Travels With Arlene Diamonds and Ostrichesfeature101_2

by Arlene Liska

The following are some thoughts about world travel penned by the esteemed Arlene Liska. Arlene Liska and her late husband, Danny, circumnavigated the globe on a BMW in the late 50s and early 60s with little more than a dream and determination. We are very honored to have her thoughts featured on these pages. An MMM exclusive.

Riding our BMW R-60, we were coming toward the bottom of Africa on our trip from North Cape, Norway to South Cape, Cape Town South Africa. We rode overland the whole way.

South Africa has a lot of civilization, wild animals, pleasant scenery and diamonds. There are several central and southwest African areas that have diamonds. A gemologist can tell the exact country and area that a diamond comes from by its color.

We arrived at the huge, open chasm that is the De Biers diamond mine. Dump trucks spiraled around and around, hauling huge loads of ore to a conveyor. The wide conveyor belt is greased with a substance like heavy Vaseline. The conveyor belt shuttles the dirt into a processing building. The dirt falls away and the raw diamonds stick to the substance on the conveyor belt.

We were introduced, screened and scrutinized by investigators, and welcomed to the whole diamond procedure. Many diamonds lie on top of the ground. Ostrich are raised along with Holstein cattle, feeding on alfalfa. The ostrich need stones, especially shiny ones, to keep their gizzard working. Some of the ostrich are wild.

Inside one building we were shown lots of diamonds. I got to run my hands through a bushel of diamonds. They can weigh and measure the loose diamonds down to the size of a straight pinhead.

Ostrich farmers relieve the ostriches of their feathers. Each bird goes this embarrassment twice before being processed for their precious hide, their feet and their meat. The skinning process is very particular. Each hide is inspected. There cannot be any cuts in the whole hide. A lot of tribe’s people worked at the ostrich plant. Their wages were small but they get the remains of the ostrich. The breast is all bone; no meat. The workers are anxious to get at the innards and gizzards. One worker had found some fifty diamonds from inside the gizzards. Huge piles of ostrich carcasses.

The diamonds are studied and graded. Since we were there, the government has acquired a lot of the southwest African land. Many areas of Africa still hold undiscovered fortunes in precious and semi-precious gemstones.

Arlene Liska

Niobrara, Nebraska

February, 2008


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