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Rusted treasures

Golden Grove-Camp — 2000-08-05

After finishing my notes at last, I grab the detector and search the area for gold. Of course, I know it’s highly unlikely that I’ll find any gold so near the road to Yalgoo, but… you never know! I swing the detector enthusiastically over the ground, my first real search for the desired nuggets. About half an hour into my search, I suddenly hear a loud whistle in the head phones. Excitedly, I scrape away at the stony ground with the tip of my shoe, swaying the detector over the spot once more ‘Eeeeeiiiiii’ sounds again loudly. I can’t believe it, but there must be a nugget here under the ground. I hadn’t really expected to find anything and unfortunately left my pick back at camp. I hastily snatch a sharp stone that I spy nearby and begin digging with all my might at the hard earth, occasionally swinging the detector over the spot to ensure that the nugget is still buried and not hidden amongst the dug up dirt. ‘Eeeeeiiiiii’ as loud as ever, sending me into a digging craze as I scratch away at the ten centimetre deep hole with my stone tool, sweat pouring from every part of my body. Suddenly I strike the presumed nugget, a rusted metal rod that someone had beaten into the earth for some reason, a long time ago. With great disappointment, I cover the thing again with dirt and continue my search. Every now and then a whistle sounds in my head phones and I uncover a screw, some tin cans and a great deal of other metallic rubbish. I give up after two hours and hand the detector over to Tanja, who tries her luck too.

While Tanja searches, I climb up the rock behind our camp to enjoy the impressive view once more, my eyes falling this time on the Golden Grove Mine, about two kilometres from here. The mine is a hub of activity in the middle of this endless sea of bush, with great trucks driving back and forth across a mound of earth around the huge hole, the noise of their machinery penetrating into my ear. They appear to have hit upon a very rich gold vein amidst the countless bushes, amazing really how man extracts the precious metal from the ground, digging deeper and deeper into the earth like a giant mole. Despite having the detector with us, I’m glad that the gold fever hasn’t got us yet.
With a sweeping gaze, I look across the stunning countryside and lean against Rufus in the light of the setting sun, catching sight of Tanja about a hundred metres beneath me. She appears to have found something as she is picking away at the ground on her knees, another nugget perhaps? She found a six thousand dollar worth gold nugget a year ago in just thirty seconds, we called it Ever Morning. Who knows, with her luck she’s probably made another strike.
‘Denis, Denis! Come down from your vantage point! There’s something here! Help me please!’
‘Okay!’ I yell in reply and make my descent. ‘Look, every time I swing the detector over this patch of earth I hear a loud whistle in my ear. I’ve been digging around for ages but can’t find a thing.’ Tanja says, passing me the detector. I glide the device over the ground in question and hear the high pitched tone in my head phones. ‘No doubt about it, there’s something here. The question is, what?!’ I whisper, as if our find could flee in fright if we talk too loud. I take a handful of earth and pass it over the disc on the end of the detector, producing a loud whistling sound from the thing ‘It’s in my left hand’ I say, fairly excited myself by now. Then I take a handful of earth in my right hand, but hear a signal as the left one passes by the detector – suddenly it dawns on me… how stupid! ‘Oh God, I still have my watch on!’ I cry loudly. Seconds later I begin the process once more, and this time it whistles without the watch. It takes another five minutes for the tiny treasure to emerge ‘That’s it’ Tanja breaths. She takes the small nugget in her mouth, to free it from dust, then she lays it on her open palm, but we cannot find even a millimetre of gold in it’s colouring. ‘What’s that?’ she asked in disappointment. ‘Give it to me’ I plead, and study the metallic stone in great detail. ‘Unbelievable. You’ve found a pellet!’ Tanja views the leaden ball with a beaten look on her face, before breaking into a loud laugh. As darkness falls, she brings her search to an end.

We sit together by the camp fire, baking bread for the march to come. Tanja had made the dough that afternoon and now it’s my job to bury the Bedourie in the coals and make sure that the bread doesn’t burn in the hot fire. After about five minutes, I use my welding gloves to pull the camp oven out of the glowing coals and open the lid to the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread. ‘Looks delicious’ Tanja says, giving me the next load. I place the Bedourie into the fire once more and watch with an eagles eye. 45 minutes later we have 10 small bread loaves, enough to keep us going for the next few days, two of which, however, don’t last longer than our dinner of stew and baked bread. With full stomachs we retreat into our humble abode, as the first raindrops begin to fall.

Day: 86

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