After our recent brush with the natives these wild men gave us a wide berth, and we saw no sign of them on our way to the mountains, to which we came after two hours of walking. The sides of these mountains are rocky, with no verdure of any kind upon them except a species of stubble which grows in patches. When we came to the top of one of these hills, we looked down a sheer cliff into the valley. I never before saw any place so inaccessible to man. Nothing without wings, it appeared, could descend into those depths. After exploring the mountains for the best part of an hour, however, we came to a position where it was possible, with caution, to descend for some distance, and by aid of our rope, one end of which we fastened to rocks or stubble as opportunity offered, we succeeded in reaching a cliff from which there was a drop of not more than two hundred feet. This I calculated to be the entire length of the rope we had brought with us, by which I resolved to be lowered. Bantum tried to dissuade me from my project, urging that the risk was too great; but I was determined that, having come so far, I would not go back without being able to make some report of the valley we had undertaken to explore, and a descent by means of the rope seemed to be the only method, nor could Bantum suggest any other.
I now knotted at one end of the rope a cradle in which I could sit. while being lowered, and so long as the rope held, of which there appeared to be no reason to doubt, for my weight was well within its compass, I did not anticipate danger.
All being made ready, and every possible precaution taken against accident, I was let down from the top of the cliff to what looked like the dried-up course of a stream composed of pebbles and wash-dirt. The whole valley presented the most dreary and desolate appearance. The high cliffs by which it was surrounded rose like perpendicular walls, casting deep shadows, so that the sun’s rays never penetrated to the floor, for which reason it was destitute of verdure, barren to the eye, and depressing to the senses. As I descended it seemed to me as though I was being lowered into some forgotten tomb.
At length my feet touched ground, and, extricating myself from my cradle, I began to explore the course of the stream. The light in these depths, although it was noonday, was not greater than twilight, and I found some difficulty in ascertaining of what the bed of the stream was composed, but by crawling on all fours I was able to form some idea of its composition, and among the wash-dirt I found a number of dark stones, which, from the experience I had gained at Amsterdam, I knew to be rubies of a size and weight that promised great value.
I now became so absorbed in my hunt for rubies that the dismal nature of my surroundings was forgotten. The greed of gain obsessed me, and as I gathered the precious stones into my pocket I would not have exchanged this desolate valley for the most beautiful spot on earth.