Friday, 12 January 2018

The Incredible Rainbow Mountains of Peru

One of the most wonderful geologic features in the world is the Ausangate Mountain of the Peruvian Andes. The mountain is striped with colors ranging from turquoise to lavender to maroon and gold. However, this "painted mountain" is notoriously difficult to find and get to, requiring several days of hiking to reach its peak deep within the Andes by way of Cusco. The mountain sits at an elevation of 6,384 meters and is located approximately 100 km southeast of the major city Cusco. The local area is rich in geology, from uplifted granitic cliffs to glaciers which have eroded large valleys and the cretaceous limestone "forest" nearby. Rainbow Mountain Peru turned out not to be the beautiful natural wonder that you see on the tourism posters in Cusco.

It was quite the opposite. But we’ve made it back in one piece to now provide a warning to other travelers considering a Rainbow Mountain day tour. Rainbow Mountain is a colorful mountainside in the Andes of Peru. In short, the colors you see were formed by sedimentary mineral layers in the mountain that have been exposed by erosion. The Rainbow Mountain trailhead is located a 3-hour drive from Cusco, where day trips have recently grown quite popular. Rainbow Mountain turned out a true natural wonder, also known as Vinicunca, has become a major touristic attraction. The painted Ausangate Mountain is also considered to be holy and believed to be the deity of Cusco by local Peruvians. It is a site of daily worship and offerings by local citizens. 

Every year thousands of Quechua pilgrims visit the Ausangate Mountain for the Star Snow festival which takes place a week before the Corpus Christi feast. The Andes are an incredibly complex mountain chain that extends along the western edge of the South American continent. The subduction of the Nazca plate underneath the South American plate initiated mountain building and uplift of the mountain range. This produced significant volcanism and the introduction of rare and varied mineralogy to the Andes Mountains. The reason we see the rainbow coloration in the stratigraphic layers of the Ausangate Mountain is mainly due to weathering and mineralogy. Red coloration of sedimentary layers often indicates iron oxide rust as a trace mineral. Alike to how a nail will rust and turn red when oxidized, sediments that are iron rich will change when exposed to oxygen and water. This, in combination with uplift and tectonically driven crustal shortening has tilted the sedimentary layers on their side exposing stripped stratigraphic intervals.

The different coloration is due to diverse environmental conditions and mineralogy when the sediment was originally deposited and subsequently diagenetically altered. Moreover, introduction of goethite or oxidized limonite will introduce a brownish coloration to sandstones. Thus, the bright yellow coloration could be due to iron sulphide as trace minerals within the pore cement. Further, chlorite will often color sediments varying shades of green dependent on diagenetic history and concentration. What was simply a calm mountain in the Andes is now inundated with hundreds of tourists who all ascend in droves from Cusco to get their Instagram able shot of the colorful mountain. Though Rainbow Mountain may look good-looking in the photos, we recommend NOT pursuing this hike if it’s been raining and/or until trail improvements are made. It’s not just a strenuous trek. It can be downright dangerous, as evidence by the numerous people witnessed hobbling back to their tourist shuttle.

Not only that, but the striking and delicate alpine environment is getting entirely demolished by the hordes of eager hikers who make the journey to Rainbow Mountain. Rainbow Mountain is a day-long stagger at over 14,000 feet, tracing a dirt path between looming peaks of green and startling red rock. It's a striking route, passing local villages built from stone and glittering mountain streams. But the altitude is punishing sufficient to turn even the sprightliest young athlete into a panting mess.

Larabanga Mosque & Mystic Stone

Larabanga is a small town in Western Gonja in Northern Region, 5 miles from Mole National Park. It is a predominantly Muslim town and became famous because of the adobe Sahelian mosque which was built in the style of buildings in the former Western Sudanese Empires. It was at the height of the trans-Saharan trade. It is reputed to be Ghana's oldest Islamic mosque. This adobe Sahelian mosque is said to date from 1421 has been included on the 2002 World Monuments Watch. The Sahelian mosque, built with mud and reeds, has two tall towers in pyramidal shape, one for the “Mehrab” direction towards Makkah forming the facade on the east and the other as a minaret in the northeast corner. These are buttressed by twelve bulbous shaped structures, which are fitted with timber elements.

More interesting during the British times, there was a road that was laid near the Larabanga Mosque; a stone was removed during the construction to make way for the road. The next day, the stone was amazingly found again on the same place it was displaced from. The mystic stone was again removed from the way and the same thing happened on the next day. Later, the officials decided to build the road around the stone and it became the mystic stone. The mosque is measures about 8 metres by 8 metres and architectural style is also known as "flat-footed adobe architecture".

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has contributed substantially to its restoration, and lists it as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. Thus, the repair works have revived the knowledge of mud-plaster maintenance. It is believed to contain an ancient copy of the Quran, brought by an Arabian cleric, who accompanied the people on their migration to Larabanga. You can enjoy mosque and feel cultural atmosphere. The Mosque is built of clay in Sudanese style architecture has supporting wooden beams, jutting out of the walls. This site is located 6km away from Mole National Prak and 30km away from Damango, there are clear signposts from Mole. The local peoples have also been supported in a handicraft and tourism project to generate moneys not only for meeting the maintenance expenses of the mosque but also improve the economic conditions of the people.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Mount Kirkjufell, Iceland

Mt. Kirkjufell (463 m) is the most prominent mountain near the town of Grundarfjörður. It is most beautiful landmark and photographed mountain in Iceland the icon of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The mountain of Kirkjufell and its waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss, attracts nature lovers and photographers. Its isolated location jutting out into the sea makes it a focal point for tourists and seamen alike. The area surrounded by beaches, lovely walking trail around it as well as a more challenging climb up to the top where bird and fish fossils can be found. There’s something exclusive about the shape of Mt. Kirkjufell, green in summer, orange in winter and white with snow. However, with aurora borealis it provides breathtaking views. The best time to catch the Northern Lights in Iceland is between September and January.

Even photographers waiting for many hours to capture sun rise and sun set view.  The mountain is free-standing and referred to as the most beautiful mountain as you’ll see crowds of visitors with tripods and cameras taking photos like the one above, i.e. from this angle with the waterfall in front. Kirkjufell is most favorite for film making location featuring as the "arrowhead mountain" that the Hound and the company north of the Wall see when capturing a wight. Kirkjufell is formed with a stack of layers of sedimentary rocks from glacial and interglacial stages. At the base is Tertiary Lava and then it alternates between Sandstone, and Quaternary lava. At the top is tuff and during the last Ice age, erosion shaped it. Their sides are so steep because it was a high rock pressured between 2 glacier tongues. It is possible to hike to the top of Kirkjufell but difficult hike with very steep sections. Do not go by yourself as it is very dangerous, get hire an experienced guide that can take you through the right tracks.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

18 Of The Most Surreal Landscapes On Earth

Antelope Canyon is the most photographed canyon in the American Southwest. It was formed by flash-flooding and erosion, which gave the rock its smooth, wave-like texture.

Bryce Canyon in southwestern Utah is home to brightly colored geological structures called hoodoos, formed by frost, weathering, and erosion.

Fly Geyser is less famous tourist attraction that was accidentally created in 1916 during a well drilling, Water heated by geothermal energy creating the multi-colored mount.

Huacachina is a literal oasis in the Peruvian desert. It's a resort town built around a small, natural lake in the Southwestern Ica Region.

In southwest Spain lie two salty and very pink lakes called Las Salinas de Torrevieja. The color is caused by algae that releases a red pigment under certain conditions.

Lake Natron in Tanzania is famous for its deep red hue, part of the East African Rift Valley, and gets its color from the algae that live on salt in water from nearby volcanoes.

Las Salinas Grandes is a massive salt desert in Argentina. The 2,300-square-mile field is filled with pools of water created by mining companies that harvest salt there.

Lencois Maranhenses Sand Dunes of Brazil look like average sand dunes, and valleys are filled with water since the low-lying lands often flood during the wet season.

Namibia's Dead Vlei, or dead marsh, is surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world and dotted with dead trees more than 900 years old.

Naturally formed staircase Badab-e Surt, 2 mineral hot springs deposited carbonate minerals on the mountain, leaving behind pools of water and naturally-formed steps.

Petra, in Jordan, was the capital city of the Nabateans, a pagan civilization. The famed city was built from the surrounding red sandstone.

Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia are covered in a thin layer of water, creating surreal reflections of the sky.

The Cappadocia Valley in Turkey is home to thousand-year-old cave dwellings. Many of the ancient underground homes are still occupied.

The Crystal Caves of Naica, in Mexico, were discovered in 2000. The immense crystals are believed to have grown for about 500,000 years due to the chamber's unique conditions.

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia Danakil Desert is one of the hottest inhabited places on planet, with temperatures ranging from 95 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 145 degrees.

The rice terraces of Yunnan, China, are carved into the hillside. Different types of vegetation lend the landscape its alternating hues.

The white gypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico look like snow, and cover 275 square miles of desert.

Tsingy de Bernaraha National Park in Madagascar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The forest of limestone needles was made when underground water eroded the existing limestone.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Tent City of Mina, Saudi Arabia

Mina is a small city, also known as “Tent City” is a neighborhood of Makkah in western Saudi Arabia. Mina is located about 5KM to the east of Holy city of Makkah, covers an area of 20KM. Mina stands on the road from Makkah city center to the Hill of Arafat, best known for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Mina is a place, where pilgrims throw stones, remembering the occasion that the Prophet Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) stoned the Shatan (Devil) that came between him and command Allah Talah had set him. The Hajj is the ritual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, and Mina tent city is used for five days each year by Hajj pilgrims, and empty for the rest of the time.

More than 120,000 air conditioned tents provide temporary shelter to over 3 million pilgrims during Hajj days. The Mina valley where Jamarat Bridge is located, pilgrims perform stoning to Shatan (Devil) between sunrise and sunset on the last day of Hajj. These tents cover every open space, as maximum as a naked eye can see, neatly arranged row after row. The tents measure 8 x 8 meters and are constructed of fiberglass coated with Teflon in order to ensure high resistance to fire.

In the ancient times, pilgrims brought their own tents which they would erect in the flat plains of Mina. In 1990s, the Saudi government installed permanent cotton tents relieving pilgrims of the burden of having to carry their own camping equipment. However, a massive fire that swept through the tent city killing nearly 400 pilgrims in 1997, then the current permanent fire-proof city was built.  Once the Hajj is over, the tents would be dismantled, everything packed and taken back. During the Syrian Civil War, the international community pressured Saudi Arabia to use its unoccupied tent city to house war refugees.

The tents are segregated into a number of camps, as each of which possess its own exterior wall, and is linked to other camps by pathways. The camp provides the facility of a kitchen, bathrooms, and ablution facilities. For the pilgrims ease, every tent is color-coded by country and numbered, and all the haji’s are supposed to have badges with their color and number on it, in case they get lost. In past few years, Saudi government investing huge amout of money to improve the infrastructural projects to ease the daunting and physically demanding rituals of the annual pilgrimage. A comprehensive fire safety network containing of heat-sensitive water sprinkler are linked to an alarm system was implemented to avoid the repeat of 1997 tragedy.