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Parkes and Narrandera

Friday, 19 November 2021 12:14 am

All the eastern access roads to Forbes were closed as the Lachlan river spilled over it’s banks and flooded vast areas. So we decided to move on to Parkes instead, hoping to get past Forbes via the northern road in a day or two. 

The difference in temperature between Orange and the 500m lower lying Parkes was amazing. Off went our second bedcover, on went shorts and thongs, and we were ready to paint the town red. Well, as a matter of fact, the town has already been painted in many colours thanks to a variety of murals. Of course among them were Elvis and Priscilla, after all this is Elvis Town!

It all started in 1993 with a couple of Presley fans, Bob and Anne Steel, who already owned a hotel they named “Gracelands". To bring some much needed life into town they organised an Elvis themed dinner party for 25 guests. Over the years this grew to a yearly Elvis Festival attended by thousands of people and stretching over 5 days. It includes rock n'roll music, Elvis tribute artists, look- alike competitions, street parades, rock n’roll dancing, a car show a.s.o. The local tourist office harbours a museum of Elvis photos, record covers, newspaper articles and other paraphernalia, a collection greatly owned by the former yellow Wiggle Greg Page. Adjoining is an "old-timer” motor museum where we found this classic red “Austin". The other Austin refused to pose next to it though, stating that he is too young! Ha! 

And then there is also lots of information about another famous figure, Sir Henry Parkes. 

Originally this town was called "Bushman’s “ but in honour of the 5 terms premier of NSW the citizens petitioned to have the name changed to “Parkes “. Sir Henry Parkes’ life began very humbly working on roads as a labourer in England. But already then he was politically engaged and spoke out about the poor conditions of the working class. When the Industrial Revolution made things worse he emigrated with his new wife to Australia and took a job in the steel works.

Henry was an avid writer and eventually established a newspaper the “Empire". He became well known politically for his opposition against the transportation of convicts to Australia and his support for international suffrage. As a premier he made education mandatory and free, improved the railway system and promoted trade between the states.


Sir Henry Parkes is also known as “the Father of Federation”. Unfortunately he died before his dream came to fruition. Not only was he the father of federation, he also contributed significantly to Australia’s population by fathering 17 children. Luckily he spread his fertility over three wives.

I haven’t talked about the original owners of the areas we travelled through. They are the Wiradjuri people who suffered great losses during white occupation. And, truth be told, we have hardly seen any descendants on our travels. There is a grassy, rock girded area on Bushman’s Hill called ambitiously “amphitheatre” where apparently Wiradjuri art expos and performances take place. Most of the hill is however taken up by remnants of the oldest gold mine of town. 

From the old to the new: it’s only 20 km to the CSIRO telescope, well known in Oz as “The Dish”. Built in 1961, it impressively stands in the middle of a sheep paddock and has the claim to fame of having been involved in the Apollo 11 moon landing. Not being a techno person the facts I retained about the telescope were that it is 64m in diameter and has a cooling mechanism built in to lower temperature to -250 ℃ which eliminates local radio interferences. 


From Parkes we made our way south to Forbes. As we approached the town water was close to street level on either side of the highway. In town itself we were diverted away from a low-lying part of the road and we could see the side streets close to the Lachlan river all more or less under water. We stopped and talked to a few locals: “We have sandbagged the house and put on our "Forbes gumboots" (pointing to their thongs). This is just a nuisance, we have seen worse!” They make them tough in Forbes! As we passed over the Oxley bridge we could see the water of the Lachlan gushing down in torrents.

The rest of our drive to Narrandera was uneventful. It was just sad to see so many waterlogged fields to either side. 

After unhitching the caravan on Narrandera showground we were keen to stretch our legs, so we went Koala spotting in the nearby reserve. Walking with our eyes fixed towards the tree tops we realised too late that part of the area was totally flooded. Austin, who had led us away from the path, started to tread water but soon turned back when it reached his upper thighs. Luckily, we eventually found our way back to 'terra firma' and were only slightly late for our meeting with the caretaker of the showground.

Exhausted after more or less running back through the reserve, we rewarded ourselves with a chinese dinner in town, which wasn’t bad at all. We also found one of apparently the only two ever made Royal Doulton fountains in town. The other one is said to be located in Pakistan.

The next morning, on our way out, we found another example of great silo art. Due to the local habitats the beautiful koala and the lizard shown are of obvious significance. The name “Narrandera” in the indigenous language actually means “Place of many Lizards”. The blue line winding around the water tower is the Murrumbidgee River which we will follow on our way to Balranald. We dropped into the tourist information to find out about the yellow Tiger Moth depicted on the art work. 

We were told that at the beginning of WWII an aerodrome was built west of town and a number of Tiger Moths and other aircrafts flown in for an Elemantary Flying School. 3818 young men learnt their elementary flying skills here before becoming part of the war effort. A real model of the yellow Tiger Moth is displayed in a glass pavilion as a lasting tribute to these young men. 


Link to  time lapse of water tower painting in progress

Australia has a special fondness for the “Big”, like the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple etc. Here in Narrandera it’s the "Big Guitar"displayed in the tourist office. The playable instrument was built in 1988 and made it into the Guiness Book of Records for the biggest in the world at the time.

Now tell me you've never heard of Narrandera! 

 



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Cheers,

Austin Robinson

austin@robos.com.au