This series of posts documents two ordinary folks attempting to get out there and do good. Over the next few months, we’ll follow them through the setbacks and triumphs of their endeavor to take the inspiration of Mountainfilm and turn it into something tangible. (To catch up. start here.)

Is it Thursday already? Weeks are flying by. Hard to believe it’s been almost two months of cold showers and sweltering days. Doesn’t it snow in December? The heat is completely discombobulating.

When we last left our heroes, they were climbing a mountain to the galamsey site. Let’s join them as they observe small-scale mining up close.

As we climbed, we came to the first mines of the galamsey site. They didn’t look like much; just a couple of holes in the ground. Upon closer inspection, it became fragrantly apparent these holes had been abandoned. Exploited mines apparently enjoy a second life as a bathroom.

We left our inspection of the little boys’ room, rounded a corner, and arrived at one of the out-lying active mines – a hole that had produced gold but was nearing the end of its lifecycle, bound to join its contemporaries as a cesspit. Jenny began snapping away with the still camera while I unlimbered the tripod, fumbled with the video camera and adopted a thoughtful facial expression, one I thought a documentarian would wear. Eat your heart out, Werner Herzog.

Some miners at this site jokingly asked if I wanted to go down into the mine. Apparently, they didn’t think some obruni would have the cojones to navigate the claustrophobic holes to their labyrinthine depths, often hundreds of feet underground.

Puffing out my chest and fixing the miners with my steely gaze, I accepted their challenge. They either ignored or didn’t notice the break in my voice.

A brief description of the mineshafts is in order. Each shaft is about four feet to a side and lined with logs about as big around as my thigh to keep the ground behind them from collapsing. A yawning maw of Lincoln logs. Every ten feet or so, a couple of logs made a platform, alternating sides. Ostensibly, this was to keep someone from falling to their death at the bottom of the shaft. From my viewpoint, it just meant more bouncing on the way down.

I followed the miner who was to be my subterranean guide, using the supporting logs like a slippery ladder. As we descended, the shaft narrowed, sometimes to the point where both of my shoulders were touching the walls. Having done a bit of caving, I knew how important it is to keep your head when claustrophobia threatens. I’ve been in couple of tight squeezes, but none where a potential drop of unknown length dangled beneath my feet. Luckily, none of these bottlenecks lasted for more than a dozen feet or so.

After we had descended about four stories, the mine bottomed out. We encountered two miners with hammer and pick who couldn’t help but ogle at the obruni in their mine: a stranger creature had never visited these depths. After a few minutes and a few underexposed attempts to video, our guide indicated we should head to the surface. Despite constantly reminding myself that miners worked these shafts every day with no collapses, I was relieved to be heading topside.

After going through the above process in reverse, my guide and I finally reached the surface. Jenny spared a glance from her conversation with the miners to exclaim, “Oh, David… you’re filthy!” indicating her relief that her brave man had returned unscathed.

Topside, we all had a good chuckle about the obruni gold miner. It seemed I had gained a modicum of galamsey street cred. I rinsed my hands and face and we continued up the hill.

Once again, this is a long post, so let’s take a break. You can read the final installment of our galamsey site visit next Thursday!