At 1.30am local time we arrived at Rarotonga
Airport and were welcomed by local songs provided by a singer with a guitar, no
girls, no flowers, only prospect of another six hours waiting in the airport hall. Our flight
to Aitutaki was scheduledfor 8.00am and had been arranged by our friend Dick, ZK1CC (probably now 3D2..)
who had also helped us with accomodation on Aitutaki Island. It was another long night spent on the airport
benches, very hot and full of mosquitos. As we did not have tickets in advance we encamped at the
Rarotonga Airlines office and waited for sunrise.
The usual problem occured when the clerk in the office innocently asked us "have you any luggage?"
When we pointed to the four trolleys full of boxes and suitcases he was very close to having
a heart attack! As we recognised later, it is the Polynesian habit that if you are in trouble you call your chief,
and as nearly every chief also has a boss, very soon there was a council of of five persons (excluding our crew)
discussing our 190 kg of equipment. There was no other way for us to go than pay for excess
baggage (which fortunately was not very high), and then the way to Aitutaki Island opened for us.
Air Rarotonga uses small two-engine Fokker aircraft for its connections among the islands and the passenger's
luggage is limited to 20kg for each person. The flight to Aitutaki Island lasted about 40 minutes
and our first look at the island from the aircraft was exciting (look at the ZK1KTT QSL card). We had a
reservation in the Rapae Hotel, which was used by a German DXpedition couple years ago.
The receptionist recommendus to a bungalow which seemed too big for us and so we moved to
another and immediately started mounting the antennas and preparing the shack.
The weather was very bad, rain (the locals said it was the first for three months!), and hot with thousands and
thousands of mosquitos. After a few hours we were prepared for the first QSO with K0DEQ on 20 metres
CW at 01.26z. After one day of heavy pile/ups (mainly JA and Ws)we recognised a problem with Europeans
and decided to change the position of 3 el tri-bander and the result was remarkable. Both daily windows gave us a number
of Europeans stations, mainly on 20m CW. The propagation was not very good but we did our best
to get round this.
The only problem we were not able to solve was the behaviour of the European's. Even we unaware of the reality,
it was horrible! It really is a pity. If we were able to QSO 270 - 290 JA or W stations in one hour,
the maximum European rate was mostly 70 - 120. Despite of this problem we kept the station going
24 hours a day and from time to time it was possible to run two stations in the same time
(usually on 20 and 17 m), but the other one was only "barefoot" IC-706. The use of the good filters seems
to be necessary in ther next DXPeditions. The number of logged stations increased rapidly
until 3 March when we had 9637 QSOs in the log. After the last QSO with KQ8UO at 18.48z , we closed the
station and started to pack up.
From Aitutaki we had to fly to Rarotonga and then to Fiji from where we had booked tickets to
Tongatapu on Tonga. After nearly nine hours of waiting at "Raro" Airport fighting the mosquitos,
we were able to board Boening 767 at last. After a few minutes of waiting, the captain informed us he had
a problem with one of the engines and that the flight is a "few minutes delayed". After two hours
of waiting we took off and after another 3 and half hour we safely landed at the International
Airport in Nadi.
The flight to Tonga was scheduled to 4.30pm and so we had at least ten hours to make a short trip
around Nadi and Lautoka. We were guided by good friend of mine, capt. of Fiji Police -
Mr. Luva Ilikaya, my collegue from our duty as an UN observers. Except for the sightseeing we paid
attention mostly to the hotels as we knew we were going to return to Nadi in a few weeks time.
We hoped to choose a hotel to give us a good take-off to Europe and the USA. A we were not very
satisfied with what we saw we postponed making a definite decision until the next visit. Anyway, we spent
very nice day and recognised the Viti Levu Island as one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Due to a visa problems we had to change our plans and beside to Tonga we flew to Western Samoa