I’ve just finished five week on the emergency operations committee that coordinated the recovery phase of the COVID ‘disaster’ in Western Sydney. I get to go back to my real job now for three days, then I’m off for a month!

And you know what that means…

With a La Niña alert issued, I expect heavy summer rains across the catchments that feed my favourite auriferous waterways. Which is good — heavy rains wash elluvial gold into alluvial deposits — but also bad, because flooded streams are impossible to pan.

Luckily, I’m set up for sniping.

In addition to the necessary basics (wetsuit, mask, snorkel, booties and gloves) for the first time I also have an offer of company from an experienced diver who’s keen to get into gold prospecting. Quid pro quo.

His enthusiasm is high, but also a little overbearing, vis-à-vis my desire for introspection and time alone. But of course I don’t have to take him along every time. There’s also the cagey old timer’s reluctance to reveal your favourite claim.

Because I know what will happen: he’ll stick his head underwater in my creek and emerge with a nugget the size of a baby’s fist. Just my luck. And it’s not exactly like I’m hankering for human company when I prospect. Somebody to ruin the serenity with newbie babble.

But because there is a mutual benefit, I won’t refuse. He can have his nugget. My best compromise will be to take him to my second-best spot, a sweet little creek that runs through rugged country past an old hard-rock mine, with just enough gold to make it worth our while.

Gold and gems. Every time I visit this creek I come home with some nice smoky quartz crystals, and lots of red and pink zircon. Also a chance of pale blue sapphires, and maybe even rubies and diamonds.

There’s definitely two days in this, so an overnighter. Two days on the creek should definitely scratch the itch that’s been growing in me since Delta locked us Sydneysiders out of regional NSW.

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