Monday, August 16, 2010

Hot Mines and Fighting Off Lions

After a long week of work, our weekend was packed with exciting attractions. On Saturday morning we woke up extremely early to visit Ho Lokisa Masimong Mine. It was a special opportunity to visit the mine because they usually do not allow group tours. We were warned that the hot and humid mine wasn’t for everyone. However, with the cold, dry Welkom weather most of us were extremely excited.

Each person was fitted with bulky miner overalls, hard hats, work gloves and gum boots. Then we were given a headlamp with a very heavy battery pack. We felt like we were a team of ghost busters more than miners. The mine operators did not allow bringing anything not even food because illegal miners would take food and stay underground to mine for gold. Some of the group went up the elevator of the mine to see the beautiful view and tour the worksite.

The elevator sent our contingent (at eighteen metres per second) down two kilometers underground where we climbed rickety staircases and climbed through dark mucky tunnels of a live mine. Everything seemed like a movie set except it was real! We were able to see the miners in action in little caves supported by only wood stacks that replaced what used to be sturdy walls of ore. Occasionally, we stopped to let the locos (the locomotives) pass carrying nearly forty tonnes of ore that ran on electricity. The heat felt almost like Canadian summers until we got to where the miners worked. Deep inside the mine where we have to crawl to move forward, the heat was unbearable! It is hard to imagine how a typical miner spends eight hour shifts underground in such heat. Every rest stop, we could hear Kevin’s voice telling us to drink more water. The walls were marked with black where a sample of gold was found and that would be where they would extract to a refinery. We saw other parts of the ore that had glimmering gold stripes which was Fool’s Gold.

Two hours later, we escaped the heat with sweat-soaked suits and emerged back to the surface. We were all very thankful for a icy cold shower! What an educational and insightful experience. It was an interesting view to experience such a difficult work environment.

On Sunday morning, everyone piled in our vans excited to see lions and other animals at the Lechwe Lodge. We were greeted with an appetizer of biltong on bruschetta. The first animal that we saw was the lions. Everyone could barely stay in their seats because they all wanted to snap a picture of the animals. Thankfully, the lions did not attack us. We continued to drive on and encountered a pack of baby white lion cubs. To our surprise, our guide encouraged us to play with the lion cubs and they were very playful. Many of our team members were attacked with several bites and tears in our clothing. Don’t worry no one was seriously injured! The only real damage we had was Alanna’s camera being attacked by the baby white lion cubs. With a few cuts and scrapes we can proudly say that we survived! We also saw many buffalo, kudu, springbuck and even the bird’s nest of the smallest bird in South Africa. We drove by a herd of zebras that were just a little bit camera shy and ran away. However, the giraffe stayed to pose with many members of our team. Did you know that hippos are the number one killers of humans in South Africa? Thankfully, we only saw a fake one. We then had a delicious lunch and waved goodbye to the llamas and ostriches on our way back home.

Bruce Hunter- Lion Tamer
By Ivy Wan, Mitchell Ekels and Brenna Doucette

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