Day one (Saturday 4th November 2017) of our trip to Victoria (VK3) and New South Wales (VK2) involved a 476 km drive from our home in the Adelaide Hills, out along the Dukes Highway and across the South Australian/Victorian State border, and into western Victoria. Marija and I had planned to stay at St Arnaud for one night and then head off to New Gisborne, just outside of Melbourne the next day.
Our main reason for heading to St Arnaud was to activate the Kara Kara National Park, to add another park to our activator list for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA). It was also to be a new park for us both as activators for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.
We left home at around 7.30 a.m. South Australian local time. Marija and I have travelled the distance of the Dukes Highway many times before, but always find something new to have a look at. The Dukes Highway is around 190 km in length and is the highway corridor in South Australia linking Adelaide to Melbourne. The highway continues in western Victoria as the Western Highway. It is a very busy corridor for travellers and trucks carrying freight between the 2 capital cities. It also follows the Adelaide-Melbourne railway. The route and many of the settlements, including Bordertown, were established in the 1850s to supply water to horses for the gold escorts from the Victorian goldfields to Adelaide.
Although we have stopped here previously, we again chose to stop off briefly at Coonalpyn to view the silo murals and also grab a cup of coffee from the cafe. Artist Guido can Helten completed this magnificent feat in early 2017. The silo art features a number of young children from the Coonalpyn community.
Between Keith and Bordertown we booked in to the Riverland Radio Club Net and worked Dennis VK2HHA and Frank VK3VEF, both who had good 5/7 signals into the mobile.
Our next stop was around 112 km further up the highway, at the town of Bordertown. The Dukes Highway bypasses the town, which is around 18 km west of the South Australian/Victorian State border. We detoured into the town and stopped to view the childhood home of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke who was born in the town in 1929. We also had a look at the Bordertown Wildlife Park which features white kangaroos. The peackocks also put on a show for us.
We then travelled on to the State border where we stopped very briefly for a photo opportunity.
We continued on for another 80km until we reached the town of Nhill in western Victoria, where we stopped for some lunch. We also had a look at the John Shaw Neilson memorial cottage, birthplace of the lyric poet. Neilson was born in 1872 and for the majority of his life he worked as a labourer. He became one of Australia’s finest lyric poets.
It was a nice shady spot to stop for lunch and we enjoyed plenty of bird activity in the gum trees above us. We also saw an old De Havilland bi plane fly overhead, no doubt out of the nearby Nhill airport where there is a small military aircraft museum, which we have visited previously.
Between Nhill and Dimboola, Marija and I spoke with Gerard VK2JNG/p who was in the Bungawalbin National Park VKFF-0066. Gerard had a good 5/5 signal and reciprocated with a 5/5 for us.
We then stopped off briefly at the Loch lel ‘Pink Lake’ Reserve near Dimboola. The pink colour of the water comes from a pigment secreted by microscopic algae. The intensity of the pink varies with the amount of water in the lake.
We then turned off the Western Highway and travelled west on the Dimboola-Minyip Road, and soon reached the little town of Minyip which is most famous for being the place where the Flying Doctor television series (1986-1993) was made and to this day the series is still very popular all over the world.
The Senior Citizens Centre has become famous due to it being known as The Coopers Crossing Base of the Flying Doctor Service. We stopped off at the cafe for an ice cream as it was a hot day.
Also whilst in Minyip we had a look at the William Farrer Monument. Farrer (1845-1906) was an Australian agronomist and plant breeder and is best remembered for his Federation strain of wheat which resulted in better quality and yields of the Australian wheat harvest. Farrer is known as the father of the Australian wheat industry.
We then continued on a further 70 km until we reached the town of St Arnaud where we booked into the motel. First impressions were not good with the front of the hotel being overgrown with weeds. But the motel room was very clean and tidy.
St Arnaud is an old gold mining town, with the land originally inhabited by the Wungaragira Gundidj Aboriginal tribe. European settlement in the area commenced in 1838 with the establishment of the ‘Tottington’ sheep station to the south in 1838. In January 1855, gold was discovered about 2 km east of the present townsite of St Arnaud. The area was named “New Bendigo”, and approximately 20,000 men rushed there to make their fortunes.
After offloading some bags we headed south out of St Arnaud along the Sunraysia Highway to our first intended summit and park of the trip, West of England Fire Tower VK3/ VW-016 which is located in the Kara Kara National Park VKFF-0629.
We turned off the Sunraysia Highway onto the Rostron-Stuart Mill Road and soon reached the park which was still signposted under its former name of St Arnaud National Park.
The Kara Kara National Park is 13,990-hectares (34,600-acres) in size and was established on 30th October 2002 as the St Arnaud Range National Park. The park incorporated the former Kara Kara State Park and most of the St Arnaud Range State Forest. The park was named after the nearby town of St Arnaud, which in turn was named after Armand-Jacques Leroy de Saint-Arnaud (1798-1854), a French soldier and Marshal of France.
Following release of a draft park management plan in April 2009 and subsequent consultations in accordance with the Geographic Places Names Act, 1998 (Vic) and Guidelines for Geographic Names (2010), the park was renamed as the Kara Kara National Park. Kara Kara is aboriginal meaning ‘Gold Quartz’.
The park contains one of the most intact large areas of Box-Ironbark vegetation and landscapes in Victoria. This is what most of the countryside in this area was like before the 1850 Victoria Gold Rush. Vegetation types in the park include Heathy Dry Forest, Grassy Dry Forest, Valley Grassy Forest, Alluvial Terraces, Herb-rich Woodland and Box-Ironbark Forest. There are 275 species of native flora recorded in the park including threatened species such as Lowly Greenhood, Green Leek-Orchid and Buloke Mistletoe.
Numerous native animals and birds call the park home including Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Black Wallabies, Yellow footed Antechinus, Sugar Gliders, various owls, kookaburra, and Crimson Rosellas. Fauna species in the park regarded as threatened include Freckled Duck, Brown Treecreeper, Swift Parrot, Barking Owl, Powerful Owl, Tree Goanna and Bibron’s Toadlet. The endangered Brush‐tailed Phascogale and Squirrel Glider may also occur in the park.
Marija and I travelled south along Centre Road and soon reached the summit. The dirt roads leading to the summit were in good condition and would be easily passable in a conventional vehicle.
West of England Fire Tower, VK3/ VW-016 is 525 metres (1,722 feet) above sea level and is worth 2 points for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. It was last activated by my good mate John VK5BJE back in April 2017.
There is a fire spotting tower at the summit, along with the old trig which was lying on its side.
The tower is not the original. There were 2 previous towers on the summit. See the photos below.
And from the top of the summit there are some sensational views to be enjoyed of the surrounding countryside.
And there was even a wooden table and benches, so no need for us to drag out the deck chairs and fold up table.
Marija and I decided to swap the mic until Marija had qualified the summit with 4 QSOs and then 10 QSOs for the VKFF program. It was very appropriate that our first contact in the log was John VK5BJE, who was the last ham to activate the summit. After logging 12 stations in VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7, and qualifying the summit and the park for VKFF, Marija took a break and took some photos whilst I boxed on trying to get 44 contacts to qualify Kara Kara for the global WWFF program.
Band conditions on 40m were quite good and there was a good steady flow of callers from all across Australia except for Western Australia. It was just a little too early in the afternoon for conditions to be good from one side of Australia to the other. I logged a further 18 stations and then convinced Marija to come back to the mic as there was a good chance she could get here 44 contacts.
Marija and I then swapped the mic again, logging stations from VK2, VK5 and VK7. It appeared that the close in propagation around Victoria had dropped out. It was also very pleasing for us to both log Warren ZL2AJ who was a good 5/7 and with our 10 watts we were 4/4 on 40m into New Zealand.
I then headed off to 20m and called CQ on 14.310 where I logged 5 stations including Warren ZL2AJ who had followed me up from the 40m band. But despite numerous CQ calls I had no further takers. So I moved down the band and booked in to the ANZA DX Net on 14.183. I there logged 6 stations from Vanuatu, New Zealand, VK4, VK3, and the South Cook Islands. When the net closed I moved back to 14.310 and put out a few more CQ calls, but logged just 2 more stations.
Marija and I then decided to try our luck on the 80m band. Our first contact there was with Mick VK3GGG/VK3PMG in nearby Stawell who was booming in, followed by Geoff VK3SQ and then Peter VK3PF. We logged a further 4 stations on 90m from VK3.
Marija was now sitting on 36 contacts, with just a further 8 contacts required to qualify Kara Kara for the global WWFF program. So she moved back to 40m and had soon reached her 44 with a contact with Alf VK2YAC who was running QRP.
I then saw a request on Facebook from Stuie VK8NSB to try the 15m band if possible. So Marija and I took down the linked dipole and set up the 15m /12 wave dipole and headed to 21.250 where we comfortably worked Stuie who was 5/9 from Darwin. But despite 5 minutes of CQ calls our only other taker was Steve VK4QQ in Queensland.
We had both qualified the summit and the park, and it was time to head back into St Arnaud to freshen up and head out for a meal. Marija had 48 contacts in the log, while I had 65.
Marija worked the following stations:-
I worked the following stations:-
Prior to heading back into St Arnaud we took a quick drive down to the Teddington camping area and the Teddington Reservoir. The campsite area was full of caravaners and campers. The southern section of the reservoir was bone dry, but the northern section was full of water.
That night Marija and I went out for tea to the Farmers Arms Hotel in St Arnaud, which we can highly recommend. Friendly staff and great food.
Dimboola.com, 2017, <http://www.dimboola.com.au/index.aspx?PageID=19>, viewed 20th November 2017
Fire Lookouts Dowunder, 2017, <http://www.firelookoutsdownunder.com/>, viewed 20th November 2017.
Minyip.com. 2017, <http://www.minyip.com.au/>, viewed 20th November 2017
Monuments Australia, 2017, <http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/arts/display/32925-john-shaw-neilson-national-memorial-cottage>, viewed 20th November 2017
Parks Victoria, 2017, Kara Kara National Park Visitor Guide.
State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries 2005, ‘St Arnaud State Forests’
Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukes_Highway>, viewed 20th November 2017
Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Leroy_de_Saint_Arnaud>, viewed 21st November 2017