Late yesterday afternoon, my wife Marija and I headed over to the Onkaparinga River National Park. I had activated Onkaparinga River NP last year for both the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award & WWFF, but I wanted to increase my tally of QSO’s up over 44 for the global WWFF award. I had only 10 QSO’s last time I activated this park in July 2013. Plus, this was a new calendar year, so the park was worth an extra 2 points for me for the VK5 Parks Award.
Onkaparinga River NP is 1,544 hectares in size, and is one of South Australia’s largest parks. It is situated about 32 km south of Adelaide. It is a beautiful 45 minute drive from my home, through the Adelaide Hills towns of Echunga, Meadows, and Kangarilla. The park features rounded ridge tops, steep gorge slopes and the narrow river valley of the Onkaparinga Gorge. The gorge has been cut out slowly over many years by the Onkaparinga River.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Within the gorge itself there are remnant woodlands of pink gum, mighty river red gum, grey box, sheoak, and native pine. There are also significant grasslands, all of which have survived 160 years of livestock grazing, harvesting of timber and cropping.
There are over 180 bird species within the park. This includes Wedge Tailed eagles, Laughing Kookaburras, Sacred Kingfisher, and various lorikeets, rosellas, and parrots.
Numerous Australian native animals can be found in the park including Western Grey kangaroos, koala, brush tail possums, and echidnas. As the sun started to go down, there was no shortage of kangaroos grazing in the open areas surrounding where I was set up.
Rock climbing is a favourite past time in the park, as is canoeing or kayaking down the Onkaparinga River and the associated estuary channels. There are a number of well marked walking trails through the park.
Marija and I accessed the park via Chapel Hill Road. The map below, shows our operating position (marked with the red arrow). There are many fantastic wineries in this area as it is very close to the famous wine growing region of McLaren Vale.
We found a good car parking area on Chapel Hill Road, and unloaded the equipment. We set up just inside the park boundary, right alongside one of the park signs. There was a good cleared area here, so I was able to stretch out the 40m / 20 m linked dipole, which I supported on my 7 m squid pole.
I brought 2 radios with me for this activation. I had the little Yaesu FT-817nd for localAustralian contacts on 40m (running just 5 watts). And I had my much bigger Yaesu FT-450 for the DX on 20m (running 50 watts).
After setting up my fold up table and deck chair and making myself comfortable, I tuned to 40m. Just as I was doing this, I received a text message from my friend, John VK5BJE, who was operating portable in the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park. This was an opportunity for a ‘Park to Park’ contact for the VK5 Parks Award. So I quickly tuned to 7.100 and spoke to John who had a beautiful strong 5/8 signal. I then saw a spot on SOTAWatch for Kevin VK3KAB/p who was portable on SOTA peak, Hyde Hill VK3/ VC-008 on 7.110. I called Kevin who has a lovely 5/8 signal (5/8 signal report received back from my qrp set up).
I then headed up to 7.144 and called CQ and was greeted by the masses of Park Hunters. First cab off the rank was Rod VK5VRB, followed by John VK2AWJ, then Brian VK5FMID, and then Ben VK3WRL. A steady flow of callers followed from VK3 & VK5. All with very nice signals. It appeared that the 40m band was in good shape. A few guys called me whilst running QRP. They including Doc VK5BUG using just 3 watts, and Col VK5HCF down in Mount Gambier, 400 km away.
I also worked Tony VK3CAT who gave me a call whilst he was on SOTA peak, Mount Macedon VK3/ VC-007. Tony was a good strong 5/8 and I received a 5/9 signal report from Tony. Tony had a slight accident with his thermos while we had our QSO, which put a bit of smile on my face. Sorry Tony !
Sadly, some VK2’s came up just 2 kc away from me, which made things very very difficult. I am sure they could hear me. Other VK2’s were. It was their daily net, and I guess they were’nt going to move for anyone. Sadly, this seems to be a common problem with some operators.
When things started to slow down on 40m, I lowered down the antenna and unclipped the alligator clips so I could operate on 20m. I was keen to work some DX from the park. I had been inspired by Tony VK3VTH and Peter VK3ZPF, who are both keen park activators for both WWFF and also the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA). In recent times both Tony & Peter have been working huge amounts of DX during their park activations.
So after setting up the dipole for 20m, I saw a spot on SOTAWatch for Mike 2E0YYY, who was sitting on top of SOTA peak, Gun G/SP-013. There was a huge amount of QRM from nearby stations, but despite this, Mike was a very good signal into the park. I called a few times and managed to get through to Mike (4/5 sent and 5/5 received). It was great to work Mike. He was my first ever SOTA contact 3 years ago.
After working Mike I headed off to 14.244, but there was a lot of interference from nearby stations, so I went down slightly lower to 14.243 and put out a CQ call, to be answered by DK4RM. My old mate Peter VK4AAV then called in to say hi. Peter was kind enough to place me on the DX cluster, and that is when everything went mad. What followed was a huge pile up from Europe and the United Kingdom.
It got so busy, that I almost had to go split operation. I ended up with a total of 84 QSO’s on 20m ssb. Of those, 73 were DX contacts in England, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Austia, Russia, Ukraine, France, Romania, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, USA, Slovenia, Belarus, Poland, Baeleric Islands, Finland, Japan, Slovak Republic, and Ireland.
There were some very interesting contacts amongst this. They included Geni OE7DXT who was mobile and had a beautiful 5/7 signal amongst the pile up. Tom G0SBW who was pedestrian mobile and QRP with a nice 5/4 signal. Rich G0OWU who was QRP with 10 watts and had a nice 5/7 signal.
I was also called by Peter ON2WAB/p who was portable in ONFF-370, Meetjeslandse Kreken. It was a little bit of a struggle with Peter who had a 4/4 signal but we made it. Peter gave me a 5/5. And I was also called by Jef DD2CW who was portable in DLFF-039, Augsburg-Westliche Wälder.
My very good mate Bill W1OW from Massachusetts USA also came up to say hi amongst the pile up. Thankyou to Peter VK3CFA for letting me know he was there. I would later work Bill on 40m SSB as well.
And an interesting call came from Fuji, 7K1PAS. It was really great to speak to Fuji, who was my only Asian contact, and with the same suffix as my call sign. Thanks Fuji.
I would like to say a big thank you to Andrew VK2UZ. During the pile up I was working, I started to get some bleed over from just above me. I went up 2 kc and spoke to Andrew & the G station he was working, and they both graciously QSY’d up a little higher. Thanks guys for your courtesy. Sadly the same cannot be said for a ZL who subsequently came up just 2 kc away and totally killed the frequency. I apologise to all the Europeans who were still calling. I just could not fight off the ZL’s huge signal.
When the 20m band started to close, I headed back to 40m and I booked in to the 7.130 DX Net for about 20 minutes and worked a further 10 stations in VK2, VK4, VK6, VK7, New Zealand, USA, and French Polynesia. This included a contact with Doug VK2FMIA/p was portable in Warrabah National Park, VKFF-518. Also a QSO with Wayne VK5LWR/p who was portable in the Deep Creek Conservation Park (with a 5/9 plus 20 db signal).
But it was starting to get late, and I had pushed my luck far enough with my XYL, so it was time to pack up and head home. I had managed a total of 120 QSO’s on 40m ssb and 20m ssb. Of those, 73 were DX contacts on 20m SSB. And 4 DX QSO’s on 40m ssb. This was a really enjoyable and very exciting activation.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
VK5BJE/p (Park); VK3KAB/p (SOTA); VK5VRB; VK2AWJ; VK5FMID; VK3WRL; VK5EMI; VK5KGP; VK5FBAC; VK5WG; VK5NQP; VK5FAKV; VK5BUG/qrp; VK3ZPF; VK5HCF/qrp; VK3HJ/m; VK5BJE; VK3FABE; VK5JDS; VK3VEK; VK3GMM; VK5AV; VK5MPJ; VK3CAT/p (SOTA); VK3ERW; VK3AMB; VK7ROY; FO5JV; W1OW; VK2FMIA/p (Park); VK7CC; ZL2ASH; ZL2TCR; VK4FAAS; VK5LWR/p (Park); and VK6FNKS.
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
2E0YYY/p (SOTA); DK4RM; VK4AAV; VK6JES; ON5JE; EA4DTV; OE8TLK; UA4PKN; UT5PI; ON5JK; F1RUK; YO3JW; I5FLN; IK2AHU; OE7DXT/m; F5PAU; HB9FLU; OZ7KIM; IZ2GTO; ON5SY; OK2APY; ON4BB; HA0LG; UA9LT; IW2NXI; RA1OD; VK5VRB; DF6EX; OZ4RT; DK3GG; M0WYZ; IZ5ILF; RN3B; DL1EBR; IK2VUC; S52KM; DL1NAX; OK2PAU; R7AY; EV1R; F4HDR; HA8IE; OP7M; DL2ND; RA3PCI; DH1UQ; G0SBW/pm; ON7ZM; OH6RP; DL5XU; SQ9JYK; EA6XQ; ON6YH; US2WU; G4NIF; SP6KEP; I5RMY; S58AL; G0OWU/qrp; IZ2ZQP; VK3NCC/2; OH6JE; SM6CNX; ON2WAB/p (ONFF-370); RD4HZ; OH6IU; DD2CW/p (DLFF-039); VK5ZKT; G0BPK; M0LBJ; G0AWY; VK3CFA; W1OW; 7K1PAS; OM1AX; OM7OM; VK4KDX; G3UUV; VK5MPJ; VK3SX; VK7PSJ; EI4IT; VK6NTE; and EA7BA.
‘Onkaparinga River National and Recreation Parks’, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, June 2010.
Friends of Onkaparinga Park Inc, http://www.communitywebs.org/OnkaparingaParks/.