Piusa Sand Caves
Our last visit of the day was to Piusa on the Russian border. Again the setting was a
pine forest, with sand underfoot. This time we were heading into
the sand, as we plunged underground into a sand cave. Sand has been quarried
here for industrial use since 1922, and the result is a strange mine complex
that feels rather like an underground cathedral. After a few yards it was
completely dark, so we switched on torches, by the light of which we could see dozens of
rough arches hewn out of the sand, or, I suppose, the sandstone. At any
rate, the structure seemed to be quite stable. The effect was surreal: we're
used to arches used as doors or windows, or for decorative effect along galleries etc,
but this was a sort of room full of arches, like a lot of doors leading nowhere.
It was chilly, although we were only a few yards underground and the day outside was
hot. The next cave along is said to be home to 2000 bats, but we didn't see
any in ours.
After emerging from the cave, we walked a little further into the woods
and came to the present sand quarry, which is open-cast and looks like an enormous
bomb-crater. Then we went on to Karula National Park where we
were to spend the night.