photo by Tsoghuu
Mongolia caves are spread throughout its vast territory. And geographer and cartographer Dr. E. Avirmed is just the right person to speak to about them, he being an expert on the Mongolian variety. Now the consultant of Mandala Tour Company, Mr. Avirmed spoke in an interview about these unique geological features.
Why did you decide to study caves?
All scientific disciplines have demand for research on things that are little understood. I try to develop cave tourism in Mongolia, too.
How many caves are there in Mongolia? Have you been in many caves?
There are 500 big caves in Mongolia. I have been inside of and studied 150 of them. We have information that there are about 1000 undiscovered caves here.
Tell us about the origins of caves.
There are three types of caves-hollow, disintegrated and volcanic caves. Hollow caves are formed when limestone dissolves in the water coming up from between cracks in the earth, where erosion occurs. One of the big hollow caves is called the "Dayan Deerkhiin" cave in Tsagaan Uur soum of Khovsgol aimag.
"Hoid Tsenkheriin" of Mankhan soum in Khovd aimag is a very popular hollow cave because of its rock drawings. Mongolian and American scientists discovered stone weapons in the cave that were used by ancient peoples about 700 years ago...
Another large hollow is "Gurvan Zeerdiin." It is in Khanbogd soum of Omnogobi aimag. Russian scientist A. D Simukov found here a mummified man. He determined that the mummy was 300 years old. It was in the Mongolian History Museum for a while. But has since disappeared, and no one knows why or how.
Disintegration caves originate out of granite. Caves of this kind occur frequently in the Khangai and Khentii mountains. Examples include "Tovkhon" and "Dulaankhairkhan" caves.
"Taliin" and "Bayandulaanii" caves in Sukhbaatar aimag and "Bosgiin Togoonii" cave in Arkhangai aimag are volcanically formed caves.
What are the longest caves in Mongolia?
The longest one that I have studied is 700 meters in length. "Dayan Deerkhiin" cave is 200 meters long. It has two stories, and to get to the upper one you have to use a 9-meter ladder. Many years ago the first story was a religious meeting hall.
Is it true that caves have therapeutic mud?
Mud, from caves "sender" in Mongolian
is helpful to treat blood pressure, stomach
disorders and breast disease. It is more beneficial if it is used without taking it from the caves into sunlight. "Sendertiin" cave with this type of mud is in Bayankhongor aimag… Bird droppings are one of the precious treasures of caves, too. They are used as organic manure.
Which season is the most suitable for exploring caves?
Winter. Air circulation is good in wintertime. In summer, warm air cannot escape, and dangerous gases may be trapped inside.
Why are people interested in tours of caves?
Traveling to big caves is like climbing mountains. It demands special equipment and training to scale the walls, to get into narrow caves and to pass from one part of the cave to another. Caves can be like palaces. "Tsagaa" and "Khoid Tsenkher" caves are full of topaz and crystal.
Which caves are most suitable for touring?
"Tsagaan" cave in Bayanlig soum of Bayankhongor aimag, "Taliin" cave in Dariganga soum of Sukhbaatar aimag and "Dayan Deerkhiin" cave. "Dayan Deerkhiin" cave has three openings. It is 715 km from Ulaanbaatar, but is difficult to get to directly by car. In winter, you can get within 500 meters of the cave. There is a place, however, for landing a plane near the "Dayan Deerkhiin" temple ruins, not far from the cave. It was a big monastery many years ago. Inside of the cave is so beautiful. It has many things of interest. In the middle of the cave there is a shrine with a white horse on a stone owo (ceremonial cairn). It takes three or four hours to see the cave.
There are many legends and tales about caves. Have you collected any of them?
Not really, I study them purely from a scientific perspective. The deepest cave, "Soogtiin," is in Dadal soum of Khentii aimag. It is 72 meters deep. Legend goes that the flags of generals of Chinggis Khaan's army are kept in the cave. It might be true. When I came to the "Soogtiin" cave in December it was -32°C at the mouth of the cave and +2°C at the bottom of the cave. There were fish without eyes…in a lake at the bottom of the cave.
Have you ever found precious artifacts in caves?
I have found golden shrines, an ancient saddle and books and have given them to the Cultural Treasure Foundation.