Monday, 16 December 2013

There's Gold In Them There Hills

Summer holidays beckon and we head for the Victorian Goldfields, dusting off the camping equipment as the weather promises sun and no rain. Castlemaine is central to our plans, and we are soon established at a very smart campsite next to the botanical gardens and the town swimmimg pool. Looks promising!

A recent family meeting has declared that my spangly metal detector needs to earn its keep, if it is not to be consigned to the growing pile of Boys Toys in my Man-Cave, soon to be listed on Ebay. Victoria, of course, is world renowned for it's goldfields where, in the 1850's and 60's, two tons of the yellow stuff were dug up by you and me every week and sold for millions of dollars (or pounds, as they had then). Some of the miner's earnings were spent on beer and women but the rest was often just wasted.

I plan a tour of suitable gold digging sites, skilfully avoiding discussion on the number of gold prospectors who may have preceded us. It is very likely that some gold will be left scattered around the bushland just waiting for me to trip over it. We drive out to a suitable spot and I fiddle with the complex settings on my gold-seeking gadget. It bleats and whines relentlessly as we dig up bullets and other itinerant bits of metal, but no yellow. We have learnt (the hard way) that flies are late risers around here, and that early mornings are pleasantly critter-free. Hats are essential under the relentless summer sun, the forest canopy providing little real shade. 

After several hours of poking about, we have seen no-one. Even the birds seem to have flown. I disturb a rather grumpy frog under a pile of leaves. We agree to go our separate ways. My pocket is filling up with ironmongery of uncertain vintage, and we decide a snack is in order. We slap on our anti-fly cream, which the local fly population seems to rather like. 

After some deliberation, we head back into town for an iced chocolate drink and a wedge of cheesecake. I think I'm becoming addicted to both. Can you have two addictions? A session of air-conditioned retail therapy follows which makes us feel a whole lot better about ourselves.

Several days in a row follow a similar pattern, out in the bush in the morning, then scuttle back to civilisation as the day warms up. No success to report on the gold nugget front, sad to say, but we do enjoy the solitary quiet out in the diggings. It is hard to imagine how the early prospectors coped with the harsh conditions. No iced chocolate for them. I suppose a bag of gold nuggets sure helped.

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