Just finished up another day here in beautiful Tanzania with Steve Moriarty, of Moriarty Gem Art. Today was more incredible than I could have imagined. If we were to leave tomorrow, I would still leave a very happy man.
As I mentioned in Day 1, today’s plan was to head to the mines and make a few explosions. Turns out there were a few hoops we needed to jump through in order to do so. First, we needed to stop in town purchase the documents for purchasing the explosives. Apparently, they require a license in order to purchase the explosives, which is a good thing! This is completely unrelated, but there was a dude was selling ties while we wait. 🙂
After picking up the paperwork for the explosives (and the paperwork only), we stopped at a local shop for a few supplies before heading out to the mines.
The mine was just about an hour and a half away from where we are staying. Our friend who owns the mine (and our driver), decided that he would take the “scenic” route “so matt can take some pictures.” Turns out the scenic route is the worst road in the history of roads. Thank goodness I was wearing a seatbelt, or my head would have gone through the roof….multiple times.
One more crazy thing about driving in Tanzania…EVERYONE passes each other….ALL the time. Whether its a paved road, unpaved road, cars on the other side of the road or not. We’ve come inches from passing cars on multiple occasions now. Crazy.
Motorcycles are everywhere! Many of them even double as taxis.
Once we started reaching the outskirts of town, heards of cows didn’t seem to be too uncommon. Cows and goats. Bah.
And sometimes a few donkeys. 🙂
Along the journey to the mine, we had to stop at two separate locations — one for the fuse and charge, and one for the box of explosives. Being that both of these locations are run by the government, I was instructed not to take any photographs while we were there. Apparently it is very unwelcomed to photograph any sort of government in Tanzania — be it government buildings, or even police themselves. I wasn’t about to argue.
We finally reached the mining area. Once we did, there were many workers relaxing around the streets, most of them covered head to toe in thick dust from the mines.
We wound up coming across a few miners in action. Instead of being down in the mines, these particular miners were sifting through the “dump” piles. The dump piles are basically large piles of extra material that was excavated from the mines, most of which is regarded as dump…or garbage.
These guys were incredibly interesting. I couldn’t help but break out the gear and ask them if I could take a few photos with them. Steve ended up joining in and helping out with the hunt!
They pulled a handful of stones out of their pockets to share with the camera, which apparently seemed to be their prize finds from the day.
Look, Steve got something!
Steve had me to hop in for one with my new buds.
As we were heading out, I tossed them some cash to get themselves some waters, etc. They were thrilled!! 😀
We have finally reached the mine! This is the first hole that was dug, which is no longer in use (well, not too often at least).
For blasting in the mines, they set up a few things: the fuse, the charge and the explosives. Once they do the blast, they then let the dust settle while simultaneously running air from an air compressor into the mine. This helps replace the oxygen that was eaten up by the explosion, as well as the stagnant air that was sitting from the mine being out of use for days.
Unfortunately, no longer than about 15 minutes after we arrived, we found out that the power had gone out at the mine. Apparently, Tanzania does localized “blackouts,” where they will shut down power from specific areas for X amount of time, which stays on a constant rotation (if I understood the situation correctly). Without power, it wouldn’t have been safe to blast inside the mine, as there wouldn’t have been any way to pump fresh air into the shaft. Its never quite sure how long the power will stay out, so we figured we would wait it out.
In the mean time, we all got to know each other a bit better!
Here’s our chef for the day! He was making lunch for the crew, which consisted of a giant pot of maize (ground corn meal) over the fire, a big pot of beans and some sort of vegetable mixture.
Ended up being delicious! This was the first time I had ever experienced maize. Its almost the consistency of Playdough, but a bit more sticky. The process was to grab a hunk of maize (the white tower of stuff), ball it up in your hand and dip it in the beans or vegetable mixture. Yum! 🙂
Here’s a peek into the spot where the workers live, right there at the mine. Those sacks of sand are their beds. Next time you think about being uncomfortable, think about these.
After lunch, the electricity still wasn’t back up and running, so we decided to have some fun and grab a few photos while we waited.
Here’s Steve with some of the crew!
This guy was clownin’ around…we got a good laugh. 🙂
Daylight was running short and with the power still out, we figured that we should at least go down in the mine and check it out, even if we weren’t going to be able to blast. Into the mine we went!
First stepping in, the air was cool and damp. Mineral particles filled the air that sparkled like glitter in the head lamps. In order to make it down the makeshift steps carved into the side of the tunnel, we had to use the cable pulley system that hung overhead. This was the line that was used for attaching bags of debris to be removed from the mine.
The tunnels seemed to go forever, turn after turn, deeper and deeper.
At some points, you had to be completely reliant on the cable, as the footing was loose powder without any sure footing.
Some of the steeper drops has little homemade ladders.
Hold on tight!
We finally reached a point to where there were no more ladders or sure footing areas. At this point, we were too far to go on, as we would have been soon running low on oxygen. At this point, we were only about half way through the mine.
And back up we go! I turned my head lamp out to give you an idea of how dark the mines were. This is probably obvious, but there was absolutely zero natural light in there. We stopped for a moment to turn off all of our lights and it was completely black.
That little light at the end? That’s the opening to the mine. Almost out!
Examining a few finds from earlier that day…
Gorgeous Tanzanian sunset…doesn’t get much better than that.
We drove past a member of the Maasai tribe on the way out of the mining area. I would have LOVED to get out and shoot a few of him with some lighting, but he wasn’t too keen on having photos taken. At least we were able to grab one before we asked. 😉
Drove by and awesome little area with some grazing cattle kicking up the dust. One of my favorite scenes from the trip so far…