Week 2: Horse Thieves & Making Friends With the Unfamiliar
8th December, 2020. By Tim Cope
I was cold, barefoot, and I was scared, and I was standing out on the Mongolian steppe in the middle of the night. For those of you who read last week’s blog, you will know that it is just the fifth day of my journey to ride horses 10,000km from Mongolia to Hungary…
What you don’t know is that as I turned my head torch on, I could see a clue. There on the ground was a horse bell.
Back in Australia a vet has told me that I should put a bell around my horse’s neck to stop thieves from stealing my horses. Clearly the thieves has simply crept up in the night, taken the bell off my horse and galloped away.
For a while I felt confused, then angry and finally numb. But then I did what any modern adventurer would do in a situation like this. I picked up my satellite phone and called a friend.
“In Mongolia if you don’t solve your problems before the sun come up…then you never will.”
It wasn’t too late, and luckily I had one horse. Plucking up the courage I jumped on, determined to find my horses.
As luck would have it a couple of hours later just as the sun rose there came a great herd of horses over a hill.
There at the back following along were my horses!
A nomad came over to me:
“Yes I know they are your horses, you must have tied them up really badly, they came to me themselves.”
It wasn’t true but it didn’t matter. He took me home, gave me my horses back, and over a cup of fermented horse milk he said:
“A person on the steppe without friends is as narrow as a finger…a person on the steppe with friends is as wide as the steppe.”
I didn’t know it yet but my horses would be stolen several times more, but this was a famous Mongolian saying that would rescue me in the years to come.
One technique I soon picked up was approaching nomads in the evening and asking them if I could camp by their round tents (called ‘gers.’)
They never refused and by the unwritten laws of the steppe would see me as a guest to look after.