All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

On The Trail Of Genghis Khan – Tim Cope

on September 16, 2013

Genghis KhanOn The Trail Of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through The Land Of The Nomads
Tim Cope
Bloomsbury Publishing
2013, 509p
Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury ANZ

Australian Tim Cope had long been drawn to the nomadic lifestyle of Eurasian steppes in a time gone by. Inspired by the groups that still live this way, even to this day, he decided to undertake an extraordinary journey: to follow the steps of Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan on horseback, beginning in Mongolia, trekking through Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea and the Ukraine until he reached the banks of the Danube in Hungary.

In his original plan, he thought this journey might take around eighteen months. However, due to bureaucratic delays, horse and supply issues, health problems and personal tragedy it would take twice that by the time he finally found the Danube. Along the way he would meet many families from different cultures and experience the generous hospitality of the various nomadic and stationary peoples of this area, even from those who had nothing to give. He would see some of the world’s most beautiful, untouched scenery and experience torturous weather conditions – 50°C in the summer and down to -30ºC in winter. He would have to avoid would-be horse thieves and those who would wish to rob him, wolves and various other creatures – even the tiniest ones such as flies and mosquitoes could prove devastating. He would have to rely on being able to find food and water for his three horses and at times, the pickings were very lean. He would also come to rely on his horses and the dog Tigon that was presented to him as a travelling companion, bonding with them in their shared experience of crossing such a vast continent alone.

On The Trail Of Genghis Khan is the story of a man who wanted to connect with a more simple existence and leave the trappings of most of modern day society behind in order to pay tribute to one of the greatest leaders of all time.

Ever since I heard about this book, I immediately knew I had to read it. I don’t read a huge amount of non-fiction but every now and then, something really catches my eye and this was one of those. The idea of someone undertaking such a trek was fascinating. Travelling through Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea, the Ukraine and reaching Hungary would bring such a wide variety of conditions and hazards and also give me more information about areas that interest me and that I don’t know much about. I read a fiction book mostly set in Kazakhstan earlier this year and since then, I admit that I’ve been interested in the area, mostly because it’s been so underrepresented in the books that I’ve read.

This book is more than just the story of a young man who undertook an epic journey. It also describes the history, politics and surroundings in the most amazing way. This is an area foreign to me, given where I’ve grown up – it’s filled with a poverty that I can’t understand. The nomad way doesn’t really interest me in terms of it being something I’d like to do myself – I’m too much of a sook. But it’s fascinating to read about and attempt to imagine. A lack of trappings, the simplicity of growing and raising almost everything you need yourself, moving around the landscape following the weather sounds peaceful and beautiful and it can be. But it can also be the exact opposite.

The dangers that Tim Cope faced are well documented in this book. As I mentioned – this is an area where most, if not all people, are very poor. Extremely poor. Almost everywhere he went, he faced threats and violence. Various people attempted to steal his horses and belongings (with varying levels of success) and although many people were welcoming and hospitable, sometimes offering up food and fodder that they could ill afford to share, others were hostile, unwelcoming and some downright threatening. Drinking is common – even the poorest of families possess vodka in large amounts (perhaps homemade? I am not sure but it’s definitely not the Stolichnaya we can buy at the store) and almost everything revolves around the liquor. The book is an honest portrayal of the highs and the lows in an area that has been buffeted by politics, power and corruption.

But the good outweighs the bad. So many people were warm and welcoming, offering up hospitality, food, drink, fodder, companionship, information and an insight into their lifestyles. The journey took Cope about three years and although his then-girlfriend started out with him for the first couple of months and he occasionally had guides, much of his trek was conducted alone apart from his horses and after a while, Tigon. Companionship was important both for Cope to learn about the people and lifestyle that so fascinated him and also for his own sanity during his journey.

On The Trail Of Genghis Khan is such an amazing story, in so many ways. It’s one of those engrossing reads made all the more wonderful because it’s all true. It’s a great way to learn about an area that you might not know so much about – really learn about it from someone who has been there, has experienced it and has seen it in all its glory and negativity. There’s so much information here and it’s all delivered in such an appealing way. I admire Tim Cope for sticking it out even though there were delays, bureaucratic disputes and personal tragedy that all sought to derail his adventure. It took courage and determination and a real ability to adapt to the most difficult of conditions and the most changing. I loved reading about the way he came to feel about his animals (particularly his dog Tigon, who now resides in Australia with him after a lengthy wait and quarantine stay). He cared about the horses and reading about how much he relied upon them both for pleasure and practicality was lovely. His careful consideration about them at the end of the journey and his continued interest in their lives is heartwarming.

I’d read a lot more non-fiction if I could find books like this.


Book #239 of 2013

LitExp Challenge


I’m counting this book towards my Literary Exploration challenge, ticking off the non-fiction category. It’s the 14th novel read for the challenge.

One response to “On The Trail Of Genghis Khan – Tim Cope

  1. […] On The Trail of Genghis Khan, by Tim Cope. I really don’t read a lot of non-fiction, memoir etc but I really enjoyed this one. […]

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