china danxia

Beautiful places on earth that the signs should visit

Aries: Zakyntos, Greece

Taurus: Huacachina Oasis, Peru

Gemini: Derweze Crater, “The Door to Hell”, Turkmenistan

Cancer: Lavender Route, France

Leo: Danxia Landform, China

 Virgo: Benagil Cave, Portugal

Libra: Pink Sand Beach, Eleuthera

Scorpio: Lake Salzkammergut, Austria

Sagittarius: Tunnel of Love, Ukraine

Capricorn: Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Aquarius: Grand Prismatic Spring, United States

Pisces: Fairy Pools, Scottland

This unique geological sight is known as Danxia landform. The Danxia landform refers to various landscapes found in southeast and southwest China that “consist of a red bed characterized by steep cliffs”. It is a unique type of petrographic geomorphology found in China.

Danxia landform is formed from red-colored sandstones and conglomerates of largely Cretaceous age. The landforms look very much like karst topography that forms in areas underlain by limestones, but since the rocks that form Danxia are sandstones and conglomerates, they have been called “pseudo-karst” landforms.

Today I lived a dream. When I realized a few months ago that what used to be my desktop background for years is a real life place in China that I can visit, I knew I had to go. So here I am. Zhangye Geological Park. When we set out with a shared taxi (50¥ return trip, to/from our hostel) I could hardly contain my excitement. It was about an hour ride to the gate of the park (40¥ adult/20¥ student) from which a mandatory shuttle (20¥) took us to sites 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the geological park. I couldn’t help but gawk at the views from the shuttlebus itself until, alas, it started to rain… My heart dropped. We arrived at site 1 to find groups of people shivering in the plummeting rain, pushing to get onto any shuttlebus to hide from the torrential downpour. We were soaked, shivering, smiling, but let down. There was no way we could walk on the clay ridges, and the rainbow colours seemed to wash away with the rain. Thankfully, the shuttle busses aren’t signed in english and it’s impossible to tell which bus goes to which gate (north, east, west, and perhaps south?) without knowing the Chinese characters for either direction. We arrived at the north gate and realized that our taxi was in fact at the east one. The rain was so heavy that the shuttle busses wouldn’t go into the park again until it calmed, so we waited until finally the rain stopped altogether and blue sky appeared. The late afternoon sun glowed on the rainbow hills. My heart sighed relief. (I dropped Ryan’s android in utter admiration and cracked the screen.) No photoshop needed, the sunset brought out the natural colours of the hills so beautifully after their afternoon shower. We got lucky.

The Signs as Breathtaking, Natural Phenomena

Aries: A Blue Volcano (in Ethiopia). The glow comes from the combustion of sulfuric gases that are pushed through the cracks of the volcano at high temperatures.

Taurus: Wave Rock (located in Australia). That’s right, this is a 46 inch wave cemented entirely in rock! This geological phenomenon is known as flared slope and it usually occurs when erosion is concentrated in lower areas of the rock. Surf’s up! This rock is strong, deep, and carefully made- reminiscent of a Taurus.

Gemini: Nacreous Clouds. These are clouds that give a very futuristic, holographic look to the sky. These incredible clouds are extremely rare, because normally, the stratosphere is quite dry and clouds cannot form. But in extreme polar winters, there’s just enough moisture for these strange clouds to take form about 12 miles above Earth. Intriguing, Gorgeous, and new- just like all of you Gems!

Cancer: Glowing Ocean (Vaadhoo Island). These patches of ocean literally reflect the starry night sky. It’s gorgeous. According to marine biologists, the glowing is caused by a massive red tide of bioluminescent phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedrum.The microorganisms emit light in response to stress, such as when a wave crashes into the shore. The result is a wickedly cool glowing ocean. Romantic and dreamy, like the Cancer zodiac’s nature.

Leo: “Fire Rainbow”, or circumhorizontal arc. This appears when the sun is high in the sky (higher than 58° above the horizon), and its light passes through diaphanous, high-altitude cirrus clouds made up of hexagonal plate crystals. Sunlight entering the crystals’ vertical side faces and leaving through their bottom faces is refracted (as through a prism) and separated into an array of visible colors. Beautiful and bold, just like you Leo!

Virgo: Lake Hillier (located in Australia). This lake is flamingo pink for no definite reason. It’s just… a pink lake. The cause of this phenomenon’s color is assumed to be the reaction between its natural salts, sodium bicarbonate and red halophilic bacteria. It’s kind of cute, actually. It looks so simple in it’s entirety, it makes me wish more lakes were pink for no reason. It’s cuteness, humbleness, and simplicity definitely reminded me of all the Virgos.

Libra: Desert roses. These beauties are made in the desert from formations of the minerals gypsum  and barite with sand inclusions. The ‘petals’ are crystals flattened,  fanning open along characteristic gypsum cleavage planes. This phenomenon has a stunning beauty, it could almost be a real rose! All you Libras are adorable little flowers too, don’t worry.

Scorpio: The Black Sun (Denmark) During spring in Denmark, flocks of more than a million European starlings gather into a single group to form incredibly large and intricate shapes in the sky. The amazing scenes are only possible because of the flock’s amazing communication and coordination. They’re complex, focused, dark, and beautiful- much like the Scorpio persona.

Sagittarius: Auroras. An aurora is a natural light display in the sky predominantly seen in the high latitude regions. Aurorae are caused by cosmic wind, solar rays, and magnetospheric plasma interacting with the upper atmosphere. Lots of light, lots of beauty, and lots of pow- kind of like when Sagittarius walks into the room. ;)

Capricorn: Frozen methane bubbles. Methane bubbles form in water when dead organic matter falls to the bottom, much to the delight of bacteria. When methane gets trapped in frozen water, viola! Just don’t light a match to these- since it’s methane gas, that could get very bad very quickly. That’s kind of why I associated these with Capricorn folk- they’re elegant looking and cool, but also cold (ha- literally and in character). They’re also prone to combust. Jk about that last part. Humans don’t combust. What I meant by that was that Capricorn can be very dangerous, despite their calm and collected ways.

Aquarius: Danxia Landform (located in China). It is a unique type of petrographic geomorphology found in China. Danxia landform is formed from red-coloured sandstonesand conglomerates of largely Cretaceous age. The landforms look very much like karst topography that forms in areas underlain by limestones, but since the rocks that form danxia are sandstones and conglomerates, they have been called “pseudo-karst” landforms. Lots of vibrant, beautiful colors here! No pale pastel today! This phenomenon reminds me of Aquarius’ unique, artistic nature. This landform breathes the life into me. Simply breathtaking.

Pisces: A Brinicle. When the surface of the sea freezes—such as around the north and south poles—it does so in a way that forces pockets of especially cold and salty seawater to gather on the underside of the ice. This mixture of brine is denser than the seawater below it, and as a result it tends to slowly sink to the bottom. Now, because it’s so cold, the fresher water below the brine actually freezes around it as it falls, which results in a giant icicle under the surface. That’s what a Brinicle is. It’s like a pretty, still underwater tornado. :) This reminds me of Pisces because it has that slow motion, under the sea vibe. It’s relaxing, perplexing, but also has this really languid dreamy feeling to it. It’s fit for all of you adorable fish!

The colorful Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park in the Gansu province, China. Known for its saturated rock formations, it has been voted by Chinese media outlets as one of the most beautiful landforms in China.

The unusual colours of the rocks are the result of red sandstone and mineral deposits being laid down over 24 million years.

Photo by Macau-based photographer Melinda Chan.