And so Taste Master fans, we leave the Kulin Bush Races for the 90km drive south to the town of Kukerin. My travelling buddy Chris is behind the wheel, allowing my mind to drift as I take in the rolling crop fields, the famous wildflowers of Western Australia and the serenity of an open road….. What’s tonight got in store? Are we really fine dining in a shearing shed? Why did I put all my money on that horse?
Tonight’s destination is the Nenke Family Farm where we’ll be attending the 11th annual Cambinata Yabbies Extravaganza.
The Nenke family business was formed in 1990 by husband and wife Michael and Mary who were running a sheep and wheat farm at the time. An out of the blue telephone call trying to source yabbies for a Perth restaurant turned Michael’s long-time hobby of catching these fresh water crustaceans into a full blown family business, and they haven’t looked back since.
But just what IS a yabbie?
Basically they’re like mini lobsters. Sweet and delicate with a firm texture, versatile and unique to Australia. The Nenke’s yabbies are environmentally friendly, being sustainably farmed and not wild caught. But best of all, yabbies are a gourmet product and great for the discerning chef looking for ways to explore and create with these delicious little fellas.
Last weekend I headed off to the Kulin Bush Horse Races and the Cambinata Yabbie Extravaganza, so one step at a time Martin, we’ll start off with the gee gees.
Kulin is situated 280km south east of Perth in the heart of the West Australian Wheatbelt and as our campervan cruised further inland into the Golden Outback, I was amazed to see scenery more in keeping with the green fields of England. I wrongly presumed the terrain was going to be all harsh desert and red dirt, but was actually covered in crops, green vegetation and wildflowers.
We stopped en-route to chat with a local sheep and wheat farmer to experience first-hand what it’s like to run a farm here. The past decade has been pretty tough on the farmers around these parts, with lack of rain a real problem, but this season’s crop looks set to be a bumper one (fingers crossed).
Now folks, I’ll let you all in on a little secret….. farmers don’t wear hats to keep the sun off their face.
How do I know? Well, we asked our farmer for a photo and he duly obliged. A rough, tough Aussie outback bloke, shearin’ sheep and cuttin’ wheat, working hard all day in the unforgiving sun and tough terrain, he said he was keeping his hat on for the photo because……….he was having a bad hair day!
KULIN BUSH RACES
After various stop-offs (historical town of York, Hyden’s impressive Wave Rock and the town’s Antique Lace Collection) we hit the Tin Horse Highway. This 30km stretch of road leading up to Kulin has become quite famous because of the 70 or so cheeky and humorous tin horses that can be spotted along the side of the road. The horses (made from tin drums and bits and pieces found in farm scrap heaps) were originally built by local farmers en-route to the races to promote the event, but now everyone in the town is creating some form of equine art to try and out-do their neighbour.
Now in their 19th year, the Kulin Bush Races started as the residents of the town sought something to turn the economic slump and reignite the community after a period of poor farming seasons. It’s completely driven and coordinated by dedicated community volunteers and is not-for-profit, with more than $1 million invested back into community projects over the years (medical services, youth development and school apprenticeships to name a few).
But apart from all that, it’s bloody good fun and a great weekend (or week-long event if you want to camp longer).
It’s not just about the horses either, it’s a family orientated event with arts and crafts, sheep shearing, walks up Jilakin Rock to witness spectacular views, circus performers, the traditional Aussie game of Two Up, live bands on the back of trucks and delicious country style food. I ventured behind the serving counter in the main marquee to the kitchen, and met all the ladies of the town who prepare the food for the 6,000 visitors every year.
One of the highlights from my three week tour of the Kimberley was hanging out at Lake Argyle, but before we could relax in the mountain-top infinity pool, we had the arduous task of a 7am champagne speed boat ride to the start of the Dam 2 Dam Dinghy Dash (oh woah is me!).
The Dam 2 Dam is an annual race from the Lake Argyle dam wall, along 55km of the upper Ord River, to the finish line at the Kununurra Division Dam. I was expecting rubber dinghies with oars, but the Australian version is a small tin boat with an outboard motor. Two men (or women) per boat, prizes for “best dressed crew” (I saw clowns, pink tutus and what looked like Chewbacca with a bowler hat) and delicately named vessels (such as Titan Uranus) it’s a cracking event run by the community.
I reckon our early morning speed boat jaunt would’ve gotten quite raucous later on because we were travelling with pretty much all the wives and girlfriends of the competitors and the champagne corks were flying. Unfortunately (probably fortunately), ours was a one-way ticket. We disembarked at the start line and whilst the rest of the party travelled back down the river, we were picked up by Gary from Lake Argyle Resort where we were staying that night.