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Across Unknown South America by Landor

Joined this quadrangular castle to the plateau


Owing

to the pools of water not far from "Church-rock" we called that spot _Caponga de la Lagoa_.

A few hundred yards beyond "Church-rock" we came upon another extraordinary sight: a quadrangular rocky castle--a perfect cube of rock--which stood at a considerable elevation upon a conical base, some distance off the wall-like sides of the plateau. Strangely enough, a thin wall of rock, only a few feet thick, quite vertical, of great height and of great length, joined this quadrangular castle to the plateau. That wall had evidently remained standing when the plateau had subsided. The larger plateau along the foot of which we travelled ended in two great domes, one at each angle of its eastern terminus wall. The eastern part of that plateau was flat-topped, whereas the central portion rose into a double pyramid and looked not unlike a giant tent with a porch attachment. It was of a bright yellow colour--apparently sandstone and ashes. The work of erosion had been greater on the eastern face--owing, I think, to the prevalent wind on that side.

On looking back upon the great range of rock which ended abruptly near "Church-rock" (which, as we have seen, once formed part of it), a great semicircular cavity was disclosed on its western face. The summit of the wall around the cavity rested on an inclined plane, which in its turn rested above a vertical concave wall. The latter wall of rock had conical buttresses at the terminal

points.

West-north-west of the great wall was an immense depression. Only a conical hill rose above its last undulations. The upper edge of that depression was at an altitude of 1,550 ft. above the sea level, whereas the top of "Church-rock" was fully a thousand feet higher--viz. 2,550 ft.

[Illustration: A Grand Rock.

"Church rock."]

[Illustration: Church Rock.

(Side view.)]

At the terminus of the first section of the cliff range, interrupted by a great fissure from the second section, another structure in course of formation not unlike "Church-rock" could be observed. It had a quadrangular tower surmounting it. There was in the second section of the range a regular quadrangle of rock, with a high tower upon a conical hill, and another castle-like structure surmounting a conical base. The two were most impressive as they stood in their sombre red against the brilliantly blue sky.

Next to the second section of the range, to the north, was a high mountain of two twin-pointed peaks, shaped like a badly-pitched tent. Then came another plateau, much eroded on its south side. Beyond was an immense black plateau on three successive tiers--and this one, unlike the others of which it was merely a continuation, had sloping instead of vertical sides.

We had a nasty experience that day, which for the moment made us forget the beauty of that wonderful scenery. We were going through high scrub and stunted trees and tall grass, much dried by the intense heat--quite suffocating in the basin with the refraction from the huge rocks. A strong breeze sprang up, and we were delighted--when we saw, fast approaching, a dense black and white cloud rolling, as it were, along the ground. As it got nearer there were such loud crackling and explosions that it seemed like the volleys of musketry in a battle. My horses and mules pricked up their ears, lifting their heads high--sniffing, neighing, and braying. They became restless. Before we had time to realize what was the matter, we saw tongues of flames shoot out from the earth. Within a few seconds, with the wind which was blowing high, we found ourselves with a barrier of fire close upon us behind and fast gaining upon us. The trees seemed to flare up in a moment like matches or fireworks. A wave of terrific heat took our breath away. We were almost suffocated. There was only one way of escape--in front of us. For to the left we had the impassable barrier of rock; to the right the flames had already gained on us in a semicircle like a claw of fire. We stirred on our animals, lashing them. My men, with their heads wrapped to prevent suffocation from the stifling smoke, were in a great state of excitement. They were about to abandon the animals in order to save their own lives; but Alcides, Filippe, and I kept the rear, endeavouring to save men, baggage, and animals. The flames gained on us very quickly. They occasionally almost licked our animals. The mules and horses, now fully enveloped in dense, choking smoke, began to stampede, and soon all the animals were galloping away, sniffing, neighing and braying frantically. In their disorderly flight they crashed against trees and tore off branches; stumbled over rocks and rolled over themselves; struggling up on their feet only to resume their mad race for life.


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