A quick trip to Wodonga

Wednesday of the previous trip had some bad news, with a death in the extended family. Mum wanted to attend the funeral, scheduled for Monday. So I had Friday to complete some tasks and then left home to travel back to Wodonga.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Considering the COVID restriction around Melbourne, I headed west to Nilma, north to Neerim Junction, west through Powelltown to Yarra Junction, then on to Healesville, towards Yarra Glen and then north to Yea to stop for a late lunch. I considered my options, and recalled that there were some as yet un-activated WWFF references in the Strathbogies. I looked up my VicRoads Directory and identified a target. I drove to Yarck, then headed north then west to Ruffy, then worked my way to Upton Hill.

Wallaby Gully (Upton Hill) Flora Reserve VKFF-2470
Not previously activated

The only thing awkward about this Park was finding a safe spot to park the car. The closest approach of the road to the Park was on a bend. I found a spot to park and grabbed the rucksack and walked into the Reserve. It was obvious that there had been recent heavy rain, with the ground very wet in places. I moved across to the edge of the trees and found a spot to set up.

Wallaby Gully Flora & Fauna Reserve

I commenced calling on 40 m SSB and worked six stations. 40 m CW yielded two stations. 80 m CW yielded two stations, with 80 m SSB being more productive with four stations worked. I then worked Warren VK3BYD on CW on the SSB frequency – he was battling with noise at his location. I quickly changed bands to work Pete VK2FPAR in VKFF-2782 on 40 m SSB. 30 m CW yielded two contacts followed by one contact on 20 m CW and one contact on 20 m SSB. It was getting late, so I closed and packed up prior to walking back to the car and then headed roughly north to reach the Hume Highway at Old Lockwood. It was then a simple run up the Hume Highway to reach Wodonga for the night.

Sunday 18 October 2020

I packed the car, including Mum’s luggage. We headed down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne. We had a couple of short stops along the way. I decided to take the shortest route: down the Hume, around the Western Ring Road and onto the Princes Highway. This involved negotiating the COVID road block at the Little River turnoff. This went very easily. It was then onwards to the Geelong Bypass and then on to reach the accommodation that I had booked.

We checked in and moved in our luggage. A short trip to a nearby shopping centre to pick up a couple of items and I then dropped Mum back at the accommodation. I then headed south towards Torquay and then towards Breamlea. I then headed to Point Impossible.

Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2276

The northern part of the western section of the Reserve had a large locked gate. I drove down to the Point Impossible car park. I spotted a gate and found a place to park. I walked to the gate and found it to have a simple farm gate latch, with two signs:
“Management Vehicles Only” and a smaller “Please shut the gate”.

I stepped through the gate and decided to set up nearby, using the gate post to support the squid pole. I was soon set up and was about to spot myself when I saw a Spot for Tony VK3YV in Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876. I believe that this may have been the first activation of the Park by another amateur. I have activated the Park twice previously. I quickly moved to 80 m and worked Tony for a Park to Park. We then moved to AM and worked again.

I then moved to 40 m SSB to start calling. I worked five stations before moving to 80 m SSB, where I worked two stations. I worked Warren VK3BYD/p in Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620 on 80 m CW. I also listened for Andrew VK1DA on VK1/AC-037 VKFF-0854, but heard nothing of Andrew. 40 m CW was my last band slot, yielding another two stations. With 12 contacts logged, the Park was qualified for VKFF.

Part of the western section of Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve

I stopped calling at 0550, to pack up and head back to the accommodation so that we could make it the dinner time slot booked at the hotel nearby.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Monday was very quiet on the radio front. The funeral was at 1100 local time and was followed by a wake at a venue in Fyansford. Once the lunch and all the discussions were over, we finally were on the road. It was a short trip to the Geelong Ring Road and then we headed towards Melbourne, with a short stop to add fuel to the vehicle.

I received an SMS message from Brian VK3BCM and pulled over to the edge of the road. I read the SMS and listened for Brian on 80 m using the 40 m whip on the bullbar. I could hear him. I quickly swapped antennas to the 80 m whip and soon had Brian in the log for a new Complete: Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/VE-265. Brian was only the second to activate the summit.

I decided to risk the gauntlet of a road block on the Hume Highway at Kalkallo and drove to the Western Ring Road and then up the Hume Highway. We had a slow section near Campbellfield due to a multi-vehicle nose-tail accident on an on-ramp. Once we were near Craigeburn, the traffic slowed to a crawl due to the road block. It was then simply a matter of being patient. Once past the road block, progress up the Hume was good.

I left Wodonga a little after 0830 local time on Tuesday and headed down the Hume Highway. I had considered my options, as I only had one contact for Monday for the Activity Marathon. I decided to activate one of the two VKFF references near/in Wangaratta.

Wangaratta Common Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2223

I ended up doing a circuit of the Park whilst checking out possible sites. The road suggested by the in-car navigation system no longer exists. The southern section of the Reserve was grass land and few trees for shade on a warm sunny Spring day. There was a pathway on the western boundary, but with power lines nearby. I ended up parking at the gate on Tone Road, not far from the Ambulance Victoria station.

I loaded up the rucksack, grabbed a folding chair and walked about 250 m along the footpath before heading off track for about 50 m to set up under a large river red gum. I soon had a line over a branch at about 10 m and had the antenna set up. I sat in the chair and sat the KX2 on one armrest.

Despite being close to several buildings, I had little noise at the site chosen. I spotted myself and started calling.

The activation started well, with Tony VK7LTD/p and Angela VK7FAMP/p on VK7/CH-054 on 40 40 m SSB. I moved up to the VKFF focus frequency and worked eight contacts, including Marty VK4KC/p in VKFF-0039. Next was Warren on both SSB and CW. We chatted briefly before I moved to 80 m CW and worked Geoff VK3SQ. I next jumped to 20 m SSB to chase Marty VK4KC/p. I then tried 40 m CW, working only Gerard VK2IO.

After UTC rollover, I quickly again worked Marty VK4KC/p on 20 m SSB before attempting to make contact with some of the Activity Marathon regulars. I managed to find John ZL1BYZ on 20 m CW, followed by VK3AFW and VK3JS on 80 m CW and VK2IO on 40 m CW. Next was Phillip VK2JDL on VK2/CW-003 on 40 m SSB.

Warren VK3BYD arrived. I had seen his vehicle park near the gate and had sent an SMS saying “Down the path a little”. Warren final spotted me. We had a chat – I was about to pack up. I decided to close and Warren assisted with the antenna pack up. Just as we were about to pack the antenna into the pack, a Spot came through for Andrew VK1DA on One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035. We quickly re-erected the antenna and assembled the station. We both made contacts with Andrew on 80 m CW before we once again closed and packed up. We continued to chat as we walked back to the vehicles and then said our good byes.

I headed back to the Hume Highway and further considered my options. I decided on a late lunch at Euroa and then to head to Mount Wombat. I drove into town and purchased some food at one of the Bakeries. I posted a Spot indicating that I would be on air in about 30 minutes. I made my way to Templeton Street, which becomes Euroa-Strathbogie Road. The road climbs up onto the Strathbogie Range and then I turned onto Mount Wombat Road and finally Mount Wombat Lookout Road and up to the summit area to park.

Mount Wombat VK3/VU-002 802 m 4 points
Mount Wombat – Garden Range Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2403

I set up using a line over a tree branch a little below the summit, at around 790 m.

First in the log was Liz VK2XSE/p in Biddon State Conservation Area VKFF-1280 for a Park to Park contact, followed by Peter VK2KNV/p. I moved to 7.090 MHz and started calling after posting a Spot. I worked five stations before moving to 40 m CW, where I worked only two stations. Next I tried 80 m CW, working two stations. 80 m SSB produced another two contacts. I moved to 20 m CW and worked three stations. I closed down and packed up.

I then headed for home: back towards Euroa, then south to Merton, with a short stop to work Angela VK7FAMP/p and Tony VK7LTD/p on VK7CH-053 on 40 m SSB using the mobile whip. I resumed the trip to Yea, then across to Healesville, Yarra Junction, Powelltown, Neerim Junction, Nilma and finally back to Churchill. It ended up being a long day.

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