Day 27, Sunday, 5/6/2016, Emerald, Sunny
While we are here in Emerald we must visit the gem fields. The triangle of towns Anakie, Sapphire and Rubyvale are only 44kms west of here. Woody suggests that we check out the Sunday market in Sapphire as miners like to sell their finds at these. Sure enough, there is only one stall of fruit and vegetables and many stalls (if you can call an ironing board a stall) selling gem stones in a variety of settings. Now I’m sure you’re wondering how people could be selling expensive jewellery from an ironing board without any security…but I haven’t mentioned the dogs. Big ugly dogs, almost as ugly as the miners themselves and chained to anything solid. One wouldn’t want to haggle over prices with these scary fellas.
The town blocks in Sapphire seem to have border issues. There is no mistaking where the boundaries are. Electric fences, keep out signs and more guard dogs denote borders. One guy even has a fence around his property made of cattle truck gates. Most blocks have a mine and a rough shanty for a house.
Rubyvale on the other hand looks positively civilised. It is only a few kilometres to the north and on the tropical side of the Tropic of Capricorn. The houses are more permanent, more respectable and there are shops! And a pub.
Out of curiosity we follow a sign to Willy’s Wash and spend $15 for a bucket of ‘wash’ or should I say gravel. A bubbly lady called Karen shows us how to wash the wash in a Willoughby. Which is a dunker that sluices your colander of wash. We upend the colander of wet Willoughby’d wash onto a hessian bag and set to with a pair of tweezers to sort through the pile of now clean gravel to find the sapphires. I am eternally grateful to Karen for showing us what to look for because of all the stones the pretty ones turn out to be rubbish and the stuff that looks like bits of black road gravel are the sapphires. An hour or more passes as we wash wash and pick at tiny bits of gravel. I am so engrossed with this fossicking caper that I fail to notice that the mine is actually beside us until Karen’s partner who is working the mine pops up with more dirt, sorry wash.
Karen, a Kiwi, tells us that she has been hooked on gems since she was fifteen, almost as long as she’s been hooked on her partner. They went their separate ways then chanced upon each other again a few years ago. One night she got a call from him and he said “I’ve bought you your dream.” He had bought her the sapphire mine, house and business. One look at Karen’s smile and you can see that she is truly living the dream.
Did we find any of that ‘black gravel’? Sure did and when you hold them up to the light they sparkle, blue, green and orange. I think I could get hooked on this washing caper too but I doubt that our gems would cover the cost of our lunch at the Rubyvale pub.
Towing Kms: 0