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Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008
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Suusamyr

The Suusamyr valley is a high steppe plateau, (2200 meters asl), that, although only some 160 kilometres from Bishkek, is also one of the more remote and rarely visited regions of Kyrgyzstan.  Although it is on the other side of the massive Kyrgyz Range from Bishkek and the Chui valley, it is part of the Chui administrative region.
Today, most foreign visitors simply pass through as they travel the main Bishkek-Osh road.  Leaving Bishkek, you travel to Kara Balta and then turn south towards the mountains.  The road climbs through the spectacular Too Ashu gorge – the original road climbed right to the top of the pass, but nowadays there is tunnel burrowed under it. 
The road descends on the other side of the mountain range to the Suusamyr plain.  The main settlement on the plain, the village of Suusamyr, which lies about 15 kilometres east of the main Bishkek-Osh road.  The turn-off is well signposted, even in English.
In 1992, the region was hit by a massive earthquake – reaching 9 on the Richter scale – and most of the villages suffered considerable damage, but fortunately there were no causalities – a feature of the low population density.  (The earthquake, and the location of Suusamyr - 250km to the East of Tashkent - turns out to be a crucial clue for Inspector Morse, (the Oxford detective), in "The Inside Story" - a short story by Colin Dexter). 
The population, of about 6000, is mainly Kyrgyz and they are nearly all involved in agriculture.  In Soviet times this was one of the major sheep breeding areas in the country.  Up to four million sheep would be driven over the mountain passes in spring to graze on the luscious grasses of the steppe.  One route, which was taken was from Tash Bulak (about 50km from Bishkek and often still referred to by some locals by it’s former Soviet name).  Although the path is still featured as a possible trekking route – it is not easy and is still often blocked by snow, even in summer.  
Since 1991, the flocks of sheep grazing here have dwindled substantially and the people have diversified into other forms of agriculture – growing potatoes, garlic, cabbages and fodder crops.  In the summer, people still live in yurts and graze sheep and horses on the lush grass.  There are alpine summer pastures full of herbs and wild flowers – carpeting the valley floor in many colours.  The area is well known for its kumyz, airan (yoghurt) and honey.
It is possible to travel from Suusamyr through the magnificent Kekemeren gorge and the villages of Kojomkul and Kyzyl Oi, Chaek and then onto either Son Kul or Kochkor.  There are plenty of opportunities for hill walks from using these villages as a base.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Travel guide#10/2008

Discovery Kyrgyzstan Travel guide #10/2008

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