Parkes and Recreation

Broken hearts don’t last forever, and I had a whole lot more of regional Australia see, so I loaded up the Del Sol once again and blatted off towards Parkes. The handsome town of 11,000 is best known for being home to the satellite dish that transmitted the images of the first moon landing, but it offers heaps more than that. Like a statue of Elvis Presley in the middle of the main street.

It’s a little-known fact that Elvis (then known as Alan) was born and raised in Parkes, and learnt his trademark hip-swivelling moves to avoid opposition players as a rangy winger for the Parkes Spacemen footy side. Unfortunately, Elvis dropped the ball with the line open during the 1952 grand final against Orange, and left town in disgrace, never to return. Fortunately he did alright with his singing, and now Parkes celebrates their favourite son with an Elvis festival each January. I didn’t visit in January, though, so the town was pretty quiet.

If you want a good look at Parkes from high up in the air, get a hot air balloon. If you want a middling view at Parkes from about 50m up, head to Memorial Hill Lookout. It’s a decent spot for a picnic, and the war memorial is really nice, but don’t bother taking your rock climbing equipment or oxygen tanks, and definitely leave the sherpas at home.

Parkes was the centre of the sporting world for one magical evening back in 1990, when Pioneer Oval hosted a match in the Rugby League World Cup. The brutal battle between Australia and France was watched by an incredible 12,384 people – far more than the population of the town. The home team ran out 36-14 victors and, not surprisingly, there was a sharp increase in births in town around nine months later. Today, Pioneer Oval is a cute little country ground with a tiny grandstand and plenty of room for fans to park their utes, crack a tinnie and watch the Spacemen carve up.

Alright, alright, I’m getting to the bloody satellite. First things first – if you’re going to Parkes, don’t waste your time watching The Dish, which is based on the events in Parkes surrounding the moon landing. It’s unfunny, nonsensical, poorly paced, and not even shot in Parkes. And it’s got that smug prick from the Youi ads in it. Worst of all, the film completely wastes the brilliant Patrick Warburton (who has vowed never to return to Australia after being forced to share a dressing room with that walking penis from the Youi ads). David Puddy could make a colonoscopy funny, so it’s a hangable offence to misuse him like this.

Smashing my television to bits after watching that Youi gimp’s performance wasn’t the end of my pain. When I rocked up at The Dish, which is about 20 minutes out of town, the bloody thing was closed because the Chinese can’t stop shoving pangolins up their arses. Fortunately I was able to get reasonably close, but my dream of playing cricket on the satellite, and then using the bat to bludgeon that cretin from the Youi ads to death was dashed.

But don’t cry, because this story has a happy ending. A barfly in Parkes had suggested I visit the Peak Hill Open Cut Gold Mine, which is another half-an-hour north of The Dish. I always listen to the advice of problem drinkers, and I’m glad I did on this occasion, because it’s awesome! Tens of millions of dollars worth of gold were plucked out of the place between 1996 and 2002, and what’s left is incredible. The pits are deep and strangely beautiful, and the walk around the abandoned site is an absolute joy. It’s free and pretty much deserted, which makes it even better. To top things off, as I was admiring the pit, that walking drop of diarrhoea from the Youi ads turned up and asked me to take a photo of him, so I pushed him into the giant hole and now he’ll never be seen again. There’s not a court in the country that will convict me for it!

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