Ah, the Kulin Bush Races. We were hanging out for this one from the moment we read about it somewhere many months ago. So setting off on Friday after work was exciting, with the 4 of us looking forward to the weekend even more than normally. With the days lengthening most of the drive was in daylight and we were able to get on the road by 4. The boys were great in the car and despite one wrong turn we arrived at the race track just on 8pm.
Kulin is a tiny wheat belt town about 280km from Perth, with a population of 350 (ish). There’s not much there but they do have some great accommodation options to encourage visitors to the area and a huge waterslide for summer fun. The trip in from almost any direction is entertaining thanks to the Tin Horse Highway, a gallery of bright, quirky, community creations. As I said, it is a wheat belt town so everywhere you go there is wheat. Including the race track, which doubles as a wheat field up until race day! So arriving at the race track late in the evening we found a fabulous spot track side (X marks the spot) and stepped out onto a freshly harvested paddock! In no time at all we were set up, with the boys comfortably nestled in the tent under the gazebo, a fire in the brazier and dinner in our bellies. Everything was looking the goods for a great weekend.
Our early morning wake up was not at all what I was hoping for and had me hissing to The Piper to be quiet. What I didn’t realise was that he was desperately trying to hold down the gazebo that was threatening to imitate a kite and take off with him to Woop Woop. Hence we were all up just before the birds, the gazebo was dismantled and the coffee was running hot by 7am. The scene for the day was set and possibly the highest temperature was reached. With the wind howling through our clothes we all retreated to the camper for a cozy breaky before the boys set off seeking adventure and we set off in search of somewhere warm. The event marquee proved to be a good spot to read the form guide, grab some more coffee, spot the characters and make a plan. It’s safe to say that had the weather been on the side of the organisers, this would be a fabulous event. It is billed as “the award winning Kulin Bush Races. Much more than a day at the races, the weekend is an indulgence of spectacular scenery, art, crafts, novelty events, children’s entertainment, live bands and delicious country style food. It is a family orientated event, with activities and entertainment for all ages. Held over the first weekend in October, the iconic regional event attracts approximately 4000 punters from across the country!”
Indeed it seemed, from the many and varied caravans, campers, utes and 4WDs that there were a few thousand folk there. So we hatched a plan to head up the rock for a better look at the scene. Now this a great climb to a spectacular view, although I would recommend that you choose a time that doesn’t coincide with an impending thunderstorm so that you don’t resemble a lightning rod (something neither us nor anyone else who climbed the rock, was able to avoid given the frequent storms across the day). With our walk behind us and a few hours awake, we decided it was wine o’clock, just as the first race started. To experience the atmosphere we headed back to marquee and watched the race among the crowd. I had my money on Puttin on the Ritz but I think Still Going got up. The race caller was heard to say that the ambulance was going to beat Ginger Royd but everyone was cheering for all the runners as they crossed the line in the 600m Jilaken Classic to collect their prize money from the total pool of $2800. What a hoot!
We enjoyed race two atop the track side rock. From memory Pauli pocketed the Pingaring Plate and the $1500 for first place but it could have been Izzy or Banksy. The next race, the Dudinin Dash, over 400m started in the straight so we headed home to watch that from the camper. The Newby’s money was on George, a 10 year old Bay with the jockey wearing white, that he liked the look of. With the excitement building I was busy on the camera as George was misbehaving at the start line. The starter called “ready, set, GO!” and they were off. Literally, in the case of George’s jockey. She was thrown in the first 10m, landing heavily as George kicked and galloped and generally made more of a nuisance of himself. Fortunately for the jockey she avoided significant injury and was whisked away by St John Ambulance with a swelling ankle. George was last seen wearing a sign saying “for the knackery”.
And so the day unfolded with us watching the Kulin Cup track side again, with a little glass of the local SSB known as “Jilakin Juice” from Rockcliffe Wine. Unfortunately for Golden Reasons jockey this didn’t end as he hoped but he was awake and moving everything as St Johns took off to Kondinin to be checked out. We watched the Varley Stakes along the fence with fingers crossed that all jockeys and horses finished as one. Needless to say George was scratched from the Holt Rock Handicap and by that time I was drowning my sorrows at the Swans loss in the AFL grand final. There’s always next year. The races ended with the West Kulin Whoppa just as I felt I may never be warm again. With plans for a fire we headed off to scavenge some wood before we enjoyed the adults only area around the bonfire just to start the warming process. Our dinner was enjoyed around our own small fire before the skies lit up with the fireworks and the party started at the stage for those with the stamina. With some half decent live music to entertain us we stayed home with the boys and had an early night, rocked to sleep by the unrelenting wind but finally able to thaw out.
A word about the weekends menu, bought to you by The Camper Van Cookbook. Friday night was A Bowl of Tasty Noodles, loved by the boys because of the fresh vegetables. Saturday morning tea The Newby ate way too many Drop Scones with Raspberry Jam. A funny story about the drop scones. I wrote to Martin Dorey, the books author and told him we had started using his book. He graciously wrote back and shared a funny YouTube video of a take off of him sharing his scones. No chance The Newby was going to share these ones, not even with the boys. Saturday lunch we had the Cheesy eggy bread which I added tasty tomato relish to with great effect and Saturday dinner was delicious Sausages with Beans, Tomatoes and Rosemary that were equally delicious cold on the way home for lunch on Sunday. Sunday morning we all loved the Raspberry, Lime and Apple Smoothie and next time I’ll have to make more just to satisfy the masses. Camper Van cooking is proving to be very enjoyable and adding a really delightful element to our trips.
Sunday appeared to dawn a bit warmer and slightly less windy than Saturday but not without its own woes. This time, a flat tyre on the car. This wasn’t entirely unexpected as it had a slow leak when we bought it but this was more than a slow leak. Nothing for it but to put on the spare before leaving the now semi disassembled venue for a trip home. Nothing happens fast so we spent some time in Kulin observing the plaques that tell you what the funds from the annual race meet are used for, before heading to Corrigin for lunch, Westdale for a cache and then Perth for a shower. It was lovely to be home and unpacked but we still had a fabulous time. Even a cold and windy weekend camping is better than a sunny day stuck in an office working. If you get a chance, go and hang out at the Kulin Bush Races and if you’re in that part of the world at a different time of the year, just take your time checking out the Tin Horse Highway. You won’t be sorry.