A Travellerspoint blog

Day 103 – Waterfalls and Gold Dust

3rd January 2012

sunny 25 °C

Early to bed, early to rise. We’d closed our eyes at half past eight now we were up to see the rising sun and head out for a morning view over Skeleton Pass into Mozambique. On our way we passed another cave, favoured by those naughty illegal panners, and Collen found a Pumpkin plant and some ‘wild herbs’ from which he took some leaves that would be good for breakfast and some that would be good for smoking later on. We met the replacement rangers, both of whom we’d met in Chimanimani the day we arrived. One was the lady at the desk who had helped us with maps, the other, was an albino guy who had been in the Blue Moon with us.

It was still early morning and we wanted to get back to the mountain hut for breakfast. Along the way we stopped at the Babbling Spring, a small spring, in the middle of a field, almost overgrown with thick green grass. The water was crystal clear and the sand at the bottom granite white. The sand vibrated as the water pushed up through it and crouched on our knees and reaching down, we took it in turns to place our hands into the undulating white sand. It was an extraordinary feeling. Collen and Morgan had also asked for some sadza from the rangers and at the hut they prepared sadza with pumpkin leaf cooked in a little oil and salt for breakfast. From there we walked to the Hidden Valley where we would find Digby’s Falls. We spent a beautiful hour, jumping in and out of the water, enjoying the exhilaration of a natural shoulder massage under the power of the water and panning for our own gold, sadly with little success on the subject of the latter. This had been our last chance of finding enough gold for a wedding ring on our own merits. By the time it was time to leave, we’d grown cold from continually being under water sifting the rocks but the warmth of the sun as we walked soon fixed that. We walked for another three hours through the banana groves back to the base camp office from where we’d left three days before. There was no sign of Joseph.

Although Collen had spoken to Joseph earlier in the day, our taxi had been travelling away from us at the time and now he was out of contact on the phone. It was stupid of me to have given him the money, even if it was on Collens’ head. At three o’clock, realising we were in a tight spot, we started walking the 19km back to Chimanimani. If I was annoyed, Collen was disgusted, “It’s my word he’s dishonoured, and he is making me look bad; it will not be forgotten.” Morgan continued with similar rhetoric. A few kilometres on, Laura suggested they call him again. This time they got through. He was on his way but he was late. Finally he pulled up to relieve our wearisome legs. I gave him a mild telling off but I think it was lost on him. Collen and Morgans’ angry front dissipated like mist in the wind as we cruised back to the Blue Moon to spend the change we’d left behind the bar three days before.

By this point we’d mulled over the idea of procuring a little gold dust of our own. Morality had come back into it, whilst it was definitely theft from the Zimbabwean government, it was justifiable in that no one was dying whilst panning for it, the Zimbabwe government was already as bent as a nine bob note and even if they had taxed it, it would only have bought six square inches of carpet in a new E-class for the Minister of National Parks. With the lack of jobs created by expelling the white farmers, many newly unemployed men had found panning to be the only way of earning a living. Even Collen had done it for a few years but said it was hard work and long hours. Furthermore the whole thing seemed to be a very ‘village’ affair. There would be no armed guards, Russians or police to contend with and by using Collen and Morgan, who gave ‘cultural village tours’ we could keep our hands relatively clean and pull out if things started to feel queer. Collen had told me idly on day one that the panners were being paid $4 a point; we just needed to make sure our price was right. They seemed to think they might know one or two panners with some shiny stuff to sell. I worked out the current international price in relation to what was on offer here. I’d need scales that I could check weren’t weighted; we’d need to see before we bought and we’d have to make a price that worked. I knew Laura’s’ ring was four or five grams and counted on my needing seven or eight grams of gold for a wedding ring. Laura’s wedding ring wouldn’t be gold so we only needed enough for one.

During the last few days we’d heard extensively about Collen and Morgans daily lives, where they lived and how they were trying to make their own business work. The future of their business was tricky as although they appreciated that the internet could help, they didn’t yet know how to work their newly created e-mail addresses and would be paying the cyber cafe owner four dollars to set up a Facebook page and upload photos from their phone. I had a spare camera that I wasn’t using anymore and it seemed the perfect time to give it a new life. If they could help us with the gold they’d get a little present that could help promote their business. After a couple of beers in the Blue Moon, Collen told me discreetly that he was going to see if he could find some people and he would be back shortly.

An hour later we were eating some more sadza and beef in the Msasa Cafe when we were introduced to Desire. He had eight grams of gold dust that he would part with for $4.20 a point. We knew nothing at this point apart from the fact that gold has two distinctive properties; one, its shiny; and two, it’s heavy. I told him I wanted solid gold, not dust. He said he’d have to smelt it; a process that involves lots of gas, and the loss of ten percent, by weight, of your gold dust. These would increase the price. I told him I wouldn’t be paying more than 4.2 a point and he could think about it by the morning.

We exchanged details with Collen and Morgan and paid them for their services. We had a bath at the lodge, toasted our engagement with glasses of whisky and slept like we were dead.

Posted by ibeamish 07:19 Archived in Zimbabwe

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