Welcome to the 225th edition Traveling with Tom and another adventure in Tweed Valley New South Wales Australia. When we were in the Tweed during the first week of November, it was quite warm and very dry, they had a few years of severe drought. Then came the bush fires that burned a lot of the forests and created the dangerous smoky conditions. That has all changed, since the beginning of February this area has received 830mm or over 30 inches of rain! While that helped to contain the bush fires, it also has caused flooding throughout the region. Last week, I introduced you to the Mayor of the municipality of Tweed Shire, Katie Milne. This week the Tweed Shire, that she oversees, has been declared a natural disaster area by the Australian Federal Government. Lots of the roads are closed and some are damaged, there have been a few landslides, and schools were closed due to the heavy rain and flooding. The good news is that the flood waters appear to be receding as I write this post on Valentines Day. My thoughts are with our friends in the Tweed during these challenging times. I’ll update you in coming weeks how they are faring with this disaster.
With that in mind, this week we’ll spend a day in the rural area of Tweed Shire near the small village of Pumpenbil. It was the first Tuesday of November and in Australia that means it’s Melbourne Cup Day, Australia’s most famous horse race of the season. The 3200 meter or two mile race is run on a turf surface at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. It’s one of the longest running races with the first held in 1861. It offers a prize of $8 Million Australian dollars and nearly 100,000 people attend in person. This year there were 24 three-year-old and older horses entered in the competition.
While it’s not a national holiday, it is a state holiday in Victoria where Melbourne is located. It could just as well be a holiday in the rest of the country because everything stops during the running of the race, it’s often call the race that stops the nation! All around country, watch parties are held in clubs, private homes and communities. And not to be left out, our hosts planned a Melbourne Cup Day party for us.
It was a sunny and warm day with a few clouds in the sky out on Lorrene and Doug’s farm where our party was held.
When we turned off the main road, we took a trail down through the woods, crossed a dry creek and came to a closed gate as Lorrene raises 70 head of cattle. Since I was the lone farm kid in the car, I had the honor of opening and the closing the gate. About a half mile down this trail we came to the old farm house with it’s wrap around porch.
One of the traditions on Melbourne Cup Day is the wearing of fancy hats. Since we were way out in the boondocks with no place to buy a hat (the stores were probably closed anyway) we were forced to improvise. Our hosts issued each of us a single sheet of newsprint and two stick pins. We were told to make a had of our own creation. The females of the species were certainly a lot more creative than the males, here’s a peek at their creations.
The men were less much creative but John won the best of show for his hat.
And Kathy took home the prize for the best hat by a female. This fun activity revved us up for lunch and the running of the Pumpenbil Cup.
The competition for the coveted Pumpenbil Cup was run with six wooden ponies. The course was marked with stakes with string between each set of stakes. In the photo below the jockeys were at the starting gate waiting for the starting gun to go off. What you don’t see is Chas rolling a large dice to determine which horse and jockey moved ahead. If your number was rolled, the jockey and horse advanced one set of stakes. To say there was trash talking, cheering, and laughter would be an understatement. The winners of the six heats had a final race for the Pumpenbil Cup.
It wouldn’t be horse race without betting. Each participant was issued $10 in Pumpenbil official currency prior to the start of the race. There was a bookie taking bets but no bribes were allowed, those that were obvious! I always bet on horse number 5 and won some and lost some. For the finale, I placed all my money on another number and lost it all, pretty much like real life! Should have stuck with number 5. It was a great amount of fun and camaraderie with our Australian hosts on Melbourne Cup Day.
Kathy was the winning jockey on horse number 5 and stood in the winners circle with the Pumpenbil Cup!
But we were not yet done, we also bet on the real race that we would tune into at 3 PM. For a $2 AUD coin, bettors could draw a number from a hat and that’s the horse where your bet was placed. I drew number 20, Il Paradiso, a four year old stallion with a record of two wins in nine starts and a 15 to 1 odds that he’d win the Melbourne Cup.
As 3 PM drew closer, we gathered around the TV to watch the race.
As the race was coming to the end, everyone was cheering on their steed hoping for a win, place or show. It was a photo finish and it took a few minutes for the final results. Plus there was a protest lodged between the second and fourth place finishers. The track stewards agreed there was a violation so second place was knocked down to fourth and fourth was moved up to third. The new third place finisher was number 10 Il Paradiso and I won $6 AUD! It’s interesting note that the challenge was between a father and son, both horse trainers, the father won in this case.
As our time was winding down at “The Farm” I noticed this bull trotting across the pasture. I asked Lorrene about him and she said he was a Spreckle Park. I know my animal science knowledge is somewhat outdated but I’d never heard of that breed. When I had access to wifi, I googled to learn more about the Speckle Park. It was developed in the 1950’s in Saskatchewan, Canada by crossing a roan Shorthorn female with a Black Angus bull. The speckles or spotting became a dominant trait as the breed continued to develop. There are reported exports of Speckle Parks from Canada to the United States, Australia and New Zealand. So even though it was a day dedicated to horses, I learned something about a breed of cattle I didn’t know about.
We made a lot of good memories with our host club on Melbourne Cup Day. It was as it should be!
Until next week, happy travels!