We did something different today. We didn’t have the usual people to worship with this morning, since they are away for the weekend, so we decided to check out a group we heard of in Reefton, a town about 31 minutes drive from us. Because Gayle drives through there on his way back to the other coast for the week for work, we decided to spend the whole day in Reefton and explore some places we were curious about. That way, he didn’t have to drive back here and then go that way again. We figured out a menu for both lunch and tea, and packed everything we needed for a couple of picnics, including a birthday cake for Mr. Imagination, who turned six today. We had to drive the old van, because our in-house mechanic is in the process of fixing a few things on the new van and, due to difficulty obtaining one part, it was undriveable today. We just took it slow and allowed plenty of time, and enjoyed the scenery!
We enjoyed an inspiring service at the little church there, with the eight people who were present, and then brought food inside to add to their shared lunch. We had a delightful hour of fellowship as we got to know them, and then started out to see what Reefton had of interest.
Our first stop was The Bearded Miners, where you can watch a gold-panning demonstration. This man showed us, and a bus-load of tourists, how to tell the difference between fools gold and real gold, and how to find the alluvial gold in river sediments.
Next, we drove a couple of kilometers out of town to Black’s Point, where there is a small historical museum. Mr. Sweetie enjoyed these dredge buckets outside.
I didn’t take any pictures inside, but the man who was volunteering in there today made the eclectic collection of old stuff very interesting. One little tidbit that we gleaned was that, among other gold miners, were a lot of people from the Southern States of the United States. They had lost everything in the Civil War and came here to try to recoup their fortunes—gold was discovered in this area in 1865. We also saw a cash register that was used in this area in the 1800s, which was made in Dayton, Ohio, near where Gayle grew up.
When a tour group arrived at the museum, we went to the end of the road where an old stamping mill is set up. This was the method used to extract gold from quartz rock. I took a video of the machine working; I’ll try to get it up soon. The rock was fed from a hopper into this machine, where a waterwheel turned cogs that made the hammers go up and down. The rock was crushed to a fine sand and when it was fine enough it washed through a screen. The sheet of copper sloping gradually away from the hammers was coated with mercury, and the specks of gold chemically bonded with the mercury, while everything else washed away. Some bits of gold were still bonded to the quartz, however, so there was a mat in the trough just after the copper sheet. Heavy particles got caught there, and every so often that mat would be rinsed off and the stuff caught in it was put in the large metal pot in the next picture. There was mercury in the bottom of that, too. As that pot turned around, a grinder of some sort pulverized the particles that were put in there, and eventually the mercury at the bottom would bond with the gold particles. After several days, they would run water through that until it ran clear, and then harvest the mercury/gold alloy from the bottom, and also scrape the copper sheet clear. Then, they would pack that alloy, which was the consistency of putty, into a cast iron retort and heat it to vaporize and then distill the mercury, so they could reuse it. The gold would be left behind in the retort. This process was used until 1942, when they switched to a system totally different. He said he wouldn’t even try to explain, because it was so complicated.
When we left the stamping mill, we walked around the building and up a trail along this pipe, which used to be used to bring the enormous amounts of water needed to run the mill. Today, they have a plastic pipe buried underneath this one, which is rusted through in many places.
This is one of the largest toadstools I’ve ever seen! That’s a six-year-old’s feet beside it.
The water to run the stamping mill and generate electricity for the lights in the building comes from this creek.
The moss on the trees is unbelievable!
After we walked around a track in Black’s Point, we went back to Reefton. Our birthday boy was quite intrigued by the flowers on this banana tree. There were tiny green bananas, too.
We walked on a track along both sides of the Inangahua River beside Reefton. This town was the first in New Zealand to be lit with electric lights. The track goes past the original power station.
As you can see, it was a rainy afternoon. It was just a drizzle, not a downpour, so we kept going. I took the first of these last two pictures looking downstream from a swingbridge across the Inangahua, then walked on. As I neared the end of the bridge, the sun broke through the clouds and there was a snippet of a rainbow in the river on the upstream side, but it was gone before I got my camera up to take the second picture.
<p>I heard a few good-natured complaints that we don’t get a day off from school, even on Sundays! Everyone enjoyed the day, though, and Mr. Imagination said it was a very good birthday.