Posts Tagged With: Sapphire

Ten of the Fifty Toes gives a 5 minute trip summary (#1)

Time for a few short interviews with the family to reflect on the trip. Starting with the kids, X up first. If anyone wants to ask a question please send a reply to the blog and it will be added.

“What were your three favourite places and why?”

  1. “Cape Le Grand National Park, WA. Our campground at Cape Le Grand was full of kids all the time we were there, and the road was safe and great for cycling around. The beach was close and the beautiful white sand and small waves made it perfect for swimming. At the end of the beach were great rocks to fish from, though we didn’t catch much. I liked the fact that there were plenty of snakes around. We found highly venomous Dugites, harmless pythons, and three other species, all around the campground. Great to watch and keep a safe distance.”
  2. “Swimming with Whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef. We took a boat from Exmouth to see the largest fish in the ocean. Our crew were fantastic, very knowledgeable about the whale sharks but also friendly and very helpful to the swimmers as we had fairly rough weather. We swam right alongside the huge fish, the largest was almost 8m long. It was very exciting.”
  3. “Gem hunting was a favourite activity we did at several places. I love to fossick and being able to dig up your own gemstones was particularly exciting as you never know what you may find. It is an addictive hobby. We found garnets on the Plenty Highway in NT, Opals in Coober Pedy in SA, sapphires near Sapphire in QLD, and thunder eggs at Mount Hay, QLD.”
“What was the best thing you took on the trip?”
“My dad gave us a pocket knife at the start of the trip and I used it until it finally broke and I was given a new one for my birthday. I used it often for whittling wood, making cubbies, cutting fishing line, and many other things. It was so useful that Dad even borrowed it quite often.”
“What did you miss most, or just couldn’t take with you?”
“I would have liked to take more books on the wildlife and gems and rocks but we only had one drawer each in the camper trailer to put everything in. More books would have meant less storage for clothes and fossicking finds!”
“Would you do it again?”
“Yes. I have already asked Dad to take me back on the road for a fossicking trip to find gemstones. Dad wants me to be a bit bigger and stronger so I can do my fair share of the digging”
“How did schooling on the road go?”
“We enrolled in Sydney Distance Education Primary School (SDEPS). Mum and Dad were our supervisors. We had to send our work back every few weeks. It was hard to finish so much work every two weeks, especially when other kids were around playing, or if there was a great new place to explore”
Categories: Adventure, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sapphire hunting

A spur of the moment decision found us travelling inland again towards the exotically named towns of Emerald, Sapphire and Rubytown. Fossicking fever had grabbed us again and against our better judgement with temperatures forecast to reach high 30’s over the next few days we decided to seek fame and fortune in the gem fields.

Arriving late we made a call and booked an early morning trip out with a guide to fossick. We had seen the bags of sand wash sold for varying amounts up to $20 but knowing that these are “seeded” with a few fragments and sometimes a cut sapphire but we wanted to experience it first hand.

That night storm clouds gathered and a fierce lightning and thunderstorm was unleashed upon the town. Judging by the dusty roads and lack of foliage it must have been a welcome downfall. Our Kiwi guide greeted us early the next morning at a crossroads and we drove off. Somewhat unimpressed that we had picked his usual day off he showed us what to do and retired to the comfort of his air conditioned 4WD. At 8am it was 30 degrees. By 9am it was 33 degrees and climbing rapidly.

The extraction process is quite straight forward. Take a pickaxe and/or mattock, select a piece of land, preferably where an old river bed has been and start digging. Shovel into buckets, walk them to a rotating mesh drum, pour in, turn the handle and the heavier dirt is filtered off into another bucket. This bucket is then walked to the Willoughby wash where it is poured onto two sieves, the bigger mesh on top. Each sieve in turn is placed in the Willoughby wash, basically a big bucket of muddy water, with a handle that is cranked up and down. The correct cranking speed is important to prevent losing all your wash into the bottom of the bucket. If done well, all the heavier stones, hopefully including the sapphires, accumulate in the centre of the sieve. The final steps are to turn the washed gravel over on a hessian bag and starting from the centre, working out, look for the glassy sapphires.

This was repeated again and again and when the temperature rose to 35 degrees our guide called for a tea break from the air-conditioned cabin of his vehicle. We couldn’t refuse. The kids enthusiasm had faded quickly and to his credit our guide had noticed this and discretely scattered sapphire fragments on a discard pile. When pointed out to them it took them another 30 minutes to pick them all out.

We continued until my hands were so blistered I couldn’t wield the pick any longer and we called it a day around noon with a very paltry collection of sapphires of blue, yellow and green.

Back at the caravan park the kids found someone had left a sieve lying around and they grabbed it so they could start sieving the gravel in wheelbarrows there. A few more sapphires were found but it hasn’t changed our plans for retirement!

Very dusty, thirsty, and tired we headed for the local swimming pool that opens at 3pm and had a very cheap and enjoyable cool down with a few grey nomads who were telling us about their mining claims. No fortunes found there either, though it seemed to be more of a social endeavour. We had been told that anyone with a claim was allowed to graze camels and cows on the common land but given the lack of fodder they had recently been rounded up and removed somewhere else. All we witnessed in the morning was a small flock of about a dozen guinea fowl foraging along the roadside and into the campground.

It was a brief but interesting experience fossicking for sapphires but clearly a tough life for those who choose that path. It seems that the smart money is made from giving the tourists the experience rather than finding the sapphires though a few we met reckoned they did alright from the fossicking on claims.

A final visit to Pats Gems was required to get expert opinion on our finds and luckily for us they confirmed we had indeed found some genuine ones.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Queensland, Road trip, Travel | Tags: | 2 Comments

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