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.
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.
The summit is a short 100 metre walk through the scrub, from Goonmirk Rocks Road, a dirt track, which runs off Gunmark Road.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marija worked the following stations:-
I worked the following stations:-
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 are common throughout this area.
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!
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.
Parks Victoria, ‘Errinundra National Park Visitor Guide’.
Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errinundra_National_Park>, viewed 27th November 2017