Tuesday, July 28, 2009

South Africa 2009: Gold fever!

Things were looking bad. We'd smashed up Adam's Calendar in a fit of rage, and were running out of money. We needed a new plan - fast. We were sat in the Old Rock Café, nursing our Windhoek Lagers and passionfruit cordials, when Alex turned to me with a glint in his eye.
"See those hills?" he said, gesturing toward the horizon.
"You mean those 75,000 year old pyramids?" I asked.
"There's gold in them thar hills!" he shouted with a whoop. Spurred into action, we tracked down South African Champion gold panner, Danny Brink - if there was anyone who could turn us into weatherbeaten goldhounds, it was he.
Danny Brink - a man with a pan.
We assembled at the crack of 3 o'clock in the shadow of the armed guard outside Agnes Mine. Danny's vehicle screeched up behind us in a cloud of dust and oaths, and after a swift altercation with the guard we were in! Illegal gold mining was going to be the making of us!
These boots were made for mining.
We were all set to get our hands on the dynamite, but Danny wouldn't have it. "Get your boots on!" he shouted, in a voice that would make a grizzly bear cry. Whimpering, we followed his instructions.

"Please don't hit me sir!" It was like being in the Foreign Legion all over again, but with gumboots.

Danny, showing us his 'Championship pan' - he can pan three tons of gravel an hour with this baby when he's in the zone.

Finally, we made it to the water's edge! After twenty minutes of instruction, Danny let us loose with the words "Any gold you find is yours to keep!" To stack the odds in his favour though, he started firing rounds from his rifle over our heads as we frantically scraped and scratched at the river bed.

Alex showing us how it's done. Danny described his technique as "stylish".

After three hours of freezing cold scuffing about in mud, all I'd found was a load of pebbles and had soiled myself several times. Danny's shots were getting lower, so by the end of the day we were almost prone in the river. Swearing like a sailor with pox, Danny leapt into the river and shouted that we were "a bunch of bleddy pansies!". Sweating furiously, his face turning bright red with the effort, he used his mini pan to whip through twice what we'd managed in three hours.

The gold we missed.

"One day, son, all this will be yours"

One day, all this mountain will be Alex's.

Chastened after a hard day's graft for a few flakes of gold which we spent getting liquored up on gin.
On the drive home we stopped the car a few miles out of Agnes mine. The sun was setting over a scene reminiscent of the Mekong. All that was missing was some Wagner and a load of Hueys. We stood for a while, openly weeping.

Later, we relaxed and unwound the only way we could (in the absence of putt-putt). That's right, Catopoly! It's a strategy game, loosely based on Risk, Go and US tactics in Afghanistan. I won the first round, but then - resting on my laurels - took my eye off the ball. Before I knew it, Alex had dominated the game, owning every species and had a litter box on every inch of the board! Oh noes!

Alex forgets all about the horror, the horror of Agnes Mine.

Full spectrum dominance!!

All this didn't solve the cashflow problem. On the verge of selling body parts, we turned to Mother for advice.

She took us to the Piccadilly Deli, where she is the local capo, and sat us down. I can't divulge what she said to us. But suffice to say we were going gold mining again!!

Alex, taking a moment to ponder the merits of what Mother has proposed to us.

er... some kind of flower.

The fruits of our labour! A mile and a half long tunnel, carved through the living rock, and yielding two ounces a ton of gold!

It had been a hard day's night, and Alex had been working, like a dog.

Finally, heading back to the Old Rock Café, one last time.
Next up: Back to Johannesburg!
Part 4: Drakensberg


p said...

The flower is called Gladiolus

alex_sotheran said...

'a man with a pan' A++++++++++++++++

I laughed my arse off at this one...

Craig said...

Thanks p - much appreciated! The Piccadilly Deli always has flowers out when Mother arrives; they live in fear of her reaction if things aren't set out the way she likes them.

Thanks Alex! As you know, this blog basically records everything we did, exactly as it happened.