Dxpedition report

March 2010 - I surprise my XYL with my wish to go on another DXpedition to HKŘ land because my license is still valid until 2012. She was first looking a little bewildered but I didn’t have to beg long to get permission.

May 2010 - I begin to plan the trip. The first difficulties appeared when I tried to book a hotel or cottage for my IOTA mission SA-040. The guys from Tijereto told me that they only have solar power and nothing during the nights. No generator due to pollution problems. They never came back again on my questions.

July 2010 - The owner of the second Island, Isla Pavitos, meant that my antenna was too high and would “invite” lightnings to that little island. Too dangerous!!!

September 2010 - I send an email to the Hotel on Isla Pirata where we have been 4 years ago. They answer immediately and are glad that we come again. So IOTA SA-040 is on the safe side.

Oktober 2010 - All flights and accomodation are booked.
I am preparing my rig for the event. I only hope that all works well when we s
tart our trip November 13.
We will stay with Cecilia and Pedro Allina, HK3JJH, in Bogotá for the first three days of our journey, then fly to Cartagena where we meet Pedro, HK1X.
The first part of my DXpedition starts November 17 on Isla Pirata, IOTA SA-040.

November 5 - Today I received DJ6NK’s 600W FET PA. Selfmade by Josef, DJ9YN, it weighs 6.4 kg including a switching power supply.

November 8 - I have played a few times with the PA. I had to be careful because I am not so familiar with those toys. I never had any PA, neither on any DXpedition nor at home. I didn’t want to blast it before starting my DXpedition. But Jan gave me a few hints. It works fine. I worked a few other DXpeditions like T6MB, PJ2’s and FJ, probably a bit faster as I usually would have worked them with my 100W old school rig.

November 11 - my last day at work. A bit hectic. But I will try to relax a bit in my first vacation days. Running pileups is my kind of relaxation even when I don’t get too much sleep. I doublecheck flight bookings and acommodation. No problems so far. The Taxi is ordered for Saturday morning 07:00.

November 12 - All toys are packed and stowed away. Thanks to the generous luggage limitations of Continental Airlines, 23kg per person, 18kg cabin luggage, additional laptop computer and a second piece of luggage per person for 50 USD we don’t expect any problems. I will have to pay 50 USD for my antenna case. It weighs 10kg and compared to the usual 25 Euros per kg overweight it is a real bargain. The only sorrow I have is with the customs - after all that bomb terror in the past few days I fear, that the custom may have some problems with all the ham radio stuff, coils and wires.

November 13 - After half an hour taxi ride on rather empty streets we arrive at the Continental counter well in advance. No problems with the antenna case - I just have to pay and bring it to the bulky luggage counter. The security check of our hand luggage is a bit more complex. I have to folllow a security officer to a special desk, unpack all my ham radio stuff and they examine every piece carefully with their “sniffer”.
That examination takes about 15 minutes and because a row of about 10 persons is building behind me I begin to fear that our plane could have a delay. Our transit time in Newark is less than three hours but the plane takes off exactly in time. Flight duration is 9:10h.
In Newark I expect a bit of trouble with our luggage but nothing happens. Okay, we have to open our cabin luggage as always, have to explain what we are carrying - the YL at the security check never heard anything about ham radio and wonders why there are crazy guys like me running around with such a lot of ugly things. But we don’t have any problems to get the whole stuff to the plane. Another five hours flight to Bogotá
Pedro, HK3JJH, and his XYL already wait for us at the exit when we arrive in pouring rain in Bogotá at 9:50pm. Again no problems with the customs. We are through in a minute. At 11:00pm we enter their lovely home. We are a “bit” tired after 24 hours without much sleep but also have to talk a lot about this and that.

November 14 - Sunday. We leave Bogotá after breakfast and stay for a good day in Pedro’s finca. It is beautiful there in the lush green mountains about 60km from Bogotá. We make a sightseeing trip to San Francisco (not CA but a nice little Village in a valley not far from the finca).
After our return Pedro asks me to make some QSOs. He´s got a Kenwood TS450S and an ICOM-706MK2G and I choose the latter because I have all the fitting cables and stuff from my own 706 with me. I try to make a few QSOs in WAE RTTY, but nobody can read me. There must be something wrong with my SCS PTCplus. I disconnect it and when I plug it in again the computer switches off immediately and the worst - I can`t reanimate it. SHOCK!!! Maybe I caused a shortage when I plugged in my modem. An odd smell too - but this is from the adapter USB-RS232.
For heaven’s sake - NOT back to the roots, NO paperlog and no hand keying!!! I disconnect the battery pack and put it back into the slot, switch on the laptop and it works - OOOOOMPHHHHH. I check the USB ports and they are working properly. The computer is okay but RTTY - farewell.
I run a little pileup as
HKŘGU/3 on 20m CW. Not so easy. Because Pedro is an exclusively SSB operator, his transceivers don’t have any filters and his antennas are - guess - adjusted to the SSB parts of the bands.
So I get a little less power with an SWR of about 1,7 into the antenna. Anyway it works. I get about 290 QSOs into my log, amongst them quite a respectable number of JAs, then the band closes. I try the 40m antenna but the SWR is too high and visible power output is only about 20W. To avoid any damages to Pedro’s equipment I go QRT and try again the next morning - a few more QSOs but condx drop down again after a short while. So I end the “opertion” with 410 QSOs in rather bad condx. There was seldom a signal louder as 559.

November 15 - After breakfast we make another sightseeing tour to La Vega, a nearby picturesque village and return for Lunch. After lunch we return to Bogotá. Unfortunately Monday is holiday, so that the big computer stores are closed but we find a small shop which has the USB adapter cable for about 20 USD.
Now I hope that it is only the cable not the PTCplus. The Allinas show us some nice places in Bogota before we return to their home. We go to bed earlier as the evenings before because we are rather tired from the air in big heights.
Big hands for Cecilia and Pedro for their overwhelming hospitality. They were great hosts for the last few days.

November 16 - My birthday. We get up early because our flight to Cartagena starts at 10:49. We leave Allinas flat at 08:00 - and stuck in a minute in heavy traffic. Who thinks that rushhour traffic in Berlin is heavy has never been to Bogotá. We already start to fear that we could be late the traffic normalizes after a big road construction site. After paying overweight for 11kg - 30.500 Colombian Pesos (16 USD) we check in and wait for the plane. Weather is still good. Then the bad news.
Cartagena’s airport is closed due to bad weather. We can watch the news on TV. Horrible pictures from the north coast of Colombia amongst them pictures from Cartagena, flooded streets and heavy damages. The plane to Cartagena before was led to Barranquilla. At 11:30 we enter the plane and sit there for over an hour then we have to leave the plane again and since then we wait in the transit room. Now it’s raining cats and dogs. The weather seems to come from there. First pictures appear in TV from damages in the north of Bogotá. We get a bulletin every 30 minutes but no permission to start.
13:40 - first semi-good news: weather in Cartagena is changing to better.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we arrive in Cartagena today and even more important - that the boat to Isla Pirata can leave tomorrow morning - who knows about weather and sea during the next days!?
It’s 14:40 - at last the flight announcement. And the best: we fly to Cartagena!
Takeoff at 14:55 - expected arrival time in Cartagena 15:50. We touch down at 15.55.
Immediately after our arrrival in our hotel “Monterrey” I call Pedro, HK1X. We had arranged an eyeball QSO in Cartagena but he has to leave for a visit to Dominican Republic, where he will stay until Sunday. So we will meet Monday before our plane starts to San Andrés.
We stroll through the Old Town looking here and there and go to bed early.

November 17 - We get up at 6am. Our boat to Isla Pirata leaves at 9am and we have to embark at the “muelle touristica” at 8:30.
We are halfway out of Cartagena as one engine of our boat starts to scatter and fails. The skipper has to do a whole while to start it again. I start to count the time in missed QSOs. An hour later as aspected we disembark at Pirate Island at 11:30. Isla Pirata is a very tiny islet of about 2400 square meters size.
Alberto, the guy from the reception welcomes us and guides us to our cottage. We have booked No 10 - a small one. But he gives us a much bigger one for the same price. We are positively surprised.
Because the maid is still cleaning our cottage we have to wait for about an hour. After occupying our cottage I start to assamble and erect my antenna, an HF9VX. It takes a bit time because everybody on the island is watching me, asking what I am doing and they are impressed of the mess of tubes, coils and wires.
At least, at 3:30 the rig is arranged and the antenna “works”. At 3:45pm (20:45z) I make my first QSO with VP2V/NY6X, whom I call on his CQ. Then I call CQ myself and before the first pileup starts I have to quit after three QSOs despite a power loss for over 2 hours. Murphy, what else can I do for you.
I start a nice little pileup on 40m when power comes back at 23:00z. After 9 hours I log QSO number 875 - not a bad start with just 100W. But I condemn my computer’s keyboard. It is good looking but the keys are plain and the space between them only 1mm. So I can’t feel the edge of the keys. Lots of doubleclicks and typing errors. So it takes additional time to log all QSOs correctly. I should think about another one.
I go to bed at 3:30 to catch a little sleep.

November 18 - After 2:30h I get up again to look for JA but a little too late. A few JA’s on 40m.
Time for breakfast. A good opening on 12m at 15:00z. After an hour band closes down - 153 QSOs. Tomorrow I will be a little earlier on 12m if condx allow.
We make a boattrip through the archipelgo of Islas del Rosario and visit the Oceanarium.
Not much to do on the radio during the day. Most bands are dead and no activity at all. I install the 600W FET PA. It works fine and it probaby helps to increase the QSO number because the guys on the other side of the pileup don’t have to dig so deep in the noise for me. At 21:30z I switch on the transceiver to look for Japan but during my first QSO with W3AV power loss again. They are maintaining the generators but they promise steady power the next days. We will see.
Power is back at 22:45z but not a single signal on 20m so I switch to 40m. From my table I can see far lightnings and hear the results of them in my radio.
40m is not as good as last night - QRN doesn’t make it easier. 1527 QSOs when I stop the nightshift.

November 19 - After two hours sleep I get up early at 5am to catch a few JA’s. Just 5 can make it into my log. Around 14:00z I’m on 12m - signals are much lower than yesterday. After one hour band closes down. 250 QSOs on 17m then nothing more to do as swaying in the hammock until 20:45z. Before I can switch on my transceiver the fan signalizes - what else? - power loss! Always at the best time for JA on upper bands. 23:00z power is back - but again too late for JA. 40m is again the best band. Not much to do during daytime. Endless CQs without much success. Most bands are dead. So I use the daytime to sleep a little in my hammock on the veranda.

November 20 - 2338 QSOs in log when I go to bed at 5am. At 12:30z I’m back on 12m to run a nice little pileup on SSB(!!!!) - seldom enough, but SA-040 is still searched for the IOTA programm and there are probably still a few guys out there without CW knowledge. After 150 QSOs power loss at 13:10z (09:10 local time) in the morning - a new dimension. We go SCUBA diving. The reef in front of Isla Grande is rather dead and damaged - beautiful is something different. When we are back I switch again to 12m - good sigs from the States. Another 100 QSOs on 12m then band closes down. The first evening hours after sunset I usually work on 40m but today condx seem to be down - a few stations drop in on my CQ calls but I can’t cause no pileup. Some activity in the LZ DX contest but signals are mostly very low - no fun at all. I quit after a while to be back in the early morning (Zulu) for EU and JA.

November 21 - Our last day on Pirate Island. Our boat to Cartaqena leaves at 3:00pm. I will use the day for (hopefully) a few more pileups before disassembling my antenna and pack my stuff.
The LZ DX contest makes it a bit hard to cause any pileup on 40m in the morning hours and 30m is “fully booked” with big pileups so no chance for a split operation. I sleep a little longer and run a few pileups on 17m and 12m after breakfast.
I end the first stage at 10:45am with 3124 QSOs in the SA-040 log.
The first third of our trip is over. But still two weeks left for San Andrés.
Our speedboat arrives in Cartagena at 4:15pm. We disembark and take a taxi to our nearby Hotel Monterrey.
We make another trip through the Ciudad Vieja, drink a few beers and lie in bed 20:30pm. I sleep like a stone after all the nightshifts on Isla Pirata. I wake up at 06:30am.

November 22 - We visit again the narrow lanes of the historical old town. There is a lot to see. Wonderful coloured and picturesque old houses, lots of street vendors, who sell everything you can imagine: fruits, tees, cigars, hats, chicklets and and and ...
I try to call Pedro, HK1X, several times but can reach him just 30 minutes before we have to leave for the airport. He was on duty in Santo Domingo/Dominican Republic for a week and returned after midnight. He is terribly sorry that time is too short for an eyeball QSO.
After check in and paying our 10 kg overweight luggage we sit in the transit room and wait for the plane. It should leave at 1:12pm but at 2:30pm we still sit and wait. Murphy is back again. I hope that we arrive in San Andrés still in time to erect the HF9VX in daylight. My 160m Inverted L has probably to wait until the next morning. Flight duration is 1:20h. To leave the airport will cost another 30 minutes and also half an hour for the taxi ride to our cottage in the south of the island - I just calculate a few minutes for the welcome. Around 6pm somebody will switch off the daylight rather immediately... I don’t want to loose another day without any QSOs. The first thing I will have to do is to hammer the grounding tube into the soil. The antenna can be assembled in the cottage and mounted in the shine of my torch.
At 2:50pm we sit in the plane - at last!
We touch down at 4pm, leave the airport half an hour later and arrive in our cottage at 5pm. Not much daylight left!
The weather is not outstanding good, windy and overcast. The sea is rough and the waves are wearing foamy crowns.
Nelson, the good soul of “Red Crab” welcomes us very friendly and shows us around. I don’t want to be unfriendly but can’t take my eyes off my watch.
He is very helpful and together we assemble the HF9VX and erect it in the backyard already in the dark.
I install the rig and make my first QSO with CU2/DL2RNS at 00:34z.

November 23 - After my first nightshift I log QSO number 613. After a short sleep and breakfast I try 12m. Mostly weak signals but workable. I end the morning pileup with 879 QSOs in log.
We decide to make a trip to the city to buy a few things for the daily use and most of all to visit our good old friend Abel, HK0VGJ. I wonder how he is. We haven’t heard anything about him for 4 years.
When we arrive at his house we are a bit astonished - there is a kindergarten now.
They must have moved, but we will find out.
After returning to “Red Crab” Nelson, Nelson’s son Hartman and Lucy help me to erect my 160m Inverted L. We need a while to get the guywire for the horizontal part of the “L” over a palmtree. But at 6pm all is ready - after a short adjustment it works fine.
After an hour I have 87 QSOs and 22 entities in log - many of them from EU. Then condx are going down.
I go to bed and adjust the alarm clock to 04:00z to work EU on 160m.
During the evening hours we had heavy rain and when I switch on my TRX SWR is extremely high on 160m.
A first look over the veranda - the antenna is still standing. So I try to look for the feeding point of the antenna but Nelson has barricaded the door to the backyard and I am not able to open it. So I switch to 40m and discover, that the HF9VX is neither working - on all bands endless SWR. But I find out, that the connecting cable between TRX and PA is loose just a little bit. I tighten it and all is fine again. I run a few QSOs on 40m and try 80m but noise level is too high for a good run. I dig a few stations out of the noise and give up. QSO number is now 1193.

November 24 - Inspection of the 160m antenna. The pole is still standing but the end of the wire lies down in the yard. The insulation at the end of the horizontal part is burned and has melted the polyester guy wire. I have a second fibre pole so we try again to get the guy wire over the top of the palmtree - the heavy winds don’t make it even easier. A hard piece of work and then the guy rope with the weight sits tight. It doesn’t come down - neither forward nor back.
When I come back from the yard the next disaster is waiting - no power. The storms must have caused any damages to the powerline. After 4.5 hours power is back. Not much to do. Bands are quiet. A few stations are running pileups like CR3E. But I can hardly hear the EU stations he is working. 12m is also empty but I call CQ for a minute and have a nice little pileup with mostly US stations. After 107 QSOs band closes again.
Still strong winds and rough sea, not inviting to swim or snorkel.
So we decide to make a walk.
At 5pm we are back and Nelson and me are fixing the 160m antenna. This time in a much easier way with the second fibre pole which we knot to the palmtree.
At sunset I start another pileup on 160m. 125 QSOs - most of them with EU then band closes down.
QSO-number increases to 1694 - not a real big number but bands are closed during daytime. The last QSOs can be made around 14:00z then the next around my sunset at 22:00z besides a few sporadic openings on the upper bands.

November 25 - Another stormy and rainy night. 1829 QSOs in the log after the nightshift. All bands quiet. WX overcast and stormy again. We will look for an Internet-Cafe to submit the logs.
I found a “Fast Internet Cafe” and upload my DXpedition report but was a bit surprised that opening my webmailer takes 30 minutes with the option, that I could not read a single email nor send my log data. So I give up.
But - and that was really surprising - we met Abel’s son and his wife in a supermarket by coincidence. Was that a big “HELLO”. We instantly got an invitation for Tuesday or Wednesday. Abel, HKŘVGJ, and his XYL Edilma now live in Bogota.
Back home I switch on my transceiver, ask “QRL” and sit again in the dark - POWER LOSS!
We stroll to the beach, make a dip and have an “Aguila”, the best Colombian beer for our taste.
Power is back when we return after an hour or two.
I make a few QSOs on different bands then we go out for dinner but all the restauants around here are already closed. It’s low season. At the end we have luck. In front of the last restaurant (which is also closed) stands a young woman, waiting for the bus. When I asked her for the opening times of the restaurant she asks me if we want something to eat. She was the cook - opened the restaurant again for us and we had fingerlicking good fried conch and shrimps in coconut sauce.
Back in our cottage I work a few stations on 160m but sigs are very weak and noise level too high. So I switch to 80m and 40m and end the day with 2149 QSOs.

November 26 - I start the day with nice JA pileups on 40/30m. As bands close down I QSY to 12m and catch a few EU and USA stations.
Nelson tells me that they want to cut a palmtree in the yard so that my antennas have to be removed. We find a better solution. I install the 160m antenna behind the palmtree and so they can cut it down without damaging my antenna.
CQWW CW is knocking at the door. It is 4pm local time and I try to catch a bit sleep before the wrestling starts.
All is set up for the event. It starts at 8pm local time. I will probably NOT reach my good results of the last years because condx are a bit wicked - but anyway I’ll do my best.
I probably slept a bit too long. When I switch on my radio 20 minutes prior to start, the whole 40m band is fully booked and it takes long to find a rather empty frequency. The first 20 minutes are boring. Then it runs better. Later I switch to 160m - good sigs from the Caribbean Islands and US but also a few from EU. Amidst the pileup SWR raises and power drops down. I try to find the source but all seems to be perfect until I discover that the horizontal wire is in touch with a dead palmtree in about 6m heigth. There’s an about 5 cm big burnt mark and the insulation of the wire is melted. I throw a rope over it and keep the wire away from the tree. 160m works again.

November 27/28 - Contest days. Condx are rather fair but not really outstanding good.
What puzzles me is that in good condx I call CQ for sometimes 10 to 15 minutes with either no response or with just very few callers ON AN EMPTY frequency but when I call anybody on their CQ they answer immediately. Are there only “cluster hams” out there? Is turning the tuning knob out? I realize that I have big pileups when somebody spots me to the packet cluster but when the spot leaves the screen callers seem to vanish.
Maybe I’m wrong but with 400W somebody should hear me. I remember the “good old days” when I worked the same contest from Providencia Island (HKŘGU) in 2004 with 100W and a bit more than 4400 QSOs. The first day now ends with 1466 QSOs (compared to 2400). Okay one can’t beat the physics, there are long periods with rather empty bands and of course Murphy is not far away. I handle a nice pileup but then at 9:10am power loss until 12:10pm. 40m drops down in the early morning hours so I decide to sleep two hours until 40m usually opens to Asia. I adjust the alarm clock but must have been a bit absent or tired - I forgot to switch on the alarm. I wake up two hours later as planned and the opening to Asia is eaten. I end the contest with 2929 QSOs. That is really less than expected. I make a few contacts after the contest and go to bed to sleep a little longer.

November 29 - Condx are getting poorer. No signals on 160m, faint sigs on 80m and 40m in the morning hours. The log fills slower and slower. 2503 QSOs so far after another nightshift. I do the usual job. The first pileups at my sunset on 40m or - if open - on 160m for about two hours then bands close down. Two or three hours sleep, then checking 160m (only a few QSOs the last days); pileup on 40m until 03:00am, another two hours sleep then looking for JA (also rare the last days), 30m pileup if possible and looking for a few QSOs on 17/12m. At about 09:00am bands close. We stroll around on the island. Another try to find a fast Internet access - negative! I can upload my DXpedition report but no chance to submit my logs.
The files are now more than 1.5MB big and with about 20kB upload speed... - I don’t want to stay there overnight.

November 30 - Bad condx remain. It is hard to get a few QSOs into the log.
Stormy weather also remains. It rains from time to time. We went to the Fishermens Cooperative for a meal and were totally satisfied with our decision. On the way back we were surprised with another rainshower. We get wet to the bones - liquid sunshine - ha!!?
Nelson decides to fell the dead palmtree after we left - the rope melts again and the burn-mark at the tree is getting bigger. Next time I will cary a thicker wire, this one is getting too hot with power over 100W. Same procedure - get the rope back, knot it, throw it over the horizontal wire and fix it at the fence to get it away from the tree and waiting for the next melting. 3031 QSOs now. Not too much for about 8 to 10 hours “work” per day.

December 1 - Nothing better, neither condx nor weather. Sun tries to come through a few times but mostly fails. Wind is getting stronger. The noise of the waves is terrible - I can hear it through the headphones.
I have good runs on 17m and 12m today.
Guillermo, Abel’s son, is picking us up for a visit in their home. Breathtaking view from their house on the hill. And a great meal. We call Abel and his XYL Edilma in Bogotá - both are well.
Guillermo has a ham license too and is CW enthusiast but his profession doesn’t give him no time.
We drink our last “Aguila” in our preferred little restaurant near the sea with a nice view to Johnny Cay and say farewell to the town. We have to leave tomorrow afternoon. I will try to get a few more QSOs into my log until QRT at 10am.
Back home it is already getting dark, a few QSOs on 30m then switch to 160m. What should I say - after the first CQ SWR rises and PA switches off. Now the wind is so strong that I have a real problem to get the rope over the wire again to get it away from the palmtree. It takes about 50min - than 7 QSOs with US stations before I give up - too noisy. I switch to 40m. A few stations calling me but no pileup. After an hour I decide to go to bed to be up at 1:00am for the last QSOs on 160m. I only hope that the condx may allow a few EU QSOs. Now I have 3621 QSOs in my log.

December 2 - Our last few hours. I get up at 1:00am. 160m seems to be dead. Two CQs and W5YRA is in the log. A few stations make it into my log but very low signals. QSY to 40m. A few callers but seldom two stations at the same time. After a while signals get weaker and weaker. I sleep for another two hours and hope for an opening on 17/12m. After 20min CQ on 17m and 15min CQ on 12m I surrender. All bands dead, just a few very light sigs I can’t identify. So I disassamble my antennas and the rig a few hours earlier as expected. I close my log with 3744 QSOs All in all - including CQWW - 6766 QSOs. In better condx could have been a few more but who can be made responsible for bad condx?
40m is by far the best band
We say farewell to our friends at “Red Crab”, Nelson and his wife, Lucy and “Capitan Machete” Hartman, Nelsons son.
At 4:10pm our plane leaves San Andrés.
Pedro, HK3JJH, and his XYL Cecilia already wait for us at Bogotá Airport. It is short after 6pm - rushhour in town. We need exactly two hours for the 25km between the airport and their apartment. We have lunch together and then I sleep the first time for 7 hours after all the pileups.

December 3 - We have to get up early at 5:30am. Our plane to Berlin via Newark leaves at 10am and we have to be at the airport at 7am - three hours before the flight. We check in without any problems, have to pay our obligatory 50 USD for our third piece of luggage (of course an additional fee of 8 USD Government Tax). We have plenty of time to look around, buy some coffee and wait for our plane to leave.
After a short stopover in Newark we land in Berlin at 8:30am December 4.

December 4 - I upload the logs at www.clublog.org and www.qsl.net/hk0gu and start to answer the emails.