Orroral Tracking Station   Leave a comment

Sunday, 26th August, 2012

The Namadgi National Reserve is a massive national park that makes up most of the southern part of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). There are not too many towns or settlements within it, so it’s a great place to relax and get away from it all. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve taken a couple of trips down through south of Canberra into the heart of the reserve. The first time we went, we dropped into the visitor centre at the Namadgi National Park visitor centre where we enquired about good short walks that would give us a good idea what the park had to give. The excellent guide manning the centre produced a couple of maps and pointed out a few good round trips from the centre itself and some longer walks that we could attempt when we had some more time. She asked us if we knew about the ‘space’ history of the area and then pointed out a couple of the old NASA manned space flight and satellite tracking stations that were located in the area back in the sixties and seventies. As we had a few hours before it went dark, we decided to take a quick look at one of them, especially at it had an old homestead not too far away from it.

The Orroral satellite tracking station is located about 20 km from the visitor centre along the helpfully name Orroral road off the main Naas Road. We didn’t see many cars while we were driving towards the tracking station and none at all when we drove along the dictated road that serviced the site itself. There were a few cars parked in the car park, but not a soul could be seen as we got out of the car and started to look around. We soon discovered that none of the original buildings of the tracking station remained standing (something to do with neglect and vandals), but there were a number of plaques dotted around the site describing what was what. As well as giving a full history of this site, they also described the purpose of the other two stations that NASA built in the area to aid their space exploration program. We could see the footprint of the old buildings and the hard standing areas where the various dishes were located, so it wasn’t hard to imagine how the place looked in its heyday.

One of the reasons we decided to take a look round this area, was the Orroral Homestead which was located about 1 km from the tracking station. The guide at the visitor centre told us to walk out of the southern edge of the station site along the valley floor, as it was, it was well signposted once we picked up the track. Dotted along this track were more small plaques that described various sites of interest. One of the more interesting sights along this track were the hundreds of kangaroos who seemed to like lying on or near the track itself. We ended up in a Mexican standoff with the first bunch we came across, with Gail hiding behind me whilst at the same time pushing me forward towards them. Once we got within a few feet of then they started to move onm but a few of the bigger ones wouldn’t shift and we ended up skirting round them. After a while we discovered that if we marched up to them with some purpose, they soon shattered.

One we got to the homestead, we found a well preserved building which was open for us to wonder around and inspect the crude living conditions. However, what the buildings lacked in home comforts was more than made up by the beautiful surrounding countryside that the house stood in. After taking a look round some of the outbuildings we left for home. As the tracking station and homestead were within easy walking distance of each other on the valley floor we returned to the same place this week with my mum and dad so they could take a look round. Once again we were treated to some fantastic weather and on this trip we also took in the Lanyon Homestead on the outskirts of Tuggeranong. This homestead is an altogether different place to the one found at Orroral. Build in the 1850’s by convict labour for a local landowning family, it boast some spectacular rooms all lovingly preserved by the ACT Government. While we were at Lanyon, we stopped by the Lanyon Café, in the grounds of the estate, for coffee and a bowl of soup. Some of which I nearly choked on when I saw Julia Gillard walk through the door on what like an afternoon trip out with an elderly relative. It’s not every day you bump into the Prime Minister of Australia and I was so shocked I failed to grab my camera and take a picture. I was also shocked to discover that she had nearly no security with her at all. If this was Britain or the US I’m sure we all would have been turfed out and the café placed in lockdown.


Posted August 26, 2012 by yermandownunder in Out and about

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