Monday 22 May
I was up and organised reasonably early, departing Mount Barker at about the same time as Paul, who headed off to pick up Andrew VK6AS and to transport him to the airport.
I did not have far to go today, as I was staying near Murray Bridge.
First stop was into the local optometrist to have a quick repair to one arm of my spectacles. Whilst I was waiting, I found a pharmacy to purchase some Cold and Flu tablets – a lurgy had made its presence felt overnight.
I headed up to the freeway and headed east. Paul had mentioned some of the local Parks, so when I saw the exit sign for Monato, I took the exit and headed south. Approaching the Park, I noticed a large tract of bushland further south, guessing that it may be Ferries-McDonald CP, given that I was travelling on a road with the same name…. I stopped and explored my options, checking which other Parks were in the region. I ended up heading south to Langhorne Creek Road and then east to Wellington to cross the Murray River by ferry. Only a short distance across the river was my first target for the day.
Mowantjie Willauwar Conservation Park VKFF-0919 5CP-152
One might ask “Why bypass two Parks to get to this target?” Simple really – this is one of the Parks that count for the Murray River Parks Award.
I was set up inside the Park just before 0200Z. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log on 40 m SSB. It was slow going on a Monday in the middle of the day. I worked 8 stations on 40 m SSB in 20 minutes. I changed the antenna to 80 m configuration, and worked another 3 stations, including Adrian VK5FANA and Paul VK5PAS/m. With 11 in the log, the Park was qualified for VKFF, so I packed up when I received no further responses to calls.
I packed up and drove a short distance north, then east into the next Park.
Poonthie Ruwe Conservation Park VKFF-1082 5CP-187
Only about 5 km up the road, I turned east onto Blackett Road and on to the very barren looking Park. It looks just like surrounding farmland. I climbed the fence and set up inside the Park, another Park that counts for the Murray River Parks Award.
This time I started on 80 m, working Paul VK5PAS/m. After several minutes of calling with no responses, I shifted to 40 m. I worked 14 stations in the next 20 minutes, before swapping to 30 m for 2 more contacts. Only Fred VK4FE was worked on 20 m. With a total of 18 contacts, I gave up with rain threatening.
After packing up, I headed back to the Princes Highway and then to Tailem Bend to buy a late lunch. I then worked my way around to Murray Bridge and on to my overnight stop – many thanks to Peter VK3RV and Jenny VK5ANW.
Tuesday 23 May
We had long discussions the previous evening which continued in the morning before I finally got under way. I headed south and then another ferry across the Murray River to Tailem Bend, then south east on Dukes Highway (A8). The cold/flu was doing well, so I thought seriously about simply trying to make it all the way home… I knew that I would be bypassing several possible activation sites, including Mount Monster CP and Kelvin Powrie CP – the later right beside the Highway as you approach Keith. I was glancing to the south after passing Kelvin Powrie CP and could see the obvious hill that must be Mount Munster.
I had a quick glance at the tourist map a few minutes later and saw a Park to the west of Bordertown. I stopped near Wirrega and checked the map carefully, then had a quick look at ParksnPeaks. It looked as if the Park had not yet been activated. That was too much of an opportunity, plus I needed a break after some time driving. So I headed south on Black Joes Road and then east on Cannawigara Road to find a well-marked entrance to the Game Reserve.
Poocher Swamp Game Reserve VKFF-1741
I drove in along the access track and set up near a large red gum. I used the throw line to get a line over a branch and set up in accordance with the SANPCP Award conditions – similar in most respects to SOTA requirements. I spotted myself on ParksnPeaks with some difficulty – I had marginal coverage.
First in the log was Geoff VK3SQ. I worked 6 stations on 40 m SSB, then Hans VK6XN and Fred VK4FE on 20 m. Several minutes of calling on 30 m SSB yielded only Gerard VK2IO; I then changed back to 40 m to work Ian VK5IS and Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-0065. Eleven contacts in the log, so I called it a day and headed into Bordertown to grab another late lunch.
A little while later, I pulled off the highway to again work Rob VK4AAC/2, now in another Park. As I approached Dimboola, I decided to NOT activate Little Desert National Park – still need another 27 contacts from the Park as an Activator. About 10 minutes after passing Dimboola, I received a text message from Mick VK3GGG. The new car has hands-free mobile phone operation, so I called Mick to chat, during which I was invited to drop in for a coffee when I reached Stawell. We transferred from the mobile phone to the Mt William repeater to liaise as I covered the distance to Stawell.
To keep it short, the short visit for coffee ended up with me staying for dinner and the night. Many thanks for the hospitality Mick!
Wednesday 24 May
The cold/flu was still doing well, so I decided to attempt a couple of likely drive-up summits. I drove to Ararat and made my way toward Warrak and the hamlet of Mount Cole and then made my way around to Ben Nevis Road.
Ben Nevis VK3/VS-009
I was lucky with my timing – I arrived on the summit after a shower of rain had passed. I set up a little north of the hut to the north west of the fenced compounds. I started on 80 m and worked only Mick VK3GGG. Changing to 40 m yielded 10 contacts, with a further four contacts on 20 m – 3 stations in VK4 and John ZL1BYZ. I packed up and navigated my way off the summit and eventually back to the bitumen, but via a different route to that used for the approach.
I deliberately made my way to the north west of Ben Nevis, and travelled via Eversley and Elmhurst before heading south on Raglan Elmhurst Road. There was a chance of another summit – Mount Lomond VK3/VS-013. I found Mount Lomond Road, but a couple of kilometres in struck some large Road Closed signs – forestry operations in progress. So it was a case of retrace my route and then to head south to Raglan, then east to Chute and north on Amphitheatre Road to Ben Major Track.
Ben Major VK3/VS-028
Ben Major Track is unsealed and becomes a little rough after about half way to the summit, but a vehicle with reasonable clearance should be able to negotiate it to the summit.
I set up using a small tree east of the trig to support the squid pole. I started on 40 m SSBand worked nine stations worked QRP. However, I had trouble being heard by Rob VK4AAC/2, so plugged in the amplifier to complete the contact. Mick GGG could then hear me… I ended up with 18 in the log, all on 40 m SSB. I decided against other bands – the wind was very lazy and I was starting to feel cold.
I followed Ben Major Track out to the south, then in to Lexton and then towards Ballarat. A short stop for some fuel at Warrenheip and then another near Ballan for yet another late lunch. It was then in towards Melbourne and a long traverse of the road network with heavy afternoon/evening peak traffic.
I finally arrived at home a little after 2000.