Frostbite, loneliness, hardship, kindness and personal tragedy: these were the constant road companions of Tim Cope on an epic journey from central Asia to Europe.
Travelling on horseback, the Australian adventurer followed the trail of ancient nomads, famously laid down by Genghis Khan and the Mongols in the 13th century.
The gruelling 10,000km journey, which took three years to complete, took him across the rugged landscapes of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary.
His horses and a stray dog who he named Tigon were his only companions.
It is the first crossing of the so-called ‘starving Steppe’ in modern times.
A vast and desolate region, the Steppe is known for its temperature extremes and endless expanses of grassland.
On the way Tim had to contend with wolves, roaming horse thieves, aggressive local drunks and temperatures ranging from -50 on the Mongolian Steppe to +50 degrees in the Kazakh desert.
The experience also helped give him unique insight into the traditional nomadic way of life.
And despite the inhospitable terrain, Tim – who speaks fluent Russian – was welcomed with open arms by local families, who helped guide him across the Steppes.
Tim filmed segments of the journey himself using a hand-held camera, giving a personalised insight into the daily challenges and experiences he encountered, including the devastating moment he received the news of his father’s death via satellite phone.
On the Trail of Genghis Khan, which was screened on Australian TV, recently won the Grand Prize and Mountain Culture awards at the Vancouver Film Festival.
It’s not the first time Tim has tested his limits.
He has experience working as a wilderness guide in the Arctic regions of Finland and north-west Russia.
In 1999 he and a friend embarked on a 14-month journey by recumbent bicycle from Moscow to Beijing.
In 2001 he was back adventuring again, this time in a leaky wooden boat from the Yenisey River in southern Siberia to the Arctic Ocean.
The 30-year-old from Gippsland, Victoria was named National Geographic’s Australian Adventurer of the year in 2006 and now devotes his time to travel, writing, filmmaking and professional speaking.
He also continues to work as a guide in Antarctica, Siberia, and Mongolia.
He says of his incurable wanderlust: “In the end a journey invariably offers us a chance to learn and grow and reach out for our dreams.
“There is always something new to be discovered, something waiting to surprise us around the next corner.”
the Experience Network