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Kyzyl Oi

Shortly after leaving Kojumkol, the valley narrows and the road begins to wind through mountains rising steeply on either side. Smooth lush pastures alternate with huge rock falls and scree, and the distant mountains lie in folds like a carelessly discarded cloth of sumptuous green velvet. Here the Suusamyr and the western Karakol rivers join to become the mighty Kekemeren, which tumbles over giant boulders and swirls angrily in mini whirlpools in its rush east.

About 20 kilometres from Kojumkol the narrow gorge suddenly widens into the lovely tree-lined valley of Kyzyl Oi ('Red Earth'). Vegetable plots, overlooked by huge granite cliffs, cover every available flat surface in the suburbs. The village was rebuilt after the 1992 earthquake in a more Central Asian style, using mud-and-straw bricks crafted from the dull red clay that gives Kyzyl Oi its name.

If you want to experience a village way of life that seems to have changed little in hundreds of years and where time itself seems to slow down, this is an excellent place to spend a few days. This is probably the best place in the Suusamyr valley for mountain hikes on foot or horseback, especially if you can afford a few days. In the hills around the village you may be able to see local wildlife, including the elusive and rare Marco Polo sheep. Take a guide and be prepared for a long trek into the mountains. There are a couple of teachers in the village who may be able to help with translation into English or German.