We were booked in to go on a tour with Mr Gem, a local tour operator who will show you the lay of the land, assist in finding a spot and make sure you are headed on the right track. He also includes lunch and allows you to wash all your buckets of wash back at the beautifully set up Pat’s Gems. The tour didn’t start till a lazy 9am, so we were able to head down to the local Sapphire Sunday market. Most stalls were obviously selling sapphires, either set in jewellery, cut but not set, or still in the rough. We didn’t buy any sapphires, that’s too easy, we want to dig ours up out of the ground. Dad picked up a sieve set and we bought a cute little book.
I was glad that dad bought the sieves because we still had a bit of spare time before the tour and were able to sort through some of our left over bucket from Pat’s. We picked out a few more sapphires and were feeling exited about our tour. After putting our lunch order in with Mrs Gem, we followed Mr Gem out to the digging site. It was the first time that any of us had dug in a dry riverbed. He showed us the layers of rock and explained about how the land was formed so that we could decided where we wanted to dig. I found a spot on the side of the riverbed under a very prickly sapphire bush, that was recommended to us. The sapphire bush often has sapphires hidden under it, simply because no one has spent the time digging through all its long prickles.
We spent a couple of hours digging in our own spots, collecting buckets of wash to take back to Pat’s for processing. It was really hot, dry and dusty and there wasn’t really any shade. Although I was quite thirsty and later got quite hungry, I didn’t stop for a break. We only had a certain amount of time to get as many buckets of wash as we could. We were under the pump. We needed to work hard and work fast. Almost all the buckets were full, people started to pack up their buckets and head back to the trailer. I hadn’t quite finished yet. I just wanted another couple, so I ignored them and kept digging. We had 10 buckets between the both of us and quickly walked them back to the trailer, while everyone else collected up the picks and shovels. Thank goodness it was time for lunch, because I was starving, but not ‘third world country’ kind of starving, just a regular ‘I’ve missed morning tea and now it’s gonna be a late lunch’ type of starving.
Lunch took forever to arrive, and by forever I mean the small talk between ourselves and the other family that came out on tour, had pretty much fizzled out and now there was a fair bit of awkward silence. Thank goodness for the young fella. Mr Gem and his wife have a cute little kid about 5 years old who I happened to befriend in the morning. He was carrying around pack of cards, and while we placed our lunch order at the start of the day, I showed him a magic trick. This long waiting time was the perfect opportunity to show him how to do the magic trick. He was a star pupil, and learnt quite quickly. This trick has multiple steps and is quite particular, so I was pretty impressed that he, of just 5 years, was able to pick it up so well.
Finally the food arrived! Delicious, generous meals that filled out bellies. Thank goodness I didn’t waste away to a shadow! The young fella spent his time wandering around to other people in the cafe showing them his trick. Sometimes it worked and other times it didn’t, but he was having a great time. After lunch we got to work on our buckets of wash. Washing, shaking, flipping, checking and sometimes plucking out a sapphire or two.
The father in the other family was quite vocal. At one point he pulled out a sapphire and then proceeded to tell everyone about it. He first started with the people just around him that could hear and then started to call out to other tables close by until his table was surrounded in people. But that wasn’t all, there were some people fossicking over in a separate area who weren’t really able to hear him. Don’t worry, they didn’t get missed. He walked over to each table with his sapphire and made sure he told everyone about it. After his return he continued talking about it, loudly enough for everyone to hear, until finally he realised that no one was paying him anymore attention and he went back to his wash to search for more. Just 20 seconds later he found another one and called out so everyone could hear. ‘Wow, this one’s a beauty!’ It sparked the interest of a few people who again swarmed like flies around his table. At the end of the day, not many of his were actually worth faceting. They had too many cracks, were too thin, or were just too cloudy. Better luck next time mate!
Mr Gem, who is a real country guy, stuck around and made sure we were doing it properly. If you don’t yet ‘have your eye in’ then it’s easy enough to just toss out a gem or two among your rocks. He was such a caring guy, and just wanted to make sure you had a great day out regardless of success. Mrs Gem, who conveniently works at Pat’s will often have a little sticky beak over your shoulder and help out wherever she can. She is a very bubbly and bright person, full of energy and always happy to have a good long natter.
We had collected more buckets of wash than we had time to search through, and had only been through half our buckets before the sun had set too low. We packed them up and headed back to the caravan park. It was such a relief to be able to come back to a cabin. To be able to just walk to our very own shower, with super hot water and be able to wash the layers of mud, dirt and dust off our body. It was time to start to relax after a really hard day of digging, as we were truly exhausted.
We had leftovers for dinner, for two reasons. Firstly, we are too exhausted to cook and secondly there were heaps of leftovers that needed to be eaten. Perfect opportunity to clean out the fridge before packing up and heading back on the road tomorrow. We played a few games with my folks between dinner and dessert, and then crawled into bed ready to snore the night away. We were definitely looking forward to a more restful day tomorrow, without any more digging.