During our initial trip down to Alice Springs, after just completing the Barkly Highway, the boys were dead keen to visit a caravan park just to the north east of Alice called Gemtree. The reason of course was gem fossicking at the central Australian gemfields! However, our turbo problems kicked in just before the turnoff, so there was no chance we were going to do it then (if we ever were going to!).
However, the requests from the boys resurfaced as we began to head north again following Uluru. To keep the peace and quiet, we headed off east along the Plenty Hwy for 70km’s to the caravan park known as Gemtree (Fri 1st/8). Fortunately this initial section of the Plenty Hwy is sealed (though single lane). We booked in the park, and into a Garnet fossicking tag along tour for the next day (Sat). A nice campfire and damper desert were nice finishing touches to a meal that was otherwise, lets just say, um, edible….
Sat morning we set off for the fossicking area which was another 28km’s east; there was us, a French couple with a kid, and the tour guide who went off after he had us set-up and operating. The process was rather similar to gem fossicking at Rubyvale, but without a willoughby, and the ground is quite different – dirt rather than granite rock. This makes it a quicker process to examine the sieves for goodies, but that means you end up processing a lot more dirt – ie. it requires lots of manual labour.
We were finding plenty, but the French couple were finding nothing much… Ended up being nice and sharing our pickface with them, which helped them a little….The kids enjoyed it, and though we found quite a few none of them will make us rich, and by midday were feeling rather weary!
We had to head off by around 1pm anyway, if we wanted to have our treasures sorted and graded by the gem fellow back at the caravan park. We ended up with stones that could be cut as follows:
6mm: qty 3
5mm: qty 2
4.5mm: qty 2
4mm: qty 6
3mm: qty 11
7x4mm: qty 1
plus a myriad of other pieces!
We resisted the local gem cutters feeble attempts to cut some of the stones for us at $44 per gem, keen to get on our way.
There was a weekend outback event going on not that far away, at the Harts Range: rodeo, races etc. over a few days. Would have been great to go to this (I doubt they’d come more genuine outback than this!!), but an extra 50km’s or so each way on the corrugations turned us off (we had to do a couple of km’s to get to the fossicking area). Pity we had to miss that one – it would have been a great experience!
Having now spent quite some time in this general central Aus area, we keen to get further north for the night. Had to pull of the side of the road for these things though!
We ended up Sat night at Barrow Creek, only a tiny place (fuel station, pub and a caravan park – if you could call it that), but it had a mobile phone tower next to it (though unfortunately no optus for the mobiles, just telstra for the tablet/internet) and the $5 unpowered camping fee won’t send us broke!