Monday, 12 March 2012

Stones 'R' Us

Africa, to me, has a penchant for stones. Is that the right word to use? It's more of an inherited appreciation I guess but since I've lived here I've met a lot of people who love stones and run businesses selling and making things out of them and by default, I've learnt to appreciate them more myself.

Diamonds, of course, I don't have to be taught to appreciate .....

About two thirds of the worlds diamonds come from Africa, there are diamond mines in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.

But I don't want to focus on diamonds, I'd end up digressing into a serious issue post about Blood Diamonds and this was supposed to be a 'slice of family life' type affair.

Diamonds aside, Africa's beautiful ground is rich with all colours and kinds of stones and it's one of the largest producers of precious and semi precious stones in the world.

When we moved to the old ranch we live on now, we realised we were close to the river and discovered that the river itself brings quartz stones, mainly clear like glass, down in it's stream to rest on the bed. Sons Tallen and Nate love to find them and Tallen in particular has developed a liking for collecting them and is the proud owner of his very own shoebox sized Scratch Patch. Or box of Pirate Treasure, depending on which game he's playing.

A few days ago, currently-visiting-Grandad took the kids and I to Gecko Jewellers in Crowthorne It was my suggestion, I knew the boys would love it and it's an 'easy' thing to do with young kids. Just enough excitement to keep them occupied, but not so much you can't sit back and relax a bit at the same time.

We went to see the natural, uncut and unpolished stones first. They lie sorted in piles in a yard outside the Mine Entrance and it's incredible to see things like Amethyst and Tigers Eye looking, well ... like a pile of old rubble! Okay, so there's some pretty funky coloured piles of rubble there but you get my drift. The crystal formations and the size of some of the stones were pretty darn cool too and you can buy rough, uncut stones from the yard in their natural state.

That's mine and Tallens hand, to give some scale.
You can take a mine tour (adults R40, children R30), we didn't that day but we would if the boys were a little older. The wording on their site and boards say it's a short tour and a chance to see a wide variety of stones being cobbed, sorted and polished. It also adds that you can experience the 'personal touch' of the guides. Hmmm. It may have been that rather duff choice of wording that put us off .... No, I'm joking. If you get the chance, go mining!

There's a fairly expensive Jewellery shop, although you could really spend a little or a lot, depending on your wallet size. Tallen used his pocket money (topped up just a smidge by Grandad) to buy a R40 cup of stones from the Scratch Patch. The lady in the shop was lovely, she gave Tallen and Nate an extra drawstring bag of little stones as a gift and was instantly Tallen's favourite person that day. The little bag looks exactly like a pirate looty bag in one of his favourite movies, The Goonies.

How ever much you have (or have not) to spend, the shop is full of the most beautiful uncut stones, ornaments, gifts, jewellery and even clothing. Thoughtfully and thankfully in widely spaced displays, so it's safe to let the kids wander a bit. Hands in pockets. "Look but DON'T TOUCH!".

I was too scared to ask the cost of the item that caught my eye most in the shop, and I couldn't decide whether Hubby would find me in it more hysterically funny than alluring.

Both are good responses, in my mind, to bring about in my hubby but I settled for taking a pic to show him instead. Probably wise, I think it looks best on the plastic, seam-free mannequin.

You'd be constantly adjusting your nipples ..

Outside there's a full on, proper sized, kids-can-climb-in Scratch Patch which we think kinda awesome.

I hope you're lucky enough to have one near you.

Caringly shaded, chairs around the edge for the grown ups. You can slip off your slops, and dip your feet in the stones like a cool, pebbly beach while the kids dig and pile and fill buckets to their hearts content.

There's a cafe too, with a small playground right next door so we enjoyed a toasted sarnie and a drink while the kids played. Well, Tallen sifted the sandy, gritty ground and the sandpit for more Pirate Treasure. He found lots, the car park and grounds are full of dropped stone chips as you can imagine. And Natey gave his Mummy small, repetitive heart attacks by climbing way higher than his little, chubby legs should allow him every time I turned my head away for longer than ten seconds.

But heart attacks aside, we loved our visit and having spoken to the lovely lady there have decided to revisit at the weekend when Gecko is host to a Gemstone Market, Farmers Market (yum) and camel rides for the kids. R30 for one camel ride. R50 for unlimited camel rides.

You mean you'll keep my kid on a camel all afternoon while I shop? And I just have to pay you fifty bucks? I like your style Gecko Jewellers, I like your style.