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Border preparations, Tigon puts an ear in the works...(14/7/07)

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For the Mongols, at the time being led by Batu Khan, the great last barrier between them and Hungary was the Carpathians. What the Mongols
didn't have to deal with were veterinary customs, border guards, and a
society that had forgotten about horses as a way of traveling. Of
course I don't have to fight my way across the steppe, but I don't
have an army either!

In the last two weeks, the final stage of the journey after more than
three years is coming into focus. After doing the rounds of the vet
customs on the Ukrainian side, I went to Hungary on Wednesday to meet
with the president of the horse tourism association, Janos. Janos has
been guiding horse rides around Hungary for 25 years and so I was very
lucky to have his support (he had driven four hours from his home not
far from Budapest just to see me). After a rush of phone calls we met
with the vet at the Hungarian border post and went through all of the
requirements so that I can be accepted into Hungary with my horses. In
the confines of a calm and well ordered customs building I could only
feel that I was in paradise compared to the vagueness and chaos of the
equivalent authorities in Kazakhstan and Russia. Here at least people
knew the rules, and could find out what they didn't know....but more
important is that in the Ukraine and Hungary the officials have a much
more helpful attitude (in Russia particularly the Soviet era has left
a legacy of 'no can do' and 'I don't want to know you or help you'
among government agencies).

I arrived back in Uzgorod, Ukraine, feeling like the final plans were
finally being laid down. Hungary had always been just so far away, so
unreachable and I felt like I was in a dream. That night Oksana (the
owner of the horse stable where my horses are) and I drove in her
soviet jeep back up to the mountains and nearing midnight we managed
to take blood samples from all of my horses. At five in the morning we
left the horses and I had a delightful meeting with the Hungarian
consu, Tomme, in Uzgorod where I briefed him about my journey and
presented him with a letter from the Long Riders Guild . Hungary is a
nation with a proud nomad history and rich horse culture that has
always been a blend of the east and the west. Being my usual clumsy
self I managed to knock over my cup of green tea during our meeting
and it happened to spill onto my passport. The consul joked that I now
have official Hungarian tea stamp in my papers!

I forgot to mention that Tigon has put a spanner in the works at the
last minute. At the forest lodge where he is staying he has fallen in
love with an Old German shepherd who is really more of a mother to
him. One of the forest workers however recently brought up a huge
Slovakian shepherd dog. Tigon, very offended by this competitor of
course, was soon in a fight even though 'Bimba' the Slovak was twice
his size. By the time Pasha (Bimba's owner) and I had pulled the two
dogs apart there was a mess of blood all over the place. Bimba was
bleeding from above the eye, the neck, nose and mouth. I inspected
Tigon to discover that there was an inch rip in his left ear! At first
we hoped it would heal istelf, but after several days it was open and
bleeding again and so earlier this week we raced him down the mountain
to a vet clinic in Uzgorod. Looking quite bedazzled by the city and
sudden change of environment he lay down on the vets operating table
thinking this was a special place where we had gathered to scratch and
rub him! Little did he know that he was about to have his ear stitched
up, and without anesthetic. A little subdued and sorry afterwards
Tigon spent the night with me in an apartment in Uzgorod on the ninth
floor sprawled out on the carpet. By lunch time the next day he had
forgotten all about the operation and was again running around in the
forest and following every move of the old German Shepherd dame.
On Thursday after putting the horse blood on ice I took an overnight
train to Kiev, and yesterday delivered it to the EU approved
laboratory for the last blood tests required for veterinary documents
to cross the border.

On Tuesday this coming week the blood analysis results will be ready
and I will be able to make my way back to Uzgorod and prepare for the
final days of riding in the Ukraine.

At this stage, it looks as if my expected date of arrival and finish
in Hungary will be around 20-25th of September. Anyone in Europe, or
interested in coming to join the festivities at the end, stay tuned
for concrete details in the coming week.

Tim



MOST RECENTLY SUPPLIED GPS COORDINATES

Latitude: 48° 30 Min. 22 Sec.

Longitude: 23° 30 Min. 34 Sec.

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