After a few kilometres you arrive into Ilalaka, a sizeable one-horse town that has recently sprung up because of the discovery of precious minerals in the alluvial send beds of the river. You can see hundreds of local people panning for sapphires and gold all along the extensive river bed. Curiously mixed in with this gold rush type of scenario are regular town dwellers doing their washing. For a further 70 or so kilometres it seems that every river is also being dredged by the locals in the vague of hope go hitting it rich.
The main street of Ilalaka is lined with shops dealing with precious stones - some clearly under India or Sri Lanka management. Men stand about the street clutching little packets of what I presume to be their treasures. I’m told that if they find anything of worth, they sell everything as soon as possible to avoid being robbed.
In one little town we passed through it was clear that the miners were removing sand by the bagful to sift through later - a sort of mining homework as it were. Large trucks lined the road to collect their precious cargo. The people here require no mining licenses and there’s little or no apparent regulation.
|Ilalaka river being sifted for sapphires and gold while most of the women are left to do the washing.|
|Young lad sifting sand in the Ilalaka river|
|The police run checkpoints in most villages. |
We got stopped here because the cop spotted me taking this picture (stupid thing to do) and decided to throw his weight about a bit.
Our driver, Nick sweet-talked him round and we continued on our way.
|Main street, Ilalaka|
The taxi-brousse ladies out to sell cakes to hungry passengers.
All the street stalls and little shops have a very temporary appearance.
|Boyz on the road|
Loading sand and gravel taken form the river bed to be processed elsewhere.
They were not happy being photographed.
|In this river fossickers actually remove the sand in bags for sorting elsewhere. |
Primitive but, presumably effective.