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In the Footsteps of Ghengis Khan: an introduction to the next ...

HorsePicHorseMap In June 2004 I hope to set out by horse, and a touch of Camel, from Mongolia to Hungary ‘In the footsteps of Ghengis Khan.’ The steppe that spreads out like an ocean from the orient to Europe has long been home to mounted nomads and is still one of the most legendary, yet murkily understood regions of the world. From some of the highest peaks in the world in the Tien Shan, to the bone-dry deserts and lush forests and steppe of Mongolia it is a place of superlatives. Read on below for an introductory account. ‘The edge of the earth.’ ‘An ocean of grassy plains.’ ‘Realm of the Barbarians.’ ‘Where lofty mountains bridge heaven and earth.’ ‘Deserts that dry men to a crisp.’ These have been the murmurings of Europeans for millennia about the vast steppe of central Asia, a region that has always been on the very fringes of western consciousness. Indefinable, mysterious, a middle earth tucked between the taiga of the north and the world’s greatest mountain chains in the south, it continues to stir imagination. It was from somewhere beyond its ‘shores’ that fearsome Mongolian horse-riding warriors, living in round felt tents appeared conquering all in their path. Then, like the tide, they receded beyond the wide horizons of the steppe. Their lifestyle on the move- carrying minimal possessions, having no desire to lay roots for longer than a single season- has always remained as alien, frightening, and curious to those living sedentary lives. In 2004, pursuing his passion for adventure and curiosity about people and their lives, Tim Cope will set off from Mongolia to Hungary by horse. A testing journey of 10,000km it will take him into the lives of the nomads still living today, and in the footsteps of those passed into legend. In particular it will follow the Khan Empire – the largest in history- that stretched as far as Hungary. What better way to understand this region than to experience it from the saddle, among the locals, intoxicated by the borderless steppe and taste of fermented mare’s milk? From Mongolia’s majestic Altai Mountains Tim will cross into the plains of Kazakhstan, the high alpine pastures of the Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan, then head westward on the fringes of the Kyzylkum desert to the dying Aral Sea where horses may be traded for camels. From here it will be across the steppe out of the wilderness into Russia where a horse and cart will be used onward into the Ukraine along the fertile coastland of the Black sea. Finally he will cross the Carpathian mountains into Hungary. From nomad heartland of Mongolia to civilized Europe where eight lane highways and cities abound it will be a unique look at the surviving legacies of the Mongols, the stories and issues of the current-day descendants, and how it must have felt as a steppe-dweller arriving at the end of his world and observing the oddity of sedentary life. Mingled with this will be Tim’s personal story as he strives to live a dream in the face of an epic challenge…for starters he has to learn to ride a horse.