The Magic of Namadgi

Located right on the doorstep of our nation’s capital city, Namadgi National Park is a popular weekend escape destination and for good reason. The scenery is breathtaking, the history preserved, this 105,000 hectare national park is fascinating and with more than 160 kilometres of marked walking tracks it is a hiker’s haven. So with a week of touring ahead we pointed the cruiser southward to explore this beautiful Alpine park which we had not been to in some time. The last time here we experienced snow, quite a dumping on the higher peaks and that was in April, so the old adage of be prepared for all weather conditions any time of the year certainly rings true.

Arriving in Canberra around noon we ventured to a local shopping centre to stock up on supplies and grab a bite for lunch. Once ourselves and the cruiser were both stocked and fueled up it is only a relatively short drive to the park visitor centre, our first port of call and a must to pay your camping fees. The visitor centre is worth a stroll around with its informative displays on the park’s history and attractions. It is also good to get up to the minute information from the rangers on current conditions within the park.

With our camping permit in hand we ventured south along the sealed Boboyan Road following a natural valley heading for our camp for the next couple of nights at Orroral Campground deep within the Orroral Valley. Our plan was to spend two nights here, exploring further south into the park the next day then see what the weather was doing before planning the rest of our week. Orroral Campground is a beautiful sheltered spot surrounded by tall eucalypt forest and we spent that evening watching a mum and bub kangaroo dine right on our doorstep. Namadgi certainly is a magical place. Day two we ventured deeper south eventually hitting the dirt and made our way to the Settlers Track Walk not far from the southern boundary of the national park. This 9km circuit walk is not too strenuous and gives an interesting insight into the pastoral history of this once very isolated area. We explore a couple of historic huts plus a homestead and are kept company on our stroll by a myriad of wildlife, particularly kangaroos. We already felt blessed by this outstanding place.

With only limited time we then made our way back past our camp and continued up the mountain to another gem hidden here. The end of the sealed road brings us to the Orroral Valley Tracking Station site once an important Australian space tracking station from 1965. The main feature of Orroral was the 26 metre antenna with its main feature being able to switch tracking from one satellite to another fairly quickly. The station supported many space shuttle missions including that of the space shuttle Columbia during the 1980s up until its closure in 1985. We stroll around this once bustling industrial site, all that remains today being pathways and footings of the many buildings that once stood here, and try to imagine what life was like for the men and women who once worked here. Leaving the tracking station site we keep an eye out for the historic Orroral Valley Homestead. This typical mountain hut located in the picturesque Orroral Valley is often dwarfed by the surrounding snow clad mountains, and was built during the 1860s for Archibald and Mary Mckeahnie who utilized the surrounding grasslands for grazing. You can also explore the historic stockyard and woolshed that were built during the 1930s for Andy Cunningham, a later owner of the property. Strolling through the paddock towards the homestead we are greeted by mobs of Eastern Grey kangaroos, silent protectors of this beautiful place. We spend a bit of time strolling around, exploring and photographing the historic homestead and nearby woolshed before heading back down the hill and for our second night’s camp.

After some rain through the night we awoke to continuing drizzle and just after breaking camp the rain was well and truly set in. Not to deter us we were not finished with Namadgi yet. Making our way north we soon turned off the main road and ventured up into the mountain once again, this time to yes you guessed it, yet another historical feature hidden here. Opened in 1967 Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station was most notably responsible for providing the television pictures that were beamed around the world of the historic moonwalk by Apollo 11 on the 21st July in 1969. The station also, in conjunction with the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station received telemetry and voice contact between the command and lunar modules during the mission. Following the cessation of the Apollo missions, the station supported the Skylab program being known as Deep Space Station 44 until its closure in 1981. The main feature of the station, its antenna was subsequently relocated to Canberra’s Deep Space Communication Complex and remains in use today. Again all that remains here are the foundations of this once important landmark. As we stroll around in misting rain we begin to realize how much history is hidden in some of these not so well known locations, even being so close to Canberra.

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