By 3:15 pm, all the copies of On the trail of Genghis Khan had been sold out. A person who was visiting from Chittagong borrowed money to buy the book that cost Tk799. “I had to buy it. His speech was so inspirational,” said Aumit, who had come from Chittagong to attended the much-awaited festival this year.
Like Aumit, many were awed by Tim Cope’s session on the second day of the Lit Fest. In an enlightening session titled the same as his epic book, Cope talked about his three year-long epic journey from Mongolia to Hungary where he crossed 6,000 miles on horseback.
Vivek Menezes facilitated the hour-long session.
Tim talked about his passion for travelling and exploring the wilderness. To him, the wilderness is his ultimate playground where he can fully engage in his soul-searching.
“I have been fascinated with places which have vast arenas. I wanted to learn the nomadic style of living and that’s why I undertook the journey of traversing through the vast arena of Mongolia and Central Asia.”
He said that the whole point of the journey was to ride the tough steppe horses that once carried Mongols into Europe and beyond. “The descendants of those original wild horses, the steppe horses, have to forage for themselves all year round. These horses are the only kind that can tolerate the extreme weather on the steppe – a thoroughbred for example wouldn’t last two days on the Mongolian steppe in winter.”
He said that the dangers and challenges on this journey were varied. “As a novice horseman, the horses themselves presented some serious risks – one of the things I was scared most of initially, was falling off and injuring myself and having the horses abandon me in the wild open lands of the steppe (especially in the depths of winter).”
“This never transpired, but in the course of my journey, looking after the horses in all manner of conditions proved to be one of the greatest difficulties. Horse rustling was a major issue as I’ve already mentioned – as they say in Russian, the most dangerous wolf is that which walks on two legs.”
He said that the hardest moment in his journey was the least expected. “Having travelled for two-and-a-half years and with the toughest terrain and majority of distance behind me, I was in Southern Ukraine heading into winter when, via satellite phone, I discovered that my father, Andrew Cope, had just been killed in a tragic car accident. I left my horses for Australia immediately. Dad’s influence had been a huge factor in my decision to pursue a life of travel and adventure.”
“The irony for me at that stage could not have been starker – here I was living an adventure that had so many inherent risks that many would consider it ‘dangerous’, yet my father had been killed just 50km from home in a car! To deal with his death I drew on much of what I had learnt from the nomads about the transience of life.”
He said that the nomadic way of life has taught him to love the simplicity of people’s lifestyle. “Travelling is addictive. Once you start doing that, you just cannot get rid of that.”