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Reflections on the final hoofsteps to opusztaszer AND NEW VIDEO ...

Children and the horses at tiszadob

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A  10 MINUTE VIDEO OF TIMS MATERIAL PUT TOGETHER BY MIKE BALSON

VIEW PHOTOS OF LAST DAY

End of an Odyssey

Like the changing of the seasons, endings of journeys have many beginnings, and many endings, it doesn’t happen in a moment, a day, or even a month. As the first cold change swept away any hint of the summer, I arrived, accompanied with my Brother at the Danube. I woke on the last day of my journey on September 22 to the first frost and yellowing of leaves. After an intense week in London with media, my brother, mother family friend Graeme Cook and I traveled Transylvania which was awash with crimsons and yellows. Last week as I arrived at the children’s home of Tiszadob in Hungary to say goodbye to the horses, the leaves were fading to a pale brown. Now I am in Budapest, the first snows have already fallen, and since melted, but the trees are bare and stark, the last hangers on starting to look fragile. Gradually, immersed in the details, I realize that this journey is ending, yet before it has ended another stage is beginning. I am only half way.

For starters I have to get Tigon home to Australia, and then I have to begin writing the book, making the film, and doing justice to a journey during which so many people have helped and supported me. This has not been a solo effort by any means, and it would be meaningless if it was. I set off in June 2004 from Mongolia with my first three horses because I wanted to relate to and understand the steppe nomads, to honor the journey that nomads have been making for eternity.  My arrival in Hungary was due to the help and insight of hundred of people, organizations, sponsors, and friends.

Just as the journey was not rushed, and could not be, so too has been the gradual ending.

In the short term, I have delayed my return to Australia since I have been invited to Washington DC for the National Geographic adventure awards which are on November 15.  I think I will be back in Australia in early December.

It took me several weeks before my own diary was complete with details of the end, so although it is belated, here are some words about the last special days before I leave Hungary:

To the Danube

During the last days west of Hortobagy towards the Danube, the sensation of the open steppe had begun to fade to dribs and drabs. There was hardly a moment when a car couldn’t be heard or another town not in sight. I felt sad and panicked that the journey was coming to an end. What would I feel and how would I live without my horses that had become such a big part of my life? Without them I feared I would feel empty and incomplete, a pedestrian in an alien world. In the evenings I spent as much time as possible with them, taking in their characters, and even appreciating their own individual smells.

At the time of my last website entry I stopped just short of the Danube and went to Budapest to meet my brother Jon, and Australian film-maker Mike Dillon. I had often wanted to share this journey with Jon in some way and after dad died it was particularly important. He is two years younger than me and having spent our childhood together as best friends I have missed him during my long stints overseas, not more than during the last few months.

Earlier in the summer I had experienced one of the most vivid parts of the journey with Mike in the Carpathians and was very grateful that he was able to return to capture the end on film in Hungary. True if it weren’t for Tigon’s charm, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so lucky to have Mike back again!

It was a cold and blustery, rather unremarkable day when we arrived back at Solt where my horses were. In late afternoon, Jon and Mike walked with me for the last kilometre to the edge of the Danube river. It was in flood and the water had broken the banks shortening my journey by a few hundred metres. So many times on the thirsty steppes, not even half way to Hungary I had dreamed of this moment, and now it was right here at our hooves as if to say, ‘well I have been here all along!’ The water swirled, the horses drank, Tigon had a bath, I washed my face, and suddenly the panic, the sadness, the excitement was overcome with calm. Staring out over this mass of water that literally sealed off the very western edge of the Eurasian steppe, I knew that there was no reason to continue further west. Just as many nomads must have felt over time from the Scythians to the Huns, Magyars, and Mongolians, this was the natural end of a long journey.

Not to say that this was the finish with the horses- that still lay in Opusztaszer where the celebration would occur, and which was building up to a be a significant event. Jon and I set the tent up on the banks of the Danube, took a short ride after dark, and went to sleep under a clearing sky. 

A

Hungarian centaur

The next week was spent riding, meeting with locals, and gathering more visual material for the film. Two days were spent at Kassai Lajos’ property where we were treated to a display of the world’s most elite horse back archer. Kassai started out young as a bow-maker, inspired by tales of Attilla the Hun, and graphic descriptions of the Huns skills as archers. He has since dedicated his life to rediscovering and re-inventing the art of horseback archery, and now has students and followers right around the world. In what he calls the ‘Valley’ we watched in the early morning light as he galloped along a ninety metre track in flailing koftan cloak with an intense look of concentration. In the space of these ninety metres he managed to fire off twelve arrows. Sitting high in his saddle as if he were motionless, the horse was his legs, the genuine centaur reborn.

‘We don’t have to travel to the east to find the east. It is all here. The Carpathian basin was the beating heart of horseback archery, a place where the huns, avars, Magyars, and Mongols hit the world like a hurricane.’

As he and his students shot off more arrows at 180 degrees from the saddle, facing backwards at a gallop, it was not hard to imagine the great nomad armies sweeping into Europe. It is ironic in some ways too that Hungarians have preserved Horseback archery and are now teaching it to the American Indians, Mongolians, and Kazakhs, who have lost this tradition. (see www.horsebackarchery.com)

A home for the horses

It took four and a half months of battling away on borders, untold help from locals and the Long Rider’s Guild (www.thelongridersguild.com), surviving poor pasture, lack of water, and extremes of temperature, but my horses had in fact made it to Hungary! That alone to me was a triumph of the journey. Ogonyok and Taskonir had been with me since October 2004, so finding a deserving home for them in Hungary had been constantly on my mind. I knew that I wanted all three horses to be together, and selling them was not an option for me. These were the heroes of the journey, the brave, strong and uncomplaining equines who had felt the brunt of our experience from start to finish and they were my companions, my friends.

Throughout my time in Hungary people had offered to keep or buy them, and I found one good place after another, from Tamas Petrasko to Peter Kun.

Then out of the blue it was suggested that I could give them away to the children’s home at the village of Tiszadob where I had stayed previously. The feature of this place was a 19th century castle with expansive lush pasture all around the grounds. A backwater of the Tisza river was just a few hundred metres away, and due to the moist air, rich soil, and leafy forests nearby, the grass was particularly good. Aranko, the director of the home had been dreaming of having horses and running a program for the orphans to learn to ride, but for years this had been impossible due to lack of funding.

She believed that contact with horses would help the children who do not have the privilege of physical contact with family during their formative years. 

It was a hard decision to make for me, since all owners would value my horses as special. However, despite the fact that Tiszadob was not the open steppe that I had always imagined for them, it eventually felt like the right decision. At Tiszadob they would be spoilt, and because there were no other competing horses they would always have attention, and ample pasture, hay and grain. Aranko is an amazingly energetic woman who has done wonders for the children’s home and I felt more than confident leaving the horses in their hands. If the horses had had such a huge effect on my own life, then it was also likely that the children would find a wealth of learning and personal development with them too. What’s more, Janos Loska, president of the Equestrian Tourism Association of Hungary, would provide help and oversight to the home, and if the children’s home future looked in doubt, he would find a new place for the horses.

Making this decision was a big relief and enabled me to focus on organizing and enjoying the last fragments of my journey.

Turning east for the first time, and riding for the last!

From the Danube I turned east for the first time during my journey and headed for Opusztaszer. The Danube had been low key, a time to spend with my brother and reflective thoughts and was the natural geographic end of the journey. The finale however, set for September 22 in Opusztaszer, would be a fitting climax to the journey when I could invite everyone as a guest to celebrate.

Opusztaszer national park marks the place where the nation of Hungary was founded by the nomadic Magyars in 896. Led by Arpad, they migrated to the Carpathian basin en mass from the Magyar origins on the steppes of Central Asia. The very final finish of my journey would take place at the monument to Arpad and the birth of the nation, singularly the most important historical and spiritual site for Hungarians today.

From the village of Akazsto I rode for two days joined by Janos Loska, his son Marti, and later the son and daughter of Attilla, (Attilla is a breeder of Akhal teke horses, practices traditional Hungarian horsemanship and owns a yurt camp nearby to Opusztaszer national park).

The first day was long and after leaving late we rode beyond darkness. By moonlight, the silver glow, soft sound of horses breathing, the steppe again a moody dark sea, no words said, just this flowing floating, ever onwards stepping of the animals that was timeless and could have been anywhere on the vast Eurasian steppe. Distance and time for me becomes irrelevant in these conditions, a sense of soothing calmness and rhythm takes over.

I came to from my trance-like state when ahead of us in the dark suddenly appeared the silhouettes of people. I fobbed it off as an illusion, it must have been trees. Then suddenly:

‘Tigon! Oh Tigon!’ it was my mother’s voice!

I continued slowly, slowly, almost warily. This voice that came seemed so incongruent with the last three years when I had often dreamed of visiting home for a day or two. I had always imagined galloping in, leaping off and hugging mum in this moment. But now I didn’t know what to say, what to do. There in the night was mum, Graeme Cook- our neighbour, family friend and first person to put me on a horse in Australia- Jon, my best friend Mark Wallace from Australia and his girlfriend Nadia. I could barely process the moment, and for all its significance it was so incredibly simple- all I did was just walk in with the horses like any other day in the last three years. Tigon was soon in Jon’s arms and being patted by mum -which they later regretted since Tigon had rolled in something dead during the day.

Although mum, my friends, those from the Long Riders guild, and many hundreds of other individuals had been with me morally throughout the journey, it was something different to see them here, and it left me strangely silent and lost for words. It was as if I could see the horses and tigon leaping out from their imagination into real life. I however had to remain in the pages of the book for the moment, I had to hold it together for just two more days before I felt like I could accept that this was really truly happening.

The thunder of hooves clapping the gritty and at times sandy soil, sitting flush with the horse as it gallops, faster and faster- the feeling of openness, steppe, freedom, connection to the earth. With Janos, martti, and Attila’s children on their own horses, Jon on Taskonir, and Ogonyok without a load, the following morning offered a chance to move fast in gallop, something that I had so rarely ever done. Usually I moved at a walk or at fastest a trot, and so it was a treat to ride without pack saddles at a speed that the horses also enjoyed. We rendezvoused with everyone including Michael, my friends, mum, and Attila for lunch and I still felt as if the cocoon of my journey was holding up- I lay back on my dirty pack bags and ate lunch just as I would have done alone. It was clearly a different scenario to usual though since there was a picnic table set up with sandwiches, juices, and beer, and two cars packed with much of my heavy unnecessary gear.

It was, I reflected, so sad that all this equipment, all these systems and routines had now lost their gravity. My tent, axe, knife, compass, map, stakes, ropes, hobbles, first aid, food, and even grain meant nothing in a world where there was an abundance of everything. Riding with all of that gear was now unfair to the horses since it was not necessary, yet I was clinging on, not wanting to admit that in this world the challenges which had made my journey such an adventure had faded. At the same time I felt so nourished and happy for this to be happening, for the day when I could let the horses free. It was all a natural change, and like it or not I had to take it in, adjust, and allow for it like during any stage of the journey.  

Towards evening we were nearing my last ever camp. The last ever camp! Suddenly there came a clapping sound from under Kok who I was riding. Horse shoes which had not needed any adjusting for six weeks were now coming loose. The crupper on my saddle had also broken earlier during the day. The next morning a bull clip also pulled through, and a special rope protector on my saddle ripped off and disappeared. Everything just had to hold on, persevere for one more day, and it was as if the life in everything was being propped up by the spirit of the journey- long after all the equipment and mental and physical robustness of everything had been exhausted.

The intensity of movement subsided later in the evening as I walked into the shadow of a Kurgan- the ancient mound grave of a nomad. Attila told me earlier in the day that these kurgans could essentially only be found as far as the Danube. Since I had been following these kurgans from Mongolia it was another telling sign that I had reached the very fringes of the Eurasian steppe.

Just to the western side of the Kurgan I laid my eyes on some pasture and quickly resolved how the camp would be laid out for the last night. In the dying light a stones throw from the Kurgan I set up the tent as Mike filmed, and mum and Jon took photos. Gradually everyone packed up, leaving me on my own with a bottle of Hungarian wine. Tigon who had crashed into a wire in a vineyard while chasing a rabbit two days earlier was limping and looking thoroughly worn out. He made a brief appearance from the tent to wolf down a can of meat and then returned to a deep sleep on my sleeping bag.

Having mowed away at the grass for several hours, the horses lay down under the stars and so I approached and sat with Taskonir. Lying with my back up against his stomach I could feel his warm skin and breath. For Tigon and the horses I realized, this really was just another day- they were resting now, gathering themselves for tomorrow. They had no idea that it was about to end. Poor Tigon – he would surely run three times more around the globe and would never really tire of it. He had grown up on the road, this movement, this travel was all he knew. If there was a break, then it was just a chance for him to rest up for the next stage of the journey. How would he cope after tomorrow?

I had only settled into my sleeping bag when I was overcome with Tigon’s terrible ‘death’ odor. I was so proud of him since he usually had no smell at all, and his decision to roll in something dead the day before was bad timing- especially since he would be honored in the morning by dignitaries ranging from the Kazakh, Mongol, Australian Ambassadors, and guests from afar as Finland and Australia. There was no water near to the tent so much to Tigons disgust I dragged him outside and washed him with a bottle of mineral water and pantene shampoo. Needless to say he then ran back into the tent and shook himself dry.

I waited for a deep sleep, meaningful dreams, significant thoughts, but they didn’t come. I was trying to tell myself, convince myself that this was it, yet just like the horses and Tigon, there was no response. Deep underneath I don’t think I had accepted it.

I decided to call CuChallaine O’Reilly in America via my satellite phone to tell him my thoughts on this last day (and also to ask the whereabouts of Long Rider, Equestrian Explorer Gordon Naysmith who was traveling from Poland by train to meet with me and had not turned up). CuChallaine is a founder of the Long Riders Guild (www.thelongridersguild.com), the world’s first and largest society of Equestrian Explorers dedicated to promoting journeys on equines that have a sense integrity. He was one of few people who had been there supporting and helping me from day one when this journey was just an idea to the very finish in Hungary. His advice and help time and time again rang true, since equestrian exploration is a very specific discipline that only those who have experienced over long periods can understand. The world of the horse, the significance of my journey, the warning signs, the struggles, the elation had always been shared with him, and he had become a good friend through tens of hours of phone calls, countless emails, and other correspondence. Together with his wife Basha they had opened me up to a world I hadn’t known of equestrian exploration both the expeditionary and academic. They guided me in a direction that made the journey a success, not in terms of just getting there, but learning along the way and coming to relate to the horseman, the nomad, and the incredible effect that they have had on the modern world. I was proud now that as a Long Rider, I was completing a journey that they could fully appreciate. During the phone call I spoke also to Basha who had earlier ridden from Volgograd to London, and there was an unspoken feeling that we all knew how exciting, sad, and exhausting the last day would be.

I fell into a shallow sleep, the kind where consciousness pulls you out of the tendency to sink into dreams.

Final hoofsteps…..

My eyes are suddenly open, and I am aware of the silence. Its predawn and without looking I know that the horses are lying down, reaching their lowest ebb for the day. There is a pale light glowing through the tent, and resting by my feet Tigon is dead to the world. I open the front door of the tent and it jams, splinters of ice showering down. The glow of predawn is beginning to reach the ice on the grass- it is the first frost of Autumn! Shoes on, mat and sleeping bag rolled up, Tigon is still fast asleep. Outside the monument on the Kurgan has a statue of an eagle on top and it begins to catch the first wings of light. The horses are awake now, keenly training their eyes on me, watching for any rustling of grain bags for breakfast. I pack with a trained eye, knowing every skeric of my belongings, where they all need to go, what the reaction of each horse will be from the brush, the blanket, the girths, saddles.

I had craved this morning, and this night being alone, again in touch with the horses, with the journey I had begun. I love the feeling of working silent and fast, yet without rushing, sneaking in this routine before the sun comes up. I wanted to feel unrushed, to move at the pace of the world of which I felt I had become.

At some point Mike Dillon, Graeme Cook, and Gordon Naysmith arrived by car. Graeme had never been outside Australia until now, and I was over the moon that he had decided to come. He has been a close family friend, particularly of my father’s, was my football coach when I was growing up, and put me on a horse for the first time when I was planning this journey. Now here he was on the last day armed with a pair of pliers and a hammer on a mission to take off the front horseshoes of Kok which had come loose the previous day. I had decided that I would present these shoes to the Kazakh and Mongol ambassadors at the ceremony for the finish.

While Graeme moved in to do his work, seventy-seven year old Gordon Naysmith –Scottish Long rider, equestrian explorer who had finally arrived late the previous night- approached my horses, and cast his eye over my last ever camp.  He had ridden by horse in the 1970s from South Africa to Austria, an amazing journey that had almost killed him many times. CuChallaine had suggested that he come along to the finish as a representative of the Long Rider’s Guild. “Why don’t you get yourself some real horses!” he joked in his usual style, while all the time almost shedding a tear.

Mike, Graeme, and Gordon were soon gone and I was left to tie up the load and step into the saddle for the last 10-15 km to the finish.  From the bottom of one of my pack boxes I retrieved a large eagle feather that I had been carrying from the steppes of Mongolia, and another two that Peter Kun had given to me. I held the feather that now looked a little worn and tattered, and reflected just how much I had craved and dreamt of this moment. With a knife I slit the end of the quiver, thread some twine through it and carefully tied it to the mane of Taskonir. I did the same with the other two feathers for Kok and Ogonyok. Nomads tie eagle feathers to the left side of the mane or halter to provide strength and protection. I also found a Kalmik white sash and tied it around Kok’s neck, hung a Mongolian sweat stick to taskonir’s saddle, propped a Kazakh hat onto Ogonyok’s load, draped an Australian geographic flag over my saddle bags, and put fresh sponsor stickers onto my pack boxes. I felt clear headed, strong, and every detail, every moment, every action came naturally.

There was a delay when I had to wait for a Hungarian TV crew to film some exclusive morning pictures, but soon I was in the saddle. The air was still, the sky was clear, in every step forward, in the feeling of the land, the village houses I passed  found microcosms of the journey- after all this journey was made up of many of these days, these events, the circularity of life. Attila’s daughter, dressed in a red silky koftan arrived on her horse to guide the way. I stopped by a house where a local woman was watering the plants. Tigon still had the smell of death so I held him between my legs and hosed him thoroughly down and gave he horses a drink. The lady asked where I had come from, where I was going- it was just another day it seemed in some ways.

In fact it just felt too normal. I rode along a sandy track, I pulled my video camera out and spoke about the end, the fact that this was the last day, yet they were just words, so little emotion. Was the emotion ever going to come? Was this really happening? At the same time I gazed down at my horses with pride, and at Tigon leading the way. They had always worked with unending duty.

Then suddenly part way through a forest, Attila’s daughter stopped:

“Look, up there, it’s the end.” She pointed to a break in the forest where I would have to turn left and enter a large field- I knew this to be the plain where everyone was to be waiting near the gates to the national park.  Attila’s daughter rode off a back way so as not to be seen, and I was left alone.

A fuzziness overcame me, tingling. I attached a lapel microphone since Michael’s camera would soon be in range. A hundred metres forward…..then I saw it. Through the trees across a field stood a line of people, perhaps a few hundred. There were horse riders to the left, dignitaries standing, cameras. Had they seen me? The emotions came now in convulsions. I closed my eyes and tried to recall the entire journey but I couldn’t, it blacked out. I moved forward, but stopped, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t finish. I ducked behind some trees again and cried. But I knew not to hold on and moved out. A smile came, laughter, again sadness all fighting for a place now at the finish. The horses wanted to trot, to go, but I pulled them in. I wanted to go at the pace that had taught me so much, and now, like at any stage there was no point in rushing.

The crowd grew, and soon I could make out people. There was mum dressed in red, tall Istvan, Tamas and Peter Csepin on horse (Peter Csepin’s wife had had a baby just two days earlier and had still come to my event with all his horses!), I saw Tony and Esther from London, my mate Mark Wallace, my brother Jon, and as I neared many other faces. I stopped at the edge of the crowd, silent not really knowing what to do except soak in the moment. Mongolians approached and  soon I pulled a little Mongolian boy up onto the saddle. Tamas’s partner Erica came to me and whispered ‘its a hard day isn’t it.’ Mum and jon hugged me, but I couldn’t stop for long for the real end was still several hundred metres away.

Most of the crowd followed me into the park and up the avenue towards the grand monument to Arpad and the birth of the Hungarian nation. There ahead another crowd was waiting, music was playing, and up on the monument by a podium stood many officials including diplomats from the Kazakh, Mongolian, and Australian Embassies, local politicians and the president of the Hungarian Equestrian Association.

There I was approaching the end of the avenue, at the end of three and a half years, thinking of my dad, thinking of the hundreds of people who helped me, trying to hold onto the feeling of the steppe and where I had come from, what this meant, that I was becoming a guardian of the steppe nomad spirit in some ways, the priveleges, the responsibilities, the fear, the pride, i held my head up, and moved forward to where the avenue opened up into a circle where the crowd waited.

From somewhere in this moment came a cry so familiar, yet from so far.

“Good onya mate!” it was an unmistakable Scottish accent.

I looked down to my right and almost fell off the horse. In a red wig, tartan hat with pom poms, and a kilt was Sandy Cooper, and next to him Rita his wife! Sandy was the father of Bruce Cooper, my Scottish friend who had introduced me to the mountains in 1997, but who had sadly later ended his own life. Sandy had sent me a message to say he was sick with pneumonia and could not come to Hungary, so this was a great surprise, something that jerked me even further into what was a dream. There was no stopping now though so I took a few more steps, and there in front of me appeared Gordon Naysmith on a tall dark horse. He was looking nervously excited and carrying in his hand a banner from the Long Rider’s Guild (www.thelongridersguild.com). I took it, lifted it up, and then moved forward another ten metres where my mother and Jon embraced me. I put the flag down, and now this was it, the moment to soak in, to acknowledge everyone, the hundreds upon hundreds who had made this journey so interesting and possible. As the speeches began I gazed around. There were ten people from the Mongol embassy, another nine from the Kazakh embassy, and the Australian consul, his wife, and the wife of the ambassador- they represented their countries and the people to whom I owed so much. Around the circle sat around fifty horsemen in traditional dress, and there were so many familiar faces- Peter Kun, Tamas Petrasko, the archers from Zsabolc. In the crowd there was my friend Urpo from Finland, fellow Australian adventurer Joszef Truban, and others who had traveled from Germany, England, and from all over Hungary.

The Mongol ambassador presented me with the blue sash called the Khadak which represents the sky god, Tengri, books, flags, flowers. The national park announced that a tree would be planted in honour of world travelers. Janos Loska gave a speech, and then I was presented with a wreath and invited up the steps. There at the base of the monument the end of the journey trained in on the single little hook in front of me. I hung up the wreath, closed my eyes, then turned around. The journey now was really complete, I would not sit again on the horses.

I gave the horse shoes to the Kazakh and Mongolian ambassadors and after a talk Aranko walked up the steps to the podium. She had with her 20 kids from the Tiszadob children’s home who were soon swarming around the horses with almost hysterical excitement. Tigon sat down resting, waiting for the moment that we packed up and went off in search of hares and rabbits again.

From here things became a blur, so many people, so many faces, so intense. For lunch the local president invited all Kazakhs, Mongols, Australians (and Scots!) and Janos Loska out to a restaurant where national songs about the horse and the steppe were sung. Then it was back to Attila’s yurt camp where the festivities were getting under way, a huge pot of Goulash on the boil over a fire and Palinko spirits and wine free flowing. Here we had this amazing togetherness of the Eurasian steppe people from Mongols to Magyars, celebrating a common heritage of nomadism, and close respect for the horse.

I had everything. I had my family, my close friends, the horses and the dog that meant so much to me, and the people who had enriched and changed my life so dynamically.

Attila Cseppento pulled me aside. “Tim, you first night on journey in Yurt tent…..now last night journey in yurt tent….beautiful! Beautiful!” And it was.

Thanks

Although this is a very rushed and inadequate list, I would like initially to thank the following:

Sponsors: Iridium, Saxtons Speaking Bureau, Internetrix (especially Dan Rown and Geoff!), Mountain Designs, Australian Geographic (and all the staff who have helped me!), Fuji Film and Graham Carter, Odyssey Travel, Spelean (thanks Greg for therma rest, MSR products) Mobile Power Batteries (Gavin of PSA parts!), Horses and Horsemen, Bogong Horseback adventures, Baffin Cold weather Footwear Canada, Ortlieb, Custom Pack Rigging Canada, Magellan GPS systems, Reflex sports, Inspired Orthtic Solutions in Brighton Melbourne (Jason Nichols), Leatherman, Nungar Knots, Blur Optix, Mountain Horse (Sweden), Energizer, Tour Asia (Kazakhstan), Dick Smith, Merino Country, Lonely Planet, Bates, Qantas Baggage

Personal supporters, friends, and helpers

 I would like to thank John and Alison Kearney, CuChallaine and Basha Oreilly of the Long Riders Guild, Todd Tai, the Watsons, Sam, Sacha, and Brent of Horses and Horsemen, Sheila greenwell (the amazing equine vet in Margaret river who saved me time and time again with advice and veterinary products), Jeremy James, Graham Carter, Graham Anderson, Steve and Cath Baird, Graham Cook, Benython Oldfield, Kathrin Nienhaus-Bender, Cordell Scaife, Cara Poulton, Robert Devling, Danny Predergast, Ben Robinson, my Mother Anne, brothers Cameron and Jon, sister Natalie, Mike Dillon, and my father (post humously)

In Hungary

 a huge thankyou to Janos Loska and the Hungarian Equestrian Tourism Association (who not only made the crossing of the border with horses possible but arranged my journey through Hungary and the amazing finish), Tamas Petrasko, Istvan and his family in Sarospatak, Zsabolc crew who guided and looked after me, Aranko and her family at the Tiszadob childrens home, Peter Kun, Hortobagy national park and wildlie reserve, Ferenc and his wife, Sheriff and Tibor of Silverado ranch, Renbenpuszta near Solt, Attila of Akaszto, Attila Cseppento and family in Opusztaszer, Opusztaszer national park staff, Zsuszanna in Budapest , Sarospatak Teachers college, and Peter Csepin.

In Ukraine:

 I would like to personally thank Ismet Zaatov and the ministry of culture of Crimea for making my stay in Ukraine possible and insightful, Ira of Argamak equestrian centre Crimea, Baba Galya and the Shishkin family of Sevastopol, the Crimean Tatar Governing body, Crimean Tatar TV, the mayor and city council of Kerch, the department of tourism in Tornopilskaya, Xmelitskaya, Ivano Frankovsk and Zakarpatski oblasts, in particular Vladimir Fedorak, and priest Ivan Ribaruk of Krivorivnya (and his wonderful family and friends) the Chorna Gora National park, Yuri Wadislo, the head of cultural affairs in Uzgorod, Oksana from Uzgorod, Igor, Yuri, and Anya in Kiev, the crew in Mikolaiv who looked after my horses, and the family and workers who looked after Tigon and the horses in Kodima when I had to leave to Australia after dad died, and the many many others who I have not listed yet.

In Russia:

Anna of the Moscow Academy of Sciences, Inna, the correspondent and great supporter from Astrakhan, Liudmilla Kiseleva (who was unfortunately killed in a car accident only a couple of weeks before the end o the journey), Anotoliy Khludnev, Yury Nimeevich and the Saiga protection park in Kalmykia, the Kalmykian Institute for Humanitarian sciences, Nikolai Vladimorivich Luti and all his crew in including Eddie and his wife, the and the vet from Timashevsk.  

In Kazakhstan,

Misha and Evgeniy in Ust Kamenogorsk, Aset and his son for giving me Tigon and traveling with me for 10 tough days, Vladimir and Rosa of Tour Asia in Almaty, Baitak and his family in Akbakai, the many many families who looked after me across Kazakhstan (and who I will name later since there are almost 100), the department of Agriculture and in particular Mr Kosibek in Atrau, Gaukhar from Almaty, Dauren and his family and friends, Azamat in Atrau.

In Mongolia:

Tseren, Rik, Bayara and family in Ulaan Baatar (visit tserentours.com), Gansukh Baatarsuren, Dashnim of the Kharkiraa, and many many other individuals who made the journey’s beginning enlightening and possible.

Apologies to anyone I have missed on the list so far. There are many more and this is a short rushed version.