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Across Unknown South America by Landor

Was a tributary of the Roncador


Then there was a great table-land extending from north to south, composed of red volcanic rock and white limestone. A separate red quadrangular castle-like structure of immense proportions rose in the middle foreground in the north-west upon a conical green grassy base.

Add to this wonderful work of Nature a magnificent sky of gold and brilliant vermilion, as limpid as limpid could be, and you will perhaps imagine why I could not move from the rock on which I sat gazing at that magnificent, almost awe-inspiring, spectacle. Night came on swiftly, as it always does in those latitudes, and I scrambled down the hill, among the sharp, cutting, slippery, shiny rocks, arriving in camp minus a good many patches of skin upon my shins and knuckles.

At the point where I crossed the Roncador River there were three handsome waterfalls in succession, the central one in two terraces, some 90 ft. high. At the foot of the two-tiered waterfall was a great circular basin which had all the appearance of having been formerly a volcanic vent. The flowing water, which tumbled down with terrific force, had further washed its periphery smooth. The centre of the basin was of immense depth. Directly under the fall a spacious grotto was to be seen under a huge projecting rock.

The elevation of the stream above the falls was 2,150 ft., below the falls 2,060 ft. The temperature of the atmosphere was 72 deg. Fahr., and the minimum temperature during the night 58 deg. Fahr.

The Roncador flowed from north-east to south-west as far as the foot of the great plateau we had observed during our march. There, on meeting the great vertical wall, its course was diverted in a northerly direction and then again to the north-west, where the stream eventually fell into the Cuyaba River. The Rio Jangada, on which we had camped the previous day, was a tributary of the Roncador, and so was the streamlet called Pedra Grande, which entered the Roncador on its right side. The Pedra Grande took its name from an immense monolith, worn quite smooth, near its bank.

From the Roncador we continued on our northerly course. The western view of the "balanced Sphinx boulder" was indeed remarkable. It seemed to stand up on a small pivot despite all the laws of gravitation, the heaviest side of the upper rock projecting far out on one side with nothing to balance it on the other.

Cutting our way easily in the scrub, we rose to 2,300 ft. over a flow of red lava (it had flowed in an easterly direction) in several successive strata. The upper stratum was grooved into geometrical patterns, such as we had met before, wherever it showed through the thin layer of red volcanic sand which covered most of it. We were there in a zone of immense natural pillars of rock, some of such great height that they were visible miles off along the range--which extended from south to north, parallel, in fact, to the course we were following.

Still proceeding due north, we arrived on the summit of a great dome, 2,500 ft., from which point we had to alter our course to the north-west, owing to an isolated impassable barrier which we left on our right (north). It had steep slopes but well-rounded terminal points. It extended from N.N.E. to S.S.W., and had a height of some 150 ft. above the flat _serradao_, on which my skeleton-like mules wended their way among the stunted trees, the bells dangling from their necks monotonously tinkling--not the gay, brisk tinkling of animals full of life, as when we had left Goyaz, but the weak, mournful sound--ding ... ding ... ding--of tired, worn-out beasts, stumbling along anyhow. Occasionally one heard the crashing of broken branches or of trees collapsing at the collision with the packs, or the violent braying of the animals when stung in sensitive parts by an extra-violent fly; otherwise there was silence, the silence of death, all round us.


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