Introducing Usinsky Trakt
First built in 1910, the Usinsky Trakt is the main road between Minusinsk and Kyzyl in Tuva. It skirts the modest, historical township of Yermakovskoe and passes the little fruit-growing villages of Grigorevka and Chyornaya Recha before climbing into pretty birch-wood foothills. After a tea stop in Tanzybey(km560) the route climbs more steeply. A truly magnificent view of the crazy, rough-cut Ergaki Mountains knocks you breathless just before km598. Powerful views continue to km601 and resume between km609 and km612. A roadside cross (km603-4) marks the spot where hero-of-Chechnya and former Krasnoyarsk govern- or Alexander Lebed died in 2002 when his helicopter snagged the power lines. Walk 1.5km up the steep track towards the radar station above for fabulous views from the ridge.
As the trakt descends, the scenery morphs through wooded river valleys into Tuva's panoramic roller-coaster grasslands. Turan, an attractive village of old wooden homes, has a cute little museum (ul Druzhby 44). The big-sky side road barrelling west off the trakt towards Arzhaan passes through Tuva's Valley of the Kings. Four pancake-shaped burial mounds here look like mere lumps in the grassland but in 2002 archaeologists found some magnificent artefacts from the 7th century BC within. The dig is featured in Kyzyl's Aldan Maadyr National Museum.