After finishing off a bottle of white port the night before, that we’d been hoarding since Australia (mainly to forget the day’s memories of the bath house), we woke up, packed up and headed off.
Just down the road from the campsite was the Hot Springs Observation Tower. It went 214 foot into the air. It was an extremely windy road to get there. As soon as we arrived, Stef’s palms started getting very clammy. You see, Stef doesn’t like heights that much. It’s not really heights, more of the journey to get there. If it’s metal stairs, you can forget about it. Lifts are OK but glass lifts are a push. It’s one of her major fears. That and wasps. She’s never been stung before. I’m always egging the wasps on but none of them ever fight back. I see it as a chickenpox sort of thing – you have to be stung at least once in your life. Stef disagrees. But what are the chances of wasps being that high up anyway?
Pretty high actually. Before we got in the building, there was a big warning sign that stated there were wasps on the upper level of the tower! Hilarious. You couldn’t make that stuff up. Needless to say, Stef stayed on the lower deck of the tower, which was inside.
The Upper level was open and you could see for miles across the town of Hot Springs and the surrounding areas. I only saw a few wasps and they were BIG. Stef would have freaked.
I collected Stef from the lower deck and we set off to the next campsite.
We made it to the Crater of Diamonds State Park, paid up and set up the tent. As it was still early and the sun was blasting down, we decided to do a spot of diamond mining. How exciting.
The area is well known for its diamonds. Many moons ago, stuff happened to the land involving a volcano, lava, pressure and I think Godzilla, which has produced loads of diamonds in the dirt. For a small fee, you could rent some equipment and sift through it. You get to keep whatever you find.
People came for miles to mine. As we pulled up, people were pulling all sorts of equipment out from their cars. Wheelbarrows, pickaxes, buckets and more. Now they were professionals. We rented a couple of sifters and shovels.
There were a couple of ways we could mine; either sift through the soft dry dirt or wash the dirt away in water. We chose the dry method.
We sat there for what felt like hours. You’d put a little dirt in your sifter and wave it about. The dirt fell through, leaving small rocks and hopefully diamonds in the bottom.
Although it felt like hours, it was actually about 30 minutes. The tough work on the arms and the heat from the sun just made it worse. Neither of us had any luck with finding any diamonds, however, I found a piece of Jasper. It’s basically just a funky looking rock. Worthless. It was about 4pm and only one diamond had been found at the site and there were loads of people there. Seeing as there are only about 500-600 diamonds found there every year, our chances were not that great.
We retired back to the tent and relaxed our aching bodies. We decided there and then that mining for diamonds was not a profession for us.
Later that day, a father and son team came back to their tent that was opposite ours. They had been mining ALL day. He had actually found a diamond. Intrigued, I asked to see it. He led us to his car and pulled out the smallest box. On the lid was a magnifying glass so you could see the diamond better. It looked like a very small part of a toenail clipping, about 3mm in length and that was after magnification. Not what I was expecting. But he was happy so good on him. They were staying there for a whole WEEK on vacation and were going to be mining every day. I guess some people’s idea of holidays differ from Stef’s and mine!
Later that night, we cooked some lovely jackets on the campfire. As we sat down to eat them at the table, I felt a big spider on my leg. Obviously I freaked out. I hate spiders. Snakes have only just over taken them as my nemeses due to my many near death encounters with them. Have I mentioned that before? I reached down in to the dark void under the table where my leg was and brushed it off. I didn’t have time to look. But when I did, it wasn’t a spider. It was a freakin stick insect! It was a crazy looking thing and the first time we’d seen one out in the open. Everywhere we camp, we encounter something different – it’s brilliant.
The next day was a long drive to Eureka Springs, which is north Arkansas. We were staying the night at the Regency Inn. It’s always nice to stay at nice motel the day after camping. It had running water AND electricity. It felt like the Ritz.
That night, we treated ourselves to Pizza Hut. The restaurant was all decked out in Halloween décor. The Americans just love Halloween. They really go to town. I guess it’s just another excuse to party and go a bit weird and different. I wish it were like it at home but I think the English are boring compared to the US. I guess it’s because if we did something different, someone would complain that it’s against their religion or they are offended by it and it would have to be taken down. I have realised now that America’s stance on stuff like that is if you don’t adjust to our way of life, then bugger off!
Our waitress, Bekah, was brilliant and even spooked up our check.
We returned to the motel and after watching a few programs, we fell asleep…on a mattress, oh the luxury.