My wife Marija VK5FMAZ and I decided that for 2016/2017, we would have a quiet New Years Eve and head up to Burra in the Mid North of South Australia. Whilst there we would activate Mount Bryan on New Years Day, and a few other summits and parks during our stay. We did this a few years ago and had a lot of fun. New Years Day activations for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program down here in Australia have become very popular in the last few years and there are plenty of Summit to Summit opportunities up for grabs.
We were on the road by 7.00 a.m. local time and headed north towards Burra, a pastoral centre and historic tourist town, about 160 km north of Adelaide. We live in the Adelaide Hills, so the first part of our journey was through Woodside and Lobethal and then on to Cudlee Creek and Kersbrook. We decided to take the scenic route, rather than travel down to Adelaide and through the suburbs. We then reached Gawler, north of Adelaide, and continued our journey north on the Horrocks Highway.
We stopped briefly near Tarlee for me to stretch my legs and to view the trig point and information sign for the Tarlee baseline and the National Australian Mapping Programme of 1934. Not a SOTA summit, but a nice view of the surrounding countryside.
We continued on to the little town of Tarlee and saw this great sign for the Sir James Ferguson Hotel at Tarlee.
We soon reacheed Giles Corner, the intersection of the Horrocks Highway and the Barrier Highway. The name is in honour of Thomas Giles, one of the 15 sons (and 6 daughters) of Williams Giles, Colonial Manager of the South Australian Company. He was a buy man! The Barrier Highway branches off from Horrocks Highway at this location, and heads north towards Riverton, Burr and eventually Broken Hill. Horrocks Highway continues north to the towns of Rhynie, Auburn and Clare. We turned right onto the Barrier Highway and headed north towards Riverton where we stopped briefly for a coffee.
Riverton is a small town which was first settled in 1856, as a settlement along the bullock track between Burra and Adelaide. I have fond memories of attending an annual model fair in Riverton many years ago with my son, who is now nearly 24. For whatever reason, these are no longer held.
Marija and I briefly had a look at the buildings in Scholz Park. August Scholz established a wheelwright business here in 1872. In 1886 he purchased the blacksmith shop next door. These buildings remained in the Scholz family until 1966, and are now run as a museum by the local council.
I wanted to show Marija the grand old railway station at Riverton, and along the way I saw this old FJ Holden shell, rusting away in a paddock.
The old Riverton Railway Station was completed in 1875. It is now privately owned and access is obviously restricted, but you can get some nice views of this majestic old buidling from the creekline on Bruce Road.
The building gained notoriety when in 1921, a passenger who was travelling on the Broken Hill Express from Adelaide fired a number of shots into the dining room. Percy Brookfield, the Member of Parliament for Broken Hill, was shot and killed when he tried to disarm the gunman.
We continued on towards Burra, reaching this little historic copper mining town, about 45 minutes later.
Marija and I stopped off at the Burra Information Centre and collected the key for the Burra Passport, which allowed us access to nine locked sites, including the Monster Mine area, Redruth Gaol, the underground Unicorn Brewery and the Dugouts.
We then headed north out of Burra on the Barrier Highway towards our first activation of the trip, Brownhill Range VK5/ SE-004. Brown Hill Range is 755 metres above sea level and is worth 4 points for SOTA program.
Above:- Map showing the location of Brownhill Range VK5/ SE-004 in the Mid North of South Australia. Map courtesy of google maps.
It was a short drive out of Burra until we reached the Goyder Highway intersection. We turned left here onto the Goyder Highway and headed west until we reached North Booborowie Road. We soon reached the little town of Booborowie, which is named after the nearby waterhole. Booborowie means ’round waterhole’ in the local Ngadjuri aboriginal language.
The Brownhill Range dotted with wind turbines was very evident from here. This is one of four windfarms in the area. The windfarm on the Brownhill Range is known as the Hallet 1 Wind Farm. It has a capacity of 95 MW and has been operational since June 2008.
We continued north on Booborowie Road until we reached The Willows Road. The substation for the adjacent windfarm is located here. Adjacent to the substation on Sven Trees Road is a set of double gates which have various signs on them including ‘Unauthorised access. Tresspassers will be prosecuted”. The land is privately owned, but I had sough permission from the landowner before heading up to the summit.
After passing through a number of open gates we reached the ridgeline on the top of the Range, and turned left and headed south on the dirt road towards the trig point. We then reached a closed gate and a beautiful dry stone wall. We passed through the gate and parked the Hi Lux just off the track. The trig point is a short walk up hill from this point.
For this activation Marija and I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, powered by the 44 amp hour power pack. Yes, a bit heavy, but it is an easy climb up to the trig point. With the help of an octopus strap, we secured the 7 metre telescopic squid pole to one of the trig point poles and ran out the 80/40/20 metre linked dipole. Both ends were weighted down by moss rocks.
Above:- Aerial view of the summit. Courtesy of google maps.
As is the case with many other hills in South Australia, the summit no longer has its original trig point. It is however marked with three 1.5 metre poles painted in bright blue. The survey mark can be seen in the centre.
Brownhill Range also contains a magnificent dry stone wall which was once continuos from Farrell Flat in the south, to Old Canowie in the north. The 65 km wall runs along the Camel’s Hump and then along the Brown Hill Ranges, making it the longest stone wall in South Australia. The first section of the wall marks the boundary of what was Hill River Station, once the largest pastoral run in South Australia, and Claremont. It also delineates Clare-Gilbert and Goyder District Councils.
We were about half an hour ahead of schedule and we were all set up and ready to go by just before 0130 UTC (12.00 midday South Australian local time). I called CQ on 7.090 and it didn’t take long for my first contact to be logged. That was with Mike VK2IG in Gundaroo, just north of Canberra. Mike had a strong 5/8 signal and gave me a 5/2 signal report. This was followed by Col VK3LED, Ian VK5IS, and Nev VK5WG. Both Ian and Nev are also located in the Mid North of South Australia, and not surprisingly were strong 5/9 signals to Brown Hill Range. I had my four contacts and had qualified the summit.
I went on to make a total of 16 contacts on 40m into VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7. This included a Summit to Summit contact with Peter VK3PF who was activating SOTA peak The Hump VK3/ VE-019.
It was Marija’s turn to take the mic and qualify the summit. Marija’s first contact was with Helen VK2FENG (5/3 both ways). This was followed by Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula with a beautiful 5/9 signal, Allen VK3ARH, and then Peter VK3ZPF. Marija had a smile on her face as she had also qualified the summit. Marija worked a total of 22 stations on 40m into VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5. This included a Summit to Summit contact with Peter VK3PF/p, and Simon VK3ELH who was portable in the Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623.
Once Marija’s callers had slowed down I got back on to 40m and worjed Peter VK3ZPF, Nick VK3ANL, and Geoff VK3SQ. I then headed over to 14.310 on 20m where I worked a total of 22 stations. First up was Allen VK6XL with a good 5/7 signal, followed by Gerard VK2IO who was 5/9 and then John ZL1BYZ in Pukekohe on the North Island of New Zealand. Not long after Jacky ZL1TZW also called in. Band conditions on 20m were very good. This included some very strong signals from VK3. It was also nice to be able to work into Western Australia, logging Allen VK6XL, Hans VK6XN, and John VK6NU.
I then put a few CQ calls out on 3.610 on 80m, but it was very difficult as the noise floor was strength 8. I suspect the noise eminating from the wind turbines. So we lowered the linked dipole and put up the 15m dipole. I called CQ on 21.244 and this was answered by Paul VK2KTT which a beautiful 5/9 signal. This was followed by Allen VK6XL (5/6 sent and 5/2 received), John VK4TJ and then Matt VK6QS/p on SOTA peak Mount Trio VK6/ SW-005 in south western Western Australia. Matt was booming in at 5/9 and also gave me a 5/9 signal report.
I went on to work a total of 15 stations on 15m from VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK6. Band conditions on 15m were excellent. A number of QRP stations running just 5 watts were worked. They included Rick VK4RF, Robert VK3FRRR, and Adam VK3SFG.
After around 90 minutes on Brown Hill Ranges it was time to head down and back into Burra for some sightseeing. On the way down we encountered some of the locals, Western Grey kangaroos.
As we travelled back towards Booborowie we passed the Old Bungaree Station and the historic and heritage shearing shed and wool room.
It was now quite a warm day and we stopped briefly to watch a group of Welcome Swallows hovering around a puddle of water for an afternoon drink.
Prior to heading back into Burra we decided to stop off for a drink at the Booborowie Hotel. It was now about 11.20 a.m.. Sadly the sign said the pub opened at 11.30, and just as we were about to drove off, the licencee came out to say he was now open. This is a great little pub.
I worked the following stations:-
Marija worked the following stations:-
We headed back into Burra where we booked in to our accomodation, one of the Paxton Square cottages which date back to 1849. These two, three, and four roomed cottages wgere constructed by Cornish masons for the South Australian Mining Association to encourage mining families to leave their dugouts along Burra Creek.
We then spent the remainder of the afternoon sightseeing around Burra.
That evening, for New Years Eve, we headed to the Royal Exchange Hotel at Burra for a meal and a few drinks. It was a very quiet but enjoyable New Years Eve.
Munday; B, 2013, ‘those dry-stone walls’
Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burra,_South_Australia>. viewed 4th January 2017
Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giles_Corner,_South_Australia>, viewed 4th January 2017
Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverton,_South_Australia>, viewed 4th January 2017