Burton’s – Waves, beaches and tin horses – Part 5 Tin Horse Highway 27-28 Jan 2013

Monday, Feb 04, 2013 at 19:43

Mike & Amanda


The last day of a camping trip is always cloaked with melancholy…we’ve had such a good time that for some reason returning to work doesn’t fill a person with the same effervescent joy. There is hope! We still have another night on the road and it looks like the straightest line between two points is via Wave Rock….gasp! Overseas tourists flock to this gloomy, boring, hot, mosquito and fly infested monolith and we could never figure out why. We’ve used it as a stepping-off point for the famed Holland Track and were instantly beleaguered by large mossies the size of particularly nasty vultures, flapping around in daylight and competing with those hoards of annoying flies that want to crawl into every human orifice. On the last visit the bitumen around the caravan park was actually melting with the heat! We almost needed the winch and MaxTrax to rescue the Cruiser! The Tourist Commission actually spends megabucks overseas convincing naïve tourists that Wave Rock and the Pinnacles are a better buy than say Paris or Rome or Port Hedland…ha! Well anyway, it is only an overnight stop on the way to the not so famed, but very novel and spectacular Tin Horse Highway!

Down with the huge full annex and up with the quick overnight awning. All those annoying things that seem to creep out of storage boxes when you stay in one place more than a night had to be retrieved and repacked. This becomes a major exercise…don’t forget the clothes line wrapped around the tree….why is it nothing ever fits going home! No one spoke much! We were on the road by 8:30, bills paid, and tentative booking for next year..if we could get in… Pat and Jeff left us as Ravensthorpe to visit Jeff’s daughter in Mount Barker. All the phone lines were down in the whole district which resulted in interesting queues at the Roadhouse demanding cash only and no Eftpos…it is amazing how many people rely solely on plastic nowadays.

At the Wave Rock Caravan Park, which I must say wasn’t inundated, I had my usual argument with the grumpy lady at the desk. There are a number of caravan sites in a circular arrangement around the perimeter, most of them with some decent tree shade. We always try to make a beeline for them; however the grumpy lady likes to cut you off at the pass by strongly suggesting we should stay in the tent and camper trailer area (limited shade!). The debate goes something like this…

“Why can’t I camp in those nice shady spots?”
“Because you are in a camper trailer”
“Is there something wrong with camper trailers? Why are you discriminating against me?”
“The boss (the old boss trick, eh?) likes caravans only in those areas.”
“Tell me, do caravans pay any more money than me?”
“Ah, no…but….”
“How about you pretend that I’m a grey nomad and that I have a caravan…”
“The boss…..”

And so on…you get the picture. The question was redundant this time around, as the nice caravan spots were filled by European tourists in 6 berth camper vans….you know the ones that look like huge deformed slugs moping around the highways in packs. The occupants seemed friendly enough. We actually had the tent area to ourselves, so with careful deliberation of light, shade and wind, using our compass we set up with the best possible aspect…..until the damn wind changed.

Soon two identical cheap looking soft floor hire campers turned up being towed by a sedan and a soft roader. Watching them set up they were obviously novices (as we all once were..), but unfortunately one alpha male had a very very loud smart arse voice and spent several hours telling his companion all there is to know about camper trailers… he was convinced that the WA Camprite was designed and built by God although later quietly saying he hadn’t actually seen one, just read about it. I had to force myself to say nothing and get on with it, leave fools alone is the best policy. Mind you it was amusing watching the clumsy 3 hour set up and the 4 hour pack up….(Editor’s note: slightly exaggerated).

We managed a swim in the pool, talked the kids into me buying us all Magnum Classic icecreams. We fortified with Coronas and wine before tackling a sunset walk of the Rock. As usual it had a couple of demented tourists trying to scale the vertical wave face and hold stylised surfing poses gripping with grazed toes as their amused companions snapped away madly babbling in some incomprehensible dialect (I must say, the kids replicated this absurd behaviour later and I became the babbling photographer…). We had never bothered to see the equally infamous Hippos Burp…I mean Yawn, so went to add another notch to our cameras grip. Much to our amazement the feral mossies stayed away although the annoying orifice flies were back in droves…only the gusting strong wind seemed to control them, limiting the time they could spend burrowing into your eyeball. Temperatures hovered in the late 30s….degrees Celsius that is.

First thing next morning we headed off, trusty trailer in tow…oh.. I forgot to mention that the damn Toyota alarms were up again. Once I reset it by disconnecting the battery which unfortunately resets all the other useful electronic things like radio stations and trip meters….the second time I thought I’d leave the alarm on for Mr Toyota Melville to analyse and fix. No VSC or four wheel drive low range is just not on! We thought about filling in the papers for the bank loan now…we’ll probably need it later knowing Toyota.

People had contacted us last week concerned that we may have been in the path of a destructive storm that hit somewhere in this area. As we left Hyden and drove towards Kalgarin there was much evidence of destruction. Large eucalypts had been snapped off half way up their trunks, splintered as if demolished with a slab of C4. Trees were down everywhere and we found the epicentre, right in Kalgarin. It didn’t look like the kids would be going to school anytime soon with the school a splintered mess. The post office had also lost its’ roof. Other buildings just seemed to be missing.

Heading south from Kulgarin the trail of devastation continued, large logs and branches obviously dragged off the road littered the edges. We hit the Kulin to Holt Rock Road heading west towards Jilakin Rock near to the Kulin Bush Race Track. There is some free camping nearby that we wanted to check out. At the turn off to Jilakin Rock we encountered the start of the Tin Horse Highway and the first of the metal ‘sculptures’. Ignoring them for the moment we drove directly to the Rock and the adjacent salt lake.

Jilakin Rock is a granite monolith beside the 1214 hectare Jilakin Lake. The lake is mostly dry, and so salty that it can't be used for water supplies or recreation, but it looks good. A climb to the top of Jilakin Rock is easy, and is the best way to enjoy the spectacular views over the lake and surrounding countryside. It is apparently quite lovely here during late winter and spring when an abundance of wildflowers can be seen, and the area is rich in wildlife as well. The Kulin Bush Races are held here in October, and the racetrack is between the lake and the rock. Camping and picnic spots can be found near the base of the rock and in the bush nearby as well as between the rock and the lake. There are a few picnic tables, no toilets and no water.

Here, on a 20-kilometre stretch of road near the tiny southern wheatfields town of Kulin, the local farmers have spent the past 15 years trying to outdo each other by decorating the roadside with tin horses. At last count, there were more than 60, each bigger, better and more outlandish than the last.

The Kulin Shire says it best – “The Tin Horse Highway is a laughing matter! The dusty paddocks surrounding Kulin have become a gallery of bright, quirky, community creations. What started as an authentic community marketing campaign to promote the annual Kulin Bush Races has become one of Western Australia’s most popular self-drives. The Tin Horse Highway provides a seriously entertaining drive and a fun alternative route to iconic Wave Rock.

We meandered though admiring the many unique sculptures, photographing madly before stopping in Kulin itself on a quiet Sunday morning. Unfortunately my craving for a coffee was not to be satisfied, everything was closed, however the magnificent Royalties for Regions improvements were a site to behold! Free overnight camping area, new shower and toilet blocks, children’s play ground and an aquatic centre that looks like it would rival Dreamworld! Kulin advertises itself as an ‘RV Friendly Town’ and it certainly is! Visitors are welcomed and the place looks great…certainly a return journey needs to be planned here!

A quick dash from here, faithful AORC Oddy following behind we made for Brookton, Fremantle and a day of unpacking and cleaning…maybe York in April and definitely Cape Leveque and Broome in May….

Stay tuned for Part 6 when we reveal what Mr Toyota found out about the Cruiser….

Mike & Amanda
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