Kosh-Agach means ‘last tree’ in Kazakh, but that tree appears to have died long ago. Some 50km from the Russia–Mongolia border, Kosh-Agach is the driest inhabited place in the Russian Federation, with average rainfalls of under 150mm.
The town has a strange, end-of-the-world feeling about it, with its shanty-type homes petering out into magical flat steppe where free-range camels roam. When the dusty air clears, the nearby mountains appear from nowhere like apparitions. Russians are in the minority here, with Kazakhs and Altai making up something like 90% of the population.