Next morning after a breakfast of porridge with extra salt, I let the campfire die, kick some dirt over it for safety and grab my gold detecting kit for a day exploring the old mine sites nearby.
The bare soil mounds are the remains of hand dug mine holes dating back to about 1855. Thousands of ounces of nuggety gold have been hauled from this area when it was first rushed. With high hopes and a half full water bladder tucked into my backpack tank bag, along with some muesli bars for lunch and my good camera to record the first awesome gold haul, I set off across the gully towards the diggings, earphones on intently listening for any signal from the detector worth digging. You have to watch your step out here...
It'd be easy for me to disappear with little trace. Holes like this were dug down to the clay base, where the gold supposedly rested after being erroded off the quartz reefs further up the nearby mountains. Once at that level, the miners gathered all the soil with a bucket and rope to be hauled to the surface and sifted for the gold pieces. Tunneling would continue until the miner broke through into his neighbour's tunnel. The holes in this area were all about eight to twelve feet deep. Most had been refilled by collapsing dirt around the sides. Although covered by fallen leaves, branches and tree bark, the extent of the diggings was quite amazing. The whole area along the gully was covered by old mines.
I spent all day walking through the diggings, earphones on, occasionally digging a piece of scrap steel, rusted tin, old iron nail or even pieces of lead tubing from discarded miner's supplies.
By dusk I was happy to return to camp, just to finally sit down and rest. I'd spent all day working the field up and down the gully next to camp but in reality, probably only covered an area the size of a soccer field. It was a great day though, with some exciting moments digging deep signals that turned out to be old miner's junk. Other than a brief flair at sunset, there was no gold today for this new chum miner.
I spent the night listening to the forrest's nocturnal animals scurry and hop around after the birds sang themselves to sleep. From all the dung I'd seen today, this area was alive with roos, wallabies, possums, wombats and maybe even a wild dog or two. My small campfire kept them at bay but seemed to attract a huge number of spiders. That night the wind came up in random gusts tearing through the tree canopy as clouds filled the skies, gradually blocking out the stars. For entertainment, I listened to the ABC National radio shows until the fire had finally died down safe enough for me to head to sleep.
Next morning, after a cold and damp night, I woke to rain. This wasn't too much of an issue for me, as I needed to do a run into the township to fill my camelback and some of my water bladders. So after breakfast of a few Anzac slices washed down with the last of my water, I fired the bike into life and rode carefully along the wet forrest tracks then by main road into Redbank, where I went straight to the local sports ground for water. The area was also the emergency meeting and shelter area in case of bushfires.
Not much to the town, other than a Hotel that appeared to be now closed permanently and some typical rural house blocks, complete with barking dogs and pet livestock.
Plus a house with a huge paddock full of vintage to modern cars and curiosity items, worth a photo.
Then back into the forrest once more.
For a bit of a ride around and explore before returning to camp. From what I could tell, I was the only human for miles. The tracks were slippery but great fun to ride.
With it continuing to rain, I fired up the new haxamine stove for a cup of tea....
and spent the day tent bound, reading up on the gold fields of the area....
before finally doing a couple of fruitless hours detecting the creek area before the sun set once again. At least the rain had finally stopped.
That night, once dinner was cooked and eaten, I knocked up a nice, heavy muesli bread for tucker for the next few days.
Half a kilo of Self-raising flour, half a bag of fruit and nut muesli mix and enough water to mix into a clean, soft dough.
Like so, adding flour until the mix neither sticks or flakes.
Ready to cook.
Waiting patiently, making sure it stays at a good heat with plenty of coals on standby.
Done. Not too bad. I love my camp oven.
I can't resist breaking off a piece while it's hot, for supper.
To share with a little visitor.
Isn't he a cutey. Harmless, I think. He was a bit tricky, coming back inside three times while I waited for the bread to bake.
After finally ejecting him one last time into the cold night air, I hit the hay myself, making a mental note to keep the tent done up from now on.