Behind the scenes in Mongolia

By Tim Cope 7 November 2013
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AG Society adventurer Tim Cope lets us behind the scenes on his epic solo Mongolian odyssey.


FILMING MY JOURNEY WAS something I wanted to do from the beginning, but without a camera crew and on a very small budget it was never going to be easy.

Filming didn’t start well. I discovered a hair inside the lens during the first week of travel in Mongolia meaning I could not film wide angles without a big black blotch. Then my tripod broke. I almost gave up.

In western Mongolia a horse happened to roll over with the saddlebags still attached, crushing the camera inside them. Amazingly it survived…and the movement got rid of the hair! Unfortunately, though, the UV filter had also smashed and scratched the lens. I had another blotch on the lens to deal with.

In Kazakhstan my video camera was stolen by a horse thief who took my backpack and leapt onto one of my horses in the night. Fortunately, everything was recovered. But then as the temperature plummeted to -40C  the LCD screen froze and the camera nearly failed to work.

In Western Kazakhstan the camera gave up the ghost all together, and I was onto my third tripod . . . I had to order in parts from Japan to Almaty (Kazakhstan’s largest city and former capital), and missed two months of filming. In the end, friend Chris Hatherly kindly sent me his video camera from Australia, which I used until Hungary.

Even when the camera was in working order, filming was a real challenge alone. It usually involved setting up the tripod, riding back, and away and then checking the results. My dog Tigon became so accustomed that he used to sit under the tripod and wait no matter how far I rode into the distance.

Timing is everything

I also did most of the still photography myself by using a 20 s timer on my SLR. This meant setting up the shot, getting the horses to stand in the right place, then sprinting back to jump in the saddle. Since I shot almost everything on transparency film I wasn’t able to process or see any of my photographs until after the trip was completed.

In the Ukraine a grant from ABC enabled us to employ cinematographer Mike Dillon to join me in the Carpathians for three weeks. During this filming, Mike walked along side me. Still, two video cameras broke in the inclement weather.

Mike then also joined me for the finale in Hungary . . . which was a blessing because by that stage my tripod was broken again and even Chris’s video camera had broken down.

When I returned home to Australia with 137 hours of dusty old tapes, it was like being back in Mongolia again, the beginning of another journey.

Watch the six-part documentary of Tim’s journey on
ABC2, which started July 28.

Read more about Tim’s journey

Tim’s website

Video below: Behind the scenes with Tim Cope