Cee`s Fun Foto Challenge: Feathers

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It’s been awhile since I entered a photo in Cee`s Fun Foto Challenge (or any challenge for that matter). When the topic of Feathers came up, the first image I thought of was this one of a feather lying on the ground, taken a few years ago. It was a good opportunity to get down low & in close with the 55 mm Macro on the Pentax K30, something that you can’t do when the feather is still attached to the bird!

2016 Winter UHF/VHF Contest

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Wet & cold up on the mountain for the Winter UHF/VHF contest this year. Not many contacts for the 8 hour period that I participated in. A combination of the weather & poor conditions for radio led to not many portable stations out for the contest.

I managed only 19 contacts on the 2 meter & 70 cm bands for my first solo outing for a UHF/VHF contest. Antennas used were both homebrew, 8 elements on the 2 meter band & 11 elements for 70 cm. I was also the first outing for my homemade antenna rotator which performed well.

I was working from Gridsquare QF59CQ at Mt Lindesay, on the boundary of Mt Kaputar National Park at an altitude of 1032 meters which gave me a good line of sight towards Sydney, Canberra & Melbourne.

Thanks to Cris, VK2BOZ & Brenda, VK2FSMI for being there for the majority of the contacts & points scored, it would have been a long day without you guys being there. One highlight was hearing a station in QF44NM, Matt, VK1MT, which I heard very faintly from just south of Canberra, some 600 km to my south.

Looking forward to the next contest in November, hopefully the weather & conditions will be better & a few more stations will be out & about.

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View to the south on a clearer day

 

The Emu in the Sky

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The male Emu sitting on eggs as seen in early June

I had the opportunity over the long weekend while camping in The Pilliga to try some Astrophotography. I haven’t done any since I started using a DSLR and the last time i had a go was probably 20 years ago with long exposures on 35mm film.

The Pilliga Scrub is an area made up of State Forests, National Parks, Nature Reserves & Conservation Areas between Coonabarabran & Narrabri in northwestern New South Wales & covers nearly 1 million acres, with the nearest towns over 50 km away, ideal for dark night skies.

The camera used was a Pentax K30, 16 MP, 18mm focal length lens at F5 for a 30 second exposure at 12800 ISO. The image  I tried to capture was of the Emu in the Sky from the Aboriginal culture which is seen as the dark areas in between the stars, not the usual patterns seen in most of the constellations.

The Emu in the Sky as seen by the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi people changed from season to season, as the Milky Way containing the Emu changed position in the night sky. As the Emu changed position, it also altered in appearance. While the Emu can be seen in the sky as early as March, it reaches its first appearance of note in April and May, when it is seen stretching from the South to the southeast.

In this appearance, the Emu has legs, and appears to be running. The reason for this is that this is the time for mating and laying of eggs, and as the Emu in the Sky at this time is female, the female emu birds chase the males during mating. Because the eggs are being laid at this time, seeing the Emu in this way is a strong reminder that the emu egg resource is available, and eggs can be taken for food when they are laid.

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(image courtesy of Starry Night Education)

In June and July, the appearance of the Emu changes. The legs disappear, and the male Emu is now sitting on its nest, hatching the new chicks. The eggs are still an available resource, and can be taken from the nest. In late winter (August to September), the neck of the Emu becomes indistinct, leaving the body to represent an emu egg. This was taken as a sign that the chicks were hatching, and that the eggs should no longer be taken.

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Emu`s at a waterhole in the Pilliga

For more on Aboriginal Astronomy visit www.emudreaming.com

Easter 2016 Road Trip Days 3 & 4

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Sunrise from our camp at Belmore Lagoon near Crescent Head

Day Three, Sunday 27th March 2016 – Hat Head National Park to Thora via Taylor’s Arm & The Pub with no Beer, Jacob’s Ladder & Mt Killiekranke.

Sunrise over Belmore Lagoon was spectacular on Sunday morning, a good sign I hoped for the day to come. We packed up the Rooftop Campers, had some brekkie & headed back to Kempsey to get some fuel. The days plan was to head to The Pub With No Beer at Taylor’s Arm, via Collombatti. Heading out the Armidale – Kempsey Rd, turning right at Frederickton Rd (31.03.528S 152.48.086E) & then left onto Chain of Ponds Rd (31.01.433S 152.48.574E) for 10 km, then left onto the Collombatti Rd. 8 km further on the road veered to the left at an intersection with a little used track. (30.54.504S 152.44.443E)

At the time the track I was following seemed to be the one that had the most use but the pre-planned route on the GPS had turned right. Unsure which way to go, we followed the more used road. If I had of had a more detailed map up on the GPS I would have seen that the unused track lead to Taylor’s Arm Rd, the one we should be on.

The track we followed for around 2.5 km, slowly became steep, winding & narrow. I called Cris on the radio & asked him to hang back a bit & I kept going. The track became very rutted & steep rather quickly but I pressed on. In hindsight I should have stopped then, but it would have been impossible to turn around or reverse back, so I just had to put the foot down & hope for the best.

I don’t know how I made it to the top, the washout had become pretty deep, with large rocks & tree roots sticking out everywhere. One tree root stepped straight up about 400 millimetres on the right hand side at the top of a steep grade. After a lot of hard knocks & been thrown around inside the cab I finally emerged onto a clearing with a Trig station. This turned out to be Collombatti Lookout (30.52.465S 152.42.891E)

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Collombatti Trig Lookout

I radioed Cris & advised him how bad the last 100 meters or so the track was, telling him it wasn’t worth possibly damaging his vehicle, but leaving the final decision to him. At that time a couple of dirt bikes came passed Cris, so he asked how to get onto Taylor’s Arm Rd . With directions he headed off, I would continue down what turned out to be a lot better road than the way in, joining back onto Taylor’s Arm Rd at the junction with Greenhills Rd (30.51.979S 152.44.065E) after about 3 km. Here I waited for Cris & Brenda, who turned up 10 minutes later.

Back on track again after that little adventure, it took a while for the adrenaline rush to subside. We followed Greenhills Rd for 15 km till the road became a different Taylor’s Arm Rd (30.48.316S 152.42.290E). This one runs from Macksville out to Taylor’s Arm, just to confuse things. The Pub With No Beer was just 9 km away, it was nearing midday, so we were back on schedule.

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The Pub With No Beer – Taylor`s Arm

They had a band & bistro planned at the pub, so there was a lot of the locals already gathered there when we arrived. We were lucky to get a park right in front of the large sign outside the pub, just the right spot for photo with the vehicles in the frame.

This old pub is famous for being in the song of the same name by country music singer, Slim Dusty back in the 1970`s. He grew up not far from there at Nulla Nulla. A lot of history connected with the building, the walls lined with old images of the timber cutters with huge logs on drays dragged by bullocks & pieces of hardware from the era. I don’t drink beer, but I decided to have one seeing as it is such an iconic location & I think I needed one to settle the nerves for the next difficult section of track………….Jacob’s Ladder.

We didn’t stay for a meal, the queue was rather long & we still had a long way to go to the nights campsite. Heading east on Taylor’s Arm Rd, we turned left onto Kosekai Rd (30.43.682S 152.46.834E) for the climb up to Kosekai Lookout in Dunggir National Park. We’ve learned that the roads in this area get very steep very quickly. The pub was only 38 meters ASL, the lookout was at 840 meters ASL, a pretty steep climb in just over 20 km. After climbing up for around 10 km, constantly changing from 3rd back to 2nd over & over my engine temps started to rise.

I called Cris on the radio, he was a kilometre or so ahead of me to tell him my temps were going up with no downhill sections to cool of. He came back to say that he was getting a bit sick & tired of the narrow winding roads & was feeling a bit of vertigo with the steep drops beside the track. We made the call to turn around at that point, stopping on a rare flat area to have some lunch and talk about the rest of the trip.

We did not have a campsite organised for that night anyway, so we needed to find one. This was around 2:00 pm. I new of a free camping area on the Nambucca River just outside Macksville, so we headed there in the hope that it wasn’t full of holiday campers. Should have known better, it was absolutely packed when we arrived around 3:00 pm. The next option was Roses Park at Thora, about 15 km west of Bellingen on the Waterfall Way.

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Camp at Rose’s Park

So we joined the holiday traffic heading north along the Pacific Highway, turned onto Waterfall Way & arrived at Roses Park (30.25.573S 152.46.787E) on the Bellinger River around 4:30 pm. We were surprised to find only several campers & a motor home there. We set up camp just in time, the park soon filling up with other travellers. After dinner & a few drinks, we crashed for the night.

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The Bellinger River just below our camp

Although we did not get to check out Jacob’s Ladder, Kosekai or Killiekranke lookouts, we were pretty content with the day’s travel. We had done just 212 km for the day, but the constantly winding roads made it feel a lot longer. So far we had travelled 792 km on the trip over some pretty rough & steep terrain & we were feeling a bit fatigued.

Day Four, Monday 28th March 2016 – Thora to Home via Dorrigo, New England & Cunnawarra National Parks, Point Lookout, Styx River Forest & Armidale.

We were up before sunrise, had breakfast & packed up camp by 8:00 am. The weather was clear, a nice sunny day. Most of Monday’s travel would be on the highway, a nice easy drive. We headed west up the Waterfall Way to Dorrigo National Park & the Rainforest Centre there. I had driven past many times, so we took the opportunity to stop & check out a waterfall in the rainforest. It took us nearly an hour to hike down the track to the falls but it was well worth it.

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Crystal Falls – Dorrigo National park

Crystal Falls drops 10 meters down an escarpment through the rainforest, you can get a great view from the suspension bridge or walk along the track a bit further to actually walk behind the waterfall. After taking a few photos we headed back up to the car park. The next stop would be Point Lookout in the New England National Park, east of Armidale. The lookout is 1562 meters ASL & overlooks the mountains & valleys we had just travelled through over the last three days.

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The view from Point Lookout – New England National Park – 1562 meters AsL

After lunch at the lookout we headed south on Styx River Rd to Beech Lookout (30.31.157S 152.21.245E) that looks east over the ranges back towards Mary’s View & the Carrai Plateau. Then it was 25 km along Styx River Rd to the Kempsey – Armidale Rd (30.37.224S 152.11.261E ) heading east for 20 km, rejoining the Waterfall Way then on to Armidale, arriving there around 3:00 pm. This is were I left my travelling companions, Cris & Brenda who were heading south & I had to continue west for another 130 km to home.

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Beech Lookout

Reaching home around 5:00 pm, the trip meter had just clicked over 1100 km. The Patrol had performed well apart from getting warm on several of the hill climbs. Fuel consumption had averaged out at around 11.5 litres per 100 km`s, pretty happy with that with the weight of the Roof-topper, Fridge, extra fuel, water & other gear.

All up a great trip with good company. Even though we did not do all of the planned trip it was still a very enjoyable four days. Weather was great, little rain, plenty of blue sky. The dust was the only complaint, It will take days to clean the Patrol & the other gear. Also happy that neither of us had any problems with the vehicles, both still going strong at the end of the trip.

I will have go back & have a look at the area around Kosekai Lookout, Jacobs Ladder & Mt Killiekrankie another day. The only setback was not being able to get to the Blowhole. After all the attempts to get to this location it seems that it was not meant to be.

After making it up that last section of track to Collombatti Lookout, I have gained a lot more respect for what my Patrol can do, but also learned that it would be advisable to walk an unknown track before attempting it. Getting stuck in an area like that would not be good, or worse still, breaking something & not being able to make it home.

Maybe I will invest in that winch after all……………………

Thanks for dropping by………see you on a track somewhere

Easter 2016 Road Trip Day 2

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Sunrise from Mary`s View, Saturday morning

 

Day Two, Saturday 27th March 2016 – Mary’s View to The Blowhole via Carrai State Forest & Boonanghi State Forest.

I got up before sunrise on Saturday morning, grabbed the camera & walked up to the lookout to capture the sunrise. The weather was mild, just a little cloud to the east & no sign of rain. After taking a few snaps of the mist hanging over the mountains I headed back to camp for breakfast & to pack up camp.

Saturday would only involve around 100 km of travelling, plenty of time to have a look around. The Carrai Plateau was once the traditional home of Thunggutti people & has several sacred & ceremonial sites. I had heard about an area that had been used as a ceremonial Bora Ring, for sacred initiations. I had seen a photograph of the site on Google Earth & managed to get the GPS co-ordinates. Checking the maps, several roads could be seen near the site.

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Looking down into the Macleay Valley 800 meters below Mary`s View

We headed off about 8:00 am back down Warrick Rd to Carrai Rd. There was a loop road around the plateau marked on the maps so we went for a drive to check it out. We found a trail that looked like a shortcut but it lead to a locked gate several kilometres in. Back onto Carrai Rd heading north we came to a gate onto private property so we turned around & headed back to Daisy Plains huts.

Turning north onto Mines Rd at the huts, we headed for the Bora site. Unfortunately we had to stop at Felters Creek, as there were bollards across the road. There were supposed to be some old mines just passed the creek, so we walked a little way but only saw a few pieces of old machinery. To get to the Bora ground would be a good 5 km hike so we headed back to the vehicles & back to the huts.

Heading the 20 km south back along Carrai Rd to Kookaburra (31.01.418S 152.20.303E) we headed northeast along a winding road through the tall timber, stopping at McCoy’s Lookout (31.01.133S 152.20.512E) for an early lunch. The road from here descends from around 950 meters into the Macleay Valley, joining the Willi Willi Rd (30.55.813S 152.27.630) at 138 meters above sea level after 22 km.

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The view from McCoy`s Lookout

Turning right onto Willi Willi Rd we travelled 32 km through open farm country along the Macleay River to the junction with the Dungay Creek Road (31.04.184S 152.41.965E) turning right continuing on for 5.5 km to Boonanghi Forest Road (31.04.184S 152.41.965S). After turning right, we headed into the forest to find our campsite at the Blowhole. It was around 2:00 pm by this time & we were looking forward to a relaxing afternoon around camp. Things don’t always go to plan it seems.

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Entering the farmland of the Macleay Valley

After following Boonanghi Forest Rd for 8 km, we came to our first obstacle, an old log bridge had collapsed (31.04.192S 152.36.738E) barring our way. With no other way ahead we backtracked a couple of kilometres to another track heading south then north towards our planned camp. This track ended at a locked gate at the forest boundary. Turning around we went back to a track heading north to another road along a ridgeline that would take us towards the Blowhole. This unnamed track (31.04.081S 152.37.052E) was only 1200 meters long but climbed 350 meters in height with some very steep sections, 2nd gear low range was needed & took 10 minutes to climb.

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Unnamed Trail – Boonanghi State Forest

I went up first & then gave Cris & Brenda a call on the two way to come on up. We had joined Kullatine Rd (31.03.082S 152.37.301) along the ridgeline that wound it’s way along a narrow road using second & third in low range with steep drop offs either side & contours across the track. We reached Boonanghi Trig (31.02.531S 152.34.412E) at 649 meters ASL after around 8 km & decided to stop to consider our options as there were not many turn around points along the track.

It was around 4:00 pm when we had checked the maps & decided to carry on as it was less than 5 km to the campsite. I was in the lead & was less than 500 meters from the trig when the track dropped away very quickly. I was about 100 meters down when the hill became even steeper & looked to continue straight down with nowhere to turn around, so I had no choice to keep going. The surface of the track was very loose gravel so reversing back up from a standing start was out of the question.

I hit the bottom after about 200 meters at a junction & we had a discussion over the two way about what to do next, I did not think that I would be able to get back up. I knew that the road leading north went nowhere on the map & the track heading south to the campsite was heavily overgrown, it would take days to clear the way down. I don’t know why Cris decided to come down to were I was, I think in hindsight it would have been better for him to have stayed at the top.

With daylight fading we had no choice but to have a go at getting back up. Cris went first as he had the more aggressive tread pattern on his tyres. He hit the base in 2nd low range at 3000 rpm. About a minute later he called over the radio that he was up, quickly followed by a NO I`M NOT!.

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Climbing up the Bullock Trail

I had been waiting at the bottom, my first thought were that’s it, were stuck here. Then Cris came on the radio to say he had made it, he thought he was at the top when he called, but was only half way, a huge sigh of relief from me I can tell you! Next it was my turn. 2nd gear low range, hit around 3000 rpm & held it there.

After a bit of wheel slip I got a bit of traction, swerving around a few fallen tree branches. The first 100 meters over, the second 100 a bit steeper, I eventually made it to the top. I was quite surprised that I had made it up without too much trouble & had gained a little bit more confidence in what my Patrol could do, even on a mild ATV tyre.

We decided to bail out of finding this elusive campsite & headed back the way we came. Nearing the end of the track we got talking on the radio. Were we going to let this beat us or was there another way in?. Several years ago we had tried to access this site via another road further along Dungay Creek Rd, but were stopped at a gate with No Trespassing & Private Road signs. It was starting to get late, around 6:00 pm, but we decided to have a look. After getting some directions from some people on their way back from the Blowhole we decided to at least have one last attempt.

The farmers down the track we had tried to use years before had posted the signs illegally, so the road was now open. The directions that we had got were as follows.

Through the gate, follow the road, turn right at the Monkey, turn right at the Yellow Arrow, turn right at the Green Whistle!. Seemed a bit strange at the time but it turned out to be spot on. It was nearly dark by then, but it was only 10 km along the track, so off we went.

It was well & truly dark when we found the Monkey (stuffed monkey at a junction) turned right, Yellow Arrow, turned right, got to the Green Whistle ( large toy whistle hanging in a tree) turned right & started to drive down a narrow rutted track tight between the trees. About 100 meters down Cris stopped & got out with the torch. I followed him down to find the drop into the creek was very steep & deeply rutted.

After a discussion it was decided that we were not going to make it back up without a winch. It had also started to rain lightly. It would have been only another 200 meters to the campsite. We turned around & headed back to the main road in defeat. At least Cris got to try out his new 180 watt LED driving lights & it was a bit of fun 4wding at night!

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Cris` new LED Driving Lights lighting the way

With no idea were we where going to camp that night, we headed into Kempsey, 25 km away, stopping at KFC for a feed & to talk about our options. It was around 9:15 pm by then. The only place I knew about to camp that was close was an area near Crescent Head on the coast, 20 km away, so we decided to head there. We were lucky to find enough room to camp when we arrived at 10:00 pm.

We had travelled for over 12 hours that day, only covering about 250 km in distance, all dirt road apart from the last 15 km of tar, but it will be a day we will long remember. We hit the bed at around 11:00 pm, went to sleep to the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach, another adventure lined up for the next day………..

Continue reading …………… Easter Road Trip Days 3 & 4

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