Chronicles of the Wayward Moot

WELCOME TO THE MOOT, oh world-wanderers and word-whisperers. After two years of Peace Corps. After 2,200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. What. Comes. Next?


In order to continue getting photographs of the varying slices of life and beauty here in my site for the tourism presentation CD we're making, I recently went into a gold mine for the first time. To show me around I had a local kid come with me. He works for a pleasant little business around the corner from my home that fabricates the carbide lamps the miners use, and is very very happy that he doesn't have to work in the mines, but was eager to show them to me. The first one we visited seemed cool with our plan to take pics for a tourism presentation at first. They were in the process of building guardhouses and stuff right outside the entrance, and everything was very cool in a Bob the Builder yellow hard hat kind of way, like it was just a bunch of kids out playing in a really big sandbox. The foreman said it was fine that we go in and take a few pictures, but he had to check with the big boss man on his radio first. A few minutes later, the boss man said no we couldn't go in, even even with an employee as a guide. So that was that. We walked off down the dirt road to seek another place to poke around, sicne there are literally dozens and dozens of mines around the area. About five minutes up the hill we came across some more miners outside who told us where to go. Another ten minutes and we were at a pile of mid and dirty rocks and a power generator. Oh and there was a hole in the side of the hill too, which we figures was the mine. (Pictured above.) After a quick chat and another call to the owner to check if it was okay, our mission was approved and one of the miners sitting around gave us some hard hats and in we went.

Here are a couple of guys we met while in the mine, just doing their miner thing. It's like an anthill inside, with passages going off every which way, sometimes straight down or up, and always the work just involves going to the very end of one of the passages and blasting or picking the rock away and then carting it back out of the entrance so it can get picked up by a truck and eventually crushed into powder and processed to extract the gold, assuming the load even has any. I think I heard that they move like twenty tons of rock on average to get one ounce of gold. The work is HAAAAAAARD. Example....this photo shows one of the places in the passages where the ceiling was high enough for me to stand all the way up. Here you see some electric lights strung up . This is the part of the mine still close to the entrance. Further down everyone uses those carbide lamps with the little flame. I asked why they don't use the new LED style lights since they don't have a tendency to catch your clothes on fire and their batteries last a lot longer than the carbide does. The guys said that they use the lamps as a safety measure. At times there will be an airflow problem or change that sucks fresh air out of parts of the passages making oxygen unavailable, or lowering oxygen levels to unsafe levels. They say that when their lamps go out it means there isn't enough oxygen in the air to breathe and so they try to get the hell out of there ASAP. (How they do it without being able to see still baffles me.)

Here I am with the guy who agreed to take us into the mine for a lookaround. This is one of the working faces of the mine, i.e. one of the places where they have hit solid rock and are removing and processing that rock because it has gold in it. It's at the end of one of the passages and is a dead end that takes about seven or eight minutes to walk/hobble to from the entrance. Not a very big mine, right? Well this guy pictured here has been working this mine ... this same passage ... for e-i-g-h-t-e-e-n years. Every time he has gone to work, five days a week, from 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, since I was 7 years old and still very much believed in Santa Claus, he has come to this mine, this muddy hole in the ground, this very passage, and moved rock. To do this, in thanks for braving the cave-ins and floods and mudslides and other hazards that abound, he earns sixty bucks a week - a little more than ten dollars a day. And they don't even have a little stereo in there to make things more cheerful. He said that there were two guys killed in a cave-in this past weekend in the town about ten minutes from here, the one with a great pride in showing off its mining museum. It was then that I realized that the obituaries they read on the radio every now and then are quite frequently for miners killed in accidents. For many of the kids here who spend their evenings drinking with their friends on the streets instead of in classes at one of the night schools getting themselves ready for university, it's that kind of rock hard life they have to look forward to.

Speaking of the city streets, here is a shot of one of them at around midnight when people stop blasting their radios. Really mysterious and creepy in a comic book kind of way I thought. At night right now the city gets enveloped in clouds and everything gets a hazy dream-like glow where distances and shapes become difficult to identify. Really cool stuff. The photo that I've been hoping to get for a while now is one of the church tower with it's Addams Family lighting scheme on a really foggy misty night. I'll keep my fingers crossed for that. Ciao for niao.


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