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View Full Version : Chris Ralph's Trip to Australia

Reno Chris
10-05-2011, 10:44 PM
My trip to Australia went great, everything went very well - no injuries, no problems, no worries. I saw lots of new and different stuff, including Kangaroos, marsupial porcupines, Emu, wild parrots, giant lizards, Eagles, a very different geology, etc. I had a great time. I learned a lot, really experienced that part of Australia up close. Australia is a great country, and I truly enjoyed my visit - it was a wonderful time. I met a lot of great Aussie prospectors and really enjoyed my month in that country. Australia has many, many good things going for it. The state of Western Australia is a wonderful and amazing place. I hope to be back for another visit in a few years.

The flight over the Pacific was fine, just very, very long. I spent a total of around 21 hours in the air and a lot more waiting around in airports. Steve and I met up in LA for the big flight across the pond to Australia. I probably slept 7 hours of the 15 hour trip across the pacific. Though a little tired, we arrived none the worse for wear and adjusted to the new time fairly easily. All of my luggage got through just fine with none lost. The end of our flights and start of our journey to the outback was Perth. The town Perth is a pretty town of 1.5 million people on the Indian Ocean half a globe away from my home, but the Australian economy is doing much better than ours in Nevada. The weather and all the eucalyptus trees reminded me of LA (they even had a few cactus imported from the US). Perth is on the ocean at exactly the same latitude as LA, but in the southern Hemisphere. We met up with Jonathan Porter, the Australian prospector who was our host, at the airport. The first whole day we were in Australia, Reed’s, the local prospecting shop held a send off barbeque for us, and about 100 folks came by. Our send off barbeque went well, the place sold every copy of my book that they had in stock. I was treated very nice at Reeds Prospecting Supplies in Perth.

After buying our food and some camping supplies we didn’t bring with us, we headed out to the deserts of the outback. Jonathan and his friends had been finding some nice gold, and we went to an area Jonathan suggested where he had been successful in the past. It was a very new experience - I saw the Magellanic clouds in the sky each night – and all the stars and the Milky Way were spectacular. We saw a flock of wild Emu one day – they are like an ostrich - they ran across the road.

We traveled around and camped in 4 different areas, heading out each day to explore or check and work patches in various areas around where we were camped. Visiting all these different places, we saw a lot of different country, and the gold was fun. Steve got his first piece within minutes of turning on his metal detector the first day we were in the field. It only took me about an hour to find my first piece. Each day we would gear up between 7:30 and 8, work until noon when we would take an hour break for lunch and then work detecting for gold again until about 5 pm. Although you move slowly listing for the sound of a target, it made for a lot of miles walking.

We had a fine time with JP and the other people we spent time with were great as well. JP was an amazing host and entertainer – it was always fun spending time with him. I'll repeat Steve's thanks for his help - he did a great job. When the conversation would slow, he always had a few jokes to liven things up. Of course he was also very knowledgeable about the area, and the gold bearing spots which had been productive. He proved himself to be a fine camp cook (even though we volunteered to cook, I think he felt safer doing it himself). He did a great job of getting us out to different patches and gold bearing areas. The three of us had many interesting campfire discussions. For our end, we tossed in a bunch of bear stories as Australian prospectors seem to have an unusual interest in bears. JP also did a great job of showing off the best of Australia to us, no matter what it took to do so. One day when he was out on his quad, he saw an Echidna - an anteater with the spines of a porcupine. To show it to us, he carefully strapped it to the storage box on his ATV. That worked great, but the frightened animal crapped on his storage box. Still, the Echidna was an amazing thing to see (it was carefully returned to the wild unharmed).

The weather was beautiful and the geology different and fascinating - many gold areas were covered with magnetite iron ore. September around the Meeka-Cue-Wiluna region of W.A. was just beautiful this year weather wise. Because of the rains earlier this year, there were fields of wildflowers and short grasses growing everywhere. The terrain was flat with low rolling hills, and with all the flowers, many of the gold bearing places looked like some kind of park. However also because of the rains, the flies were really bad. Folks told us they were the worst in a decade. At times I had as many as 300 flies buzzing around me. They did not bite, but were very, very aggressive. They would fly up your nose, into your ears, your mouth or eyes. Even if you waved them off, they would fly away about a foot, then turn around and land on you right back where they started from. I wore a head net to keep them out of my face, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. They landed on my arms, legs and chest instead. They were like nothing I’d ever seen. They were active from about 9 am to sunset. Mosquitoes came out near sunset – and they did bite.

In the past, I’d camped out for more than a week before, but never even as much as two weeks – this time I was out for a whole month. So I spent a month looking forward to sleeping in a real bed, but sleeping on the ground, I got a feel for what the early day pioneers went through. Some nights we had campfires and cooked over the coals, other nights we just used some electric lights to sit and visit. Just about every day we saw something new or unexpected – animal life, geology, etc. Often we camped right on or very near gold bearing patches of ground. One of the things I hoped for was that we’d see new and different things, and we definitely got to do plenty of that. I also lost about 14 pounds by walking 7 or 8 hours a day - and camping where I could not buy any snacks or other goodies.

On the cost of things, I really had my eyes opened - I expected since our two country's dollars are more or less near parity in international exchange, that costs of various goods would be more or less the same - they are not. On our trip out to the outback, we stopped and bought a few snacks – they would have cost about 5 or 6 dollars in the US, but were over $10 in Australia. The candy bar I can buy here for $1 is $3.50 in Oz, the camping mattress I can buy here for $30 is $60, and the pound of mince (hamburger) I can buy for $3.50 is $7.50. The Aussie minimum wage is much, much higher than that of the US. However if you make 50% more than an equivalent person in the United States, but all you need for life - food, gasoline, clothes, rent, etc. - is 50 to 100% more costly than it is in the US, what advantage is your higher wages? None. It is things like high taxes and high minimum wages that make everything in Australia so much more expensive.

On the gold, I did OK, but not exceptional. I got some nice gold – about 1 and ¼ ounces, not enough to pay for the whole trip, but I paid for most of it. Steve got almost 2.5 ounces and JP got around 4. Part of the reason my total was less was just that for whatever reason, I simply could not get my detector over anything of any size. Two nuggets of about 3+ grams (1/10th ounce) were my largest in a month's detecting. There were a number of other reasons, one is that we spent about 5 days prospecting new areas and found nothing there - but it’s hard to find new patches if you just look in the same old places. Another is that we also found that there are many, many folks out there pounding the old patches because of high gold prices (folks from Victoria state, many of them). We visited a number of "secret" patches and found folks camping on them or new roads accessing them and obvious signs of new work, new chaining of old spots just to eek out a few grams. People were even following our tracks just to see where we were going. Anyway, every new patch that is found is one fewer that's out there to be discovered, every nugget chained out of an old pounded patch is one fewer to be taken. There are still new patches being found, but even with zillions of minelab detectors pounding the ground, there are fewer each year, and the old places are just getting beaten to death. There is still good gold to be found (don't get me wrong) it’s just not as easy as it was 10 years ago. In fact one of the Australians asked me if there was anything I'd do different about our trip, and Steve and I - we both agreed - we'd have come 10 years ago. The other thing I'd have done different is buy a thicker foam mattress to sleep on the hard ground for a month.

For those interested in more detail - it will appear on the Minelab Prospecting / Treasure blog in the coming months. JP took a bunch of great video on this trip and he will be producing several video blog posts about our experiences which will be posted there (though it will be a month or two before he finishes them and they get posted).

First Photo is Steve detecting, second is JP and Steve with 1/2 ounce nuggets.

10-06-2011, 08:16 AM
Good Morning Chris,

Great story! I know your month long experience in Australia will be one you will cherish for a long time. Also, your comment of finding new patches or visiting the "secret" patches are so true. The high price of gold has gotten more people out looking/searching for gold. You are also right that people will find a way to follow you to those "secret" patches and pound the heck out of them. Anyway, thanks for sharing...you had a great adventure with some great friends (Steve & JP)...you got some outback gold!...and you made it back home safely....Tyrie

10-06-2011, 08:23 AM
Thanx for posting Chris great story....Looking forward to more of your thoughts on the trip......Geo

10-06-2011, 08:25 AM
Thanks Chris for the detailed post about your trip! So many of us have an Australia gold hunt on our "bucket list" and it's nice to learn about the experiences of those who have made one. Sounds like you had a great adventure even if you guys didn't find another "Ausrock" mega-nugget. Cheers, Walter.

10-06-2011, 08:32 AM
Hey Chris, glad you had a good time and found at least some gold. You came home just in time for this rainy weather, you missed some of the best weather all summer though. haha Glad you and Steve are back in one piece. Still can't believe you two were camping most of the time. Hahaha Oh, and I find your assessment of the Oz economy very fascinating.

10-06-2011, 08:39 AM
An experience of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing

little man
10-06-2011, 01:09 PM
glad you had a good time keep us posted

Reno Chris
10-06-2011, 04:03 PM
Here are some photos:

First is me chaining, second is a close up of my gold, the third is Steve and his gold.

10-06-2011, 08:16 PM
Great report. Thanks for taking the time to share your stories. I'll be waiting for more. I'd love to go down there.

10-07-2011, 08:00 AM
Thanks for the report, Hey, doies that beer bottle say MUD on it? :)

Reno Chris
10-07-2011, 08:51 AM
Close - it said MID

10-08-2011, 01:48 PM
Hi Chris! Glad you had a great trip. Looks like real pretty gold and I would wager, that every time you look at them, you will think back to your adventure down under...

By the way, did you see any of those deadly sssssnakes?

10-11-2011, 11:07 PM
All snakes in Australia are friendly, I have many times rolled out a "swag " on the ground and had a good nights sleep. I would not do that if there were bears around......

10-11-2011, 11:27 PM
I have used an air mattress for camping, yes, for months at a time. I blow it up using a 12 volt air pump. If you get a leak, put about 1/2 cup of water inside, blow it up and shake the water around. The leak will soon show up. Mark the spot, release the air, dry in the sun and repair. The worse thing is if you find you have got a leak in the middle of the night !!! An air mattress and pump is not expensive, even in Australia !!!

Steve Herschbach
10-12-2011, 06:14 AM
Only saw one poor cold snake that crawled into camp to get a drink out of the dog bowl.

An air mattress in Meekatharra costs $60. Chris and I wanted one but not enough to pay $60.

10-12-2011, 10:26 PM
In Perth they would be a lot cheaper, be prepared ! It is over the top what some of the small towns charge.

Reno Chris
10-13-2011, 09:31 AM
In Perth they would be a lot cheaper, be prepared ! It is over the top what some of the small towns charge.

It was a bit cheaper in Perth, but still very high priced (we spent time in Perth both on the arrival and departure ends of the trip). Steve and I both got a bit of sticker shock in Australia. In general, even though our two dollars trade internationally at or very near parity, almost everything in Australia costs significantly more.

Jim Hemmingway
12-12-2011, 02:14 PM
Chris… sorry about being a bit late in getting to this write-up… a candid account that conveys your thoughts and insights very well. I only wish we could get more such material on the forum.

You guys had a great trip, and found good gold. I think you’ve done very well participating in a relatively ‘controlled’ set of circumstances that I very much doubt would play well to your mineralogical strengths. We all adapt differently to a new environment…something as simple as not sleeping well at night can throw you right off your game plan… been there and experienced that many times. Give me a comfortable bed in my camper anytime, throw in a few snacks to get me firing on all cylinders…you get the picture…end of discussion. Many thanks for this fine presentation… :cool: