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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 10 (February 1, 1930)

The Alluring Quest

The Alluring Quest.

Since June last, I have been camped on the top of the Blue Mountains, 4,000 ft. up, following the alluring vicissitudes of a gold digger's life. Four of the worst months of the year under canvas in preference to the comforts of a well-appointed home in Sydney. Why and for what purpose? With the liberal assistance of a permanent retiring allowance, I have all I require for my daily needs, but nothing much to give away. The poverty and distress among the poorer classes in this city is appalling. It is the product of continual industrial upheavals. I am past the age to hope for suitable employment that would help to supplement my income. There are hundreds of younger and better qualified men than I vainly seeking for that already, so I resolved to get out and do what I could with pick, shovel, and dish, and all I win, be it little or much, if Dame Fortune is good enough to smile on my efforts, will be devoted to the alleviation of the poverty and distress I have already mentioned.

So far, nothing of a startling nature has been revealed, but I am so well satisfied with my prospects that I am going to continue for a few months longer, despite all the disabilities and discomforts of a “hatter's” life. My camp is right in the bush and isolated in the fullest sense of the term. Twenty miles from the nearest Railway Station and Post Office, twelve miles from the nearest habitation, and 120 miles from my home. Here I am, away from the sight or sound of man, with no other companions than the feathered tribes, the beautiful wild flowers, the tall gaunt gum trees, and the starry heavens at night. In nature's workshop, in nature's cathedral, I work and worship daily in the hope, or I might say, assurance, that my efforts will be crowned with success. In this adventure I have the sympathetic and active assistance of my dear and valued friend, Mr. Paget, and our ladies, without whose interest and co-operation the successful achievement of my enterprise would be difficult as well as doubtful. I have shut the door on 68, but can still sling a long handled shovel to the time of a lively tune.

I have been working in a valley which terminates at the top of a high waterfall at the head of a deep gorge. I have dug cross and circular trenches six and seven feet deep to trap the water, which, in the rainy season, rushes down page 35 off the hillsides. Instead of running over the surface it will now fill the trenches and percolate through and underneath the wash dirt and carry any fine gold over the fall into a hole (ten by twelve by four feet deep), that I have dug out at the bottom to catch all that is washed over. It is here that I shall occasionally lift out and wash the spoil.

Although satisfied with my prospects it would be as well here to mention to expectant friends that loans of “fivers” are not yet available. I have finished that job which is in the vicinity of my camp and now daily cross a ridge to another valley which connects with a gorge deeper and more rugged and precipitous than the one nearer my camp. Here I am tapping
Valuable Freight In Transit. A special train chartered to transport motor cars from Wellington to Auckland, North Island, New Zealand.

Valuable Freight In Transit.
A special train chartered to transport motor cars from Wellington to Auckland, North Island, New Zealand.

picked up by a man who travels in to the Railway Station (Newnes Junction) for parcels and mail matter. My goods and mail are dropped at this depot for me every Friday. I usually go out on Sundays, if I don't lose count of the days in the week, and carry home whatever is left there. Sometimes my load is light and at others heavy. Last week I was late starting away, so took my hurricane lamp which I left in a marked spot two miles from home. It soon gets dark here. There is little or no twilight and it is difficult to keep on a blazed track with the aid of a dim light. As I had a heavy load slung fore and aft (I would lift my hat to an old pack horse now if I met one), I tried a short cut—steering by a star which, now the ground. That is, sinking here and there, at various depths, to find out what is underneath. If what I find is worth it, I may adopt the same plan here as I have done at the other claim. The country is principally of ironstone formation, which is generally considered favourable for the finding of mineral deposits such as gold, silver, and copper. I follow a blazed track through the bush about two miles. The second day I was out I ventured a short cut home, and, steering by the sun and blazing the trees as I went, came out of the bush in a dead line with my tent. Not a bad feat for one who, for the greater part of his life, always had a well-defined and permanent three feet six inch track to steer by.