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Kojumkol

This large village of about 150 houses, about 18 kilometres south-east of Suusamyr, sprawls nonchalantly in a large bowl and is a good base for hikes into the surrounding mountains. It is named after a giant of a man, 2.3 metres tall, who became a national hero because of his ability to hoist enormous stones, and even his horse, onto his shoulders simply for fun. There is a museum dedicated to Kojumkol in the middle of the village; you'll find it by the small plaque on the door and the three huge stones outside, two of which were lifted by Kojumkol and one by his father. Inside, these amazing feats become easy to credit when his size is revealed in photographs and clothes-one photograph shows his coat draped around three people with room to spare.

Villagers believe the spirit of Kojumkol, who lived from 1889 to 1955, still protects them. In 1992, when the Suusamyr valley was hit by a major earthquake, reaching nine on the Richter scale, many houses in Kojumkol were seriously damaged but no one died. Local people say that was because Kojumkol's grave on the hill above the village was the first to collapse, proof that he was still taking care of them.
His grave, which was rebuilt in 1996-97 by the grateful village administration, is behind the war memorial in the centre of the village, in a grand white domed mausoleum. The white votive rags are left to entice good luck.

On the road to Kyzyl Oi, another example of Kojumkol's superhuman strength may be seen at an elaborate, but broken down, yurt-shaped grave of a local dignitary. The large stone next to it, which according to its plaque weighs 690 kilograms, was carried there by Kojumkol in honour of the dead man.


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