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(CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES & CHECK THE IMAGE GALLERY FOR RELATED PHOTOS) It was supposed to be an early night, and I was supposed to get up at 3am to beat the heat and ride 40km to the town of Stari Krim. Yet as often happens in this part of the world the first two bottles of vodka had only just been finished when dinner was served at 11pm. The fresh vodka that had been cooling in the pond outside had not even been opened. It was to be my send off from the horse farm of Argamak, and guests –as happened almost every day at Argamak in fact- appeared from all directions of the horizon. There was Seryoga and Andrukha who had come to shoe my horses during the day, Ponchuk from the Ukraine with his friends, Max, a Bashkir farmer from the steppe, and Maksim from Semfiropol. Ira, the owner of the farm, and Sanya her right hand worker, had become my good friends over the course of a month since first arriving in the Crimea. Their open door policy with a constant flow of guests had always made me feel at home. After Tigon’s recovery from being kicked in early June, my trip to Sevastopol to arrange logistics, (plus spending time on the coast collecting mussels with my friends Sascha and Natasha!), it was time to move on. I must say that by Russian and Ukrainian standards it is very unusual for the owner of a horse farm to live on site like Ira does, and what’s more that the owner be a woman. Until Perestroika soviet rule forbade people from owning their own horses and so Ira’s dream to develop a high standard horse stud was only realised in the 1990’s. She started with just two horses, and lived in the back of a car for three years. All of her first horses were eventually stolen in the 1990s during the ‘bandit era’ and many times she started over. The first stables became a home for the horses, and then for her. Her living quarters and workshop today is in fact a former horse stable. There were many times when she went hungry whilst all money raised from taking people riding on the beach in summer went to buying grain for the horses and looking after them. She now has 29 head of horses and a new set of luxurious stables that are far more comfortable than her own living quarters. Her story is one repeated across the former Soviet Union where people are trying to develop a horse sport culture from scratch. One girl told me of her misfortune near Moscow where she used to run a horse farm. One night the entire farm went up in flames. Nineteen horses died, two workers at the farm were burnt alive, her dog, and all equipment were lost. Officially the police said that the fire was started by a stove, yet there had never been a stove in the stables. Later she discovered however that it was mafia, and her lawyer suggested that it was better not to look into it further or she would certainly be murdered. Of course the mafia wanted access to the land which had just been leased on a 49 year contract. To this day this kind of intimidation exists although things are a little more stable- former bandits now have legitimate power. Anyway, I did my best at avoiding the vodka and at midnight collapsed in the guest room adjacent the stables. At 4am I was woken by a very groggy looking Andrukha. Andrukha is a stocky man with an iron-stiff posture and ever-present grin. A proud Cossack, he grew up with horses as a child and is renowned in the region as a proficient farrier. “Hey Tim, its time to get up and move! Seryoga has gone fishing.” I stumbled out of the stables where Andrukha had already collapsed on the haystack. Seryoga sat by the pond looking as grey as the predawn hues. He held the fishing rod and stared blankly to the horizon as if in a kind of meditation. They had clearly not slept at all and the pyramid of empty vodka bottles told a familiar story. I began to brush and saddle the horses when suddenly Andrukha rose from the hay groaning in agony. He had a problem with a slipped disc in his back and a pinched nerve. His painkillers had worn off. With minimum dexterity –vodka syndrome- he produced a glass ample of fresh painkiller and drew it into a syringe before injecting himself in the butt. Feeling a little weakened by the sight I worked faster and by sunrise had managed to pack everything to leave. Seryoga and Ira’s daughter, Lera, were to accompany me to Stari Krim by horse. Despite no sleep and the multi-gallons of vodka Seryoga somehow climbed onto his horse, Zera, and with that we waved goodbye. By 9am the heat was into the thirties and with no shade the horses began to suffer. Seryoga wore just an old pair of cavalry pants and holey runners and rode bareback on the bony spine of his malnourished horse. In this fashion we rode more than 40km to Stari Krim. Over the next three weeks I would come to know Seryoga very well, and this very rough lifestyle had moulded a man who was more comfortable sleeping on rocks than a mattress. A forestry worker he later accompanied me for 10 days of mountains and forest, and besides during a storm on a high plateau never agreed to sleep in the tent. Stari Krim is a pleasant town of old wooden and stone homes riddled with narrow unpaved streets. Nestled into a mountain valley of Oak Forest it comes across as a sleepy unassuming place, and much smaller than it actually is. Throughout the town there is evidence of old cobbled paths, and the remains of ancient mosques and living quarters for merchants who used to travel this part of the silk road. At one time Stari Krim was actually the capital of the Crimean Khaanate before it was moved to better known Bakhchisarai. Since the Crimean Tatars were allowed to return to their homeland in 1989 a considerable community of Tatars now live in the town and have restored a 14th century mosque back to working condition. In the evening at Seryoga’s parent’s home the call to prayer could be heard echoing up the valley. We had only just unsaddled and freshened up after arrival in Stari Krim when we harnessed one of Andrukha’s horses and set off in a rickety old wagon to the other end of town. As night fell the mountain air came rushing down fresh and cold, there were no hint of mosquitoes like out on the steppe and the stars came to life with the rhythm of clopping hooves. The feeling of gliding along at this pace in the shadow of tangible history is something I will never forget. I planned to stay in Stari Krim for three days whilst researching the route ahead and getting to know the region. Seryoga agreed to travel with me to help pick a path through the thick forest and up onto the high plateaus where nomads used to take their animals during the summer. So good is the pasture on the Crimean mountain plateaus that in earlier times nomads from as far as Moldavia, 800km distant, used to make the trip with their animals. After dark I travelled with Andrukha’s son, Vanya, up into higher pasture to let the horses free to graze. Between Andrukha, Seryoga and friends they had a herd of around twenty horses, and agreed to have my horses graze among them. The following day we spent five hours of course searching for my steeds which had separated from the herd and made for the forest. After this episode though they adjusted to the herd and it was always a pleasure to take them up to the green grass at night, and greet them after dawn. One morning Andrukha’s herd broke free and with Vanya we managed to chase them down to the town riding at full gallop on my horses without saddle or bridles. This opportunity to let the horses free and ride without the hindrance of heavy luggage is a luxury that I had not had the privilege of until now. Three days became a week in a world where time is not necessarily money, and what had to be done today can always be done tomorrow. I took the horses on trips to a 13th century Armenian monastery in the forest, up onto the slopes of Agarmish, and made an excursion to the ancient coastal port of Sudak. Here the fortress can still be seen that was built to keep nomads from raiding, and in the most breaking the slave trade which the Genovese were actively involved in. A tangle of ancient roads, some from roman times, can be found in this deep oak forest headed south over the mountains to the various Crimean trading ports. In actual fact I was waiting mostly for Seryoga to finish his work so that we could leave. He seemed to be spiralling though into a drunken depression and I was on the verge of leaving by myself. He had worked for two years without any leave or holidays for the forestry department at a rangers hut 13km away in the forest. The hut could only be accessed by horse and foot, and during the two years he had had limited access to his daughter and former wife, and had begun to drink heavily. For his trouble he received around $50 per month, and actually the main responsibility of his job had nothing to do with forestry protection. The boss of the forestry department had a herd of cows illegally grazing in the forest reserve and Seryoga was purely a cheap shepherd. Seryoga (by the way his proper name is Sergei) had long decided that self-resignation was the solution and every day we went down to the forestry department with his resignation notice rolled up in his pocket. On the way though he always managed to down a couple of bottles of beer and go through a packet of cigarettes. Every day the boss of the department was missing, and the secretary continued to tell us that he had no right to self-resign without the signature of the boss. It became clear that the boss was purposely avoiding Seryoga. On the trip home Seryoga would buy more beer and by the time he arrived he was again in a daze. This worried his parents greatly as it did me- he was a very well intentioned fellow who seemed to be sinking further and further. Once he disappeared for a day and a half. As it turned out he had run out of money and walked 40km to the coast to shoe ten horses for a horse excursion company. He walked back by foot the next day and by the time he arrived home he had spent almost half of the money he had earned on grog and cigarettes. His forearm was ripped to shreds after a horse had kicked with a nail half banged in. My patience was running thin, and what’s more, living with him and associating with Russians I felt totally barred from communicating with Tatars. Although many argue that they have no prejudice against Tatars there is an overriding disrespect and ignorance of Tatar religion, culture, and way of life. Comments such as the following could be heard commonly among the Russians with whom I associated in Stari Krim: “Oh they only came back to Crimea because their parents forced them to.” “They are asking for land on the south coast, yet they were just steppe people.” “Do you really think that Stalin deported them for nothing?” “Culture? What culture? They are just invaders from Mongolia.” “In general Tatars are just a bad nationality….actually their nationality doesn’t exist.” I always had the feeling that my interest in Tatar culture alone was offensive for many Russians. The moment I began to speak about them or show interest I am often told: “But why are you defending them?” I personally felt unwelcome by Tatars in Stari Krim since they mistook me for being Russian and were clearly adjusted to this constant patronization. The time in Stari Krim did give me the chance to get to know the region and deal with never ending problems with veterinary documents. I was the guest of a Tajik (who had admittingly defected from Islam to Orthodox Christianity- other wise he wouldn’t have been in Andrukha and Seryoga’s circle of friends), and just about all of Andrukha’s neighbours. Then just as my patience had run threadbare I managed to get Seryoga into action. He found an ex-prisoner who was prepared to look after the cows in the forest, and so finally we packed and left. By the time we had packed my horses and he had laid a beautiful goatskin over his saddle he seemed to come back to life. We had however made it just a kilometre or two when suddenly he turned and galloped back the other way. Of course he came back with a bottle of beer that he had somehow already half skulled at a full gallop! This alcoholism is something that I have very little patience for, yet in this kind of village it is unfortunately the norm, and if Seryoga did not join me I would have been forced to travel along a main road and miss the main section of the Crimean highlands. With a basic map and compass we began to make our way through deep forest, up gullies that fell away into hidden streams, and further beyond any hint of roads and people. Our first camp was ideal. We found a small meadow for the horses and slept next to a fresh water spring in the forest. The cold air that rose from the spring kept the mosquitoes at bay and there was an ever so slight creaking that came from above in the forest canopy. This was all so far removed from the open steppe where such shelter is beyond imagination. Our second day would prove to be one of the trickiest. Climbing through mountains similar to the Australian Alps we often had to hack away fallen trees to get the horses through. The web of gullies, spurs, and ever-denser forest made it impossible to know where we were. After eight hours in the saddle we had almost given ourselves up as lost when we came across a tiny meadow. Here we found an old memorial to Partisan fighters from WW2. The name of the partisan brigade coincided with a ridge name on the map! From here we found a very old disused path that headed in the direction of the village of Zemlyanichnoye. The trees became larger and the broken light that reached the forest floor was as symbolic as the rays that reach the deep ocean bottom. Despite the intense heat, it was cool down here- we were in a different world. To my left a shadow, a glint of red, and a mountain deer springs and jumps away, scuttling up a rocky gully. Tigon is in paradise roaming the forest endlessly, coming in to us now and then just to touch base. For three more days we pushed through this forest, every now and then dropping into a village before disappearing again into the forest. Seryoga had sobered up and was enjoying this travel and just being in the forest. Physically he was a very tough looking man with a broad scarred face. In a horse accident he had lost the good part of his front teeth and this made him look much older than his 35 years of age. I had decided to give him a pair of riding chaps and a lead rope as a gift and I could tell how he admired his new possessions. He talked continually about horses, particularly about his ‘Zera’ who was apparently a well known character in the village. For years he had made a living cutting illegal firewood in the mountains and dragging it down with Zera in a cart. His parents had moved to Crimea from Arkhangelsk Oblast in far north Russia, and by the glow of a fire at night Seryoga talked about his dream to ride horses from Crimea to his relatives far north of Moscow. Yet it was clear that if he continued on this path of drinking he wouldn’t live long enough to even saddle up for Russia. On the fourth evening we descended into the village of Krasnoselovka. There was however no shop, and so after buying half a loaf of bread from a Babushka we began the steepest push of the trip so far up to the Karabi Jalaiu. At around sunset though we had been in the saddle for more than 12 hours and we were lost. The map simply did not coincide with reality. One path crossed a deep canyon that was impossible for the horses. Another descended into a valley to the south, and the third road seemed to double back. We made camp and feeling rather exhausted fell to sleep by the fire. I woke before my alarm at 4am and at once knew something was wrong. A quick search in the murky greys of the forest determined that two horses were missing. In thongs and thermals I set off downhill and sent Seryoga in the opposite direction. A kilometre below I found hoof prints that seemed to suggest that both Darkie and Kok had made a run for it. I returned, downed half a can of sardines and set off on Ogonyok. I will never know how or why, but the horses had in fact descended to the valley below, crossed a bridge and were heading towards the coast by the time I found them! Fortunately the sun had still not risen though and so locals had not had a chance to steal them. Eventually I made my way back to camp where Seryoga was pulling out ticks from Tigon. Kok had since stepped on my hiking boots, ripping apart the toe of the already poor tired things, I had lost a pair of hobbles and was generally feeling pretty low. “Tim! Whether you like it or not, you have to sit and rest for a little- you haven’t sat still since we left five days ago! Just look at you!” Perhaps he was right. In any case after a quick nap we loaded up and headed on foot again upwards. Here we decided to make our own path and for the next few hours lead the animals through this ever-consuming forest. Ogonyok and Kok roamed free, often bashing their way through bushes and constantly breaking branches. Ogonyok was now called ‘Tank’ or ‘Bulldozer.’ As long as he had will it seemed there was no tree that could stop him. Again the spur seemed to turn south and it seemed that we were destined not to make it onto the Karabi Jalaiu. Then came light through the trees- the forest edge- and we made our way blinking into sunlight. We had made it to the plain! From here you could look down these cavernous gullies that dropped into thick forest to a backdrop of mountains upon mountains. Once again it reminded me strongly of the Australian Alps. With the cool air and thick grass we made camp by a spring and I made my way by foot up to the surrounding peaks. Over the next three days of travelling the plain I was struck time and time again by this open plateau- a piece of lush steppe it seemed frozen in the time of Spring when everything is dripping with moisture and greenery. To the north the plateau dropped away to hazy plains, whilst to the south dramatic cliffs sent views tumbling down to the Black Sea. It was easy to imagine where nomads would have made their camps- reliant of course on water, and how the sound of children laughing and singing must have once upon a time rung out across the mountains in summer evenings. For Seryoga the scene was rather less romantic. We had almost run out of food entirely, but worst for him, this was his second day without cigarettes. The following day we rested the horses. “Nothing to eat! Nothing to drink! No cigarettes to smoke! There is nothing to do but sleep!” And sleep did Seryoga, curled up under a dirty horse blanket, knocked out like a marmot in hibernation. As our food supplies reduced to some peanuts that had been in my boxes for more than twelve months, some old Kazakh dried curd, and some dried Reindeer meat from Sweden (also in my boxes for a year and a half after being given it as a gift in London 2005), our spirits seemed to lift. Seryoga and I had found a common language- or perhaps that is I had tapped into his rather abstract grasp of Russian swearing- and we found ourselves in laughter half of the time. He was determined that he would even travel with me all the way to Bakchisarai. Eventually we made our way to the Meteorogical Station on the plateau where I had arranged for my friends Sascha, Natasha, and Maksim to meet me for food and a day of riding. As the sun set though they had not arrived. We made tea from local herbs and ate cold rolled oats- the petrol on my stove had also run out. A little intoxicated by the occasion I decided to gallop on Blackie along a rocky ridge. Right there in front of the station though the saddle blanket began to slip out from under me. I had nor bridle or saddle and for just the second time in the entire trip I found myself falling rapidly to earth. My elbow and hips dug nicely into some stones as blackie raced forward and then bolted back to my camp. Seryoga who was out searching for mushrooms had watched the whole thing and looked on in amusement. “Yeah, it happens!” I stood up shakily, then sat down again very quickly feeling faint. How stupid had I been. I was very lucky and have since basically recovered apart from a sprained forearm. At around 8pm my friends arrived with supplies and we feasted into the night on tinned meat and macaroni. Seryoga on the other hand quickly shot through a handful of fresh cigarettes and retired to his horse blanket under the stars. Two more days and we made our way down to the village of Aromatnoe to be met by Ivan, an owner of a fledgling horse farm housed in the old cowsheds of a collective farm. Nearby in Zelenogorsk we witnessed a herd of almost 400 Bashkiri horses. During the soviet era there had been a herd of around 900, all kept especially for the production of fermented mare’s milk. After perestroika the director of the collective farm had begun selling off the animals for meat until there was an order from Kiev which halted the slaughter. Today fermented mare’s milk is still produced and sold to sanatoriums across the Crimea. In Aromatnoe I washed and shaved, and by morning was in the city of Semfiropol with the deputy minister for culture, Ismet Zaatov, trying to work out problems with my visa extension and arranging a press conference. Ismet himself dealt with the same prejudice that most Tatars have encountered, especially in the 80s and early 90’s- denied jobs, denied legal registration in the Crimea, and sometimes aggressive confrontations. His role as cultural minister now is to develop a consciousness and return to traditional culture of the original inhabitants of the Crimea- the various Tatars, and Judas groups. I returned to Aromatnoe and the following day we headed to the mountains, in late evening descending to the village of Perevalnoye. There I was told that a man called ‘Edem’ was to meet me. After dark we came down a steep rocky slope and found his farm to be met with handshakes and smiles all around. Feeling a little exhausted after nine hours in the saddle we were then sitting outside feeding the horses grain when a truck suddenly arrived. It so happened that Edem had been building a little hotel on the farm for two years. Out of this truck climbed several people hauling a new bed, linen, table and chairs, and light bulbs. This was all so that I could have the honour of being the first guest of the hotel! There was a sense of warmness and humour among all of these men that I immediately understood- it reminded me strongly of my time in Kazakhstan where hospitality took the preference over everything, even if the guest was a total stranger. The following two days I spent in Semfiropol where a press conference was run with around thirty correspondents. I also spent half a day in the Television studios of Tatar television which is a channel with many programs run purely in Tatar language. The director told me of recent conflicts in the town of Bakchasarai. In this town, (the former capital of the Crimean Khaanate) a market square had been built on the site of the holy graves of several Crimean Tatar leaders and their families. Since the early 90s Tatars had been lobbying to have the market moved so that the site could be restored. Two years ago the director agreed to move the market and was given funding and a new place for the market. However instead of preparing to move he began to build up the site more. This year local Tatars then formed a picket protest at the market. Essentially the director then hired thugs who came to the market and a fight broke loose. There have been several conflicts, but from Islam’s point of view (the TV director) there is a heavy prejudice against Tatars. As an example, one Tatar who apparently attacked a Russian cameraman and broke his lens is now sitting nine years in gaol. The director of the Tatar TV was also filming in Bakchasarai recently when he was attacked by a Russian and his camera was also broken- yet this was totally ignored by police. Back at Edem’s place I came to know him and his family very well. As a communications expert he had come to Crimea in 1980 from Uzbekistan to look for work. His parents had told him stories from childhood about their homeland, and out of this principle he was determined to live in Crimea despite a law against Crimean Tatars living in Crimea. At first he was offered a job in the city of Sudak, but when they saw his passport which stated his nationality as a Tatar, he was refused the job and the authorities were informed. Constantly fined and arrested by police after this he left to Kherson province of Ukraine where he began breeding a kind of musk rat, from which he made fur hats for sale. He earned enough money during one year from this business to buy a car and so he returned to Crimea. In the city of Kerch he became friendly with the head of a local council, a former Russian air force pilot. This man decided that the discrimination against tatars was wrong, and against protocol actually gave Edem residential registration. Edem also bought a house from this man, but it was not long before Edem’s house was confiscated and Edem was again in gaol. The Russian man who had helped was also arrested, and upon release he fled to the Cauacasus in Russia. Edem was held in gaol for five days before he was released. His registration had been cancelled, and so now the police had an official reason to re-arrest him. Edem fled, and for three years lived in the mountains herding sheep. “I just didn’t want to see anyone, didn’t want anyone to know about me. Compared to other Tatars I was lucky you see- I have blue eyes and fair hair, and so I wasn’t initially suspected as a Tatar.” Until 1989 when Tatars were officially allowed to return, there were a total of 7000 Crimean Tatars living in the Crimea, and more than half lived like Edem without any legal status. The majority of Tatars lived in Uzbekistan to where Stalin had them deported by official decree on the 18th of May 1944. After 1985 Edem married and in 1989 began to arrange for his parents and brothers to move to the Crimea from Uzbekistan. Edem’s mother has kind, pale eyes and greets me at home in Tatar language. “Tim, I can tell you a story to fill a whole book.” She recalls the 18th of May 1944 vividly. Her father was away at war, and her mother was working in a camp somewhere. Then suddenly her grandmother one morning gathered her and her brothers. “C’mon children, they are taking us!” Without even having enough time to take food or clothing all the tatars from her village in the region of Bakchasarai were herded to the train station and squeezed into wagons. For two weeks or so the train trip in appalling conditions took them to the end of the world as far as they were concerned- to Uzbekistan in central Asia. “Along the way people, many people died. I remember one lady screaming as she gave birth in the wagon and then died of blood loss. At various stages the train stopped and soldiers opened the wagons. ‘Right, dead bodies are to be thrown out!’ These bodies were thrown out onto the steppe without any kind of burial, and still we were given no food or water.” In Uzbekistan they were overcome by heat and lack of food. After a few months, her mother somehow also came to Uzbekistan and found them. All but Edem’s grandmother and one brother were still alive though. Three brothers had already died of starvation. “And then we could only survive by eating grass, and sometimes following herds of sheep and finding the odd grain of wheat. I would crush it up in my hand and eat it. Then one day when my brother and I were out searching for wheat and grass two men came on horses with sticks and guns. I was only ten years old you see, I couldn’t do anything but hide in a hole and cover it with desert plants. I watched from the hole as they chased my brother- he was only 14. Then he began screaming, and they were hitting him, and hitting him, and dragging him, and I was 10 and could do nothing. Eventually I ran home, but in the morning we found my brother dead. He had been knocked unconscious by the men, and then shot in the head. I was the only surviving member of my family.” Like all Tatars she then grew up in Uzbekistan, married, and raised her family. All this time she dreamed of her home, of going home, of the apple trees, sea, mountains and forest of the Crimea. When by chance Edem went to Crimea as a soldier in the 1970’s he took an apple and eventually brought it home to Uzbekistan. The apple was sliced up and divided up among the family. Then in 1989 Tatars were allowed to return. “It was a dream to return, just a dream. I had the feeling that I was coming back to meet my brothers and sisters and mother and father, everyone who I had lost. I found the house where I had lived in as a child. I never expected to have my house back, but you know it was so cruel- the Russians in that house wouldn’t even let me drink water from the well. A well that my grandfather dug! Even nowadays I go back to the village every year for a few weeks. I am going back there next week actually.” Nowadays of course Edem’s family lives very well. From a homeless shepherd, he now owns more than 500 sheep, forty horses, goats, cattle, and has many plans. They have been through so much, and still today it is them that are subtly persecuted. There are Russians who refuse to shake hands, to greet tatars. Many make fun of their religion and in general are very cynical. No one wants to believe it seems that tatars returned to Crimea with good intentions. Down near Edem’s farm I spent a day with a group of people living in a tent by the main road to Yalta. For four months this army tent has been set up and manned by Tatars demanding land rights. Right across the fields are thousands of piled up bricks, as a show of force- that these Tatars are sick of broken promises and are ready to claim land and build themselves. The tents are manned by 24 hour shifts of all the families making claims to the land. In the 1990s the government promised to provide homes and land to Tatars, yet the few apartments and homes given were only symbolic. Instead of giving away land of course the government is more willing to sell it to developers for big money. Many believe that the government has purposely delayed the handing over of land so that they will have time to sell off all the good land first. “If that happens, our right to have land will be lost forever” says Ruslan, a boot maker from the village of Zarechnoye. Of course many argue that these people will take the land, build a house and sell it on for profit anyway. Even Edem believes that a great percentage of these people are abusing the system, and funnily enough it is not just Tatars claiming land, but Russians, greek, Ukranians, and jews. One man in Perevalnoye has a unique background as a high profile Tatar of the Soviet Union. Rustyem Kazakov won his first Olympic Gold medal in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and went on to win three world championships in wrestling. As a Tatar who grew up in urban Tashkent, he travelled the world as a young man in the 1960’s and 1970’s in a time when officially Tatars were not allowed exit from the USSR at all. Only two months ago he retired as coach of the National and Olympic Russian wrestling team and is now living in the Crimea. “I wouldn’t live in Moscow again for a million dollars! The air, the land, my homeland, there is nothing better.” He tells me as he guides me through his own little museum of hundreds of medals and awards. He even gives me the privilege of holding his Munich Olympic Gold medal, and his world champion medal from Argentina. As a man who has had to represent his country and his people he is very carefully worded. “Even though I was a Tatar, and many Tatars were proud that I was the first among them to win gold at an Olympics, among sportsmen nationality does not matter, and it should not matter in society now. Every country has its culture and way of life, and they are all rich. I believe that it is our politicians and governments that are stirring up these racial problems, because among simple people, we just help each other regardless of nationality.” It is a complex issue of course. The Russian attitudes to Tatars are due to a heavily propagandised education system beginning from the days of Stalin. Many Russians incorrectly believe that Tatars were invaders and were never from Crimea in the first place, and that in actual fact the ‘Crimean Tatar’ nationality does not exist. In general Slavonic people have adopted the view that all former steppe people were slave traders who came to pillage, burn and rape. Then of course politics in Crimea is further tensioned because of the Ukranian government’s decision to break off friendly relations with Russia. Russians not only see Tatars as threatening their way of life, but are afraid that ‘Ukrainisation’ will lead to the deterioration of their Russian culture. It is a tense place politically and as a result you can see constant demonstrations by small interest groups. Some want Russian language to be the second language of Ukraine, others want land, so don’t want Nato, others do, some want the Russian navy out if Crimea, and others want it to stay. A microcosm of the chaotic way things really work can be found at Edem’s farm. Nearby there is a trail leading to the famous ‘Red Cave’ of Crimea where around 1000 tourists per day come to visit. Men in camouflage stand by the path and take money from everyone, and no one questions it. Although without any documentation or authority, someone in the police or administration is pocketing this money totally illegally. A stones throw from there is the firing range of the local Ukranian Army. Edem and I drive over to find soldiers demolishing army buildings- their chief will sell the bricks and pocket most of the money for himself. Edem slips the soldiers ten dollars, which is an unofficial payment for herding horses and cattle. Edem’s animals after all often graze on the firing range. It is a world where everything is up for grabs, and if you do everything legally then you will end up empty handed or underprivileged. Anyway, after my time in Perevalnoye I have come across the mountains to the small village of Izabilnoye where I am planning to head through a national park for two days to Bakchasarai, the former capital of the Crimean Khaanate and epicentre of Tatar actions. The representative of the Tatar council there will be arranging a reception and if I am lucky I will be able to ride right into the Khaan’s palace! Still a long way to Hungary of course, but the light is beginning to glow at the end of the tunnel. Most Recent supplied GPS coordinates: Latitude: 44° 42 Min. 00 Sec. Longitude: 34° 21 Min. 00 Sec. Go to WWW.MAPQUEST.COM/MAPS/LATLONG.ADP and type in the above coordinates to see where Tim is now. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES & CHECK THE IMAGE GALLERY FOR RELATED PHOTOS)