Published on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 00:00
When you think of China, the first thing that will probably pop to mind is the insane air pollution. Chinese scientists have said that the smog in Beijing is so bad that its effects are comparable to that of a nuclear winter. However, somewhere far away from China's cities, more specifically in the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in Gansu, where nature is left untarnished by mankind's devastating activities, the mountains will truly take your breath away (in a good way).
It seems like Mother Nature took a paintbrush and painted the landscape with a myriad of colors to create this spectacular masterpiece. It is indeed very difficult to believe that this amazing mountain formation developed from natural causes, but believe it or not, these rainbow mountains actually exist.
These rainbow mountains came to be what they are today over millions of years of different types of rocks – including red sandstone and a whole lot of mineral deposits – forming on top of one another like a layered cake. After which, a gigantic force of tectonic plates forced an island – which we now know today as India – into a collision course with the rest of Eurasia.
The catastrophic impact did not just occur overnight. In fact, it took place in slow motion. Over 50 million years, India – moving at about 27 feet per century – crushed into the larger continent, creating rifts of fractured rock and creating mountain ranges like the Himalayas. Over in the future Chinese province of Gansu, the collision disrupted the layer cake of red rock and minerals, too. Imagine a piece of paper with lines drawn on it—then imagine crumpling it up. The "rainbow" patterns we see at Danxia are the result of a similar crumpling, which explains their perfect striation.
Danxia was mapped out by Chinese archaeologists in the 1920s – 30s, and it remained a beautiful secret for a couple of decades, but that is rapidly changing now. In 2009, it received protection as a UNESCO heritage site, and Gansu received a boom in tourism as people from all around the world flock to take in its natural wonder.