Introducing Kosh-Agach Area
Clouds allowing, the best views on the whole Chuysky Trakt are between Aktash and Kosh-Agach. Wide if distant panoramas of perennially snow-topped peaks rise formidably behind valleys known somewhat misleadingly as the Kuray and Chuy Steppe (km821 to km840 and km870 onwards). These are interspersed by more great canyons and a colourful mountainside that looks like marbled chocolate pudding (km856). The Kuray Steppe hosted Russia's 2005 paragliding championships (www.triadaclub.com/kurai).
Kosh-Agach itself has a strange, end-of-the-world feeling about it, with its shanty-town homes petering out into magical flat steppe just beyond the Hotel Tsentralnaya. When the dusty air clears, the nearby mountains appear from nowhere like apparitions. A useful landmark is the little wooden Khazret Osman Mosque (ul Sovetskaya 62), which marks the intersection of the Chuysky Trakt with ul Sovetskaya. It's on ul Sovetskaya that you'll find the bus stand and three hotels. Parallel, one block west, is ul Kooperativnaya with a post office and police station (
Sberbank (ul Pogranichnaya 1a;
Sergei Erlenbaeva, at the Hot Bread Hotel knows the location of some photogenic local yurts where you can sample fresh kumiss with Kazakh nomad herders. The nearest are just 5km away on steppe that rises imperceptibly towards the distant twin peaks of Mt Saylyugem (3411m) and Mt Tapduayr (3305m).