The board in the main area read “We are departing at 2pm for a week of mining and farming’ After reading this many of us ‘Questafarians’ were intrigued as what exactly the week would hold, whilst many of us felt very nervous about working underground, in, on average 1.7m high tunnels.
Anyway, off we went in the Quest Overlander, a huge truck that contains every single item needed for camping, along with 25 seats, a table , fridge, and… most importantly …. a stero, on which a single track was played every couple of minutes! After about an hour we reached Farvic Mine, at Colleen Bawn. We settled in then headed off to climb one of the kopjies from which we gained an amazing view and took lots of photos. A night of poker followed where Andrew During displayed an alarming ability and cleaned up within the hour, winning the ‘fortune’ on offer. The next morning we were up at what felt like 3am, shovelled down breakfast and headed off to our various assignments. 12 headed to the mines and 7 of us met with the mines geologist, appropriately named ‘Talent’ who was incredibly interesting and informative, and passionate about his job. He explained his job on the mine, ranging from finding gold ‘hot spots’ to assessing the safety of mining a certain area. We were then shown rock samples and how they test for gold bearing rock. Talent then took us down Farvic mine where we explored some of the tunnels, inspected different types of rocks and saw how the miners followed the ‘reef’. We then climbed back up to the surface (over 400 rungs of a near vertical ladder!) and had a tour around the stamp mill and processing plant. Some of us were fortunate enough to watch the actual smelting process, and see the end result of our labours.. a beautiful, shining cone of solid gold!
The 12 of us who were on the mining shift had a very different story to tell over afternoon tea. We had done an 8hr shift, up to 380+ m underground in over 30 degrees, either drilling, lashing (shovelling the blasted rock) pushing many kgs of rock in carts which weigh 1.2 tons when empty, smashing rocks with sledgehammers to provide fuel for the skips, or laying explosives. To imagine what drilling is like, imagine crouching in a tunnel far underground with the sound of an aircraft engine right by your ear, with rock and water spraying at you in temperatures of well over 34 degrees. Personally, the respect I have for those miners, many of whom have worked there for over 10yrs, doing 8hr shifts, day and night, earning 9$ a day, is huge. It was the most memorable experience I have ever had but I would never choose to be a miner. It is the hardest physical activity I’ve ever done, and one no-one can comprehend it until they have experienced it.
Again and Again….. the same song was played as we headed from Farvic to the farm. Even our driver, Jabu, now knows every word to that song! Jabu is a great man, full of great stories, one of the best being that we were headed to a dam that had mermaids… or maybe it was just that song had got to him! After a quick swim in the mermaid-less dam we set up our tents and then were briefed by the farmer’s daughter what was required of us. Firstly we dug potatoes and then went to a neighbouring farm to pick tomatoes. For all our hard work we were rewarded with a skiing and tubing session on the dam.
After PT the next morning we were put into groups and completed a number of tasks from herding sheep to removing rocks from a tomato field. We then moved to a new campsite, explored some kopjies and looked at ancient ruins. After another climb up to a trig beacon in the morning we packed up and returned to our quarters at Quest, Esigodini.