The Great Aussie Wheatbelt Road Trip (part 1)
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.
All the food is prepped in the community center the week prior and over the years everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and what their role is. You want some scones? Go and see Ellen (she’s made them every single year) Jacket Potato Sir? Well that’ll be the local netball team on spud roster as usual. It’s a great community kitchen using mostly (as I’m finding out pretty much everywhere I go) fresh, local produce.
Once the pipe marching band had been through about three or four times and the final of the Tin Horse Highway had been judged, it was down to the horse racing. Now, I was fortunate enough to meet the organisers in the jockey registration area, and asked for a top tip. After a brief pause to check for eavesdroppers, Hunters Ballard in the second was whispered in my ear. Hee hee hee, I was grinning inside as I walked up to the TAB and put on 20 bucks! Come on you nag!!
“And they’re off!! Hunters-Ballard-up-the-outside, Hunters-Ballard, Hunters-Ballard-up-the-outside, Hunters-Ballard-going-strong, Hunters-Ballard-two-lengths-clear, Hunters-Ballard, Hunters-Ballard-slowing-down, Hunters-Ballard-slowing, Hunters-Ballard, Hunters-Ballard-stopping! Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve never seen anything like this before! Hunters Ballard is actually sitting down!”
And so with a happy heart and an empty wallet, we left Kulin for the short journey south to the town of Kukerin and the Cambinata Yabbie Extravaganza……..one of the most remarkable evenings I’ve had in a long time.
Tips and Tricks
Getting to Wave Rock and Kulin
- The best way to explore the region is by self-drive. Campervan hire through Apollo Motorhome.
Where I stayed
- The Kulin Racetrack Campground, but at other times of the year and for an authentic experience Wave Rock Motel and Wave Rock Lakeside Resort offers a variety of options.
Events to keep an eye out for
- Kulin Bush Races
- Wave Rock Weekender featuring Australian and international music acts
- Act Belong Commit Avon Descent
- Hyden 450
- Avon Valley Vintage Festival
- York Motorcycle Festival
- Toodyay Moondyne Festival
- Dryandra Country Art, Food and Wine Trail
My insider tips
- For the ultimate outback self-driving holiday follow one of the Outback Wildflower Trails.
- On route to Wave Rock, call in at the township of York, the first inland European settlement in Western Australia.
- Grab some snaps along the way on the Tin Horse Highway.