Chasing the coast & charity

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It was very windy as we packed up at Richmond, with the camper canvas billowing like a jumping castle as we packed it up. It’s not much fun packing up in windy conditions. The canvas was being pushed by the wind as we tried to tuck it away neatly.

The trip to Charters Towers was somewhat frustrating, as the preparation we had done in mapping BP service stations along our travel route, proved pointless. Many had become Puma servos (some of which accept BP cards, just not the ones we were stopping at). This is why we carry jerry cans, but we only had two of the five full at the time. It goes to say that we rejoiced when we found a BP in Charters Towers, where there wasn’t one on the map!

The Big 4 Aussie Outback Oasis Holiday Park had offered us a powered site for the night, and with Kirstine’s back and neck playing up, we planned a quiet evening. The camp kitchen at the park lends itself to communal eating and discussions with fellow travellers. While the kids did school work and Kirstine cooked tea, Paul conversed with the couples that came in to cook.

One couple were very supportive of our travels, as they have a family member in the emergency services in Melbourne, who has asked for help with their mental health, and was denied assistance by their employer. Workplaces which don’t support their employees are a real bugbear for us. Staff who are treated with compassion and given support in seeking treatment for mental health concerns CAN return to work as loyal and effective employees, but for some employers in the stories we are hearing, it’s all too hard. It takes courage to make organisational change to shape the positive attitude of a business towards mental health. You can’t just talk the talk, you HAVE to walk the walk! If you know of a business who “gets” that it’s okay for staff to not be okay, please let us know! We love hearing positive stories and we might even be able to catch up with one or two for our documentary.

It was an early night and start the next morning, to get over to Townsville and run a couple of messages at Bunnings, AND fill ALL of our jerry cans!

Driving over to Kurramine Beach brought another change in scenery, as sugar cane fields and banana plantations began to appear, much to the kids’ delight (and ours). The kids were fascinated by the small gauge rail used to move the harvested cane around.

We were greeted by Ian and Glenda at Kurramine Beach Top Holiday Park, who had offered us a powered site for the night in support of our trip. What truly AMAZED us is that they had also organised a sausage sizzle to raise funds for our beneficiaries!

Camp was set up and Kirstine took the girls to swim in the giant saltwater pool. Apparently for some residents of Far North Queensland, it was too cold to swim (26 degrees C) so we had the pool to ourselves. After a quick shower, it was sausage sizzle time, with the vivacious Glenda walking the camp, ringing a cow bell and calling campers to come and join us. Paul was invited to speak to the group, to give a bit of context to the charity aspect of the sizzle.

We were amazed at the support given & stories that were shared with us as we stood and talked with people. One couple had lost a son twenty years ago, and are still reeling from the loss – “it changes you forever”, the mum said. Another lady spoke with us as a carer for her husband, a Vietnam veteran. Her story included another instance of a careless employer causing a mental breakdown. This lovely lady was keen for us to take time for ourselves on the trip. Questions about Luna, her training, how to access training – Paul was pleasantly surprised by the interest shown. These people were engaged with us, and not just eating a sausage in bread and then leaving.

One lady heard Paul speaking and didn’t stay for the bbq, however returned a few minutes later and handed us a $100 donation. Ex-military, this lady knows the world of PTSD and poor mental health all too well. She couldn’t stay, but her generosity and that of the campers who came to join us in the camp kitchen, raised a grand total of $171.25 for Lifeline & mindDog.

We are absolutely blown away by the spirit of charity we are experiencing. From a donated powered site, to a sausage sizzle, Queensland is constantly lifting our spirits as we continue Driving Oz with the Black Dog!

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