“It’s going to be the best episode in the history of Gold Rush,” Todd Hoffman tells us of the two-hour Gold Rush Season 4 premiere scheduled for Friday, Oct. 25 at 9pm ET on Discovery. And the premiere is just the beginning of what promises to be the craziest, most dangerous season yet, as Hoffman and his crew headed to the jungles of South America to mine for gold. Discovery is marketing the season as Yukon vs. the Jungle, “the veteran” [Hoffman] vs. “the kid” [Parker Schnabel]. Either way, it’s going to be insane.
“The first episode of Gold Rush Season 4, this year, they say is the best Gold Rush episode in the history of the series,” Hoffman says, from his home in Oregon. “People need to tune in and see what’s up. When the production company and Discovery make claims like that, it’s pretty intense.”
While equipment breakdowns and battling Mother Nature is par for the course for any season of Gold Rush, this time around it’s the jungle’s terrain, climate and the crime-ridden culture of Guyana that posed the biggest dangers.
“There were times where we all looked at each other and said let’s get the hell out of here, it’s too tough,” Hoffman says. “But that’s not our message. That’s not what we do or what we’re about. You know what I mean? It’s scary. I’m taking you guys right into the you know what — I want to say shitter but I can’t.” [Sure you can; we get what you mean.]
Hoffman’s talking about the real jungle, not some fabricated TV survival or nature series that makes it look like a jungle. It’s South America, where they literally set up camp in the middle of the jungle. But selecting this location wasn’t all about pay dirt; in fact Hoffman was reluctant to even throw out a goal like he did last season.
“I didn’t set any new goals,” he says. “You know last year I set 1,000 ounces and it kind of caught on with everybody. I got 803. I didn’t quite meet it but I dug $1.2 million worth of gold out of the ground, which is something nobody can take away from us. Heading into South America and a third world country, I honestly didn’t even know if I could get in there and mine and actually set my camp up. We had to build our own camp literally in the middle of the jungle, which is hard to do.”
Was he successful? Did he find gold? That he couldn’t share, but he did tell us what led him to the Amazon jungle and why he wanted to take such a long shot.
When Hoffman was a kid, a friend of his went to Guyana and told him stories about gold and diamonds; those stories always stuck with him and ultimately led him to the region for this season. “The jungle has always called me. I don’t know why,” Hoffman says. “I always wanted to go down there and check it out because it is the deepest, most wildest, most dangerous, most incredible. … That’s where I wanted to go. I don’t know why. I think there’s something inside of every guy that wants to go out and do something dangerous and go in to face off with the baddest, scariest places this earth can offer. For some reason there are sickos like me who like doing that.”
When asking him to share some of the challenges, Hoffman laughed, saying he could talk for days about the hurdles and that I’d sit in disbelief questioning him on why they didn’t leave after each and every situation. He knew this location had a high probability of failure and even the possibility of death — and that the cons far outweighed the pros. Yet for Hoffman it was all about YOLO (you only live once) and he was going for it.
His six-month adventure did involve a death, a high-chase robbery, dengue fever and some pretty incredible experiences — far from an average day gold mining, right!?! Here’s what he said about these challenges:
On snakes … “I was riding my motorcycle and I rode up over the top of a snake that was stretched all the way across the road. I rode over the top of it because it looked like a stick and it jumped up in the air. Thurber was riding behind me and he thought it bit me in the leg. It didn’t.”
On scorpions … “Dave had a scorpion go down his shirt.”
On dengue fever … “I was going to take my two boys but then my guide got two malarias and dengue fever and his kidneys shut off. It kind of changed the way I was thinking. You get a guy and he’s supposed to be my guide and he’s on his deathbed and I’m trying to figure out what to say to him and try to encourage him. He’s the guy who has been there 17 years and he’s helping me, he’s a Canadian, and there he is laying there dying.”
On almost being killed … “There were two instances where I almost get killed, you’ll see one. A real close call — and we actually caught it on camera. The other one was actually these two guys tried to rob me and we got in a full car chase in Georgetown, Guyana, but I got away. … I was getting close to throwing the money out the window because they were on us, but we did get them put in jail.”
On death … “I bring in a prospector – a Brazilian – and while he’s with me, his wife gets murdered at his gold mine. One of his workers decides to kills his wife and steal his gold, while he’s with me. I had a couple tragedies.”
On the heat … “Inside the building it’s 100 and outside its 110, 115, but the problem is it’s humid. So it’s not like you’re in Arizona, that’s no big deal. It’s the most humid heat you’ve every experienced. But you know what, you’re in the most extreme environment.”
On thunderstorms in the jungle … “I got into some thunderstorms that are literally — I honestly had no idea that there was thunder like that and lightning. The storm actually was down so close to us it was scary. I guess a lot of people get hit by lightning in Guyana every year. A guy got killed when I was there.”
On the amazing people he met … “I got to meet and engage with some of the neatest people I’ve ever met in my life. The Amerindians – they are the actual indigenous Indians in the jungle. They look like little Inca folks, and they are awesome. We actually became friends with them, and I actually hired a few of them and you’re going to meet a few of these guys and get to know them – they started teaching me about how they mine, about diamonds — this adventure was unbelievable.“
But if Hoffman could sum it all up … “If I were to leave you one word,” Hoffman says of the season, “I would leave you with the word intense. It was frickin intense.”
We’ll take two words, and frickin intense sounds awesome. We’re so ready for the ride! Gold Rush returns Friday, Oct. 25 at 9pm ET/PT on Discovery. Prior to the series premiere the Gold Rush pre-show, The Dirt, hosted by series executive producer Christo Doyle, will begin at 8pm ET/PT.