Yulia digs underneath bed-rock for suitable panning material, while Tim studiously updates his diary.
Yulia makes it all look incredibly easy. You simply wash off the lighter pebbles, and the heavier sediment remains in the pan. If there's any gold that's where it will be. Bea already has some suspiciously gold-looking sediment in her pan, but our geologist is sceptical. Testing it with a magnetic pen, she shakes her head apologetically: "Nothing so far, sorry". She encourages us to carry on though, saying we've found a lot of magnetite, which is a good sign, since that's a heavy metal too. Gold is heavier than magnetite, so any gold would naturally stick to it.
Tildy, meanwhile, seems to be having more success than either Bea or I. "Yeah, yeah, yeah", encourages Yulia,
"you're already professional, Matilda. You can have a job with me as a field assistant".
There's no job offer for me, sadly. But when I tell Yulia that one of my greatest hobbies is reading, her eyes immediately lighten up. "If you want a really awesome story read The Illuminaries", she suggests. "It's about the early gold miners". Yulia goes on to describe how there was absolutely nothing glamourous about early gold prospectors' lives: "They had to save up three weeks' wages just to buy a bag of flour. "So", I reply, making a note to put this in my blog, "they were sold a dream and ended up with a nightmare". Visibly impressed by my commentary, Yulia nods. Matilda, in the meantime, has lost interest in gold prospecting and gone off to skim stones across the river.
ainst us. "For every ton you dig up you get one gram of gold", says Yulia, "and that's a good result". Normally you need to search 80 pans of pebbles a day. We've managed just four. Yulia adds that to stand any good chance at all we also need to dig five to seven metres. We've probably not been digging much deeper than just a couple inches.
Still, we've had good fun, and the morning's prospecting really gives us a feeling of early pioneering life, warts and all. Comfortingly though, even the experts don't always strike lucky. Yulia is wearing a lovely three-gram gold charm around her neck. When I ask her if she found the gold locally, she grins and says "Actually no, I got it in a store in Sydney".
All that glisters is not gold