacy and perseverance allowed him to get through this struggle and many others, and as a result Tim’s caravan still includes two horses that have struggled and pulled Tim through from the distant Altai.

For ABC.
Running time: 187 mins

Memory and traces of the Mongols in Europe have been many and intriguing. Among the hutsuls- a mountain people of the Carpathians- he came across herds of horses that are renowned as the mounts left behind after the Mongols returned to their homeland.

Although you could fly the distance from Mongolia to Hungary in a matter of hours -and with the border problems that Tim experienced it would have been admittedly faster to walk- it is not time or distance that is a measure of Tim’s journey, but the rich experiences, hundreds of special people, and rare insights that would not have been possible by travelling in any other way. Incidentally, one Kazakh, upon learning on how long Tim had been travelling remarked: ‘Well thank god then that Ghengis Khan didn’t travel by turtle!’

The journey and not the destination has never been more important.

  • $35.00