Photo Gallery: A breathtaking journey with Mongolian nomads

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Explorer Tim Cope

was struggling through the sands of the Gobi desert in Mongolia during a bicycle journey across Siberia when he had his first encounter with the nomads—horsemen and women who would appear suddenly, galloping over the horizon line, a place where even his bike couldn't go.

"I was inspired by the free spirit of these people who live in a world without boundaries with little more than a couple of inches of tent felt to insulate them from the extremes," the photographer tells GrindTV.

A few years later, the Australian native returned to ride by horse the 6,000 miles from Mongolia to the Danube River in Hungary—the same journey taken by the nomads who "laid down the largest land empire in history under Genghis Khan."

"The only problem was that I couldn't ride a horse," Cope laughs.

Over the next three and a half years, he learned. He also faced thievery, wolves, and extremes in weather—some days were so hot he was forced to ride exclusively at night.

"The journey was personal, too," Cope says. "My father died in a car accident while I was away, and so I drew on lessons I'd learnt from the nomads to cope. By the end, I had learnt that time is not always money, patience and perseverance above all can help one prevail (as the Kazakhs say, 'if you must rush, rush slowly'), and human relationships are to be treasured."

Cope chronicled his adventure in the award-winning coffee table tome “On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads.” Here, Cope shares some of his most striking photos from his trek through Mongolia, including a few never-before-seen pictures of his adventure with the nomads.

For more on GrindTV:

Photo Gallery: Finding perspective in the great outdoors

Photo Gallery: Honoring the great outdoors

Photo Gallery: Wilderness Forever exhibit dazzles