Our final activation for day six, the Snowy River National Park VKFF-0455

After packing up at the Alpine National Park, Marija and I drove a short distance further along McKillops Road and soon reached our final activation for the day, the Snowy River National Park VKFF-0455.

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Above:- Map showing the location of the Snowy River National Park.  Map courtesy of google maps.

The Snowy River National Park is 98,700-hectare (244,000-acre) in size and was established on the 26th April 1979.  Much of the park is classified as wilderness area, where vehicles are unable to visit.

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Above:- Aerial shot of the Snowy River National Park.  Image courtesy of google maps

Over 250 species of native animal have been recorded in the Snowy River National Park.  Twenty nine of these are considered rare or threatened in Victoria.  The park provides one of the last natural habitats at the Little River Gorge for the endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby. Numbers for this species are estimated as extremely small.

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Above:- Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies.  Image courtesy of wikipedia.

We crossed over McKillops Bridge and the Snowy River.  The bridge was built by the Victorian Country Roads Board in two stages, between 1931-1936, during which the height of the bridge was raised, following the orginal bridge superstructure being washed away during the record floods of January 1934.  The deck of the bridge is 255 metres long and spans the famous Snowy River.  When originally planned and constructed, the bridge was regarded as being a world leader in the application of welding techniques to the construction of substantial steel-truss river bridges.

The bridge is sighted at McKillops Crossing, named after pioneer overlanding squatter George McKillop who crossed the Snowy River here in 1835.

We drove over the bridge and into the McKillops Bridge camping and picnic ground.  There were only two other vehicles in the campground, so we had the area pretty much to ourselves.  McKillops Bridge is one of the few places in the park with access to the Snowy River by conventional vehicles.

You can walk right down to the water’s edge of the Snowy River here, which is what we did.  It was such a hot day that I was tempted to strip down to my jocks and go for a swim, but this was soon ruled out by Marija.  I guess she didn’t want me scaring any of the wildlife.

As we had done in previous actions, Marija and swapped the mic, until Marija had 10 contacts in the log, thus qualifying the park for the VKFF program.  We called CQ on 7.144 and this was answered by John VK5BJE with a good 5/7 signal.  Rob VK2FROB then called in, followed by John VK4TJ and then Rick VK4RF.

But it was really slow going, and signals were way down compared to usual.  There was huge fading (QSB) on almost all signals, and for a while I thought there might have been a problem with the transceiver or the antenna.  But no, it was just very poor band conditions.  In fact, so bad, I would say it was the worst condition I had seen the bands in during my 4 years of operating portable.

It took us around 16 minutes to reach contact number ten, that being a QSO with Peter VK5KX in Adelaide.  Despite numerous CQ calls, Marija and I logged just 2 further stations on 40m.  We then lowered the squid pole and inserted the links in the dipole for the 80m band and headed to 3.610 where I started calling CQ.

My call was answered by Peter VK3PF with a beautiful 5/9 signal and he reciprocated with a 5/9 for me.  This was followed by Ken VK3UH who was also 5/9, and then Andrew VK1DA/2 who was activating SOTA summit Baldy Range VK2/ ST-008 in the Brindabella National Park VKFF-0054.  Andrew also had a strong 5/9 signal.

But sadly, despite the 80m band being in quite good condition, I only logged a further 5 stations, all Victorian (VK3) amateurs.  I then put out 5 minutes of CQ calls on 14.310 on 20m but had no takers at all.  So I headed back to 40m where 5 minutes of CQ calls yielded just one station, Roy VK5NRG in Adelaide who was 5/9.

So feeling a little dejected, and not having qualified the park for the global WWFF program, Marija and I packed up.  It was now 4.30 p.m. and we still had a 2 hour drive to get back to Orbost.  But, we had qualified the park for the VKFF program and the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5BJE
  2. VK2FROB
  3. VK4TJ
  4. VK4/AC8WN
  5. VK4/VE6XT
  6. VK4RF
  7. VK4HA
  8. VK5KLV
  9. VK5KBJ
  10. VK5KX
  11. VK4NH
  12. VK4DXA

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK3UH
  3. VK1DA/p (SOTA Baldy Range VK2/ ST-008 & Brindabella National Park VKFF-0054)
  4. VK3MRH
  5. VK3NLK
  6. VK3SFG
  7. VK3GGG
  8. VK3PMG

After packing up we headed west on McKillops Road, enjoying some majestic views of the Snowy River National Park.

We then stopped at Little River Gorge, which is located in the park.  The gorge is the deepest gorge in Victoria.  It has taken millions of years for the Little River to create the gorge by eroding away hundreds of metres of rock.  The gorge is 4 km long and up to 500 metres deep.  It is truly a spectacular sight.  Wulgulmerang Creek plunges 300 metres from its partially hidden chasm in the gorge wall opposite the lookout.

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Our next stop was the Little River Falls which are in the Snowy River National Park.  It is just a short walk to the falls from the carpark and certainly well worth the walk.  Along the way we encountered a number of the locals (see photos below).

The Little River is a perennial river of the Snowy River catchment, which rises below Mount Stradbroke in a remote alpine wilderness area within the Alpine National Park.  The river descends 842 metres (2,762 ft) over its 27-kilometre course.

We then travelled south on the Gelantipy Road towards Orbost.  It was now getting late and the sun was starting to set.  Sadly, we had seen a number of dead wombats on our trip.  But on our journey back home we were to encounter a live wombat, who quickly scurried across the road in front of us and into his burrow, before I could stop the vehicle and get the camera out.

Once we got to the town of Buchan, we took the Buchan-Orbost Road.  It was now dark, and it was very slow going, as the road is very windy and state forest exists on either side of the road.  We encountered numerous kangaroos on this section of road, and also some wild deer.

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Above:- Wild deer on the Buchan-Orbost Road.

We didn’t get back into Orbost until quite late, and by that time all of the pubs and take aways had shut.  So it was baked beans on toast for us for dinner.  Both Marija and I slept very well that night.  It had been a very long day.

 

References.

Victorian Heritage Council, 2017, <http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/5986/download-report>, viewed 28th November 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_River_(Snowy_River_National_Park)>, viewed 28th November 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowy_River_National_Park>, viewed 28th November 2017

Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

After packing up at Goonmirk Rocks, Marija and I headed for our next planned activation, Mount Tower VK3/ VG-032 in the Alpine National Park VKFF-0619.  We initially had not planned on activating the SOTA summit, but looking at maps it appeared as though it was going to be a relatively easy summit to access.  How wrong we were to be!

We left the Errinundra National Park and travelled north along the Bonang Road, with the iphone pointing us (hopefully) in the correct direction of the summit.  Unfortunately we encountered a very arrogant truck driver, who was doing a U turn on the very windy dirt road, and despite seeing us coming, continued his manouevre and pulled out in front of us, rather than letting us through.  This resulted in a very very low journey with huge clouds of dust in front of us.

Despite having numerous spots to pull over, he chose not to, and there was no opportunity for oveertaking.  So in the end I pulled over and gave him a few km headstart before heading off again.  Not quite a scene out of the 1971 movie Duel, but none the less, very frustrating.

There were some very nice views to be had on the Bonang Road of the surrounding countryside and the Snowy River National Park.

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There was also lots of native fauna to be observed, including lizards, a few snakes on the road, and very noisy Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.

At the little town of Bonang, we turned onto McKillops Road.  On some maps this is referred to as the Bonang-Gelantipy Road.  The GPS told us to turn off onto Warm Corner Track.  According to the GPS this would take us into the Snowy River National Park and on to the Bowen Track and the summit.  WRONG!  We soon encountered a sign which read private property and a locked gate.  Peter VK3PF had given us some directions to get to the summit whilst we were in Errinundra, but unfortunately our note taking wasn’t up to scratch.  So this was a summit that was going to have to wait for another day.

Feeling quite frustrated we continued to travel along McKillops Road with a view to getting to the camping area at McKillops Bridge.  Our next stop was the Ambyne bridge at the Deddick River Crossing.  The Ambyne bridge was designed and built by Victoria’s Country Roads Board was was opened in 1935.  The structure enabled farm trucks with a gross weight of three tons to cross the river, thus linking settlers with the new road between Bonang and McKillops Bridge over the Snowy River.  Life was extremely tough for the Ambyne pioneers and most of the original settlers walked off their land.  The bridge was built in an area when the Country Roads Board was strongly committted to providing a basic traffic connection for settlers produce to reach distant ports and markets, thus keeping the survivors on their bush blocks.  The bridge served from 1935 until it was closed to traffic in 1970.  It is one of only two surviving Victorian examples of suspension bridges constructed for this purpose.

We continued our journey on McKillops Road, which follows the Deddick River, which is a perennial river of the Snowy River catchment.  The Deddick River rises below Mount Little Bill in a remote alpine wilderness area within the Snowy River National Park, and flows generally north leaving the national park, then northwest through the locality of Tubbut, and then west southwest.  The river is joined by the Bonang River and sixteen minor tributaries, before reaching its confluence with the Snowy River in the Snowy River National Park below Mount Bulla Bulla, a few hundred metres north of the McKillops Bridge.  The river descends 693 metres (2,274 ft) over its 60-kilometre course.

Much to ur surprise we soon encountered an Alpine National Park sign.  I didn’t realise that the Alpine National Park came this far to the east.  We were conscious of the time, it was now mid afternoon, but we decided to detour into the park for a very quick activation.  This would be a new park for Marija and I as activators for both the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, and the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award.

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The Alpine National Park is 6,474 km2 in size and stretches from central Gippsland all the way to the New South Wales border where it adjoins Kosciuszko National Park.  The park was established in 1989 and contains some of Australia’s most stunning alpine landscapes, including mountain peaks, escarpments and grassy high plains.  It is the largest National Park in Victoria and contain’s Victoria’s highest peak, Mount Bogong at 1,9867 metres.

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Above:- Map showing the location of the Alpine National Park.  Map courtesy of google maps.

The national park protects many threatened species, including the spotted tree frog, she-oak skink, smoky mouse, broad-toothed mouse and mountain pygmy possum.

We travelled a short distance down a dirt track and found a camping type area, where there was plenty of room to string out the 80/40/20m linked dipole.

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Above:- Map of the Alpine National Park, showing our operating spot.  Map courtesy of protected planet.

There were some very nice views to be had of the surrounding countryside and the Deddick River from our operating spot.

We very quickly set up the station, and as we had no internet coverage, we were just hoping that some of the park & SOTA regulars would hear us calling CQ and kindly spot us.  We called CQ on 7.144 and this was answered by Greg VK5GJ in the Adelaide Hills with a strong 5/8 signal, with a 5/7 being returned to us.  We were happy with that as we were operating with just 10 watts, due to Marija’s restrictions with the Foundation licence.

This was followed by Gerard VK2IO who kindly spotted us on parksnpeaks, and then John VK4TJ.  John holds two other calls, one in VE6 in Canada, and the other in the USA, and he kindly supplied us with those 2 calls, so we could reach our 10 quicker.

Contact number 10, qualifying the park for us for VKFF, was with Brett VK2VW, and came about 20 minutes into the activation.  After logging 10 stations I quickly lowered the squid pole and inserted the links for 80m.  I then called CQ on 3.610 and this was answered by Peter VK3PF, followed by Sergio VK3SFG.

Marija and I apologise to others who may have been looking for us and would have liked to have logged us in the Alpine National Park, but this was a very quick impromptu activation.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5GJ
  2. VK2IO
  3. VK4TJ
  4. VK4/VE6XT
  5. VK4/AC8WN
  6. VK5GI
  7. VK5DW/m
  8. VK3GGG
  9. VK3PMG
  10. VK2VW

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5GJ
  2. VK2IO
  3. VK4TJ
  4. VK4/VE6XT
  5. VK4/AC8WN
  6. VK5GI
  7. VK5DW/m
  8. VK3GGG
  9. VK3PMG
  10. VK2VW

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK3SFG

 

 

References.

Parks Victoria, 2017, <http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/alpine-national-park>, viewed 28th November 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deddick_River>, viewed 28th November 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_National_Park>, viewed 28th November 2017

Day six and Goonmirk Rocks VK3/ VG-048 in the Errinundra National Park VKFF-0158

Day six had rolled around (Thursday 9th November 2017) and Marija and I had enjoyed a very comfortable night’s sleep at thee motel at Orbost.  We had a big day planned, with one summit for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program in the Errinundra National Park, and also the Snowy River National Park.  We had a lot km’s to cover, so we made a bright and early start from Orbost.

Our first activation for the day was to be Goonmirk Rocks VK3/ VG-048 which is within the Errinundra National Park VKFF-0158 about 373 km east of Melbourne.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Goonmirk Rocks in the Errinundra National Park.  Map courtesy of google maps.

Goonmirk Rocks is 1,208 metres above sea level and is worth 8 points for the Summits on the Air program.  The summit was last activated by Peter VK3PF on the 2nd October 2016, and has been activated a total of 11 times.

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Above:- Aerial view of the Errinundra National Park, also indicating the location of the summit.  Image courtesy of google maps.

The summit is a short 100 metre walk through the scrub, from Goonmirk Rocks Road, a dirt track, which runs off Gunmark Road.

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Above:- Goonmirk Rocks VK3/ VG-048.  Courtesy of Open Street Map.

We drove out of Orbost north along Bonang Road to the summit.  This is a very windy road through absolutely beautiful country.  Due to the nature of the road, the 100 km drive took us around 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach our destination.

About 75-80 km out of Orbost we reached the western boundary of the Errinundra National Park.  Errinundra is 39,870 hectares in size and was established on the 15th July 1988.  The park is centred on the Errinundra Plateau, a southwards extension of the Monaro Tablelands of New South Wales which rises to more than 1,000 metres above sea level.  The Errinundra National Park preserves the largest remaining cool temperate rainforest in Victoria and supports some of South Eastern Australia’s most spectacular old growth forests.

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Errinundra is unique in that it offers both ancient cool temperate and warm temperate rainforest. It is dominated by Southern Sassafras and Black Olive Berry and features Mountain Plum Pines, some specimens of which are over 400 years old.   The Plateau’s tall, wet eucalypt forests of shining gum and Cut-tail include some giants many hundreds of years old. The park was recently expanded by 12,340 hectares due to the Victorian State Government’s committment to preserving old growth forest for future generations.

The park is the source of seven rivers flowing north, south and east, providing a water source for many of the surrounding communities, before flowing into Bass Strait or becoming part of the Snowy River system.  The Errinundra Plateau contains three granite outcops – Mount Ellery, Mount Morris, and Cobbs Hill, which extend into the rain clouds, causing much of the rain which falls in the catchment areas.

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The park is home to many rare and threatened species of flora and fauna, including Powerful Owls, Tiger Quolls, and Long-footed Potoroos.

We travelled a little further up the Bonang Road and reached the eastern boundary of the Snowy River National Park, which was to be our activation in the afternoon.  We hadn’t quite made up our mind on where to operate from, but it was clear there were no real activation opportunities on the Bonang Road.

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This really is spectacular country.  Forest as far as the eye can see with beautiful ferns as an understorey.

We then turned right onto the Bendoc-Orbost Road and travelled through the Errinundra National Park for around 6 km until we reached Gunmark Road.  We continued along Gunmark Road for around 11 km until we reached Goonmirk Rocks Road.

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About 1 km down Goonmirk Rocks Road, just after the Aspen Battery Track we reached a small sign which read ‘Goonmirk Rocks 100M’.  It’s not entirely easy to spot, but our GPS directed us to the location.

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We pulled the Toyota Hi Lux as far off the track as possible and then started packing the gear into our backpacks.  It was around 10.30 a.m. Victorian local time.  We then commenced the short walk along the track to the summit.

The path is quite defined and takes you through spectacular forest.  Marija and I both commented that it was something like out of Jurasic Park.  We expected to see a T-Rex or a Brontosaurus enjoying breakfast.  It was a warm morning so we were ever vigilant and kept an eye out for snakes.  Neither of us are fond of ‘Joe Blakes’.

As we walked along the track to the summit we saw a number of Victorian Waratah Telopea oreades in flower.  The Victorian Waratah is a large shrub which produces an abundance of small red flowers during Spring.  And we happened to be in the park just at the right time.

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We had walked around 100 metres along the track when it came to a rather abrupt end with nothing but forest ahead.  In amongst the scrub we located a number of large rocks, Goonmirk Rocks.  Many were completely overgrown by vegetation.  We started to wonder for a while if we were in the right spot, because they are really not that impressive.

It was quite difficult stretching out the 80/40/20m linked dipole, but we did it, just! We ran the Yaesu FT-857d for this activation and set the power output at 10 watts, allowing for Marija’s Foundation licence.  We again decided to share the mic, and get 4 contacts in the log, thus qualifying the SOTA summit, and then 10 contacts, qualifying the park for the VKFF program.  And then all things going well, I would box on and try to get my 44 to qualify the park for the global WWFF program.

We had very minimal phone coverage and it was difficult to place a self spot.  We called CQ on 7.144 and this was answered by Greg VK5GJ in the Adelaide Hills with a good 5/7 signal.  This was followed by Mark VK3PI, Brett VK3FLCS, and then Gerard VK2JNG/p.  We breathed a sigh of relief as we had qualified the summit.

Contact number ten came 20 minutes into the activation, with a QSO with Les VK3FLES.  We breathed another sigh of relief, with the park now qualified for VKFF.

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Marija then took a break whilst I continued to call CQ, logging stations on 40m from VK1,VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7.  Band conditions were not bad, which was very pleasing, as previous days we had experienced quite a bit of fading on signals.  I logged 32 stations on 40m and then lowered the squid pole and inserted the links for 80m, and called CQ on 3.610.  This was answered by Peter VK3PF, followed by Geoff VK3SQ, and Sergio VK3SFG.

I now had 37 contacts in the log and needed a further 7 to qualify the park, so I moved back to 7.144 on 40m.  Rick VK4RF/VK4HA was the first in the log with a strong 5/8 signal, followed by Mick VK3GGG/VK3PMG, and then husband and wife team Tony VK7LTD and Angela VK7FAMP.  Contact number 44 was a QSO with Colin VK3VGB.  I was really pleased once I had got over the line.  It had been a long drive out to the summit/park, and I really wanted to qualify.

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I logged a handful more stations on 40m and then QSY’d to 14.310 on the 20m where I spoke with John ZL1BYZ in New Zealand.

It was time for us to head off to the Snowy River National Park.  Marija and I had both qualified the summit for SOTA, and the park for VKFF and WWFF.

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Marija worked the following stations:-

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I worked the following stations:-

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Just as we were getting back into the vehicle I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of what I thought was a fox on the road.  It turned out to be a young wild dog.  I was not quick enough with the camera to catch a shot sadly.  I have since found out that wild dogs

Before heading to the Snowy River National Park we took a short drive to one of the rainforest walks in the Errinundra National Park, the Errinundra Saddle Rainforest Walk.  If you are visiting Errinundra, this is a must!

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It is an easy 30 minute walk through the rainforest, with interpretive boards along the way.  We saw many Victorian Warratah in flower.

A number of the signs explain Australia’s ancient forests.  Australia’s geographic isolation has meant that much of its flora and fauna is very different from species in other parts of the world.  Most are found nowhere else.  However, some closely related species are found on the continents which once made up the ancient southern supercontinent Gondwana.  About 50 million years ago Australia was the last continent to leave Gondwana when it broke free from Antarctica and commenced its drift northwards.

Most of the Gondwana forests were replaced by tough leafed open forests of eucalypts and acacias.  Some isolated remnants of the ancient Gondwanan forests remain.  These include the cool and warm temperate rainforests of Tasmania and eastern Australia, and the dry rainforests or scrub forests of northern Australia.  These forests have high conservation values.  Segments of these cool and warm temperate rainforest are found within the Errinundra National Park.

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Above:- Gondwana.  Courtesy of wikipedia.

 

References.

Parks Victoria, ‘Errinundra National Park Visitor Guide’.

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errinundra_National_Park>, viewed 27th November 2017