Ngarkat Conservation Park

My last planned activation for Wednesday 11th September, 2013, was the Ngarkat Conservation Park, just over the border in South Australia.  So after activating Little Desert National Park I drove west towards S.A. and into the town of Keith.  Just north west of Keith I turned off the Dukes Highway onto Snoswells Road and followed this for a few km north until I reached the park, and an area called Tyms Lookout.  There is a carpark at the end of Snoswells Road, and this is where I set up my gear.


Ngarkat Conservation Park is large park.  In fact it is one of the largest mallee parks in South Australia.  Its total area is 270,000 hectares which consists of vegetated sand dunes, mallee and heath.  It is located about 209 km south east of Adelaide, 34 km south of Pinaroo, and 5 km north of Keith.  It was named after a tribe of Aboriginals who previously inhabited the area.  The park abounds with wildlife including Western Grey kangaroos and emus.  Over 120 species of birds including the rare Malleefowl have been recorded. There are a number of walking trails and it is home to the legendary Border Track.  The the park has a popular 4WD track.

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I started off on 40m and my first contact was with John VK5BJE who had a very strong 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Larry VK5LY who was patiently waiting in the Murray River National Park.  Signal reports of 5/9 both ways were exchanged with Larry.  Another Park to Park contact for the log !  Another Park to Park contact was made with Tony VK3VTH/5 who was portable in the Karte Conservation Park (5/9 both ways).  When things got a little quiet I decided to tune around the band & I heard 2 gentlemen on Lord Howe Island talking to each other.  After about 5 minutes they were signing off, so I decided to give them a call, and much to my surprise they replied. Dick VK9LH, and Des VK9FLHI were both 5/8 signals and I received a 5/1 signal report back from both of them.  I could also hear some European signals coming through, including Jose EA2KC, who had a good strong signal.  I tried calling him but unfortunately I could not get through.


Time was starting to get away from me, but I decided to go to 20m and have a quick listen.  I am glad that I did because I made 2 DX contacts and 1 contact over to my good mate Jess VK6JES in Western Australia.  The 2 DX contacts were with Jose EA2KC (5/9 sent and 5/6 received), and then Jara DL1YD (5/9 sent and 5/5 received).  I was really pleased to have 2 good DX contacts with just 5 watts, and it was now time to pack up and head home.  After all I still had a 2 hour drive to get back to the home qth.

The following stations were worked:-

John VK5BJE; Larry VK5LY/p; Ron VK3AFW; Tony VK3CAT; Dale Vk5FSCK; Brian VK5FMID; Graham VK5KGP; Nick VK3NAL; Tony VK5ZAI; Tony VK3VTH/5; David VK3MIJ; Colin VK3UBY/m; Charles VK5FBAC; Paul VK4CPS; Paul VK4PAR; Dick VK9LH; Des VK9FLHI; David VK5KC; Peter VK3PF; Peter VK3TKK/m; Jose EA2KC; Jara DL1YD; & Jess, VK6JES.

I have placed a video of this activation on You Tube…..

Little Desert National Park, Victoria

Little Desert National Park in Victoria, was my last intended activation for Tuesday 10th September, but unfortunately I ran out of time, as I had spent longer on Mount Langi Ghiran than expected.  Ed VK2JI had told me that Andrew VK2ONZ was going to be up on air on a summit shortly.  Sure enough I checked SOTA Goat and saw that they had posted an alert.  So I patiently waited for an hour but sadly they did not appear.  So off the summit I headed, a little later than planned.

So after activating Mount Arapiles, I drove back along the Western Highway into Horsham, and after picking up some Subway for lunch, I continued back along the Highway to Dimboola.  From there I headed out along Horeshoe Bend Road, south of Dimboola.

The Little Desert NP which covers an area of about 32,000 hectares, is renowned for its unmodified ‘desert’ landscapes and its conservation values.  Features of special note in the park include the presence of endangered Mallefowl, the Wimmera River, and colourful wildflower displays during spring.

The park’s beginnings started in 1955 when 217 hectares were reserved as the Kiata Lowan Sanctuary, primarily for the protection of Malleefowl.  In 1968, plans were announced to develop the area for agriculture.  There was enormous public outcry over this, and as a result the area was increased to 945 hectares.  By 1969 the Park was expanded to 35,300 hectares with the addition of the majority of the block between the Wimmera River and the Nhill Harrow Road.  In 1991, further land was added to the park.

There are numerous native animals to be found in the park including Western Grey Kangaroos, Western Pygmy-possum, Swamp wallaby, & Silky mouse.  There have also been some sightings of the platypus in the Wimmera River.  A total of 229 native bird species have been recorded in the park.  Of these, five are endangered, three vulnerable, and nine rare.

I entered into the Little Desert National Park and set up at Horeshoe Bend near the banks of the Wimmera River.  This was a really idealic setting.  The weather was beautiful and the view from my fold up table & deck chair was fantastic.  I had noted when I arrived that there was a school bus parked nearby, and sure enough, after about 10 minutes on air, the silence was broken by a group of high school kids walking along the banks of the Wimmera, returning to the bus.  I certainly got a few strange looks from the children and their teacher as they walked by.


I operated for about 30 minutes and then decided that it was time to head off over the border into South Australia.  I still had a 2 hour drive ahead of me before reaching my final activation, the Ngarkat Conservation Park.  But I was happy.  The park was activated, and 11 stations were in the log on 40m SSB from VK3, VK5 & VK7.

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The following stations were worked:-

Tony VK5ZAI; Ron VK3AFW; John VK5BJE; Dale VK5FSCK; Albert VK3KLB; Ivan VK5HS; Col VK5HCF/qrp; Brian VK5FMID; Larry VK5LY/m; Greg VK3UT; and Eric VK7EK.

Mount Arapiles, VK3/ VW-022

Mount Arapiles, VK3/ VW-022 was my first activation for Wednesday 11th September, 2013.  It was also to be my last SOTA activation on my 6 day trip.  I had stayed overnight at the Victoria Hotel at Dimboola, so it was a 57 km drive out to Mt Arapiles, firstly along the Western Highway, and then across the Wimmera plain.

Mt Arapiles is 369 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point.  The summit is known by the local aboriginals as Dyurrait.  It is situated about 10 km west of  the little town of Natimuk, and is located within the Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, known by the aborigines as Dalkaiana warty Dyurrait.  The Park consists of 7,475 hectares and was created in 1987.  About 14 % of Victoria’s flora species are represented in the Mt Arapiles section of the Park.  Mt Arapiles is one of Australia’s best rock climbing areas.  In fact it is widely regarded as the top rock climbing area in Australia and is world renowned.  Over 2,000 routes have been developed on the numerous cliffs, crags, and pinnacles.  There are also numerous walking tracks throughout the park catering for all levels of fitness.


The area is known to be frequented by the endangered Peregrine Falcon.  They return to the area each year during the spring nesting season.  The birds are in low numbers and are under threat in Victoria.   Numerous other bird species can be found including Crimson Rosellas, New Holand honeyeaters, Bronzewing Pigeons, Brown Treecreepers, and also the threatened Malleefowl.  Mt Arapiles is also home to various other wildlife including Western Grey Kangaroos and echidnas.

I had viewed Mount Arapiles, dozens and dozens of times, as my father’s family comes from the Wimmera region, and my Nana spent her final years at nearby Natimuk, but I had never climbed the summit.  As I drove south west from the Western Highway, you could clearly see the spectacular feature of Mt Arapiles rising sharply from the Wimmera Plains, west of Horsham.

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I drove through historic little town of Natimuk, and admired all the historic buildings.  Natimuk is a beautiful little town with a population of about 450 people.  Natimuk has traditionally survived as a rural service centre for the surrounding grain and sheep farming community.  In more recent times it has diversified into tourism and staved off the decline unfortunately common in some other Wimmera towns.  There is a memorial cairn here for Major Thomas Mitchell, who discovered and climbed Mt Arapiles on the 22nd and 23rd July, 1836.

Fortunately there is a road all the way to the top of Mt Natimuk.  From the carpark, it is a short 50 metre walk up some stairs to the lookout.  Again, all of the native plants were out in spectacular flower.  About 500 species of native plants occur in the park.  Some of which such as the Rock Wattle and Skeleton Fork (a type of fern) are rare or endangered.  The views from the top are also very good in all directions.  Out to the east is Horsham; to the north east is Lake Wyn Wyn, Olivers Lake, and Lake Natimuk; to the north is Mitre Lake; out to the west is more of the State Park and a large number of small lakes; and to the south is Toolondo Reservoir.

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I set up just to the north of the trig point and used a small shrub to secure the 7m squid pole, with the use of some octopus straps.  Take care when setting up as there are some very low power lines running into the fire spotting tower.  I secured the legs of the dipole to the branches of nearby trees.

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After finishing setting up the gear, I had about 9 minutes to play with before the UTC rollover.  So I quickly jumped onto 7.090 and put out a call and worked a total of 12 stations in VK2, VK3, & VK5 before the new UTC day.  I then worked a further 21 stations in VK2, VK3, & VK5 after the UTC rollover.

There were a few of the regular QRP callers which was good to see.  They included Col VK5HCF, Andrew VK2ONZ, and Andrew VK3ARR.  I also managed a VK5 Parks contact with Johnny VK7ZJJ/5, who was portable at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges National Park.

After an hour on the summit is was time to pack up and head off to Little Desert National Park.  I had planned to activate this park the day before, but unfortunately I had run out of time.  But before I left I did go for a walk and look at Melville Cave.  The Park contains significant Aboriginal cultural sites including rock shelters, rock art, and quarries.  The traditional owners are the Wotjobaluk, Wergaia, Jadawadjali, Jaadwa and Jupagalk people.  One can only image what significance this place must have had to the local Aboriginals.  For thousands of years Mount Arapiles and its surrounding plains had provided the local aboriginal tribes with food, water, tools and shelter.  By the 1800’s, they were surrounded by squatters who had selected runs on the surrounding fertile Wimmera plains to graze stock and grow grain.

The following stations were worked before the UTC rollover:-

Brian VK5FMID; Col VK5HCF; Bernard VK3AMB; Fred VK3JM; Peter VK3FPSR; Mitch VK3FMDV/qrp; Andrew VK3ARR/qrp; Brian VK3MCD; Ron VK3AFW; Ed VK2JI; Peter VK3PF/m; and Ivan VK5HS.

The following stations were worked after the UTC rollover:-

John VK5BJE; Fred VK3JM; Ron VK3AFW; Brian VK3MCD; Ed VK2JI; Tony VK3CAT/m; Peter VK3PF/m; Col VK5HCF/qrp; Andrew VK2ONZ/qrp; Bernard VK3AMB; Andrew VK3ARR; Mike VK5MCB/qrp; Brian VK5FMID; Peter VK3FPSR; Mitch VK3FMDV; Charles VK5FBAC; Larry VK5LY; Johnny VK7ZJJ/5; Ron VK5AKR; Colin VK3UBY; and Jerry VK5NMG.

I have posted a video on You Tube of the activation…..

Mt Zero, VK3/ VW-020 & Grampians National Park

Mount Zero, VK3/ VW-020 was my 2nd summit activation for Tuesday 10th September, 2013.  Mount Zero is 391 metres above sea level, and is worth 1 SOTA point.  It is also located within the Grampians National Park, so it qualifies for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA).

I accessed the summit after turning left from the Western Highway onto the Wonwondah-Dadswell Bridge Road, and then left into Winfields Road.  I then turned left into the Halls Gap-Mount Zero Road.  There is a carpark on the eastern side of the road.  I parked the car there and then commenced the 2.8 km walk to the Mt Zero summit, which requires you to cross back over the Halls Gap-Mt Zero Road.  The information board shows the walk to be 2.8 km, but the sign shows it to be 1 km.  After doing the walk, it is definitely 2.8 km and not 1 km !

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There is an excellent track leading all the way to the summit which is clearly marked with yellow arrows.  A little bit of rock climbing is required, but nothing too taxing.  This was a really enjoyable walk.  The native plants were all out in flower including grevillias & other native flowers.

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I kept up the pace during the hike to the summit, following an Irish tourist & her English companion.  Once we got to the summit we had a good chat, only to find that they were in training for a trip to the Himalayas.  They were curious as to why I was carrying a squid pole, so I explained to them my reason for being on the summit, and they were very interested.

There is a trig point on the summit, along with a memorial cairn to the explorer, Major Thomas Mitchell who discovered and climbed the summit on the 20th July, 1836.  The cairn also shows directions & distances for various other peaks in the area.  The views from the top are spectacular in all directions with the Victoria Range & The Asses Ears to the south, Black Range & Mount Bepture to the SW, Mt Difficult to the SE, the Pyrenees Range to the east, and Mount Jeffcott to the NE.

There wasn’t a huge amount of room to move up the top, so I used a small shrub to secure the squid pole, utilising 2 octopus straps.  And I then ran the legs of the dipoles out, wedging the wire winders between rocks.  Although it was overcast, there was no rain in sight, and even better, there was no wind on the top of the summit.  You need to be a bit careful on the summit as there are sheer cliff faces and gaps between the rocks on the summit which you can fall between.

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I remained on 40m SSB for the entire activation working a total of 23 stations in VK2, VK3, VK4, & VK5.

The following stations were worked:-

Larry VK5LY; Peter VK3FPSR; Brian VK3MCD; Alex VK3AMX; Mark VK3YN; Peter VK3PF/m; Col VK5HCF; Barry VK5BW; Ed VK2JI; Tony VK3CAT/m; Ron VK3AFW; Colin VK3UBY; Roy VK5NRG/qrp; Brian VK5FMID; Glen VK4FSCC; Bernard VK3AMB/m; John VK2FALL; Andt VK5LA/p; Charles VK5FBAC; Ivan VK5HS; Laurie VK3AW; Colin VK3LO; & Wolf VK5WF.

I have added a video to You Tube of the activation…..

Mt Langi Ghiran, VK3/ VS-004

Mount Langi Ghiran, VK3/ VS-004 was my first summit activation for Tuesday 10th September, 2013.  Mt Langi Ghiran is 950 metres ASL and is worth 6 SOTA points.  It is situated within the Langi Ghiran State Park, about 15 km east of Ararat, and about 220 km west of Melbourne.

The Langi Ghiran State Park is 2,695 hectares in size and takes in Mount Langi Ghiran in the north, Mount Gorrin in the south, and a River Red Gum-Yellow Box open woodland in the west.  The park, which was proclaimed in June 1987, has a rich Aboriginal cultural heritage and contains a wide range of significant Aboriginal archaelogical sites.  Within the park is the historic Langi Ghiran Reservoir, which is still used as a supplementary water supply for Ararat.  The park contains a variety of vegetation once typical of the area, including a number of significant species.  The park has rugged granite peaks and attractive landscapes.


The park supports a large amount of wildlife, including the rare Squirrel Glider, and Brush-tailed Phascogale.   The introduced Sambar deer are also found in the park.  Over 105 species of birds have been recorded in the park, including the rare species Painted Honeyeater, Powerful Owl, and Black Falcon.  There are also numerous reptiles including the Marbled Gecko, Large Striped Skink, Bougainville’s Skink, and Shingeback.

I entered the park via the Western Highway and drove along  Kartuk Road, which is on the western border of the park.  I had only driven a very short distance and I saw the first group of Western Grey kangaroos.  Travelling down the track took a bit of time because there were kangaroos everywhere, and they were not adverse to jumping out in front of the car.

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Kartuk Road leads to the Langi Ghiran camping & picnic ground.  Just before you enter the picnic ground area, there is a track running off to the right called Reservoir Track, which is a dirt track that leads to the Langi Ghiran Reservoir.  I drove out along Reservoir Track and stopped at the historic reservoir for a quick look.  I then continued on towards the summit, driving along Easter Track.  After a short distance I reached a locked gate with two signs which read ‘Management Vehicles Only” and “And Walkers only”.  I parked the car here and commenced walking up Easter Track towards the summit.  It is about a 3km walk from here.

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Easter Track starts off with a gentle gradient and good surface.  But as you get closer to the summit, the track roughens up and the gradient gets much steeper.  Eventually I reached a small cairn built of moss rocks on the left hand side of the track.  From here I saw a small track on the right, which was quite grown over.  It led off into the scrub on the western side of the track and heads off to the summit.


The track soon disappeared amongst the scrub and I had to trek through thick scrub and scramble over large moss rocks, until I reached the summit.  I set up my 40m/20m linked pole in an inverted vee configuration, using my 7 m squid pole, which I secured with octopus straps to a small shrub growing amongst the rocks.

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I tuned to 40m and put out a call.  Things started off extremely slow.  My first 4 qualifying QSO’s with Peter VK3PF, Charles VK5FBAC, Brian VK5FMID, and Peter VK3FPSR mobile, took a long time to achieve.  But following that, things really picked up, and conditions seemed very good on 40m.

After about half an hour on the summit, I spoke with Ed VK2JI who advised that Andrew VK2ONZ was due to come up on a summit within the next 30 minutes.  Sure enough I checked the iphone and the SOTA Goat application, and I saw that Andrew was due to be on a VK2 summit by 0100 UTC.  So I decided to stay on the summit longer than planned, hoping that I could get a ‘Summit to Summit’ into New South Wales.  But unfortunately Andrew didn’t come up, so I decided it was time to head down.  I had a 3km walk back to the car and I still had another SOTA activation planned, along with a National Park.

After a very slow start I had 42 QSO’s in the notebook on 40m SSB.

The following stations were worked prior to the UTC rollover:-

Peter VK3PF; Charles VK5FBAC; Brian VK5FMID; Peter VK3FPSR/m; Jim VK5JW; Ed VK2JI; Rhett VK3GHZ/m; Ivan VK5HS; John VK5BJE/p; Larry VK5LY; Bruce VK3FBNG; John VK5PO; Colin VK3UBY; Ron VK3AFW; Peter VK1XP; Andrew VK3ARR/qrp; Brian VK3MCD/qrp; John VK5SIX; and VK3EMU.

The following stations were worked after the UTC rollover:-

VK3EMU; Peter VK3PF/qrp; Fred VK3JM/qrp; Brian VK3MCD/qrp; Andrew VK3ARR/qrp; Dale VK5FSCK; Peter VK3FPSR; Brian VK5FMID; Larry VK5LY; Peter VK1XP; Colin VK3UBY; Ed VK2JI; John VK5BJE/p; Phil VK2CPO/qrp; Ron VK3AFW/m; Tony VK3CAT; Bernard VK3AMB; Ron VK3MRH; John VK5BJE/p; Tony VK5ZAI; Graham VK5KGP; Michelle VK3FEAT/p; and David VK5KC.

I have posted a video of the activation on You Tube…..