President's Report - September 2003

Greetings All,

My apologies for not being able to attend the last club meeting, at which Dave Rowell entertained those present with a rundown on the Redex Rerun Trial. At short notice I was called to work with colleagues in New Zealand. Hopefully that will be my last trip overseas for this year, and I can now enjoy spring and early summer here in Canberra, including all club activities.

In last month's column I reported on my central Australia trip, and the excitement of meeting up with the Redex cars at Wycliffe Well. However, space did not permit mention of some of the other trip highlights (and lowlights). The downside of travel in central Oz in the winter months, when the weather is best (i.e. not too hot), is that every other person is there too - particularly the grey brigade. Consequently, camping grounds are packed out and all the famous tourist spots are crowded.

One of the most spectacular scenic places near Alice Springs is Standley Chasm - an awesome river-cut gorge, with vertical sides of red rock, the floor of which only sees the sun's rays for a short period around noon. There is a certain reverence about such natural beauty, which (for me at least) is sadly lost when there is a throng of tourists littering the scene.  After the mid-day throng, it was with great pleasure that Sue and I retreated to the solitude of the nearby Larapinta Trail, and spent several hours walking (entirely alone) through beautiful bush. At sunset, I returned briefly to Standley Chasm, and was rewarded with a tourist-free few minutes in one of the most remarkable natural landscapes imaginable. 

Also near Alice Springs, we took the opportunity to go fossicking for gemstones. About 140 km northeast of Alice, on sealed roads, we spent a wonderful day at Gemtree, digging for zircons.  For the $30 per person per day, the folk at Gemtree provide you with fossicking gear and a guide, and take you out to a spot that is guaranteed to yield gem quality stones - in our case, zircons, but they also offer another trip to dig for garnets.

Then it's hard yakka, digging, sieving, washing, and picking out likely stones.  At the end of the day you go back to Gemtree, where your stones are assessed by a gemmologist, and those worth cutting are identified. We had two clear stones and one orange stone that we had cut at $40 each. The stones were cut at Gemtree, and posted out to us two weeks later.  Sue took the stones to a local design jeweller, and now sports a beautiful zircon ring.  We thoroughly recommend a visit to Gemtree if you get the opportunity to do so. 

Meanwhile back in Canberra, our next club meeting will be a Trivia night at the Italo-Australian Club on Tuesday 23 September, followed by a "fun run" to Gallagher Wines on Sunday 12 October.

Keep on Pugging,

Brad Pillans

Picture of Brad