As a prelude to a 4WD day out on Saturday, I thought I would activate Hopkins Creek CP on the way to Burra, as it had never before been activated for the WWFF Award.
We drove up through Truro, Eudunda and Robertstown before hitting the dirt a few kms north of Robertstown. I had attempted an activation last year but a car rally in the area meant some detours and nearly an hour of driving around trying to find the right spot and in the end I gave up on it.
After studying the map later, I found I had not travelled far enough north and this time we found the turn off and with the camper in tow drove down the access track. Luckily it was dry and sunny and not too rough a track. We pulled up at the gate, unloaded the radio gear and set up. It did not look promising as there are huge double sided power transmission pylons marching across the park about 200m away and you could hear the buzzing in the air.
On switching on there was static, but not as bad as at home, where I have to endure at least S7 noise most of the time, perhaps S3?
I was on air about half an hour earlier than my alert, but after a couple of CQ calls up came VK4RF with 55 each way, next a couple of local chasers with strong signals, 5ZGY/M and 5KLV and then the first of the difficult ones (4RZ) right in the noise but we managed to make the contact. 2IO on a SOTA summit was next and also difficult. I was hearing his “oscar” as S and thinking 3IS, but after persevering we got a little better propagation to make the contact.
A few contacts later another station who was 2×2 to me, insisted on giving the full “VK5PL this is VK???” and trying to tell me about his location, radio etc when I was trying to get him to just give his call and also using his own version of the phonetic alphabet. I did finally get his call but never got his report and after 10 minutes I think he either faded completely or gave up as id did not hear him again. Operators should realise if they get a very low report, (3 or less) they should concentrate on just giving out their call and report. The pleasantries of radios/antennas/power can wait for a better propagation day. These were some of the things he was trying to tell me when I just asked for a repeat of his call/report!!! I was only hearing a word here and there.
A few calls later I decided to relocate the antenna slightly to get it more end on to the powerlines and I think it might have reduced the noise by a half S-point. Most QSOs after that were better and I only struggled with an Fcall 4FROO in Charleville, 2JDL/P in the Blue Mountains and 5FPSV.
With 38 QSOs and a lack of further contacts we packed up and headed to our campsite, deciding we would return on Sunday on our way home and get the last few for the magical 44.
Sunday came and it was very windy! I decided to not set up in the open near the powerlines and we found our way to Burra Creek Gorge campsite where I packed up the gear in the backpack and walked in to the park and set up in a sheltered valley out of the wind. Mick 3PMG/3GGG was up first then Geoff 3SQ and John 5BJE. Going in light I had no table/chair so the radio and PTT box were on my pack. I moved slightly to flick the PTT and TX another call and the radio went dead. I checked the mike plug as it sometimes gets intermittent, but not that, then while checking all the plugs were in, the radio crackled briefly into action and died again. I checked the power cord and the solder tag had broken off the power plug. I did try to hold it in contact, hit the PTT and called CQ and 4RF came back to my call, but it was too much to hold the wire against the plug and flick the PTT without losing contact. Maybe if everything was on a solid table and steady, but on top of a backpack, too hard!
With only 2 more QSOs to go for 44 it was a bitter pill to swallow, so I packed up and trudged back to the car. Better luck next time and with a spare power cord and maybe some crocodile clip jumpers just in case.
Overall this would be my best activation by the number of contacts made. 42 in total, almost half of them to VK3 with 20, 11 VK5, 6 VK2, 4 VK4 and 1 VK7.