Costa Rica 2001
travelogue by Alan - KI7WO

This is the tale of a couple of guys name
Bill ( AK0A ) and Alan ( KI7WO)

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This trip begins with an uneventful departure from Kansas City International Airport connecting thru Atlanta and arriving San Jose, Costa Rica, Central America.
 
We were picked up in San Jose by our host Henry

( TI2HMG ) and taken to the Radio Licensing Office. Taxi cab drivers there are KRAZY. There are Stop Signs at most intersections in addition to the regular traffic control signals. When the question was asked why the need for both, was informed the Stop Signs are for when the power goes off ( which it did 3
times during our stay ). Comment by Henry: problem has been fixed now by major repair work of Power Light company...
 
Observed some unique driving there. There are painted line on the roadway. These are for the cars to drive between and the motorcycles to drive on. May not be what they were designed for but that is what was observed. Traffic circles also strange with two lanes in the circle, two lanes entering and two lanes exiting makes for very cautious driving.
 
Saw no U.S. made cars there. Only Japanese, which was probably good since very narrow roads in places and many many motorcycles. Motorcycle helmets
are required here, even though automobile insurance is not mandatory.

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Arrived at Henry's without incident. Got on the radio and started making contacts. Unbelievable demand for Costa Rica. Called CQ a couple of times, got posted on the DX Cluster and the race was on. Amazing runs of
JA's and Europeans rates often over 120 per hour. A real learning experience for me. Never before had so many people who wanted to talk to me. Usually I am trying to break the pile-up, this time I was trying to
manage the pile-up. Must have something to do with my location.
 
Since the weather is a moderate 70 - 80 year round no need for Air Conditioning. Even though Sept and Oct is the rainy season, it was very comfortable in shorts and T-shirt. Very nice breeze blowing most of the time.

The 5 band Quad on the 40-foot tower worked very well from near the top of the mountain. 3200 ft elevation. Had wire dipoles for the low bands
which didn't work quite as well, but didn't find many times that we could not find a band opening somewhere.

Found many people who did not understand basic radio instructions like QRZ, QRX, QSY and QRT. Should be added as part of the basic licensing study guides.

The food was wonderful. Nothing beats "fresh" fruit - bananas, pineapple, papaya, coconut, etc. This was the real stuff, not that stuff you get in the stores here. For those addicted to the "Big City" there was the usual assortment of "fast food" available in San Jose - Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, etc.......
 
The water heater for the shower is quite unique. It is incorporated into the showerhead. Being a "demand type heater" when the water flows it heats. The faster the water runs, the cooler the water. Certainly a
unique experience for an electrician to see wires coming out of the wall directly over the showerhead. Italian manufactured, would not be approved
for use here in the U.S.A. No GFCI receptacle in bathroom either.
 
There is no permit requirement for putting up a tower here. You just build what ever you want. Don't we wish it was that easy here?
 
Worked some memorable stations while there. Worked one station, this was his first HF contact. Worked my "7" land buro sorter. Worked someone signing W1AW, probably a pirate station, and some very nice sounding YL stations. Amazing how they can punch right through a pileup especially those gals from Texas. I called for a YL station and was told "My name is Elliot and I am a 12 year old boy". Oops, guessed wrong on that one. Even worked stations with Di-Poles in the attic, a number of /Mobile and QRP stations.

We shared the Quad antenna. Though we had two complete stations could only run one at a time because of interference. Not enough antenna
separation between the Quad and the G5RV. Will address that problem next time. It was a terrible feeling to have a great run going and be called
to dinner, or bathroom call.

Never before felt so "special and wanted". Not just "another N.A. station. Many said thank you for new band and even more TU for new country. Appreciate working many of the guys from Kansas City. Paid
special attention for any "zero's" in the callsign.

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Went to the bank downtown to exchange Travelers Checks. It takes 4 weeks to clear if you write them to a person or business, but the bank will exchange them directly for local currency. Interesting security at the bank. Must pass thru a controlled access point for entry and departure. Almost worse than airport security. They did have ESPN sports on TV behind the bank tellers to watch while waiting in line.
 
A major source of frustration was the North American PSK31 operators. Bill was very specific when sending CQ to include the request that they NOT send "brag file". Tried repeatedly to explain that this was a
DXpedition style operation and yet many send their long and boring file containing unwanted information about their Computer, Rig, Antenna, how much power etc...... Wish they would listen to the DX operator's instructions.
 
In Belize last year, Bill was always the quiet one at the end of the table who didn't make any noise, just type on the keyboard. Having spent some "quality time" with Bill, I have developed an appreciation for RTTY as a very viable means of communication.

It was a very quiet operating environment with the exception of some local QRM, namely a crazy rooster who could not tell time, and a neighbours dog who barked at everything and everyone.

Did I mention how incredible the pileups were?? Absolutely amazing. Special thanks to Duane KA0HAE for the use of his headset and foot switch. Would not have been possible for me to log as many contacts as I did with a "hand mike". Mr. Heil makes a great product.

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Thank you to Bill for planning this trip. A memorable experience for me. This has greatly helped me to understand the workings from the DX operators' perspective and also will help prepare me for the next exciting adventure.
 
A very special thank you to Henry ( TI2HMG ), our host. There was nothing that we asked for that was not provided. His cooking is wonderful. I would heartily recommend his "bed & breakfast" for anyone, Ham or otherwise, looking for an enjoyable experience in Costa Rica. Very reasonable price also. Would I go again?? YES!!

His Web Site can be found at: www.qsl.net/ti2hmg/ Click Ham Radio Vacation.

Had nearly a hundred QSL cards waiting for me upon my return, Bill reported even more. I do not understand WHY the concept of "return SASE" or envelope with GS or IRC is so difficult to understand. I know this is like "preaching to the choir" since none of us would impose on a DX operator to pay our return postage out of his own pocket, however the message needs to get out AGAIN!!!

QSO totals for the trip were 10,193 plus about 270 dupes in 11 days.

Breakdown follows: 

TOTAL-QSOs

Band SSB RTTY PSK31 MFSK
80 0 7 0 0
40 14 63 4 0
20 2653 1391 175 24
17 999 6 0 0
15 408 1135 170 1
12 1069 99 0 0
10 1191 645 139 0
Total 6334 3346 488 25
Gran total 10.193

Airport security was very tight, as was to be expected. Had no problems taking radio and equipment on the plane. The only thing I could not bring out of Costa Rica in my carry on bag was the batteries in my flashlight. No batteries allowed except laptop computer.
 
A wonderful experience was had by all. Sorry Kathy there is NO  Wal-Mart in Costa Rica... Al - KI7WO

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