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Across Unknown South America by Landor

Under it was a white stratum much cracked


The

valley in the depression extended in lovely campos from south-west to north-east--in fact, as far as the giant table-land which stood majestic in the distance.

The scene, as we stood on the edge of the plateau, was impressive in its grandeur, in its silence. In the morning the sky was almost entirely covered with transparent clouds in scales like a fish. In the afternoon the sky above changed into horizontal layers of globular clouds, which stood as still as death. Leaden black globular accumulations covered one-third of the sky vault, great unshapen masses overhead rendering the air heavy.

We marched all that day on a deep layer of ashes. On descending from the plateau we had on our left great clean campos and plentiful _burity_ palms in a slight depression where moisture filtered through. As the caravan was moving along gaily, a _veado_ (deer) gracefully leapt in front and, turning its head back two or three times to look at us, ran before us. Filippe, the negro, in his excitement, gave wild yells which set the mules stampeding, while green parrots in couples, scared at the sudden disturbance, flew overhead, adding piercing shrieks to the rapid tinkling of the mules' bells, the rattling of the baggage on the pack-saddles, and the shouts of the men trying to stop the excited mules. All those sudden noises mingled together were quite a change for us, accustomed to a constant deathly silence.

justify;">Before us on the W.N.W.--as we still sank in grey ashes--were two conical hillocks. In the distance, to the west, two small flat-topped plateaux rose above the sky-line, and also two hills shaped not unlike the backs of two whales. On our left we had an immense crack or fissure extending from north-east to south-west between the hill-range on which we travelled and another on the south--both showing huge domes of eruptive rock, apparently extensive flows of red lava subsequently blackened on the surface by weathering. On the opposite side to ours the rock was exposed all along the fissure for a great height, except the surface padding on the summit, where beautiful fresh green grass was in contrast to the deep tones of the rock. On our side we were still struggling in ashes and sand, with striated and much indented boulders of lava showing through.

We found many _sicupira_ nuts, of a small, flat and fat oval shape, and a yellow-ochre colour. The shell contained many tiny cells or chambers--just like the section of a beehive. Each chamber was full of a bitter oil, said to cure almost any complaint known.

On May 22nd I took observations with the hypsometrical apparatus in order to obtain the correct elevation, and also as a check to the several aneroids I was using for differential altitudes. Water boiled at a temperature of 210 deg. with a temperature of the atmosphere of 70 deg. Fahr. This would make the elevation at that spot 1,490 ft. above the sea level. The aneroids registered 1,480 ft.

We came upon two strange rocks, one resembling the head and neck of a much-eroded Sphinx--of natural formation--blackened, knobby, and with deep grooves; the other not unlike a giant mushroom. The sphinx-like rock stood upon a pedestal also of rock in several strata. The head was resting on a stratum 1 ft. thick, of a brilliant red, and at a slight dip. Under it was a white stratum much cracked, after which came a stratum of white and red blending into each other. This stratum, 2 ft. thick, showed the white more diffused in the upper part than the lower. The lowest stratum of all exposed was of a deep red.


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