Rofey a retired miner, motorbike rider and our comic mine guide took just the two of us on the most amazing tour of the Central Deborah Goldmine in Bendigo. We were kitted out with overalls, gum boots and hardhats before being shown the original (and still working) cage lifts that transported both the miners and the trucks of rock up and down the 17 levels of the mine shaft.
We went down as far as level 3 which was 85mtrs below ground and the furthest of anyone else that day. The mine itself is now flooded from level 13 down and a new mining company continues to drill the quartz reef about a kilometre below the old mine. It is believed that there is still a large amount of gold spread around underneath the entire city of Bendigo.
We spent the journey down the mine shaft listening to Rofey explain the geology of the area and the theory behind the creation of the quartz reefs where the gold is found; it surprised me how interesting and obvious it was once it was all explained. He showed us the difference between real gold and ‘fool’s gold’, and pointed out examples in the mine walls of both types. We were shown areas where the miners would have eaten their lunch in near pitch darkness, we watched as Rofey demonstrated the ‘Bogger’ and the different dynamite patterns that are still used today. We climbed up and down numerous skinny ladders in the dark, had a go on a working drill and were given some time to shovel through the last quartz blast for any finders-keepers before lunch (unfortunately I only managed to find a rock with some fool’s gold and another silver looking metal in it). Since it was the Cornish (and some Welsh) miners that were sent over to teach the Aussies how to mine gold in the early days, we were given traditional Cornish pasties and cakes for lunch before trying our hand at gold panning up on the surface. A really worthwhile and very surprising day; not only that, it was only 16 degrees down underground, so we managed to stay out of the heat for a few hours.
We arrived back at Karizma’s place to the mouth-watering smell of a roast dinner in the oven, and I am very pleased to say that for the first time in my life I ate roast lamb and it was very very nice.
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins