National Park Road Trip, Cyclones & the Angry Roo
A planned trip to visit 8 National Parks nearly did not happen due to an approaching cyclone and an angry Kangaroo……………..
The weekend trip was for the World Wide Flora & Fauna program for Amateur Radio operators. It involves trying to make contact from a National Park with other radio operators from around the world using a portable station. I also wanted to visit the parks as I had not been to them before. It would also be a good opportunity to combine a few of my hobbies, Photography, Amateur Radio, Camping & Four Wheel Driving.
After packing the last of my supplies into the Patrol, it was time to hit the road. Leaving around 8:30 am, the first park on the list, Gwydir NP, near the Gwydir River, Northern New South Wales, was at least an hour away from home. The plan was to activate the park at 11:oo pm. The 100 odd kilometre trip on the dirt back roads would take me into the Granite country near Bundarra.
Light rain began to fall & a few of the creek crossings had a little water in them. Finally hit the road I thought would take me into the park at around 10 o’clock only to find the gate leading into the park locked. I had a good look on the maps and found another road further north that headed in the right direction.
After a quick u-turn, it was into the town of Bundarra, crossing over the Gwydir River. By this time it was getting on to 10:30 am. Finding the road after a 30 km detour, I came to the end of the road at a farmhouse. The farmer was working in his shed and came over to see what I was doing. After a brief discussion he told me that the park was on the boundary of the property and the gate was locked. I told him of my intentions and he kindly lent me the key. The park was created in 2005 and covers 2257 hectares.
Finally got into the park just before 11 am and set up a dipole antenna for 40 meters and started calling. After 15 minutes, I got an answer from a mobile, VK2YZS/M down around Sydney. We exchanged reports and I continued calling. Another 15 minutes and had no more contacts, I decided to cut my losses and move onto the next park after returning the key and thanking the farmer. I have since learned that the park has two parts as shown on the map above, a major road runs through the middle of it, wish I had found that out earlier!.
I had seen another park on the maps ( Indwara VKFF – 242) but had been unable to find any roads leading into it passed the last property. I knew there was a comms tower on the summit so I decided to have a look on the way past. Sure enough, the road petered out at an abandoned farmhouse, so I headed back to the main road and continued onto the next park.
The rain started to come down heavier and the road started to get a little slippery in places. The rain cleared as I approached Single NP (VKFF-450). The park was created in 1999 & covers 2257 hectares. I found the road leading into to it from the Guyra Road pretty easily, but also found the gate locked. This park, along with many others in my area were once State Forests, usually only several hundred hectares in size with no vehicle access of facilities. NSW National Parks took the majority of them over in 2005. Most were originally used to harvest Cypress Pine.
After loading up the backpack with the transceiver, dipole antenna and other supplies I hiked up the road for about 400 meters and found a small clearing and threw the antenna up as an inverted V at a height of about 8 meters, connected the radio & started calling at 3:oo pm as planned.
After a few contacts, Rob, VK4FFAB called in. Rob put up a spot on parks & peaks and Facebook for me as I had no phone or internet service. The calls came flooding in after that and I had no problem getting the required number of contacts to qualify the park. Thanks to Rob and others for all your help over the weekend with the spotting, it really makes a difference to the number of contacts! I also logged into the Kandos Net at 4:30 pm and then had a contact with VK3MCD/P in Yarra Ranges NP for a park to park contact before packing up.
Leaving the park and heading north along the back dirt roads, listening to the Kandos Net on 7.093, the forecast rain arrived, not very heavy, just enough to keep the dust down.
The next park would be Kings Plains, VKFF-265, for an overnight stay. Crossing the Gwydir Hwy east of Inverell to the small village of Sapphire, named after the gemstones that are found in the area, some of the best in the world. The rain started to lighten a little as I entered the park at 5:oo pm. Kings Plains NP was once a sapphire fossicking area, the banks of Kings Plains Creek are lined with mullock heaps from mining in the early 1900`s
The entrance to the park, Grass Tree & Brown Treecreeper.
The rain had more or less stopped, just a light drizzle, so I had a chance to get the antenna, a multiband G5RV inverted V at 8 meters this time as I planned to work on the 80, 40 & 15 meter bands. I got camp set up near the small creek and had a quick look around followed by a meal and a cup of coffee.
All was ready at 7:00 pm and I started to call. The first contact was Darren, VK2NNN at Bondi, then Rod, VK2LAX called in. I noticed during the call with Rod that the SWR was jumping around. As it had started raining again I thought some water must have gotten into the system. After checking the feedline I found that the solder had fallen of the centre pin of the PL-259.
It took me half an hour to repair it with a small gas soldering iron, not an easy task with the wind blowing and the rain coming down!. Job done and back on the air. Rob, VK4FFAB was first to reply after I resumed calling. Once again Rob put up a spot and it was pretty hectic for a while after that. Got 21 stations in the log before joining in on the 7.130 DX net at 8:30 pm.
Logged another 9 stations on the net, had a scan around the band before trying 15 meters. Found VK2PH, Peter on 21.260 MHz just about to clear and called him for a contact. Had a scan around on 15 meters for a while and put out a few calls but didn’t get any responses.
I had had enough at 11:00 pm, the rain had settled in, a result of cyclone Marie moving in on the Queensland coast. which had develop into a category 5 early that morning as it had crossed the coast near Rockhampton in Queensland. I had some refreshments and retired for the night.
I awoke at 4:00 am Saturday morning, rather cool with light rain falling. I boiled the billy, turning on the transceiver to see if any of the Queensland stations near the cyclone were on the air. Only a few DX (overseas) stations were heard.
I continued to listen for any news. The first contact for the day was Dave, P29QB, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, followed by Lou, EA3JE in Barcelona, Spain. Lou gave me a 59 + 5 dB signal report, for a distance of 16,500 km, not bad for a low power station, but then again Lou is using a HUGE antenna!
I heard a few of the QLD stations starting to come up from around the Rockhampton and Yeppoon area, glad to hear that they were ok, with some damage to property. The area had lost phone service and power, most were on the air using batteries or generators.
I joined in on my local net on 80 meters for a while, then continued calling for contacts on 40 meters. I logged Joe, VK4FDJB in Bundaberg, he had just been on the edge of the cyclone and had not suffered too much damage.
Had a contact with Ron, who was running the VK5BRL net in South Australia. It’s been a while since I worked Ron & it was good to chat to him again. Another park activator, Nick, VK3ANL/p in Greater Bendigo NP VKFF-623 in Victoria was another contact, & another park in the log.
VK4FFAB, Rob soon called in & as usual put up a spot & the calls rolled in. Logged 14 contacts for the morning for a total of 44 contacts for that park before packing up & heading out into the park for a quick explore and some photo’s.
A feature of the park is Kings Plains Falls, as the creek was not flowing, I did not hike the 3 km`s to see it.
The next park would be Nullamanna NP, only 10 km away as the crow flies, but around 40 km by road……..
Continued in part 2