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The Collection of the Collection Log of the WA Road trip PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
An account of Grant's trip to Western Australia to pick up donated bonsai for the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia.

The bonsai community of Western Australia has been very generous in donating six large bonsai to the NBPCA. Moving these bonsai to Canberra turned out to be an interesting exercise due to the huge distances involved and the potential costs involved with air freight, or the uncertainty of regular road freight of this precious cargo.

I quickly realised that to keep the costs manageable and to ensure the safe loading and transport of the bonsai, it would be best if I could do it myself. I was already going to attend the AABC convention in Adelaide and it seemed logical to just keep going west after the convention.

Here is how the trip unfolded.

Day 1. My marathon trip across the treeless plain to find the golden bonsai of the west began at about mid day on the 14th of May 2008. Ric Roberts, my driving companion to the Adelaide AABC convention, arrived at the Canberra train station after about a four hour tip from Sydney. (Fig 1 Canberra Railway Station )

Day 2. 505 klms. Ric and I set out the next morning for our first major stop at Hay NSW, six hours drive from Canberra.

Our host in Hay was Don Delucca (Fig 2- Don Delucca (left) and Ric Roberts (right) at the recent Bonsai by the Harbour ), a well known bonsai practitioner practising bonsai in one of the harshest environments for growing plants imaginable. Despite frequent temperatures over 40 degrees in summer with occasional strong winds and low humidity he manages to keep a variety of bonsai material alive and thriving. He can also get frost in Hay in winter.

Dons’ home can sometimes be a mini bonsai convention. On the way to Adelaide and we met up with two Canberra Bonsai Society members at his house that afternoon.

Day 3. 656 klms. The next day we drove to Adelaide and arrived in time for the evening reception at the AABC convention, despite a glitch in the programming of a GPS device that had us on the wrong side of Adelaide.

Days 4 and 5. Two days at the AABC convention in Adelaide went very quickly and it was over too soon.

Day 6. 772 klms. After an early morning wake up call I dropped Ric Roberts to the motel of his lift back home to Sydney and then went to the airport to pick up my next driving companion, my wife Margaret, and we then headed west. This day involved driving 772 kilometres to Ceduna SA via Port Augusta. Just outside of Port Augusta the earth turns very red and the landscape is very evocative of the outback of Australia. (Fig 3 - Sign of an interesting trip ahead )

Day 7. 676 klms. After a quick look around Ceduna we left for the Nullarbor Plain. It seemed a little bit like stepping off the map into the unknown with no mobile phone coverage or broadband access. This day involved a 676 kilometre drive across a portion of the Nullarbor Plain and the SA/WA border to a road house at Madura Pass. The name Nullarbor (Latin for “No Trees”) seemed a bit of a misnomer as there were plenty of small trees and shrubs along the way, and it actually was a very interesting trip with plenty of subtle variety in the landscape. (Fig 4 - The start of the Nullarbor Plain )

We saw a few very sick looking wild dingoes at our first fuel stop at the Nullarbor Roadhouse. My vet tells me that they probably had a sarcoptic mange. Our own dog back at home is a red cattle dog and he can look a lot like an overweight Dingo. They do have a bit of dingo in their bloodline, so it was a bit sad to see them looking so sick.

 We stopped and looked at the few accessible view points of the sheer cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. (Fig 5 - The coastal cliffs of the Great Australian Bight ). These cliffs are about 90 metres high and it is a sheer drop to the water. It really gave me vertigo. The road across the Nullarbor at times travels very close to these cliffs but you rarely spot the ocean, even sitting up high in a van.

The sparse foliage along the way is worth having a close look at. You really wonder how they survive out there with minimal rain and hardly any soil. The Nullarbor Plain is a limestone shelf about twice the size of England, and any rain that falls quickly passes through it. If the rainfall was (a lot!) more plentiful it could well look more like the landscape of southern China or Vietnam where you have the sheer limestone hills deeply eroded by the rivers.

We crossed the SA/WA border at Border Town and briefly stopped at another roadhouse at Eucla. Near Eucla we saw some windblown Melaleuca that were many meters long and completely horizontal. (Fig 6 - Melaleuca on the coast near Eucla )

Day 8. 736 klms.  This was another big driving day from Madura Pass to Esperance in WA. The scenery changes as you drop down onto a lower coastal plain and proceed to Norseman, after which you then either head north to Kalgoorlie or south to Esperance. We headed south for two nights and a days rest at Esperance. The rest was appreciated after 3 days of driving an average of 728 klms per day.

Day 9. We had a look around Esperance and found a batch of Melaleuca growing in a Winter Wet Depression where nothing else grew; perfect bonsai material. Apparently there is a hard pan of clay under the soil and when it rains in winter the depression fills with water and only the Melaleuca cuticularis can survive. It dries out over summer and leaves a smooth, firm surface. (Fig 7 - Large multi trunked Melaleuca cuticularis and Fig 8 - A field of Melaleuca cuticularis)

Day 10. 520 klms.  Esperance to Albany via the Sterling Ranges. The next few days were just easy driving days as we worked our way west and then the final run north to Perth.

Day 11. 364 klms.  Albany to Augusta. We dropped in on an area called the “Valley of the Giants”. There is an elevated walkway where you can walk through the canopy of giant trees. We made another small detour to see the most southern and western point of WA where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.

Day 12. 327 klms.  Augusta to Perth. We dropped in at the mouth of Margaret River and saw a few geological features while working our way north to our accommodation in Perth.

Day 13. On Monday 26th May we started picking up the bonsai we had driven all this way to collect. The bonsai had been inspected and cleared by Quarantine WA for export to the ACT so it was just a matter of loading the bonsai into the van.

The first bonsai was a huge group of Melaleuca raphiophylla on a fibre glass tray. (Fig 10 - The Melaleuca raphiophylla group ) It took all five of the helpers to lift and manoeuvre it through the narrow gate and into the van, and hence no photos of the actual loading. Alf Devine, the donor of the large group, had recently undergone a shoulder reconstruction and know I know why!
On the Monday evening my wife and I attended the regular monthly meeting of the Bonsai Society of Western Australia and all the donors of the WA bonsai were present so I publicly thanked them all for their generous donations. (Fig 9 - The bonsai donors at the Bonsai Society of WA ).

Day 14. On Tuesday 27th May we picked up two bonsai from Derek and Sue Oakley. (Fig 11 - Loading the Melaleuca raphiophylla; Fig 12 ; Fig 13; Fig 14  - Loading the Callistemon viminalis ; Fig 15 ; Fig 16 , Fig 17 - the two large bonsai loaded ).  One was a large single trunk Melaleuca raphiophylla and the other was a Callistemon viminalis “Captain Cook”. To save our backs we used a piece of timber as a ramp and slid the Melaleuca down from its stand onto a wheel barrow trolley.

Derek and Sue were very brave and didn’t cry too much as we drove away with the precious bonsai.

Our next stop was the office of Quarantine WA to pick up the paperwork for the six bonsai.

After that we drove into the hills to the east of Perth to the home of Arthur Robinson to collect three large and different bonsai groups. (Fig 18 - Sizing up the loading of the three groups ; Fig 19 ; Fig 20 ; Fig 21 Fig 22 - All loaded and very satisfied ). Arthur is putting most of his energy towards Satsuki Azalea these days.
Day 15.  On the morning of Wednesday 28th May we drove the fully loaded van to the East Perth train station and loaded it onto the Indian Pacific for our return trip to Adelaide. (Fig 23 - The Indian Pacific and Fig 24 - The van loaded onto the car carrier. 4th from the front on top) .  The van cannot go past Adelaide on the train as the railway bridges are too low in NSW to allow the taller vehicles to pass under them unmolested.

The Indian Pacific left Perth at midday and headed east to Adelaide about two thousand, seven hundred kilometres away. We pulled into Kalgoorlie about 11pm that night and I was pleased to see the van was still securely attached to the rail car at the rear of the train.

Day 16. This was the day we really crossed the Nullarbor. The route the train track follows is at its closest point 100 klms from the coast and it is in very harsh country.  There is a straight section of track that is 470 klms without a curve and it is pool table flat. Here few trees or shrubs can grow.

We stopped at a small siding town called Cook to refuel the train and this allows the passengers time to stretch their legs. In summer this area is so hot that the rocks cooling down at night sometimes explode.

Day 17. 772 klms.  After travelling approximately 2,700 klms the Indian Pacific arrived in Adelaide at 7am . We were on our way east to Hay via Mildura by about 8.30am, after the unloading of the van and checking the bonsai inside. 

We visited Ron Povey and partner Samantha Cherry in Mildura and then continued on to revisit Don Delucca in Hay.

Day 18. 505 klms.  Leaving Hay by 6.30 am we made a short stop in Wagga Wagga and finally arrived home safely in the early afternoon. Unloading the bonsai in Canberra was easy as I have a number of hydraulic trolleys. My wife and I were able to slide the bonsai out of the van onto the trolleys and then move them to their temporary home.

Over the entire trip we had traveled 6,806 klms by road and approx 2,700 on the train. We would love to cross the Nullarbor again but at a much more leisurely pace and probably drive in the reverse direction next time.

I would like to thank all those that helped in any way towards the successful completion of our Trip to the West.


Editors note: It looks like Grant had a close shave! 


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 July 2008 )
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