Call him crazy but determined: the story of Australian adventurer Cope (Off the Rails: Moscow to Beijing on Recumbent Bikes, 2004), who jettisoned his bike for a horse to gallop across Mongolia.
The author’s 2004 horseback trip from Mongolia to Hungary, 6,000 miles, was supposed to take 18 months but dragged on for three years. Cope aimed to recapture some of the magical freedom he imagined still existed for the nomads of the Mongolian steppes, descendants of Genghis Khan and his marauding empire. The author was also determined to dispel the stereotypes prevalent among Russians and others that Mongolians were barbaric and uncivilized and their existence more backward than the peoples of the neighboring societies. In a sensitive account both personal and historical, Cope delineates the nuts and bolts of such a daunting equine adventure: procuring the necessary horses (several sets of them, as Mongolian horses could not be removed from the country), and learning to ride and care for them properly, along with a great deal of research about the Mongolian empire and the life of the herding nomads (e.g., the return of the Tatars to the Crimea since their removal during World War II). The author even learned some Mongolian and Russian. Cope invited his share of hardships, which came from camping out in the wilderness, at full mercy of the elements, horse thieves and wolves, among other daily perils. Though he (and for the first two months, his girlfriend) relied on the generosity of the nomads and their extraordinary sense of hospitality, navigating the borders set him back mightily. The author infuses his ambitious account with the stories of the people and tales of the animals who inspired the journey, rendering the book heartfelt and memorable.
An exciting, detailed account of man versus adversity.