The Preparation

It had been about 6 months since our last trip up the west coast in search of gemstone treasure. In the intervening time, the lessons that we learned and the tips and tricks we picked up where discussed and action was taken.

We upgraded our digging toolbox with a few metal scrapy things, and a couple wooden scrapy things. (We didn’t want to chip our babies before we found them!)
Also included where some long sticks with hooks and the normal picks and spades.

We noticed on our previous trip, that while we where setting up the tent and the camp, and making lunch and generally taking it easy, the experienced hands went straight for the digging. They slept in their cars or bakkies, and had quick on the go food. All of their energy was geared to getting maximum digging time.

Trying maximize our own dig time, we ditched the tent and chairs, and went light. A mattress in the back of the bakkie, with a sail to go over the top. This time we were set.

The Stone and the Sweat

The same as last time, we drove up the day before and spent a lovely evening at a little bed and breakfast. We where up fairly early to get to the gate in time, and arrived to a large group, with all the guys we met last time, and a few new faces. Greeting and catchups where done on the side of the road waiting for everyone to arrive. Taking our lessons from last time, we drove straight to the closest digging spot, and set up shop.

What followed was about 4 hours of scratching here, digging there, following other people to see what they where up to, and generally trying to find a good spot, without too much luck. We had a quick bite for lunch, and after some discussion with the real rock hounds, a spot was suggested that looked promising.

Back in the sun, we set up the umbrella, unpacked more of the tools, and set to work with gusto. Rocks and dirt went flying everywhere!

We found a meandering groove filled with the sugary granular sand that we knew to look out for and set to opening it up slowly. The rest of the afternoon was spent on this 1m x 1m hole in the ground. Our reward for our hard work was many small Rock Crystal point and clusters.

Digging and Cleaning

The day coming to an end, and with no-one allowed to dig after dark, we drove away to set up camp in the dusk. This time round, we where sleeping in the back of the bakkie on a mattress. It was quick and easy, but not the most comfortable night I have ever spent camping. All the weary diggers gathered around the fire for a drink and some stories. We all compared the nice pieces we had found for the day, and some people had got some truly unique specimens, with Rutile growing between two crystal points. This is rare, and you have to take it out of the ground oh so carefully. They did a great job and got three similar specimens for their collection. We also collected a few pieces with Rutile, but nothing with Rutile on the outside.

With the fire dying down, it was off to bed to rest our weary backs, ready for the new day and the new discoveries that where buries beneath our feet.

We where up bright and early with the air crisp and cold before the heat of the day set in. After a quick cup of coffee and some rusks, we where back at our little hole. We spent the rest of the day in the same spot, digging and brushing deeper and outwards, until our hole was about 3m x 2m. Piles of rocks where all around. We found many small pieces of quartz, some of them coated in Iron Oxide, giving us Tangerine Quartz.

As the time to leave drew near, and we had to start packing up, we had to fight against the “Just one more hole” syndrome. A big piece is always waiting for you in the next hole or crevice.

Finally dragging our weary bodies away from the hole, we drove around and said goodbye to the remaining diggers. Heading to the coast for a proper shower and bed seemed like a really good idea. Our bodies where tired and sunburnt, but our souls where joyful!

The Treasure

That evening, after refreshing ourselves and enjoying some fine dining, it was time to see what we had managed to dig out of the ground..
Three flat beer boxes, full of crystals and mud and bits of rock. With a bucket of water and a toothbrush, we set to work for the first gentle water cleaning. This also gave us the opportunity to examine each and every piece to see what we had dug up. I love this part!

The end result was piles of quartz – some Tangerine, a few Smokies, but most Rock Crystal. Clusters and points and double terminated points.
A few pieces had Rutile in. Also a pile of Calcite, also with some interesting Rutile formations, and a pile of Dolomite. Some odds and ends and interestingly formed rocks rounded out the collection.

This trip turned up many many more pieces than last time, although most of them where small, and nothing like some of the big pieces we found previously.

Very happy with our finds, this was another great outing with the Cape Town Gem & Mineral Society. We are looking forward to the next one.
New ideas and new techniques need to be tested out.

If you’d like to find out more about the society or if you would like to join, you can visit their website here or follow them on Facebook.