April 25 - May 01
A prospecting trip to Mt Magnet:
John would say, how do you make a small fortune out of prospecting?
well, first you start off with a large fortune......
And so went the itinerary of yet another of my prospecting trips. A 3 month hiatus from camping due to the fuel pump failure of the NP, and many hours spent modifying the NX, I was well ready to get away once again.
Meeting at 0600, Rocky and Garry in the one vehicle, Jayco Dove in tow, and John with his True Blue soft floor camper in tow, We hit the road for the near 700Km trek to Mt Magnet. Initially I took the lead being the faster vehicle. It also gave me a chance to give the new LED driving lights a workout. From what I saw of the lights, I was impressed and happy for once, a led light purchase from ebay actually produced reasonable results.
Hitting the highway, I took up tail end Charlie. Otherwise, I would be leaving them for dead. A wise decision that turned out to be, as an hour in and the Jayco lost a wheel:
That little issue probably cost us an hour. Wheel nuts gone, one stud broken, a shoe removed from its backing plate and with luck Garry found the departing wheel in the scrub. All we could do was to transfer some nuts from one side to the other to share the load. New Norcia just up the road, we would see if we could get some more nuts. Being a public holiday and early, nothing was open at New Norcia. We then had no choice but to head slowly to Dalwallinu. Rocky was to endure banter about tightening wheel nuts for the next week.
A stop at the Dally Cafe for coffee and for me at least, some breakfast, John realised his senior moment. His cheap fuel stop was in Wubin, some 20Km's up the road, not in Dally. Rocky took off to find some spares and I just sort of hung around to be re-acquainted with Rocky. He didn't have uhf and didn't know the plans I had made with John to meet up again in Wubin. Having no idea as to Rocky's whereabouts, all I could do was hang around town. I found a machinery dealer open who may have been able to help with wheel nuts. It was then, Rocky re-appeared. He had found a wreck and pilfered the wheel nuts required, plus a few spares. Cost = $0. Sweet! Pity the owner when he next ducks off down to the shops and finds one wheel depart the vehicle :)
Anyway, off to Wubin, we catch up with John and make for Mt Magnet where Rocky stops for fuel and John for water:
An hour later and we make camp about 1500:
Rocky, Garry and John decide to head off for some gold. I stay at camp to get my shit sorted.
Rocky, with his Minelab SDC2300 finds the first piece. A small sub 0.3 grammer. The rest come back empty handed. The remainder of the afternoon/evening spent by the fire followed by an early 2030 lights out bedtime story. We had a beer in honour of the diggers and service personnel that provide us these liberties we tend to take for granted. It had been a long day.
Being only 500m from the main highway, every night we listened to the rumble of road trains. Its incredible the amount of road traffic out here and at all hours. Laying awake in bed one night, I estimated that at 100Km/h that truck would traverse 16Km in 10 minutes. Some of thse trucks I could hear at 30 odd Km away..... Amazing. What with that and the stars, something you lose in city life.
Next morning and we head out on foot to the area where Rocky found the first piece. He finds a few more sub .3 grammers and we find nothing. Back at camp we do a detector test. Garry's GPX4000 and John's/my GPX4500 wont pick up the 0.3 Gram flake Rocky's 2300 found. We play with the settings and come away a bit disappointed. But at least we know we can find a 0.8 Grammer, buried 6" deep with our GPX's. We tested that too.
So we have a bite to eat and then the only rain of the trip starts. Not heavy, but enough for us to take refuge in Rocky's Jayco, and pull the cards out for a bit of Black Jack for a couple of hours. 2 of us were nearly out of chips and the rain seemed to abate, so John suggests we go look at some old shafts, some 3.2Km's as the crow flies from camp. Only one way to get there, by foot. So I agree with John. Rocky and Garry not so keen, they stay at the scrapings site where someone at least has had some success. It takes us some 2 hours to get there. We detected all the way with no success, but we got there for a look around. 2 small workings was all that was found:
A bit of a poke around, and we start to head back. Some of the ground looked exciting, but nobody was at home.
And the only bit of water to be found in this dry, desolated country we traversed in a week:
Some may consider this country the arsehole of the earth. I disagree and relish its rugged, unappealing beauty. Some of the hills and breakaways that dot the relatively flat plains are worth the visit alone in my opinion.
But you have to take note, this is harsh country and if not prepared, it will bite you. As such, we take most necessary precautions sans a sat phone. That's why I always carry a pack with goodies including PLB to help me out should I ever get that bite. There has been a few people lost of late in the Goldfields. The latest only found hours from death. One PLB would have sorted that.
I was getting both sore and tired at this point and my detector effort was waning. John seemed to have a bit more stamina than me so he was left behind, although not that far behind and we were in radio contact with each other. Cresting a rise, I spied something that looked a bit odd in the vegetation in the distance. So I headed over for a look.
In the middle of nowhere, no vehicle tracks around, and at least 1.5Km from the main road, 2 aluminium security doors had been dumped. In remarkably good condition, I GPS'd their waypoint. I thought they might come in handy.
But all I could think about was my tired legs, my sore feet and my aching back. I just wanted to be back in my chair, by the fire, beer in hand. So I pushed on and it seemed to take forever. At 1630, my wish was granted. John about 10 minutes later. I reckon we covered at least 8Km's over ground. An easy dinner that night for me, snags and onion in bread, sauce and mustard. Too easy. I think Rocky and Garry thought we were nuts. Maybe we are?
Wednesday and first up we head for some ground near the bore:
Another piece of ground known to produce in the past. A few hours in and no yellow. Just the obligatory projectiles, bullet cases and other bits of metal junk. I did find a nice interesting clamp though. Not that old by the look of things and stamped with "Japan" on one side. No picture of that, its still in Johns ute.
After this session. Rocky takes us to the secret spot. A spot known for a rather large specimen a few years back. On the way there, passing a rather pleasant looking breakaway Rocky names Eagles Nest. I would love to come back here just to explore what the countryside had to offer.
On arrival at the site I remarked the ground looked very unappealing. But gold is where you find it. And it has history. Unfortunately, this time around we all lucked out and returned to camp. Back early, around 1500, and reasonably refreshed (unlike yesterday), I decided it was camp oven dinner night. So the fire was stoked and when enough coals were built, the lamb roast got put under some heat:
What I love about camp oven cooking, apart from the food is the waiting time. Waiting time = beer time :)
Unfortunately, it wasn't ready before dark, but was bloody good to say the least. Rocky and Garry had the pre made curry, eaten earlier whilst the camp oven sizzled away, but Rocky had an additional lamb roast and veggie sandwich once the contents were done. Rocky had brought a bread maker with him and made a loaf or two on the trip. Bloody delicious bread it was too. Not having had any breakfast, and only a muesli bar or two for lunch, I ended up having a second helping, leaving nothing for sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. Sorry John, I was a bit peckish that night.
A brilliant clear night presented itself around out fire. You lose these magnificent views in the city:
Garry had been a bit disappointed the night prior. Not satellites to be seen. But he excelled this night. First up, 3 seen at once. I think the count finished up at 7 and we were all in bed by 2100. Not a bad effort that. Also interesting was the bats we saw and heard flickering over the fire every night. Suspecting they were hitting moths attracted to the glow of our fire (which was probably large enough to be seen by said satellites)
Thursday and John and myself decided on another hike out to an old mine, this time the Ellie Mine. At least it had a name. You would think after Tuesday's effort, we would have been over that by now, but nope, not John and myself. Rocky and Garry though didn't oblige again. I believe they went back to the site near the bore. Bunch of girls they are.
This time only 1.7Km's as the crow flies to ground zero. The weather warming a little, getting some shade among the vegetation was a blessing. There was lots of evidence of roo scratchings here, obviously a favourite haunt. None were seen however. The lack of seen wildlife apart from a few birds was remarkable. We had seen nothing to date apart from a handful of birds, a few ants and the bats by the fire. None the less, the flies were getting a bit friendly with the warmer weather, but I avoided the fly net to my own detriment. How do they know, only hit the orifices of the eyes, nose and ears when one has both hand full. If you believe god made all creatures great and small, he screwed up big time when he invented this little bugger.
And hour and a half, and no targets acquired, we hit ground zero. This was just a rough approximation off a tenegraph printout, so I knew we would have to search for it once near. I spied something shining in the sunlight about 500m away, so we headed over. Here we found some associated rubbish and knew we were close. Those 10L rectangular oil cans are scattered all over the Goldfields, here being no exception. But we did sight a conspicuous looking mound another 600m furter on and knew this would be the "Ellie". So head on over we did.
The shaft had a nice steel ladder going down, held in place by train track:
It was very tempting....Hmmmmm. The rock drop test showed it was of considerable depth. These miners are/were terrible environmental vandals. So much of this vast landscape is just full of holes. I guess in another century, all these prospectors performing the rock drop test, will eventually fill all these holes back up.
Out here somewhere, I could hear scratchy transmissions from the other boys and confirmed they were heading back to camp. We did likewise, via a more direct route back to the car.
Back at camp, the other boys had called it a day early as it was their last day. When we arrived about 1500, they already had a couple of hours head start on us for afternoon drinkies. Before dinner you could tell Rocky wasn't going to last the night out:
He didn't disappoint :)
Friday morning and Rocky/Garry pack up and prepare to leave.
We wish them safe voyage and tight nuts. Rocky had picked up a couple of grams for the trip. About a couple of grams more than we did. Well done mate!
John and I head over to a breakaway by vehicle. This site known to produce at least one 3 grammer in the past. John goes one side, I the other. Eventually I make my way slowly up the slope and eventually I am on the summit. John just off on the other side. All of a sudden I get a txt message on the phone...What the? The last thing I was expecting. I call John on the radio and he comes up, makes a call to home to check in that all is ok.
As I have pictures of everyone else, its only fitting I post my ugly mug too. John snaps a shot on the rock I got the txt message:
I subsequently name this reception breakaway, for obvious reasons.
Heading back down, and after 4 days on the ground, I was getting a bit over it. I called John and told him I was coming back to the car. Prospecting is a bit like fishing. If you don't get any bites, you tend to loose interest. Bites of the projectile, bullet case, flaky bits of rusted metal and hot rocks don't count. In fact, they contribute to the lack of interest even faster.
John comes back and we make lunch from the loaf Rocky had baked and not taken home with him. It was bloody delicious. Then John takes me to what he described as the shearing shed quarters, he and Rocky had visited a couple of days back whilst I slaved away over the camp oven.
Well, to me, it wasn't a shearing shed quarters with only two rooms, but provided plenty of photographic opportunities. Some slight relief from days of swinging the stick:
As with most buildings in the scrub, lots of junk to photograph:
And then the penny dropped. John had found some dog spikes, some even still in their rotted, white anted sleepers, half covered in the red dirt. This was a station stop and matched the tenegraph map of an abandoned railway:
A bit more exploring on the ground and we followed the track. I spotted a cleared track on the left and we went up to investigate. I believe this was an old fence line in the shadow of Mt Ford. More likely looking ground, we had a detect for 1/2 hour with no success, then turned back and continued on the original route. We made the highway, found a gate and headed for Paynesville. Heading down another track, we came to some old shafts and had a poke around. here we found our first and only bit of wildlife for the trip:
We then came across a couple of prospectors parked up in their vehicle. We got out for a chat and I plotted our position on a tenegraph map. We were just outside a tenement and the ground looked the best we had seen. Rather large chunks of quartz, some ironstone and what looked to be jasper. Not being a geo, I stand to be corrected. the two fella's told us where they had been and had no luck. But we went in anyway. Also with no luck, returning to the car in about an hour and heading back to camp.
That night, again a simple affair, just some snagga's on bread, with onion, sauce and mustard. It was a quiet night tonight, not having to listen to Rocky and Garry bitch slap themselves all night by the fire:)
So it was now Saturday morning. John was departing and I had decided to stay another day. I had a mission to accomplish, finding yellow one of them. I was a bit reluctant to see John off on his own, towing the camper, after the wheel nut caper on the way up with the Jayco. John was reluctant to leave me out here on my own. We both realised we are big boys and there was no point locking horns. We will stick to plan. John got on the road about 0830, I made another coffee, tidied up some mess and contemplated the plan of attack. pulling out the GPS, the doors I marked earlier were 2.5KM's away. I wanted one for a platform for the vehicle and I know Trev of team Ellie fame was on the hunt too. Could I carry 2 doors 2.5Km through the scrub easy enough? Only one way to find out I guess. So mission door rescue was under way.
I left the detector behind for this mission and reached the doors soon enough in about 1/2 an hour. Now, the carry part of the plan. I found I had to stop every hundred meters or so, the old fingers got a bit sore (not enough meat on them). The flies were at their best, vibrating in my orifices...useless bloody things....cause I had both hands full.
But an hour and a quarter later, I had both doors back in camp.
A small rest was called for, then I strapped them to the roof. An hour in camp and I looked to see how far Reception Breakaway was. Seeing as it was only 1.2Km's away, I decided to hike out there, scout ground along the way and make a call home to let everyone know what was going down. A short 20 minute hike and I was making contact with home. We tried the video call thing, but the reception was a bit flakey, so reverted to phone. I advised I would be home tomorrow afternoon.
Returning to camp, I crossed yet another dry creekbed:
These must look so good when in flow, problem being getting out there when they are. back at camp I made the staple diet lunch of Salami, Jarlseberg cheese and Tomato sandwiches. But I was here to prospect, so out with the stick again on some of the ground I had just reconnoitred. Again, no luck, so after an hour, I returned to camp. Lighting the fire, I grabbed a coldie and put the feet up to relax. It had been a hard week, so it was deserved:
That night a solemn affair, just my music box and the flames for company. Not that that is a bad thing mind you. So I got the camera out for a play:
The starry, starry night, something I wont experience tomorrow night:
I still cant perfect that bloody gas cloud. I'm sure I need a smaller focal length lens for a start.
All I could do now, was to let the fire die off and listen to the rumble of road trains for the last time.
Sunday morning dawns, I pack and am on the road at 0830. Breakfast at the Magnet at 0930, I head for home arriving about 1630. Richer for the experience, but not for precious metal. Aluminium security doors excluded. The inaugural trip in the NX completed, I was happy in the fact all my modifications worked as planned.
A big thanks goes out to Rocky for planning the trip, and to Garry and John for being part of it.
129L fuel used
for an average of 9.3L/100Km (Gotta be happy with that, new vehicle and all. No doubt will only go up with more mods.)
cost of fuel $145
camp fees $0 :)