Tonight’s episode of “Gold Rush” is a look into what is coming up when Todd Hoffman and crew get a tip about a gold claim in Guyana, South America and is titled “The Jungle: The Return.”
The Klondike is unsuitable for mining more than six months out of the year. Now Todd Hoffman has a plan, to travel to South America with his crew, and fight the heat, the rising rivers and the creatures that live there to find more gold. But are they in over their heads this time?
As Todd explains his mission to his crew, they weren’t even sure where Guyana was, never mind what to expect there. Todd wants Dave Turin to come with him to assess the situation and see if the operation could be feasible. It will cost a lot of money to bring the equipment there, and it has to be worth the effort and cost. So Todd and Dave and crew make the 4,600 mile trip from Sandy, Oregon to Georgetown, Guyana, South America.
As they fly above, there is no permafrost, and the weather is suitable for year-round mining; provided there is gold to be found. They met up with their guide, Tony, who will take them through the jungle. First, they stop for supplies at what seems to be a mining superstore where they must get some proper tools for their trek. They need good boots to prevent snakebite, a rather large knife to clear away the jungle growth and more supplies they did not expect. Then they drove 126 miles to Mahdia. On a good day, this trip is at least a six-hour drive, with no paved roads, just mud puddle after mud puddle. Tropical downpours can turn the road into a river of mud. This trip took eight hours of tortuous driving to reach their destination. Guyana has two rainy seasons, May to August and November to January. Todd was promised a claim on virgin ground, but upon inspection, the ground is far from virgin and their numbered claim has a different name on it. Now what?
Todd went to an office to find out what happened to his claim. The local mining officials have the final say and fortunately, Guyana is the only country in South America that has English as their official language, but the record showed that another person owned the claim. After a discussion, Dave and Fred gave Todd two more days to come up with a solution, or they were leaving.
Back in Georgetown, Todd checked with the mining officials and found an available claim that consisted of 4,800 acres, and he filed the application and got the rights to the land. However, the land is deep in the jungle, but his crew agreed to check it out. Now they journey up the Essequibo River, later over the rapids of the Mazaruni River to reach Alaska Landing, then another five miles to their destination at the Mazaruni Claim. They managed to get a power boat capable of navigating the rapids to take them on the trip. As they hit the rapids, they were in for a bumpy ride, as the boat had to travel at high speed to skim over the rushing shallow river.
At Alaska Landing, they met with local entrepreneur Ferroz Barakat, one of the many Indians who live in Guyana. Over 40% of the population is of Indian descent, brought there as indentured servants in the early 19th century to work the sugar plantations. Tony brought them this far, but now they will rely on Barakat to get them to their destination, as he is the only person in the area who owns vehicles. The agreed to rent vehicles from him, then travel through his property and down to the uncharted territory that is their claim.
As they drove the quads to their destination, they came upon a river infested with leeches, piranha and reptiles similar to alligators called caimans. Th live in the river and grow to about fifteen feet long. With one mile to go, Dave suggested building a Bailey bridge, a prefabricated metal bridge that is designed to be assembled rapidly. As Todd hemmed and hawed, Dave asked if he was giving up? Then Dave called him on his policy of never giving up in the Klondike. Jack Hoffman, Todd’s father, knows that everything in his life has been a struggle, and all worth it.
The next day, as cooler heads prevailed, they found a way by boat to get close to their destination, but they must make it through the Arikondo Falls. Tony helped them negotiate a deal with local boat owners for $30,000 Guyanese dollars, or $150 US dollars to take them on the trek via boat in this waterway containing vampire fish and reptiles. Once they reach their destination, they will have to contend with jaguars, wild boar and deadly snakes like the anaconda and bushmaster.
When they approached the falls, their skipper had them exit the boat to lighten the load. The rapids proved too much for the experienced boater, and he had to turn back. Now their only hope is to hike through the snake infested jungle, the rest of the four miles to their destination. In three hours of bushwhacking their way, they still had another mile to go. This was a grueling trek for the miners, but they finally arrived at their virgin gold claim. Tony then showed them how to mine for gold, jungle style. They will dig ten test holes on one acre and pan the dirt to see how much gold there is in one yard. The first two pans gave them nothing, but the third one had one tiny flake. As night fell, they decided to stay overnight. They had to stay off the ground to avoid snakes. The bushmaster likes to strike at light, because there are huge fireflies in the jungle, and they could mistake their light for a firefly.
As they continue their testing, they had a mini sluice to test the dirt. Fred and Tony ran the jig. The testing proved they had about $25 to $30 per yard, but not really good enough for expense of traveling and bringing equipment and crew to such a remote location. They need an average of $60 a yard to make it worth their while.
The locals use highly toxic mercury to find their gold, but that is the only way they know. Todd has no intention of using this element in his operation.
Then fans were given a treat; they got a sneak peek of the following episode, and Jack Hoffman was right at home digging away in the excavator. Just six feet down is bedrock, nothing, like Alaska. Now to put that dirt in the sluice. Fans will have to wait till next week for the premiere episode of “Gold Rush” to see what happens next.
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