Author follows path laid out by Khan

January 20, 2015
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On the Trail of Genghis Khan,
by Tim Cope (Allen & Unwin, RRP $37):

I’m done some travelling over the years but it’s fair to say that Mongolia wasn’t high on the list of destinations.

Not for any particular reason, it’s more that it’s hard to imagine there being too much to see and do outside the cities. It seems as though it’s a country of epic landscapes.

Tim Cope decided to follow in the footsteps of the 13th-century Mongols, a small tribe, which, under the command of Genghis Khan, created the largest land empire in history. Their impact on European history is widely known so Cope decided to follow the ancient way of nomadic life and head west . . . on horseback.

The 10,000 kilometres took more than three years, following the Eurasian steppe from Mongolia, through Kazakhstan, Russian, Crimea and Ukraine to the Danube River in Hungary.

It’s an incredible journey to undertake. He has to tackle wolves, potential bandits, crazy Russians, massive changes in temperatures and the local cuisine (airag – fermented mare’s milk anyone?), as well as the challenges of caring for himself and his horses in some unforgiving terrain.

Interspersed with his fascinating tale he intertwines the Mongols history as he follows in their footsteps some 900 years later.

At only 450 pages, it should be a simple read, but it took much longer than it should have. That’s more due to the complex nature of the history and Cope’s trip rather than it being poorly written. But it did feel as though I took every step with him.

But it’s a fascinating read. Even if you are left with the recurring question of why bother? It’s an epic journey though.

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Mark Hotton

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