Introduction

This largely inaccessible and mysterious region is known simply as Dara (Дара; ‘special place’) by the Kazakh nomads who set their gers further down the valley. Little known and seldom visited (probably due to the bone-rattling drive over a sea of boulders required to get here), it rewards the intrepid with a rough and rugged beauty, and at least nine small lakes scattered amid forbidding sawtooth mountains and vertiginous canyons.