Most foreigners realize that Mongolia is a country of steppe. Some think it is Gobi Desert. But according to the history of ancient Mongols, they usually lived in mountain steppe. In other words, Mongolians live in the boundary of Khangai and steppe landscape. Mongolians never move or live in the center of Gobi Desert and Taiga (forested mountain range), because they manage animal husbandry.
Also Mongolians have had the right to choose their living place all over the country, they haven't been pressed to any area of the country, but they have freedom to live wherever they want. Therefore, they have chosen living places freely and created their history gradually.
If they created their history in small land or under pressure, they would be pressed to move away from the Gobi desert or dark Taiga and then they would gave up managing traditional animal husbandry. But they didn't. The expansive country has allowed this life style to persevere.
Secret Mongolian Taiga
I'd like to talk about a secret zone of Taiga. Now the most virgin and wildest land in Mongolia is the Gobi Desert and forest Taiga. I mentioned above the reason why the lands are still virgin. The Taiga zone shows that Mongolians haven't occupied all of the land bestowed by God. During the socialist time, people never came here to live.
Later I heard there is a nice place called Honin nuga" (Sheep meadow) in Selenge aimag province. Last year I went to the place when I traveled all over the country. "Sheep meadow" is a forest complex located in the head of Emu River in Baga Hentii mountain range.
We traveled to the depths of forest Taiga all day. The north border of Mongolia is at the end of the forest. It takes 6 days to reach the border by horse. It is over 120km. It is very hard to cross the wild and unoccupied forest. This is the area of Sheep meadow. The north border guards are changed every 2 weeks and transported by helicopter from UB which is 500 km distant. There is no other way to transport guards to the frontier post called.
"Minjiin" where only birds can reach.
Our cars couldn't drive further so we continued our trip by horses and reached "Est" geyser. It was delightful to see rare forest beasts that were not afraid of human. There are many small lakes in the forest. They are the place where Siberian elks like to come often. Everyday we saw elks during 3-day trip. Shying away from a female elk playing with its calf, a couple of swan f lied with their wings seen through the sun when we waited to shot an elk plunging into the lake. A few minutes later, we met a bear. It was really amazing to me. I heard that some hunters looked for elks and couldn't find any for several weeks. But it was unbelievable to see elks after such talk. When we threw our fish hooks in Sharlan River, trout with full belly laid in the river ignoring our baits.
Like some forests in Huvsgul Taiga and the Khangai mountain range, Sheep meadow has remained wild and untouched. But we were concerned
that the wild land may be affected by human factors when it is open to the public.
The Biological Research Station of Universities of German-Mongolia was established here many years ago. Nowadays, hard time for economy of Mongolia, natural and ecological research has almost stopped. The implementation of the joint-research project is significant to identify and assess the wild nature. Besides good news, there is also bad news. In recent years, the number of hunters, who hunt deer to sell its young antlers and penis, has increased. Moreover, "profiteers" come to the depth of Taiga to collect cedar nuts for sale in autumn. 2 gold mines also started their operation here.
Forest guard Myagmarjav said: "The taiga can not be as peaceful as it was a hundred years ago after thousands of gold mining Chinese workers work for few years." Researchers have collected about 800 kinds of plants from Mongolian Taiga. Among them, there were a few unknown plants which were not registered in Mongolia. Also researchers discovered several rodents which had not been known in the zone before. German scientist Muller told us that the land is a secret and unstudied place.
In the depth of the rich forest300 years ago, a Civil war was occurred in Mongolia and conflict between Khalkha and Oirat tribes ravished the can try. Oirat troops occupied Khalkha land. So that Head of Sect and first Bogd Zanabazar fled to the depth of forest through Khentii mountain range. Fleeing with his entourages, he discovered many species of medical herbs and geysers in Sheep meadow. It was recorded in old books and legends.
Undur Gegen Zanabazar discovered 3 geysers located in the depth of taiga which is hard to reach. He identified treatment capacity and characters of the geysers. Later Mongolian geyser researchers studied them scientifically. Three geysers called Eruu, Minjiin, Estiin are riverheads of 3 rivers located in Baga Khentii mountain range. People heard of the geysers, but couldn't reach there. But during the socialist time, only high-rank officials arrived in Eruu geyser where a resort was built. Few people reach Estiin geyser, and only few frontier guards reach Minjiin geyser. Even so, there are some old men who have gone to these geysers constantly for last 20 years. They travel through the forest by horses for many days and cure themselves in the 3 geysers.
In winter, the geysers create beautiful scene with ice and snow in the depth of the forest. Animals gather near the geysers because it is warm in winter. Flowers grow in snow near the geysers look wonderful. Only forest hunters can reach there in winter. One type of rare tree grows in Sheep meadow. It is called Siberian fir. In the depth of the forest, the place where firs grow is more prominent than other places where larch, pine-tree and cedar grow. Firs are protected because they are rare in Mongolia.
The north forest of Mongolia taiga is South Siberia. This region with many kinds of plants and animals is the main place for tourism in Selenge aimag. But some local people worry that nature may be changed if many tourists visit. Mongolia is not only steppe, but also rich in many types of zones.