Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/83

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THE Almannaja formed the western boundary of this sunken land, and for one mile this extraordinary and unique face of rock extended in a straight line like some artificial creation of masonry. A moatlike trough at its foot held the waters of the Oxara river, which leaped in a high waterfall from its northern extremity.

In the canon of the Almannaja, from whose eastern edge the road descends to the hotel, every imaginable phase of dislocation and rupture of the surface of igneous rock was seen, and for long distances, beyond the immediate edge of the high palisade, the ground was upheaved and depressed, alternately, by the occurrence of small deep fissures, in whose obscure and hidden recesses the snow lay. These minor rips and tears in the ground were very interesting. Slaggy looking, ropy, circular mats of the original viscous lava were seen everywhere. The complete demonstration of the viscous pasty flowage was most significant and authentic. The falling masses, blocks and columns choked up the chasms in many places, and made bridges across the rifts. This whole plain is confusedly cracked and opened, the main lines of fission running the length of the valley. The crevices thus formed showed every imaginable state of tumbling—in walls, splits and chaotic rubbish of stones and columns, quite hopelessly attacked by plants and lichens in an effort to straighten out and soften its rugged and gaunt confusion.

Our next stop was to be Geyser, where the hot-water fountains are supposed to play with commendable constancy and where—for truth's sake—we venture to affirm, they don't.

The ride to Geyser was made in two parts. We stopped half-way at a farmhouse, where I saw something of the domestic life of these people, and where—God save the mark—I ate skyr. Skyr is a curdled sheep's milk, peculiarly sour and preposterously unpalatable. It is eaten with cow's milk, and is thick, pasty and—intolerable. It would require a Mark Twain to do it justice. With the skyr went a tray full of dreadful bread of two varieties, one a sour black bread, looking like leather flakes, the other whiter and only a little less propitious for the appetite. A third gastronomic enormity was an awful dark brownish yellow granular cheese in a tin. It smelt like old hay and only Providence knows how it tasted. The saving relic of this feast was crackers