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Reports

Monday, 23 July 2001
Fort William --> Daer, Scotland (UK)

Monday did well to me. Got from Fort Williams to Daer, west of Elvanfoot, 150 miles south of Fort Williams.

I stayed in a strange place, with a strange man with a rare profession. I currently know a lot about gold....

Today I had to try it again. Yesterday it wasn't possible for me to leave town, strange. But today, after scrambled eggs for breakfast at the B&B of Marie Kennedy, I tried it again.

The first person who gave me a lift, could only take me up a few miles and told me I wasn't really standing on a good spot. When he dropped me off at a next crossing, I only had to wait 5 minutes until another car pulled over for me.

The driver was Brad, a Welsh guy, who could take me all the way to the junction of M72 where my next host would pick me up! Brad, my hero!

He spent the weekend in Scotland and was on his way back home, so he had to go all the way down to Wales, over 400 miles...

And as we drove over the mountain roads of Scotland he told me about how he got trapped here last winter. It was snowing so hard, that he could not see what was the road and what was not. He even had to help out a family in a campervan as they got off the road and landed in a pont! He was stuck there for six hours, until a big snow truck pulled him out of the car.

And when we passed Glasgow, the mountains made place for green hills and it had stopped raining. The sun was trying to come between the white clouds while we were singing out loud with Coldplay in his cd-player.

He dropped me off at the junction near Elvanfoot, and old mining village, and I rang my next host Douglas Burgess and he would pick me up within 30 minutes.

So I did some relaxed sunbathing in the grass next to the offramp and had some live conversations with a German radiostation. It seems they are expecting me soon...

When Douglas showed up with his van, his two dogs barked out loud. I could sit in the back as he drove back to his remote home in a very small place called Daer, actually the valley where the Daer river runs through.

He stopped at an squatted school, telling me he lives in it. When I got inside I was very amazed. I had never seen somebody live in a place like this, where classrooms had been changed into a huge livingroom; the floor covered with all kinds of carpets.

Douglas is a professional gold panner and he loved to tell me all about it. I didn't even know that the UK had a gold industry, but there certainly were some places in Scotland and in Wales where they still find gold. Welsh gold is actually one of the rarest metals in the world.

He told me how he digs into the middle of a creek, just to get to the bottom cracks, and pans out the dirt. In the pan he'd look for gold dust or gold flakes, and if they were in there, it meant that the bigger pieces should be higher up the creek.

He told me as he got higher and higher up stream the pieces of gold in the bottom cracks of the creeks, would get bigger too. And with full proud he showed me his necklace, with the goldflakes hanging on it.

Douglas had served in the British Royal Navy for a long time and had seen a lot of parts of the world. He tried to give me the right advices for every country (like I should be very protective of the Australian hot sun), but for most cases I was already very prepared.

Douglas lives alone with his two dogs and very remote from the rest of the world. Internet connects him with other goldpanners on this planet and he exchanges information and chats on the web.

His AOL connection would allow him to visit my website, without having his computer crashing all the time, so I fixed the little problem and he was finally able to visit my project on the internet since he had invited me over.

The reason for inviting me was of promotional purposes. He talked about me with a local policeman, who is very involved with the internet, to invite me over to promote the Schottish Uplands. But the officer was very much involved in the regulations of the foot-and-mouth disease in the UK and did not really have the time. So that's why Douglas gave it a shot.

It was a very strange experience to see how he lives here. Some windows were cracked, but taped off to keep the cold out. He had no running water anymore, as the plumber refused to come back after his first visit. All the water now comes from the creek, just behind the house. Clean water comes from the only neigbours, living just on the other side of the road in a nice little cottage.

That one and the squatted school were the only houses I could see in this area.

He made me some very good meal with a grilled chicken with potatoes and salad. I wouldn't expect this in such a strange environment (in my point of view I mean), but it was very delicious!

After dinner we had coffee and Douglas told me all about his life, his years in the Navy, him working in Oman (showing me all the photos of this beautiful paradis-part of the middle east; well only the coast line, the rest is desert...) and about the time when he even worked for the MI5 and the MI6, British secret intelligence services. He maintained the security of a lot of army bases in Britain, even a highly protected US Army spot in the UK.

Haha, I now know a lot about how high-tech those bases are secured, it might be even useful sometimes...

As long as it was light, we walked outside and let the dogs out. As we were the only people on the land, we had to keep the dogs on the rope, because of the foot-and-mouth restrictions. We could even see the big wall of the Daer Reservoir, which keeps the water for Glasgow and powers the surrounding cities.

When we got back to the old school building, we settled down, totally out of breath. To have a relaxing night Douglas put on the video of [i]The End of Days starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, a movie which we both had not seen yet.

After the movie he showed me a sample of his gold panning, by showing me how he works out the gold from the rivers. And suddenly I had the gold on my fingers. That was pretty interesting. He also had a box filled with all kinds of mineral, also from all parts of the world, telling me all about the differences. The box itselfs must be worth a couple of thousand Pounds, that was for sure.

I slept in the guest room, probably once the principal's room, and wrote some reports on his computer before I got to bed.

How strange this place might be, or how strange Douglas might seem to other people, he quite managed it pretty well out here. No running water and very remote, but he stays very up to date with what happens in this world.

When I got to bed something was aching, but I couldn't place it yet...

Good night Daer!

Ramon.




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