Poignant Parkes – an unexpected visit

Parkes Champion Post


Our travels have taken us from Caboolture to Goondiwindi, on a particularly hot day. We were grateful to be in the Legend, with outside temperatures peaking around 38 degrees. Climbing over the Great Dividing Range into Toowoomba was rather an experience, with a steep 10 degree incline sustained for a few kilometres. Before beginning the ascent we saw one vehicle towing a caravan, already overheated (or worse) bonnet up and water running everywhere underneath the car. As we climbed, we saw no less than five other cars, pulled over, bonnets up, and frustrated drivers and passengers making phone calls for assistance. The steep climb was one thing, but add the extreme heat, and cars simply didn’t cope. We pulled over at one stage, as the Legend was running a bit warm, though within normal specs. Most people would have pulled over and switched off their cars, but as Paul explained to us, that is the worst thing you can do, as it removes the car’s built in cooling mechanisms from the equation.

We arrived into Goondiwindi  mid afternoon and were greeted by the adorable Lynne and Stephen at the lovely Goondiwindi Top Tourist Park. They had set aside more than one site for us, though we did contain ourselves to one out of respect! They had highly recommended the Chinese restaurant in town, and we took advantage of this, rather than try and cook in the heat. Kirstine ventured into the pool for a few minutes of peace and quiet, and the brisk waters were invigorating. There is something about floating in water that calms the screaming in your mind sometimes when you are stressed.

The heat made it a difficult night for sleeping, even though we stayed up later to watch the possums run around the park. The people camped behind us must have decided to get a head start on the day, and started packing up at 5.45am!!

Our next day’s drive was shorter and we arrived in Narrabri just after lunch. The Narrabri Highway Tourist Village gave us a lovely grassy site, and we took advantage of the laundry and pool facilities. Kirstine had an interesting chat with a man who had met a gentleman in Kununurra, and was working on assistance dogs for returned servicemen. He shared stories about his son in law, a serving member, and the difficulties faced by military personnel returning from active service. He suggested that we get in contact with RSL Clubs as we plan the next stage of our travel, and this was a wonderful idea!

Our destination the next morning was to be Dubbo, and we were more than a little peeved to arrive at our intended destination and find that they had given our site away. Communication break downs are one thing, but the attitude of the front desk lady was very dismissive and non-apologetic, which incensed us further, though we didn’t make a scene about it. Unable to find other local accommodation, we decided to keep driving to Parkes, having contacted the Spicer Caravan Park and been told that they would make room for us if necessary.

This sudden change in plans, and the poor attitude of the woman we dealt with at the caravan park at Dubbo, really upset Paul, and it took him the time travelled to Parkes to calm back down again.

As seems to be the case, stopping in Parkes was a blessing in disguise. Brad and Cheryl have only taken over the caravan park six weeks ago, and were very happy to give us a site for the night. Not only do they know of young people who have taken their lives, their extended family has been touched by immeasurable sorrow. Suffice to say, hugs were shared and tears shed as we spoke. They are beautiful people, and our anger at having to move on from Dubbo evaporated.

Once camp was set up, the kids played on the sports oval, and Paul let Erik fly the DJI Mavic Pro for the first time. We invited a lady to join us, as her dogs got to know Luna, and we chatted for over half an hour, about our trip, and her journey with anxiety. She acknowledged that so many people don’t understand it, which makes life very difficult. This lady had recently ended a marriage to a man with untreated depression, as he turned his own anger and discomfort towards her. Eventually she had had enough, and has had treatment for her condition as she moves on in life.

Kirstine cooked tea on the bbq, and shared the cook top with a gentleman who had two delicious looking scotch fillets to prepare. They didn’t take up much space – no point heating up another bbq! We spoke at length about our travels, and the purpose for which we are travelling. Only as he finished cooking his steak, did he share that they had lost one daughter in an accident, and their other daughter became suicidal as a result of losing her sibling and best friend. Thankfully, she is improving. Her parents rallied around her, though some family couldn’t deal with her emotions and stepped back. Kirstine asked how the gentleman and his wife are coping. He replied that they had had a tough couple of years, and they are doing  better, though it never goes away. Tears in his eyes, he touched Kirstine’s arm and told her that what we are doing is very important and to keep going.

Tea was a subdued and quiet that night, with Paul and Kirstine mentally exhausted by the drive, the sudden change of plans, and the emotionally charged discussions we had during the course of the afternoon and evening.

We hadn’t planned on stopping in Parkes, and have yet to plan our return through regional/rural NSW. We heard in Narrabri and Parkes that talking about mental health and suicide prevention is needed.

We hear you, and we’ll be back, ready to listen and help others to talk.


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