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April 6th 2015
Published: April 6th 2015
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Today is the last day on the western side of the South Island. Headed to Reefton, a town that was part of the NZ's gold rush era, but is now a small town limping along. In the old days there was a gold vein worked by underground miners, but when the vein ran down, a lot of the miners left. An major overseas company, Oceania Gold, bought up a lot of the land outside the town.They are more of a strip mining company. They break off giant chunks of rock, pulverize it with giant pounding pistons, add water, run through a sluice then apply different poisonous chemicals - mercury and cyanide (one causes gold to melt, the other causes it to fall out of solution) (freaked me out when they talked about the chemicals, both are very toxic, but nobody seemed worried). It is then taken down the east cost to a smelting plant. The gold bars made there are 93 per cent pure. They are sent to a plant overseas where the rest of the impurities are removed. The man who showed us the working model of the stone pulverizer also ran the local museum of stuff. In this town they throw away nothing. If someone dies, the family donates whatever they do not want to the museum. There was a real mishmosh, everything from four sewing machines to coins from around the world, old sheet music and magazines to legal documents, meersham pipes to cookbooks and a portable pipe organ to a machine that churns butter and pushes it onto rollers with what looks like a wire cheese cutter measured to cut into pound blocks. We then went down the block to meet the bearded miners, a group of old men with beards and clothes reminiscent of the old mining days. They made us "billy tea", actual tea made in an old billy can - a Dutch oven sized pot heated to boiling over a wood stove. Along with the tea (real leaves), tea tree leaves were added. It was very delightful. We also had homemade hit cross buns in deference to Easter. Then we had a gold panning demonstration and off we went to tour the town. Learned all about old time mining. This area is also part of the coal mining areas and there have been disasters ever since mining began. Seems all the towns around get together whenever there is a disaster to celebrate the life that has gone and comfort these left behind. Amazing sense of community and family there. After a tasty lunch we headed out in the coach again. We traveled a coastline road that shames our west coast highways for narrowness, windings and crazy drivers. We stopped at a beach known for its community of fur seals. After watching their antics for awhile we heade further down the coast to Punikaiki. Running out of room. Another blog coming up.


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