Post by Nick Skilton
The experience of the 2013 IAG annual conference has already been colourfully documented by some within AUSCCER. For some though, the conference continued after the final session on Wednesday, albeit in a much more informal capacity. The setting was the four day rural field trip, fabulously organised by Amanda Davies from Curtin University.
Nine of us left conference rooms of the University of Western Australia behind us and embarked into the urban-rural fringe. After the rigours of a three day conference, the first and much needed port of call was lunch at the Feral Brewery in Baskerville. The range of micro-brewed beers was first rate, and their sour beer some of the best I’ve had. The amount of tables and lawn space available suggested a high turnover on weekends and holidays despite the lack of transport options.
From the brewery, we headed to Australia’s only monastic town where we would spend a couple of nights whilst roaming the countryside during the day. New Norcia has an eclectic mix of architectural styles which made for a scenic tour of the grounds. Nine monks still live in the monastery, though they employ roughly 60 people to run their various businesses, like the New Norcia Bakery. The hotel in the town is grandiose to say the least. It was built in 1926 with a visit by Benedictine benefactors, the Spanish Royal Family, in mind. Locals, visiting ex-monks, and other interesting characters populated the bar in the evening, and despite enjoying ourselves immensely, an early start forced an early retirement.
In the morning we journeyed to the remote and interactive Gravity Discovery Centre. Surrounded by a beautiful and biodiverse landscape, the Leaning Tower of Gingin is a striking sight. It is a scaffolded replica of the Leaning
Tower of Pisa designed to replicate Galileo’s famous gravity experiment. We did so by dropping water balloons from the top and watching their different masses hit the ground at roughly the same time, creating craters in an expired water balloon graveyard/sandpit. After playing with other scientific theories through interactive means, water-bottle rockets were launched and science was indeed proven to exist.
After lunch, we ventured onwards to Moora Citrus where we would experience a tour of a working citrus farm. They grew mostly oranges, though with some mandarins also. I think we all learned a great deal about citrus, the capital required for investment farms, and water necessities. Our daily nutritional requirements were topped up with a visit to the experimental citrus enclosure where we could pick our fancy from any number of rare and designer citrus breeds.
After another long drive, we returned to New Norcia with some time to explore, or nap, or socialise. We continued to build connections despite our incredibly diverse research and personal interests. We covered a wide variety of topics over the 4 days together, and we became closer for it. I stayed up that late night talking, drinking, and philosophising with an ex-novice monk until they shut the hotel up and we were forced to retire.
In the morning we left New Norcia behind, and headed towards the coast via the Moore River (Mogumber) Mission. Now derelict, the Mission was operational from 1918 until 1974, when it was forced to close. A dirt road meandered through the beautiful old gums and buildings. Many of the shacks were only half standing, gutted out and crowded with weeds. Rusted out cars littered the scene. Like many old Aboriginal missions, the land has been leased to an Aboriginal Land Trust.
From there, we headed to Cervantes where a large and lucrative lobster farm is operating. A ten minute tour of the warehouse facilities was available. We walked on gangways above large tanks, conveyors, and packing equipment. I found this uncomfortable and so did not pay much attention to the handheld audio guide and only gave the operation a perfunctory look. Everyone (bar me) ate from the kiosk attached to the warehouse where they served fresh and processed lobster.
Done with lunch, we boarded the bus for a trip to Nambung National Park to see the famous Pinnacles and appreciate some of Western Australia’s beautiful landscapes. The Pinnacles are thousands of limestone formations rising up from orange sand. The bus wended its way along the route until we decided to get out and have a play, using the oddly shaped outcrops as photogenic props. The picturesque scene of so many jagged little teeth blending into dunes and then out to the ocean was unforgettable.
After a long days travelling, we packed it in for the relative comforts of the Jurien Bay Caravan Park. A brisk quick swim in incredibly clear blue water as the sun set capped off the day perfectly. We decided that a ‘family’ dinner was in order, so our little cabin kitchens were put to work to create a feast. The night ended after a collective laugh at one of cinema’s modern masterpieces, Pitch Perfect.
Our last day together was short but sweet. We drove south down to coastal suburb of Yanchep on the rapidly expanding periphery of Perth. It was built by Alan Bond in the 70s and continues to grow. We admired a new development of McMansions, replete with every poorly constructed and environmentally unsound stereotype imaginable. It was just a quick stop however as we rushed to get back to Perth to deliver a bus load of satisfied fieldtrippers to the airport.
The field trip was a fantastic experience and I was surprised the number of us was so small. We saw a fair chuck of the country north of Perth and had a blast doing it. We made inter-personal connections that we otherwise would not have that will hopefully be sustained in conferences to come. I fully recommend that any readers of this blog post consider future post-conference field trips as a matter of course. Thanks to Amanda Davies for the organisation, and to the other participants for making it a total success!
Nick is completing his PhD with AUSCCER. Follow him on Twitter @NickSkilton.