Ngarkat Conservation Park VKFF-0829

Whilst I was in Hattah Kulkyne National Park in Victoria, I had toyed with the idea of activating the Ngarkat Conservation Park, VKFF-0829, in South Australia, after I had crossed the border.  I still had a fair drive ahead of me to get home, but I had worked out that I had enough time for a quick stop at Ngarkat.  I had activated Ngarkat previously, but as part of the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award, and not the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.  So this was to be another unique WWFF/VKFF activation for me.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 10.15.36

Above:- Map showing the location of Ngarkat CP.  Courtesy of mapcarta.com

So after leaving Hattah Kulyne National Park I drove west along the Hattah Kulkyne-Robinvale road until I reached the Calder Highway and the little town of Hattah.  Don’t blink, because you will miss it.  There was once a post office here but it closed in 1974.  Today there is a General Store, and that is it.  I then travelled south to Ouyen where I stopped briefly for a bite to eat at the Mallee Deli, consisting of a very enjoyable steak sandwich with the lot.  I then drove west on the Mallee Highway, back through the towns of Walpeup, Torrita, Underbool. Linga, Boinka, Cowangie, Murrayville, and Carina, until I reached the Victorian/South Australian border.

Along the way I spoke with Rob VK4AAC/5 who was operating portable from the Padthaway Conservation Park, VKFF-0924.  Rob had a nice signal coming into the mobile from the South East of South Australia.

DSC_0372

I continued west on the Mallee Highway, towards the town of Pinnaroo, until I reached the Rosy Pine Road.  There is a sign here which shows Ngarkat Conservation Park and another sign for Roseleigh Homestead.  Interestingly, the sign also refers to Scorpion Springs Conservation Park which no longer exists.  It was absorbed into the Ngarkat Conservation Park back in 2004.  Clearly the sign has never been replaced.

DSC_0373

I stopped off briefly to have a look at the site of the old Rosy Pine school.  The school, along with a number of other outlying schools from the town of Pinnaroo, closed in 1943.  Students from these outlying areas were then required to travel to Pinnaroo by bus.  Today there is nothing left of the school.  But a memorial plaque signifies its previous existence.

B18787

Above:- The Rosy Pine school, c. 1916.  Image courtesy of State Library SA.

I continued on towards the park along Rosy Pine Road, which then becomes Centre Track, and on the way I spoke with Peter VK3PF who was portable on SOTA peak, Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/ VE-208, which is contained within the Jarvis Creek Plateau Region Park VKFF-0969 (5/6 sent and 5/7 received).  I continued south until I reached the Scorpion Boundary Track where there is an unlocked gate.  I entered the northern side of the park, and paid my $10.00 entry fee, before proceeding into the Scorpion Springs camping area.

Ngarkat Conservation Park is a very large park and is located about 200 km south east of Adelaide.  It covers an area of around 270,000 hectares of vegetated sand dunes, mallee and heath.  Ngarkat was proclaimed in September 1979 to conserve the mallee heath habitat of the 90 Mile Desert.  The park was previously four separate sections: Ngarkat Conservation Park, Mount Rescue Conservation Park, Mount Shaugh Conservation Park, and Scorpion Springs Conservation Park, but these were all absorbed into the one park in May 2004.  On many maps, including Google maps, it incorrectly shows the former conservation parks.  Unfortunately, many of the tourism sites also refer to the former three Conservation Parks.

The park is adjacent to the Big Desert Wildnerness Park and Wyperfeld National Park in Victoria.  This is a vast area of remote mallee wilderness in South Australia and western Victoria.  The name Ngarkat (pronounced Narr-kat) takes its name from the Ngarkat aboriginal people who were the original inhabitants of the area.

The Ngarkat Conservation Park is alive with wildlife including Western Grey kangaroos, Little Pygmy Possum, Short-beaked echidnas, Mitchell’s Hopping mouse, and Common dunnarts.  More than 120 species of birds can be found in the park including the rare Malleefowl and the Western Whipbird.

Leipoa_ocellata_-Ongerup,_Western_Australia,_Australia-8

Above:- The rare Malleefowl.  Image courtesy of wikipedia. 

It was a very warm afternoon, so the first thing I did was to seek out some shade.  I set up my gear, the Yaesu FT-857d and the 40m/20m linked dipole in the campground.  There was a wooden table and benches under the shade of a gum tree so I took advantage of that.  I attached the 7 metre squid pole to a post on a fenceline, with the assistance of an octopus strap.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 10.18.32

Unfortunately there was absolutely no mobile phone coverage out here so I couldn’t send out an SMS message or spot myself on parksnpeaks.

Prior to calling CQ, I hunted around for Peter VK3PF and found him calling CQ on 7.090.  After securing Peter in the log, I headed to 7.085 and started calling CQ.  This was answered by John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga with a strong 5/9 signal.  Half way through my QSO with John the radio cut out.  Bugger!  I have been having an intermittent problem with the connection between the power supply and the transceiver.  But fortunately that was sorted out quickly and I was back on air.  This was followed by calls from Mike VK3ZMD in Melbourne, Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula, and then Mick VK3PMG in western Victoria, all with 5/9 signals.  My 16th contact in the park was with Rob VK4AAC/5 in the Padthaway Conservation Park, VKFF-0924.  Rob called me, so it saved me having to hunt him down.

I worked a total of 34 contacts on 40m in VK2, VK3, and VK5, before trying 20m.  Conditions on 40m were quite good, however with all the storms across Australia, the band was very noisy with strong static crashes.  I called CQ on 14.315 and this was answered by Rick VK4RF with a powerful 5/9 signal.  Rick had tried calling me earlier on 40m but we just couldn’t make it.  My first DX station was Xaver DK4RM in Germany.  This was followed by Gerard F1BLL in France, and then Mauro IZ7EIU in Italy.  Conditions into Europe on the long path were less than favourable, and after 20 minutes, I had worked a total of 12 stations on 20m in VK2, VK4, VK8, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Australia, and Greece.

After 90 minutes in Ngarkat I had a total of 46 contacts in the log and it was time to hit the road.  As I exited the park it was slow going as there were sheep on the road, and many kangaroos.  Once mobile back on the Mallee Highway I booked in to the Kandos Net on 40m which was being run by Tom VK2KF.  I then spoke with Doug VK7DK who had a very nice signal coming in to the mobile.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB from Ngarkat:-

  1. VK3PF/p (SOTA VK3/ VE-208 & VKFF-0969)
  2. VK2YW
  3. VK3ZMD
  4. VK5FANA
  5. VK3PMG
  6. VK5FMID
  7. VK3AFW
  8. VK3VIN
  9. VK3YAR
  10. VK5JK
  11. VK3GP/m
  12. VK5GJ
  13. VK3FPBI
  14. VK5MBD
  15. VK5FDEC
  16. VK4AAC/5 (Padthaway Conservation Park VKFF-0924)
  17. VK5MAS
  18. VK5PL
  19. VK3DPG
  20. VK3FJJAE
  21. VK3FLMJ
  22. VK2PKT
  23. VK1AMG/m
  24. VK3FGMO
  25. VK5EE
  26. VK5PZ
  27. VK3JM
  28. VK5HCF
  29. VK7VEK
  30. VK4RF
  31. VK4HA
  32. VK2IO
  33. VK3PRF
  34. VK5NRG

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK4RF
  2. VK4HA
  3. DK4RM
  4. F1BLL
  5. IZ7EIU
  6. VK2XXM
  7. RN3QN
  8. VK8GM
  9. I5FLN
  10. OE6MBG
  11. VK4PHD
  12. SV3AQR

References.

Department for Environment and Heritage, 2004, ‘Ngarkat Complex of Conservation Parks Management Plan’.

Hattah Kulkyne National Park VKFF-0231

On Monday morning (26th October 2015) I left the Balranald Caravan Park and commenced my 500 km drive back home to the Adelaide Hills.  Along the way I planned to activate the Hattah Kulkyne National Park, VKFF-0231, in Victoria, which is about a 150 km drive south west from Balranald.  This was to be another new park for me, and I was hopeful to get my 44 contacts to qualify the park for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 10.07.01

Above:- Map showing the location of the park.  Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I headed out west along the Sturt Highway and then turned left onto the Murray Valley Highway.  As it was early in the morning, it was relatively slow going as there were a lot of kangaroos and emus out and about.  There is not much to see along this stretch of the road.  I did stop briefly to have a look at Lake Benanee.

I then stopped briefly at Robinvale, just over the Murray River, which forms the border between the States of Victoria and New South Wales.  I was hoping to catch up with Claude VK3FCAS who was staying at the caravan park.  But I didn’t have Claude’s number and the park was absolutely brimming with vans, so unfortunately it was not to be.

After leaving Robinvale I travelled south on the Robinvale-Sea Lake Road, passing all the irrigation district where grapes, olives, carrots, and almonds are grown.  I then turned right onto the Hattah-Robinvale Road and travelled west.  I stopped briefly at a little place called Wemen to view the mighty River Murray just upstream from the Hattah Kulkyne National Park.

I accessed the park from a dirt track near Lake Kramen.  Unfortunately the track was marked with no vehicular access so I could not get all the way down to the lake.  So I was forced to activate from a less scenic part of the park, close to the Hattah-Robinvale Road.  There had been quite a bit of rain overnight, and it was still cloudy.  However, when the sun came out from behind the clouds it certainly had some bite, so I tried to find a bit of shade.

Hattah Kulyne National Park is 48,000 hectares in size and was established in June 1960.  The park lies in typical mallee country in Victoria and contains extensive low scrub and open native pine woodland.  River Red Gums are found alongside the lakes, the Murray River and adjoining creeks.  Animals, birds, and plants located in the park have adapted to survive in the poor, sandy soils and the searing hot summers.  The park contains Hattah Lakes which are seasonally filled by creeks connected to the Murray River.

A large amount of birdlife can be found in the park, ranging from wetland species including Pelicans, various species of ducks, Great Egret, Spoonbills, to mallee species such as Malleefowl, Emu Wrens, and Emus.  In fact a total of 200 species of birds have been recorded in the park.  Many native animals also call the park home including Red Kangaroos, Western Grey kangaroos and Eastern Grey kangaroos.

This area has a rich aboriginal history.  Within the park you can find scars on trees where shields and canoes were made, and also middens which are heaps of shells discarded after meals eaten over many generations.

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Above:- Map showing my operating spot.

It was only 2200 UTC (8.00 a.m. Victorian local time) and the 40m band was wide open to Europe, with the CQ World Wide contest still in full swing, so it was quite hard to find a clear spot on the band.  I started calling CQ on 7.143 and it wasn’t long before John VK5BJE gave me a shout with a good strong 5/8 signal from the Adelaide Hills.  This was followed by Warren VK3BYD, Gerard VK2IO, and then Ian VK5CZ/2 who was mobile 30km from Coonabarabran in New South Wales.

Things were quite slow on the band, but I managed 10 contacts in 20 minutes, to qualify the park for the VKFF program.  Many thanks to those that took the time to spot me on parksnpeaks.  The European contesters had also moved in right alongside of me, so I took the opportunity of having a listen on 20m.  I called CQ on 14.312, but it wasn’t long before I was competing with Europeans calling CQ contest.  So I moved up to 14.315 and called CQ again, and this was answered by Carl ZL3CX in  Auckland (5/7 both ways).  After my contact with Carl, park devotee Rick VK4HA then gave me a shout with a solid 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Rob VK4LS near Bribie Island in Queensland.  Unfortunately during our chat, a station from the USA came up and started calling CQ contest.

I then moved back to 7.143 with a total of 14 contacts in the log at that stage.  I still had a long way to go before reaching the required 44 contacts to qualify the park for the global WWFF program.  My first contact after returning to 40m was with Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula with a very strong 5/9 signal.  Rick VK4RF then called in on 40m.  Not as strong as 20m, but still a very respectable 5/7.  It was about this time that the noise floor on the band rose up to a strength 6.  I wasn’t really sure where the noise was coming from.  There was nothing around me, except for power lines, but they were a good 1 km away.  But I perservered and still managed to copy all the stations calling, including Mike VK6MB, some 2,900 km away in Western Australia (5/5 sent and 4/3 received).

I pushed on and continued to work the callers, and much to my pleasure, the noise on the band disappeared after about 15-20 minutes.  Contact number 25 was with Frank VK2BFC who said he would advise all the guys on Ron VK3MRH’s Net on 7.085 that I was in the park and in need for further contacts.  And it worked, as it wasn’t long, before I had a steady flow of callsigns that I recognised as being regulars on Ron’s net, including Dennis VK2HHA, Dik VK7DIK, Mike VK3ZMD, Tony VK5FTVR, and even Ron VK3MRH himself.  Many thanks Frank.  This certainly helped to boost the numbers.

It wasn’t long before I had reached the magical figure of 44.  Contact number 44 was Ron VK3VBI.  About 10 contacts later I was called by Peter VK3PF who was activating SOTA peak, Mount Bolga VK3/ VE-175 which is contained within the Mount Granya State Park, VKFF-0767.  This was followed by a call from Kerry VK2GQR, operating from the Mutawintji National Park north east of Broken Hill.  My last contact at Hattah Kulyne was with Rob VK4AAC/5 who was mobile on his way to activate the Padthaway Conservation Park.

At the end of my activation I went for a walk along the track leading down to Lake Kramen which was full of water.  In previous years it has been bare.

After around 3 hours in the park I had a total of 67 contacts in the log.  Thanks to everyone who called in.  The activation started off quite slowly, so I was very very pleased to reach the 44 QSO threshold.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5BJE
  2. VK3BYD
  3. VK2IO
  4. VK5CZ/2
  5. VK2VW
  6. VK5HCF
  7. VK3PMG
  8. VK5EE
  9. VK5BGN
  10. VK3FJUD
  11. VK5FANA
  12. VK4RF
  13. VK4HA
  14. VK3VEK
  15. VK6MB
  16. VK3FAPH
  17. VK4AAC/5
  18. VK2GKA
  19. VK3UH
  20. VK3EE
  21. VK2BFC
  22. VK3FOWL
  23. VK5HS
  24. VK3SQ
  25. VK2HHA
  26. VK3AV
  27. VK7DIK
  28. VK3ZMD
  29. VK5FTVR
  30. VK2NP
  31. VK7EE
  32. VK1NAM
  33. VK2XUP
  34. VK3UCD
  35. VK2BA
  36. VK3SIG
  37. VK3FENV
  38. VK3NU
  39. VK3FCAS/p
  40. VK3VBI
  41. VK2FBKT
  42. VK2MOR
  43. VK3MRH
  44. VK5ZA/m
  45. VK5NRG
  46. VK3JP
  47. VK5GJ
  48. VK5PL
  49. VK3PF/p (SOTA VK3/ VE-175 & VKFF-0767)
  50. VK2GQR
  51. VK5MAS
  52. VK3FAIM
  53. VK1MTS
  54. VK5KIK
  55. VK5FADP
  56. VK2MTC
  57. VK2FGAA
  58. VK5FMID
  59. VK5JK
  60. VK3KYF/5
  61. VK5GI
  62. VK3OF
  63. VK4AAC/5

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

  1. ZL3CX
  2. VK4RF
  3. VK4HA
  4. VK4LS

References.

Parks Victoria, 2015, <http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/hattah-kulkyne-national-park&gt;, viewed 5th November 2015.

Cocoparra National Park VKFF-0104

After leaving the Livingstone National Park, I headed back into Wagga Wagga and then travelled west out along the Sturt Highway towards Narrandera.  As I was leaving the park I spoke with Ian VK1DI on 7.095 who was portable on SOTA peak Mount Coree VK1/ AC-023 and Brindabella National Park (5/3 both ways).  And then as I was about to turn on to the Holbrook Road, I spoke with Peter VK3PF who was portable on Mount Flakney VK2/ RI-025 (5/9 both ways).

Once I had reached the Sturt Highway I tuned across the 40m band and found Andrew VK1MBE calling CQ on 7.105 from SOTA peak, Mount Gillamatong, VK2/ ST-034 (5/7 sent and 5/6 received).

After reaching Narrandera I headed north on Irrigation Way through Yanco and Leeton, and then headed out on the Griffith Road to Peter VK2NEO’s property.  It was great to meet Peter for the first time.  I had spoken with Peter many times on 40m and he always has an exceptionally good signal.  I had a bite to eat at Peter’s and a cool drink.  We discussed the possibility of me activating the Cocoparra National Park, VKFF-0104, to the north of Peter’s property.  Out came Peter’s atlas and we did our sums to see if I could fit in an activation at Cocoparra.

After leaving Peter’s place I made a last minute decision to head north to activate the Cocoparra National Park.  I headed to the little town of Whitton and then travelled north along the road towards Yenda.  This appears on maps as Griffith Road and then becomes Stock Route Road.

Cocoparra National Park is 8,357 hectares (20,650 acres) in size and was established back in December 1969.  The park is 457 km southwest of Sydney and about 25 km northeast of Griffith.  The park contains a prominent range of hils, including Bingar Mountain at 455 metres and Mount Brogden at 390 metres, which is one of two SOTA summits located in the park.

The park adjoins the Binya State Forest and the Cocoparra Nature Reserve.  Make sure you are in the National Park and not in the State Forest or the Nature Reserve.  Cocoparra consists of wattles, orchids, ironbark, and blue-tinged cypress pines.  Over 140 species of birds can be found in the park, which has been classified by Bird Life International as an Important Bird Area due its relatively large population (up to 50 individuals) of the near threatened Painted Honeyeater, and also the Diamond Firetail finch.  Over 450 plants have been recorded in the park.

Above:- Diamond Firetail finch, and Painted honeyeater.  Images courtesy of wikipedia.

The park is part of the traditional lands of the Wiraduri aboriginal people.  The word Cocoparra is allied to the aboriginal word ‘cocupara’ describing the kookaburra.  Nearly 60 aboriginal sites have been found in the park.  The first Europeans to visit the Cocoparra Range were John Oxley and members of his 1817 expedition exploring the Lachlan Country.

Unfortunately I did not get time to explore this park, but I will be back, as it appears to contains some great scenery and a number of walking trails to various waterfalls located in the park.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 09.55.57

I accessed the park via Whitton Stock Route Road and then followed the dirt track to the Spring Hill Picnic area.  The road is easily passable in a conventional vehicle.  There was a nice picnic area here with plenty of room to stretch out the linked dipole and lots of shade, which was definitely required as it was a very hot afternoon.

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I was set up and ready to go by 0415 UTC (3.15 p.m. NSW local time).  I still had a 300 km drive to get to Balaranald, so this was going to be a quick activation.  Prior to calling CQ I had a tune across the 40m band to see what the conditions were like and how active the band was.  I found Brendon VK5FSCC operating portable from the Deep Creek Conservation Park, VKFF-0780, with a nice 5/6 signal.

I then headed up the band to 7.085 and started calling CQ.  This was immediately answered by Peter VK2NEO with a booming 5/9 plus signal.  Peter and I had a bit of a chuckle with each other about me being in the park.  Six QSOs into the activation I was called by Heath VK3TWO who was activating SOTA peak Mount Buninyong, VK3/ VC-018 (5/7 both ways).  I was then called by Sergio VK3SFG who was operating portable from the Pykes Creek Reservoir Park, about 72 km north west of Melbourne.  Another portable station then called in.  This time it was Rob VK2MT who was operating portable from Hill End Historic Site in New South Wales.  And the portable trend continued, with the next calls being from John VK3TUL and then John VK3JO, who were both with VK3SFG at the Pykes Creek Reservoir Park.

Next up was Hans VK5YX who was operating from the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Club shack with the special call of VK100ANZAC.

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A steady flow of callers followed from all across Australia.  I worked a further two SOTA activators before going QRT.  They being Allen VK3HRA/2 who was portable on Mount Flakney VK2/ RI-025, and Monique VK6FMON/3 who was with Heath, operating from Mount Buninyong.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to give 20m a go, as I still had  along drive to Balranald, and the kangaroos are unforgiving when you hit them.  This was a spur of the moment activation, but I was more than happy with the 50 QSOs, as this meant it was another unique and successful activation for the World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) program.

And on the way back to Balranald I worked a number European stations from the mobile, as part of the CQ World Wide Contest.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5FSSC/p (Deep Creek Conservation Park)
  2. VK2NEO
  3. VK3SQ
  4. VK3DAC
  5. VK2VW
  6. VK3TWO/p (SOTA VK3/ VC-018)
  7. VK3SFG/p
  8. VK2MT/p
  9. VK3TUL/p
  10. VK3JO/p
  11. VK1000ANZAC
  12. VK5YX/p
  13. VK5NRG
  14. VK3YSP/m
  15. VK3FOWL/m
  16. VK2GSP
  17. VK5BJE
  18. VK3PMG
  19. VK3PI
  20. VK2YK
  21. VK2YW
  22. VK4RF
  23. VK4HA
  24. VK2IO
  25. VK7CW
  26. VK2HBG
  27. VK3TKK
  28. VK2HEW
  29. VK2JAZ
  30. VK2HJ
  31. VK3BSG/m
  32. VK1AT
  33. VK5TT
  34. VK5BW
  35. VK3CAT
  36. VK3DBP
  37. VK7MK
  38. VK3FTAD
  39. VK7NWT
  40. VK1HW
  41. VK3VEK
  42. VK7FRUS
  43. VK3AFW
  44. VK2FE
  45. VK5FAKV
  46. VK3HRA/2 (SOTA VK2/ RI-025)
  47. VK3BBB/m
  48. VK3FAPH
  49. VK2FABE
  50. VK6FMON (SOTA VK3/ VG-018)

References.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, March 1996, ‘Cocoparra National Park and Cocoparra Nature Reserve Plan of Management’.

Wikipedia, 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoparra_National_Park&gt;, viewed 5th November 2015