It has been a long time since I wrote, and even longer since I was with the horses on my trail to Hungary. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the hundreds of people, friends, some complete strangers, who sent letters, visited our home in Gippsland Australia, and participated in the funeral for my father, Andrew Cope. I apologize that I have not been able to respond to you all individually. It is at once heart breaking but reassuring to know how many good friends dad had, and how much this has also effected them. No one could have been prepared for his sudden departing that occurred in a car accident on his way home from the coast in November. For us in the family, as it must be for anyone in this situation, saying goodbye and accepting that days go by without dad, is a deeply confronting process. Life it seems is such a risk in itself, and it doesn't seem fair that a life that has been lived for so long with such energy can disappear so suddenly.
Out on the steppe, one of the first questions asked is 'do you have parents?' I always found it a peculiar enquiry, yet now I realise it is because nomads, perhaps more than most of us do not take their parents for granted. At the same time, nomads accept very honestly the very transience of life.
Ghengis Khan forbade the making of any monuments in his honour, and even any portraits to be painted. It is incredible to think that we have no record of a man who was one of the greatest leaders of all time, whose former empire now includes half the world's population. To him, and many nomads even alive today, physical monuments that attempt to preserve a sense of eternity are unnecessary. After all, what could be more eternal than the earth, sky and wind from where they believe our spirit came from, and to where we depart on death?
In this sense, I don't feel that dad has gone, his spirit can be found within us, in the breeze down at his beloved Sandy Point, and in our own sensations of the world. Dad will always be there, drifting between the places and people that he loved.
For my two brothers, Cam and Jon, sister Natalie, and mum (Anne), the last few months have been a bitter sense of togetherness and loss. Cameron was in Chile on exchange, I was in the Ukraine, and the others in Melbourne. For the first time in a long time we have lived under one roof and enjoyed a sense of closeness not really enjoyed since before we were all at school age.
Gradually though we are all beginning to re focus and move our different ways. Mum has returned to full time school teaching, Natalie and Cameron to university, Jon to a range of jobs, and now I am preparing to return to the horses. As I prepare to leave, I am filled with the question, what will it be like now? I have been carrying out this journey since June 2004 mostly alone, but what will it be like to be alone now? The question will inevitably be asked of me by locals about my parents, and my answer will be different. Returning home after the end of my journey in Hungary will be a such a different world than the one that I had always imagined. Life continues to be very confronting and I guess that won't change.
In this journey it has always been a matter of juggling a lot of less than idyllic situations and making the most of them. This is really no different, and whilst I would like to stay at home a little longer, I know that I cannot risk leaving my horses and dog for too long. I was very lucky to be able to leave them in the very understanding hands of some people in the town of Kodima and have been able to stay in touch by phone from time to time. Tigon has been living at a family home, no doubt spoilt but still waiting my return, and hopefully the horses will have gained weight and be full of energy. Vladimir recently told me from Kodima that they were being treated like Kings. I have bought Vladimir an Akubra, and an oilskin coat to be given as gift on my return in appreciaton of his support.
So, the third winter of the journey has passed, and ahead lies the fourth summer. I cannot predict when I will arrive at journeys end in Hungary, but I know that the road will be as usual fraught with the same warming, unexpected, frustrating, and challenging experiences.
It may be several weeks away, but next time I write, I will hopefully have reunited with Tigon and the horses.
In my absence I must say a big thank you to Shaun Dietrich who will be helping to keep my website updated until journeys end. On that note, you may notice that there have already been many changes and improvements to the site made, and this will only increase with time.
The death of my father has not only been an emotionally traumatic experience, but it also severely challenged my financial ability to return to the Ukraine, let alone join the horses and finish in Hungary. Saxtons Speakers Bureau, already a gold sponsor, without hesitation have now lent further assistance making them one of just three principal partners in this expedition. Saxtons is the largest speaking bureau of its kind in the world and with rapidly expanding horizons, I consider myself lucky to be working with them, and look forward to working with them in the future.Visit SaxtonsCLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES