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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 15: Waterproof Tent

Lizzie's Birthday
snowOur challenge is to make a waterproof tent and stay up near gold bearing rock to dig some out of the quartz reef. I can see that this is going to be painful for many reasons. For a start it is Liz's birthday and I'm stuck half way around the world from her. It will be freezing up there but most importantly Mikey and I are terribly hungover after watching a local band in the village pub the previous night. In the event, we arrived back at 3 am after walking the 2 km from the pub, naked in celebration of the New Zealand National Nude Day.

Again the morning is very cold, even at the sawmill. The challenge isn't a total surprise this time because we had already been up to the mountains and knew that we would be doing something based there. Getting the quartz will be time consuming, but the preparations for the trip will take two full days, so we will have little time to do our ‘mining'. We are expected to camp up in the mountains, but with a little homemade tent that is made out of cotton sheet and waterproofed by ourselves. After seeing the place at which we are expected to camp, I am worried. The frost doesn't clear from the grass up there at all. It is almost like ‘permafrost', so whether it rains or not we will be cold.

Mike, Mike and Ellen with sheetsThe waterproofs we plan to use are based on oils or waxes, which don't mix with water. Our shortlist includes beeswax, lanolin (from sheep's wool), the jelly from inside flax leaves and two fractions of liquid from a destructive distillation of coal (coal tar). In theory at least they should all work, but all are labour intensive, especially for Mike. In the process of making the ‘waterproof' sheets Mike and I trip over, scald our hands, accidentally set fire to one of the sheets and burn holes in the aluminium teapots that we use to heat up the coal. NIGHTMARE!

We work on. Tucky, a local helicopter pilot buzzes the sawmill. A pigeon with weirdly noisy wings follows suit. Mikey and I are behind schedule so we work until late. I was glad to get back to the huts. Thanks to the previous night's nude walk everyone in town seems to recognise us.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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