Amateur Geologist

Amateur Geologist

Amateur Geologist

I’ve always been quite interested in rocks on the beach, but only recently did I get a little tour through what it’s like to be an amateur geologist on the road.

I bumped into a friend that I had met about a month ago, whilst crossing from India into Nepal, and he informed me that while he travels, he’s gotten into buying and selling stones.

Incredibly intrigued I set out to ask him all sorts of questions and possibly get to that age old question, that enigma that has plagued man since the dawn of time… what the hell is the difference in between a precious and semi-precious stone?

Although I never actually asked THAT question, we did get into many details of what he does, and how he’s been doing it in Kathmandu. He also informed me that he had made a Swiss friend in Kathmandu who was doing the same thing. This friend had jut bought a raw emerald and the two of them were intending to get it cut on the ‘morrow if I was interested…

Hey, I'm not useless with stones... I use the coloured ones to paint on people... it's very Van Gogh, no?!

Hey, I’m not useless with stones… I use the coloured ones to paint on people… it’s very Van Gogh, no?!

Naturally, we set out at 10am for the shady part of town. Not sure what to expect, we pulled into the cutter’s place and were greeted with three cups of chia (no, they don’t call it chai) and the conversations began as I amused myself by picking up all sorts of Crystals and something-dites and something-lytes… (You can see I learned a lot)

Apparently my buddy has quite an eye (and a vendor) for Crystals so the cutter ended up bringing out his private collection and laying it down all over the floor (I’ll try to get my hands on the photo… going to the shady part of town with the SLR is right up there with the tips on how to get robbed, and I’m still dealing with the euphoria of having my lifeproof camera stolen).

So I sat, and learned how to check for tips, and breaks and inclusions in crystals. Whilst learning that the going rate of Crystal is about 30 rupees per gram. The lot of crystal that we were looking at came out to a whopping $14,000… 100 rupees to the dollar, 1000 grams in a Kilo… Yep, the math is fun, but hey at least it’s all metric!

In other word, it was a LOT of crystal!

As the negotiations went from one hour to about three, I was astounded at the fact that my buddy was seriously looking at spending more money in some shady little stone cutter shop than I’ll spend in about two years (did I mention that at times I screw myself over by being a little TOO cheap?)

Amateur Geologist

I thought about just flying away with it… but it was too heavy

I won’t lie, I was tempted to pocket some of these stones… but the ones that are worth pocketing also happen to be bigger than my head, and I didn’t wear my ‘stealing precious stone’ pants that day… damn!

Furthermore, running through the shady part of Kathmandu with a crystal the size of my head and not knowing the direction to get back to my hostel didn’t seem like the wisest choice… potentially not a stupid as some of the choicest I have made in my travels, but also not the wisest.

So, as I sat contemplating what it would be like to end up in a Nepali jail and embracing the awkward call home to tell my parents, who are both plagued with being morally conscious, that I had forgotten to wear my proper pants, thus had ran away with a Crystal the size of my head and got lost in shady town all for the purpose of doing my research on how to get robbed and really they should just be happy I was alive… the cutter’s assistant walked in with the newly cut Emerald.

Apparently, in discovering the Emerald (to me this looked remarkably akin to holding an Iphone light up against a black stone to see if it’s green on the inside), my two friends were dismayed to find out that the Emerald wasn’t worth what they had hoped in the first place.

Amateur Geologist

Thought about making a run for it!

Thus, my one friend took some photos of the Crystal lot to send to his vendor in Montreal (he’s of the opinion that he will sell it for in between $25,000 and $50,000) and the three of us walked out of the cutter’s house to attempt to get Swiss’s money back for the Emerald.

At the end of the day, it’s just one of the many little adventures that you embark upon whilst travelling by being interested in what others do with their time and in order to make ends meet on the road. Without a doubt, having the time to blow off an entire day to just follow a couple of amateur geologists is one of the many pleasures of long-term travel.

8 thoughts on “Amateur Geologist

  1. Amber

    This is a really interesting little story… it is fascinating to follow along with how other people do their thing on the road once in a while. Thanks for the tale 🙂

    Reply
    • Jonny Jenkins Post author

      Hey Amber, I totally agree, I never cease to be surprised by all the different ways that people find in order to make ends meet and their different motivations for travelling. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  2. Bob R

    Great story. More than anything it reminds me of missed opportunities on the road. Of the times I should have said, ‘Sure, I’ll be happy to join you.’

    I met a similar chap –who I affectionately referred to as the Crack Rock Hound– who was always on the lookout for rocks, stones and gems on his travels. This was in Bolivia, and he also shared a few stories of people getting caught at the border with stones they acquired on the black or gray market.

    Reply
    • Jonny Jenkins Post author

      Sounds like a very interesting chap this ‘Crack Rock Hound’. I bet he had a ton of stories to share. I can only imagine what it would be like to get caught at the border with stones acquired on the black/grey market… That can’t be fun to explain

      Reply
  3. The Guy

    Interesting little tale. It does seem like a large volume of mass and weight to get real value out of these stones. It does sound like you learnt a fair bit about the emeralds though.

    Love the pictures, they are fabulous.

    Reply
    • Jonny Jenkins Post author

      It was quite the interesting day for sure. Certainly a lot of complications if you want to do this as a backpacker… but if you have the knowledge and the connections, it seems as though you can make it work. Very enlightening experience, I’ve never met people doing this before… especially not backpackers.

      Reply
  4. girjaa

    JJ…this is so fun, well written, great pics….and a slice into a secret pocket (almost) of a big group of travellers– the importers/ exporters. I personally am very happy you are not in a nepali jail. I would mourn your loss of freedom, have to worry about physical harms,… and really miss your posts!

    Reply
    • Jonny Jenkins Post author

      Well to be honest, I’m pretty happy that I’m not in a Nepali jail as well… I haven’t looked into it extensively, but I’ve never been given the impression that they are a fun place to spend your time in Nepal… Cultural experience, sure… but not that enjoyable. Thanks for keeping your eye on me 🙂

      Reply

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