Trans Eurasia travel

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Beaches & Boats - A pleasant public beach lies 1km south of the main road, in the western part of town. Walk south from the large concrete overhang (a nightclub) to the chalets of the Gost Residenza and then head east, across a bridge over a lagoon to the beach. In true Soviet style, the Speedo-sporting, pot-bellied men here like to sunbathe standing up. The presidential beach house is nearby; when the president is in town the police are out in force. Keep your passport at the ready and an eye out for the presidents’ luxury yacht. There is another larger beach called Alytn-Kul, 4km east of Cholpon-Ata. The Manas Cultural Park on the lakeshore has a small sculpture garden. The Kruiz Yacht Club has a handful of sailboats (US$25 per hour for up to six people) and even an overpriced scuba-diving centre.

Trekking & Horse riding - Ornok forest, north of the petroglyph park, is popular with locals who collect mushrooms here during August. Follow the old logging road on the left side of the valley, keep the river on the right. Horse treks to Ornok Valley and along the lakeshore can be organized, offering expert instruction for less-confident riders and arranging multiday excursions to Grigorievka and beyond. With a few days notice we will also organise a display of nomadic equestrian games at the local hippodrome. During July these can be seen for free as part of the horse games.

Horse-lovers might like to pay a visit to stud farm, known in Soviet times as Issyk Kul State Stud Farm No 54, the horse-breeding centre at Cholpon Ata was once a leader in its field. In the early days, when Soviet geneticists tried to meddle with the make-up of this revered beast, they met with lough resistance.

One of the tasks of collectivisation in this region was to convince the nomads of "the advantages to be gained by well-organised animal breeding. The benefits of this particular piece of genetic engineering are still debated today. The skinny sinewy Kyrgyz horse was perfect for its hard mountain job-strong with rock-hard hooves and incredible stamina, managing with no food for three days when necessary, and sure footed as a mountain goat. The Soviet authorities wanted it taller, faster and sturdier and hence came up with a new breed of horse, deemed to be just as sturdy and tenacious as their forebears but bigger with more graceful lines.
Today the farm breeds horses for three-day eventing and export to Italy and Japan.