Blog

10/14/13

 

121206 - 9:30 Thursday a.m. - I arrived home late Wednesday night.  I'll catch up and clean up this blog and web site later this weekend.

121205 - 8:00 a.m Wednesday - Well it has been an exciting few days.  I'm in Heathrow, Terminal 5 and I'm wrestling with Internet - what else could I be doing?  Let me back up a bit, and catch up.

We left the Trading Post at about 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.  Roger and our German team members in one vehicle, and Frosty and the remaining Canadian Team members (Bill and Keith) in the other.  We got across the border with minimal issues - got some more stamps in our passports, and we headed to Bernie's place.  We dropped off the Battle Creek antenna, and said our good byes.  We got separated heading north, with Frosty, Bill and Keith in the lead.  Long drive - and we were getting close to Johannesburg about 3:00. 

We had been watching the skys turn darker, and we saw the occasional flash of lightening.  As we got into the outskirts of Johannesburg, it started with torrential downpours - raining so hard you couldn't talk easily in he vehicle from the pounding.  Lightening, thunder and then hailstones.  Now we really couldn't talk.  I took a few pictures - I'll push them up when Internet connectivity allows.

We finally got through  it, dropped Keith at his hotel, gassed up the rental car and went to the airport. I checked my two bags and we went through security.  They had a problem with my Amateur Radio Handi Talki - so off to see the manager.  He is adamant that it is illegal to carry on an aircraft.  I whom him my license, I ask him to look it up in the rules - no go.

So back to British Airways - at first they want nothing to do with me.  I explain I carry it frequently and it is not a problem. I carried it down there through Vancouver and Heathrow security.  They tello me I will need to buy a bag, and it is going to cost me 44 pounds to check it.

I go and buy the only bag I could find - 350 Rand - about $50.  I get back to the counter - she puts it in and it comes up with $1,850 dollars.  I'm sent off to ticketing, and then back to check in.  I've asked the manager to step in - he can't do anything about Security - but he has an idea.  We'll treat it like a firearm.  I checked it in - and moments before the flight departure it was delivered onto the aircraft and sat above my seat for the whole trip.

So I get to Heathrow - clear immigration, and have to go through Security again.  This time they are in a snit about my 'liquids'.  Totally ignored my ham radio.  He pulls things  out, and I say medication - he  pulls out my boxed Epipen, and says this has to go  - I say - it is a prescription it stays.  He pulls out my pitstop (anti-persperent) - and says this is a liquid.  I politely point out that it is a gel - and a gel isn't a liquid.

End of the story - he took my unopened bottle of cough syrup and my unopened mini-bottle of mouthwash.  Painful - completely missed the terrorist with the Amateur Radio Handi Talki!  Oh yes, I will write to Security at Johannesburg - and voice my concerns.  I'll also point out that I walked through their scanners twice and did not set them off - first time I've not set off a scanner since my hip replacement - or in other words, their basic equipment wasn't set up correctly.

I was going to try and go to the Yotel - but that would mean going through security again - and I'm done with security for this trip!  I landed at 6:30 a.m. and I take off around 4:50 p.m. - so a few hours to kill at this airport.

121203 - 9:00 p.m. - We've had our dinner.  I'm packed - mostly.  Will wake up early enough to get a shower, a shave and set up for the trip  to JBurg tomorrow.  Breakfast at 6:30, leave at 7:00 a.m.

My flight is about 9:30 at night - so will be a bit of a wait.

We did up a bit of a thank you certificate for CD  - all of the guys signed it. He was an awesome help on set up and tear down.  He was also always there for us during the DX-Pedition.  Mitch and Donovan are gone at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow - I suspect I won't be saying my good byes in the a.m.  Travel safe guys.

My laundry did not get done - because of the bad weather - so I'm travelling with minimal clean clothes. A spilled drink on the plane could spell disaster.  We'll have to make do.

Monday 1:30 p.m. - Well the weather for teardown was a lot better then we feared.  The antennas are down - the coax is rolled up, and we are working on packing up the rest of the gear.  We'll be giving Neil a lift to the airport, in a few minutes.  I'll go along to make sure he gets on the plane ;>}}.  It was a pleasure working the pileups with Neil - his contribution was very much appreciated.

We've done up the brag videos, taken the team pictures, and everyone is a little numb finishing up the trip.  It has been an awesome run.  Keith asked me to do up a 'Certificate of Appreciation' for CD - Tsilsiso - we'll get Jenny to print it out when she gets back into town.

Gerry - the Ambassador from Ireland dropped by for a visit.  He is 7P8CC - also a ham from Ireland. It was very nice of him to take time from his busy schedule and drop by to talk a little radio with us. 

121202 - Sunday noonish - Frosty and I went for a drive this a.m.  He wanted to check out where the airport was - as he has to drop Neil there on Monday.  Lots of rain, blowing hard and visibility reduced.  We found the airport, did a quick spin around the checkin location, and headed back.  We needed gas for the rental car, but all of the local gas stations were closed.  We ended up driving into the capital to get gas. 

I've taken a few more pictures which I will push up shortly.  As we were passing one of the busses, his driver's door popped open - apparently to do a shoulder check - as his driver's side mirror was non-existent!  Many of the cars we passed were packed with passengers, and the windows were completely fogged up - not sure how the drivers were navigating, but it was not through normal vision.

Sunday 8:37 a.m.- Bit of catching up - was on 20 meters last night from about 7:30 till 10:00.  Huge pileups - wall to wall signals.  Managed to work a number of VE7 and VA7's - so glad to get you guys in the log book.  Hit the sack around 10:00 p.m. and was up for 3:00 a.m. Sunday - called CQ for two hours on 20 meters, and got one Asiatic Russian in the log.  Went back to bed for a few hours.

Woke up at 7:30 - absolutely torrential downpours.  Enough water running down the sidewalks for fish to swim upstream.  Going to be a very wet day.  The weather report is calling for the rain overnight, and it to be nice Monday.

We will tear down the equipment on Monday - and doing it in the rain isn't very attractive.  Sounds like it will at least be decent weather - we can live with that.

121201 - Saturday 9:45 - Called on 17 for an hour and got one response - bit early for 17 meters.  Just walked over to the Trading Post - picked up two bottles of cough syrup - I'm going to have to go to rehab to get over using this stuff!

While I was on my way back, there was a young lady on horseback, dressed in her traditional garb, a blanket around her, carrying an empty red gas can, pulled into the refuelling pump to get a gallon of gas.  It made me smile.

So last night / this morning, about 3:00 a.m. Roger and I both heard a gun shot.  When I hit the sack at around 4:00 a.m., I inadvertently woke Neil up, and we both heard what sounded like three shots from an automatic pistol.  Not sure what was going on, but the last Friday of the month is payday, and the locals were celebrating.

Just across the street, there was a flagpole flying a yellow flag yesterday.  I asked CJ about it and it indicates that the house has home made booze for sale.  We've seen a few of those flags around, it was gone this morning.  Not sure I have it in me to try some home made hooch of any type.

Saturday 3:30 a.m. - Been up for a bit.  Chris is pounding  away on CW, and Emil just came up on CW.  Bands look pretty quiet otherwise.  Roger just headed off for a couple of hours sleep.  I'm still coughing like crazy - wouldn't wish this on anyone.  Jo is supposed to be getting up to work grey line on 80 and 160 meters shortly.

It is seriously raining out there right now.  And of course the first heavy rumble of thunder.  That went on for a long time.  We'll have to see if it sticks around or rolls through quickly.  A picture here.  

121130 - Friday 8:30 p.m. - Finished dinner - full team working the radios.  I'm going to hit the sack, try and get a few hours sleep and then come back after 2:00 a.m. to work some radio.  With any luck I'll have my voice back.

Before dinner, I met the new guard for the weekend - don't think he speaks English.  He is carrying a sling mounted, 12 gauge Defender shotgun - not with a folding stock, not with a cut off stock, but with no stock.  That baby is going to burn if he has to use it!

Friday 4:00 p.m. - Major storm blowing in.  Was outside, Chris and Mitch were trying to re-align the upper Hex Beam antenna.  I took a picture - it is here.  There were a bunch of kids outside playing until one of the mums came out and yelled at them and they scattered to their homes.  Interestingly, several of them were playing with the rims off of bicycles - spokes and tires removed, and were rolling them along the ground with just a stick.  Haven't seen that since I was a kid.

We had a BBQ for lunch - here is a picture of the meat - I think it was lamb and a type of African sausage.  Regardless, it tasted great

Friday 11:30 a.m. - Another storm blowing through - heavy torrential rain, wind and a bit of lightening.  I was sitting down outside when one strike happened, and it was pretty close - I'm guessing 1 KM. It certainly made me jump. Cellular modem went down - usually takes  a while for it to come back up.  Rain has stopped almost as quick as it started - already brightening up again.  Team is plugging everything back in again and powering it back up.  Bands were down and signals weak - should  start to pick up early this afternoon. 

We are having a BBQ for lunch - CJ is cooking it over a home made charcoal BBQ.  They moved it under cover, just after the rains started.

121128 - Thursday 4:00 p.m. - Big storm blowing in - winds are picking up, and the sky looks threatening.  I think we are in for a thunder storm this afternoon / evening.  Haven't heard any booms yet - but I think it is a matter of time.  Just checked accuweather - and the next few days are going to be unsettled.  Warm - mid to high 20's C and thunderstorms.

Thursday 11:15 a.m. - Went back to bed for two hours - got a couple of more hours of sleep, and I'm feeling better all the time.  Went and picked up some more cough syrup - and I'm feeling like I might live, and that it also might not be a bad idea!  Got a shift at noon for three hours - we'll see how I do.

Roger is still chasing gremlins in his setup - and is swapping out amplifiers.  I'm sure he will work it out.

I've been doing a bit more research - it is seems that for a child to go to Middle School and High School - they will need approximately $300 per year - or about 2,400 Rand per year - or over 12 months - 200 Rand a month.  This is for five years - to graduate with what we would call a high school diploma.  When you look at what people make below - you can see what education is so highly prized, and so out of reach for so many children. http://www.lesothoeducationfund.org/index.html This is for books and tuition - they would still need a school uniform.  There is also some write-ups that talk about kids having to walk up to 2 hours each way to school.  We do see a lot of people walking at times - near end of the school day there are a lot of uniformed kids on the roads and walkways. 

http://helplesotho.org/index.php/lesotho/challenges-in-lesotho/

Mitch and I  went for a bit of a walk this morning - around 5:30.  Sun was coming up, and it was getting warm already.  We did a bit of a loop - outside of the trading post, down a local dirt track, up the hill till we intercepted the road, and then followed the road back down.  We passed several men walking to work.  We also saw a number of women doing the laundry, and hanging it out to dry.  Some individuals were sitting outside - watching the sun come up.  We noticed that a number of the homes had planted some small crops - and it looked like they had been hand watered last night.  They were still showing moisture this morning.

We took some pictures, and I have pushed them up to the Images portion of the web site.  It was very early, so the sun was quite low, and there were lots of deep shadows.  There were also a couple of pictures taken of some road side huts - a cafe, a public phone and I think some vegetable  stands.

Thursday 5:30 - found this on line.  To put it in perspective, 8 Rand or 8 Maloti equal $1 US or $1 Canadian - so divide by 8 to get monthly, weekly or daily wages.  I couldn't find out where the hours of work were laid out.

Table X: MINIMUM WAGES 1 October 2006 튉 30 September 2007
Ref Sector Monthly Wage
(Maloti)
 
Weekly Wage
(Maloti)
 
Daily Wage
(Maloti)
 
  Clothing, Textile & Leather Manufacturing 660.00 164.00 35.00
A.1. Textile General Worker 660.00 164.00 35.00
A.2. Textile Machine Operator 튉 Trainee 710.00 177.00 37.00
A.3. Textile Machine Operator 튉 Trained      
  Construction      
B.1. Construction worker 818.00 205.00 43.00
B.2.  Construction machine operator 1 442.00 341.00 78.00
  Wholesale & Retail      
C.1. Retailers (excl. small business) : mini-supermarket, bakery, cafes, filling station 810.00 202.00 43.00
C.2. Wholesaler, supermarket, furniture shop 830.00 207.00 44.00
  Hospitality Sector      
D.1. Restaurants, caterers, guest houses 800.00 200.00 42.00
D.2. Hotels, motel, lodge 840.00 215.00 44.00
  Service Sector      
E.1. Security guard 튉 trainee 800.00 200.00 42.00
E.2. Security guard 튉 trained 982.00 245.00 52.00
  Transport Sector      
F.1 B/EB/C1 (with <12 months service with same

C/EC1      employer)

EC

909.00

1030.00

1274.00

225.00

249.00

319.00

55.00

62.00

79.00

F.2. B/EB/C1 (with >12 months service with same

C/EC1      employer)

EC

940.00

1030.00

1318.00

235.00

258.00

330.00

58.00

62.00

82.00

F.3. Certified auto-electrician, motor mechanic, panel beater 1442.00 341.00 78.00
G. Small Business      
  <12 months service 480.00 119.00 25.00
  >12 months service 490.00 122.00 26.00
  General Minimum Wage      
H.1. <12 months service with same employer 686.00 172.00 38.00
IH2. >12 months service with same employer 697.00 175.00 39.00
I. General Minimum Wage      
  <12 months service with same employer 686.00 172.00 38.00
  >12 months service with same employer 697.00 175.00 39.00

What is the Lesotho Minimum Wage?

Lesotho's Minimum Wage is the lowest amount a worker can be legally paid for his work. Most countries have a nation-wide minimum wage that all workers must be paid.

The Lesotho minimum wage is 252 maloti per month for lower-skilled jobs, 686 maloti per month for textile machine operator trainees, and 738 maloti per month for textile general workers. The minimum wage rate are set annually. Lesotho's minimum wage was last changed in 2008 .

Thursday 2:30 a.m. - Went to bed right after dinner - feeling like this cold is a bad one.  Got some sleep, took some drugs, got some more sleep.  Up and at them right now.  Not sure I'm up to getting on the air, as I am still coughing more then I would like.  Keith just arrived, he is working 80 and 160 meters - grey line.  A number of the guys are down - to various extents.  Intestinal and colds - not easy with the long hours these guys are putting in.

A bit of a wind out there - could feel the blinds flapping.  Outside, clear and cool.  Visibility appears unlimited.  Many, many stars visible, and a full moon hanging in the sky.  I can clearly see a planet blazing away close to the moon - Venus I  think.

We had a bit of a storm blow through Wednesday afternoon.  Thunder and lightening.  We took the stations down for a bit - until the worst of it was over. Frosty has still been arguing with the car company.  The battery died - it was checked and there was no water in the battery.  They have authorized him to buy a new battery.  Vehicle only has 15K on it.

Neil got a weeks worth of laundry done, and it cost him 50R with the tip - or about $6 Canadian.  Shirts were all buttoned up, neatly pressed and folded.  I've got my laundry back, need to chase the lady for what I owe her.

I picked up a bottle of cough syrup yesterday - local brand.  It was 33R - or about $4 Canadian.  We'll see how it works, but I think I am back for another bottle this a.m.

When I came out to the operations area this a.m. the lights were on, the doors were locked and no one was home.  Went into the house and grabbed the keys.  There is a night watchman by the front gate.  He gets here by about 6:00 p.m. and is here until well past dawn - usually 7:00 a.m. or so.  He is bundled up, with just a grey blanket wrapped around him, and he keeps an eye on things.  He usually just sits on the ground, but with us here, he borrows one of the patio chairs we leave out.

Frosty just joined us - he is catching up on his email.  Keith just switched to 80 meters.  Each band change requires coordination (if there is more then one radio on the air), and a manual swap out of filters, maybe a change in antenna and a tune-up. We'll see if anything is open or if it is too early.

121127 - Wednesday 5:30 a.m. - Neil sorted out his problems - symptoms were his amp was faulting out - low voltage.  He thought he had pooched his system.  Did some measurements of the power in the room, and it was low, compared to what it is supposed to be.  Neil took the cover off of his amp, and it was strapped for 240 volts - consistent with what this part of the world should be.  He lowered it to 210 volts - and all of his symptoms disappeared. 

Last night, Roger was running hard on RTTY on his PW1 amp - and it died on him.  He did some research and found out that his amp needed 220 volts, and if it went much below that, one of the FETs would blow to protect the rest of the rig.  So we are down one amplifier.

Weather has been spectacular - it must have hit 30 C yesterday, beautiful clear skies, no wind and only one or two fluffy clouds.  We had a great lunch yesterday - a BBQ done on a charcoal BBQ.  CJ did a great job of it.  I also got my first taste of a staple here - Pap - made from corn meal or maize.  At first I though they were smashed potatoes - and as I was trying to spoon it out, I though they could have used some more milk and butter.  It certainly is a 'stick to your ribs' type of meal.  It is a staple here in Africa.  It didn't do much for me, but I can see how important it is to the local's diet.

The owner here advised me that I would be seeing a new face around.  He was a fourteen year old, that their community supported.  He lost his family five years ago, and had looked after his two younger siblings ever since.  He was being sponsored to go to school this year.  The Aids epidemic has taken its toll everywhere.  Per the info I received, usually family takes care of things like this, but there has been so much devastation that many families have literally been lost.

There is a Canadian couple here for a few days.  They are adopting two local children from the orphanage.  I  am sure that the lives of these two young children will change dramatically.

Some of the pictures I posted yesterday were from the local University.  There were also a wack of pictures of the local street vendors stalls (some pretty ingenious construction jobs).  There are many homes built out of concrete blocks, with galvanized steel roofs.  Most do not have running water, and their is an outhouse at the side or back of the buildings.  The outhouses are built on a catchment system, a concrete container buried in the ground that would need to be pumped out.  There are some pretty serious outhouses that we have come across - I now know where the expression, 'built like a brick sh*thouse' came from!

On a number of our trips, we have seen people walking.  It is one of the primary modes of travel, and there are paths through fields everywhere.  In one area, each person walking was carry two containers - usually a recycled oil container.  If they were walking up from the river, it was full of dirty looking water.  This is the same water we saw cattle, sheep and dogs in, and it is a healthy looking brown colour.   I am reasonably sure that this became their cooking and washing water.

Around the Trading Post, I have seen water spigots outside some of the homes.  A local has confirmed what I thought, they cook on charcoal or small kerosene stoves.  Many of the homes I have seen have black soot at the top of the doors, looking like it was vented through the main door. The homes have dirt floors.  They are either hot or cold - as the galvanized steel roof transfers heat and cold equally well.

I just walked up to the road - and stood their for a few minutes.  it is around 6:30 a.m. local.  People are getting up, moving around, going to work.  A number of people passed me carrying empty containers.  I've pushed up some more pictures here - showing their homes.  One picture also shows the start of a new home - with the foundation dug out.  I also noticed that in this neighbourhood, there was a communal tap up the road, that was used by may people.  There are usually windows in the homes, and a lot of the homes we saw had steel bars on the windows, and a steel gate on the front door (you could leave it open for ventilation without worrying about losing anything, I'm guessing.  Some of the places appear to have electricity, and some have TV dishes on their roofs.

Both Germany and North America are serious about recycling, and about garbage disposal.  Most of us wouldn't even think about throwing a chocolate bar cover on the ground.  It is a bit different here.  There isn't a deposit on anything.  There is no recycle depot.  Things get reused if they are useful, otherwise they are discarded.  Garbage is tossed everywhere.  Look in some of the pictures and it looks like there are piles of garbage everywhere.  We also see what look like impromptu garbage dumps on the side of the road and in fields.

On Sunday morning we heard singing and the sounds of a pickaxe.  Outside of the trading post was a group of men, taking turns using a pick axe and shovels.  It looks like they have dug out a foundation for a new house.  There were quart size bottles of beer being passed around.  it looked like a guy and his mates helping him out.  There are some pictures here.

121126 - Tuesday - 10:30 a.m. - team fixed the vertical antenna this a.m. - raised it up a few more meters.  Neil has been trouble shooting a problem with his radio and amp - it might have been the antenna so we did some work on it.  Neil has his head inside his amp - trying to determine if there is a problem with it that he can fix himself.  Bands are quiet - North America - it is after 12:30 on the West Coast - most people are sleeping.  I've been adding 'images' of Lesotho here.

Tuesday about 6:45 - Had a good run on 15 meters last night - from about 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. local.  Some great operators and a few lids.  The usual of a few people tuning up on your signal, but the guys that broadcast their calls continuously or on top of the station you are clearly working. What - they figure you are going to stop working the station you are trying to work - in order to talk to a knob interfering with your QSO?  Why is it that a small group of individuals makes it difficult for the majority?

Was feeling the effects of either a cold or allergies yesterday, and again this a.m.  We got a ton of rain in that one day, and everything is greening up big time.  Taking the allergy pills and also some Otrivin - we'll have to see what today brings.  Feels like I am coughing up a lung once in a while.

We did a run into the capital yesterday afternoon.  I was concerned about how much data we had left on our communal wifi dongle.  Turned out we still had 1.3 GB left on it.  I added another 4 GB to the dongle, and bought a spare 4 GB which I am not loading to the dongle until we run out.  That will give us a bit of a buffer if we run out - can reload the dongle - and know I have to go back into town to get more.  Data is costing us about $100 U.S. for 4 GB.  The freedom to have a bubble around our operations area with wifi is priceless.  We can get at the clusters, as well as check our email, update the web pages and do Skype.

A couple of us are trying to get a representative group of pictures on local buildings - particularly the roadside 'stands'.  Should make for an interesting montage.  Not sure if I will load it up until I get to some broadband service.  There are a lot of large pictures.

We had a problem this a.m. with the Teradyne antenna outside the operations area.  Emil shimmied up the pole and fixed it - we're back in action.  I'll send the link to the You Tube site when it gets posted.  Emil is our 'free climbing' guy - you will see from the pictures how valuable he has been on this problem.  Here is the link.

121125 - Monday about 5:45 a.m.  I got about 3 hours sleep last night and got up at 2:00 a.m. to work the radio.  The contest is over - ended at 2:00 a.m. and lots of smiles from the CW operators.  I worked 17 - very quiet and then came up on 20 Meters -had a good run going there to the US and Canada - and then dawn came, and it was like someone pulled the switch on the band.  Worked a couple of Australian stations, and one from Oman - but that was it.

Keith is working on 30 meters - CW contacts filling up the log.  Emil just came in, and he is finding 15 and 20 very quiet.

Chilly this a.m. - another beautiful day by the look of it.  Should start to warm up soon.  We lost our Internet yesterday - thought we had used up the 4GB of data that Bill had purchased - but early on Monday morning it started working again?  Hmmm - it runs off of the local cellular network - maybe they had a problem.  We'll pick up some more cards just to be sure we don't run out at an inopportune time.

Some of the guys were at the project yesterday - but we weren't able to work them.  Maybe we can make another sched and try again in a few days.

Here are some updated pictures - click here

121125 - Sunday about 5:30 a.m.  I've been awake for a bit, reading on my Ipad.  My room mate Neil worked a CW shift last night from 11:00 p.m. to about 2:00.  We had a bit of a chat when he got back to the room.  Band conditions were ok, and he was pleased with how his shift went. 

Roger and Keith are working the world right now - and the place is quiet.  Just the clicking of their keys and the radios - seems strange as I am a SSB operator, and it is usually a lot louder then this.  About 21 hours left in the contest - and then there will be more opportunity for the SSB operators to get some chair time on the more productive bands.

It rained most of the night - but I woke up to a beautiful blue sky.  A little cooler, but it should warm up as the sun rises.  Little rivulets of mud everywhere, and it smells fresh and clean.  Damn animals seemed to like it as well - braying of the burros went on for half the night.  And why would the rooster start crowing at 2:00 a.m. - about 2.5 hours before daylight?

There will be a hard push today on the contest - to finish it off strong.  I've been exchanging emails with my buddies in BC, and we are going to try a sched early tomorrow my time.  For those that would like to peek in - http://www.dxsummit.fi/DxSpots.aspx121124 - Check the third column and look for 7P8D - it will show you who spotted us and by looking up the callsign (try QRZ.com), you can see what part of the world we are working on that band.  Most of the spots are going to be for CW for the next 21 hours.

Saturday  about 4:30 p.m. - spent an hour calling on 17M - earlier today - no takers.  After lunch five of us took a run up to the dam - weather was miserable, a lot of rocks off the side of the mountain.  A very twisting and winding road up and down.  Highest pass we went through was over 2,600 meters.  A lot of people walking in the miserable rain - most of them dressed in their local 'foul' weather gear.  A number of individuals who would crouch down under trees, by the side of the road, or clinging to cliffs to stay out of the weather.  Check here for some pictures - sorry they aren't better, but it was nasty weather and the Iphone doesn't perform best on these days.

Saturday about 7:00 a.m. - it is raining now - steady and they certainly need it here.  Was just on QRZ.com (database to lookup call signs) - yesterday the call sign had about 350 lookups - today it is about 6,800.  I think we are getting recognized and we're working some serious stations.

Saturday about 5:00 a.m.  Still catching up on my sleep.  I'm in the operations room.  Chris and Donovan are working the World Wide CQ DX CW contest.  So, for the non-Hams, this is one of the premier contests of the year - Morse Code and work as many DX (long distance - so Lesotho counts as DX) stations on as many bands as you can.  We have six of the ten team members working the contest.   The other four, of which I am one, will work the WARC bands on voice or whatever.  When the contest is over, we will merge the CW Contest logs into the DX-Pedition logs, and we will all work all bands and applicable modes.

The guys, when they are not working one of the two CW contest stations, can work the WARC bands on any mode, or any of the other bands on voice.  The contest is morse code only, so any voice contact will not be confused with the contest log.

I received some feedback on the setup here, and thought it might be good to clarify a few things.  When we arrived, there was nothing set up from a ham radio perspective.  Frosty and Neil had been here a few years ago, and they had left one antenna (a Teledyne - T6 log periodic - good on 20-17-15-12 and 10 meters) and a section of mast.  I'll push up a picture of it later today.  This was the first antenna on the air.

The other antennas were brought in by Donovan and Roger - via  their vehicles.  These include two hex beams, a R7 vertical, a Battle Creek vertical (43 feet tall - good on 40-80 and 160 meters), a dipole good for 40 and 80 meters.  In addition, Keith put together a dipole on 30 meters.

The operation room, and I'll push up some pictures today, is a mass of hardware, power cables, network cables and tools.  For the CW contest, which started at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning local time and it will go for 48 hours, until 2:00 a.m. Monday morning.   Things are split up  into three hour shifts, and each operator is responsible for his shift - if he can't do it, then he needs to organize a replacement.

The room right now is quiet.  Donovan and Chris are on the air, the lights are blinking with the draw down on transmit (pulls a lot of amps).  They are both using headphones, so all I am hearing is the sound of the fans, and the occasional click of Donovan's key, and Chris' keyboard (contesting on CW - you can use a keyboard to generate the code for you or use a traditional key).

Here are some more pictures

http://www.ve7isv.com/lesotho.htm

A number of the guys, but especially Emil were hard at work for hours yesterday afternoon, trying to get the networked computers talking to each other, getting the logging program N1MM working properly (was complicated by the fact that all of the computers needed to talk to each other for the DX-Pedition, but only two could talk to each other for the contest).  Throw in some more fun things, like the German team members' keyboard are different then the QWERTY keyboard - well you get the idea - lots of hard work to get it all working the way it is supposed to.

Generally I'm impressed with the knowledge brought to the table by the different individuals.  There were some challenges with the Battle Creek antenna yesterday.  Everyone pitched in, we thought we had it licked, and then no - still wasn't working right.  Chris, Jo and Keith headed back to the front of the house (it is mounted on the front lawn) and trouble shot it for some period of time.  It turned out to be a combination of things - but good perseverance and team work got it beat.  I'll push up some pictures of the Battle Creek antenna and some links to info on it.  It is quite the interesting antenna!

6:00 a.m. now - wind is picking up.  Lesotho is in the second year of a drought, and according to Miss Jenny (proprietor) there is only about two more weeks for the drought to break before it will be too late to plant their food crops.  It is heavily overcast - and the weather report is calling for thunder and lightening.  Donovan indicated a few minutes ago that he got 'chased' off of 160 meters as he couldn't compete with the static crashes from the thunderstorms.

The food, as supplied by the Trading Post, has been good.  Hearty, filling and lots of it.  A picture of a typical breakfast is on the link above.  Scroll down a bit and you will find it.  In addition to the hot food, there was cereal, a fruit salad, and toast.  Typically there is water and a jug or two of juice on the table as well.  The ladies who work here do a great job of keeping us fed, the rooms clean and finding things we need when we can't find them.  I understand that they will also take care of our laundry - which I am pretty sure will not get tossed into a Whirlpool washing machine!

121123 - Friday a.m. - about 3:30 a.m.  I'm sitting in the main building, next to where we take our meals and I'm working off line.  No one else moving yet, that I have seen.  Let me back up a bit and bring everyone up to date.

Let Vancouver Monday night - 8:30 p.m. flight - got away at 9:00 p.m.  British Airways and one step above baggage class.  Uneventful flight - no one sitting next to me and managed two hours of sleep.  Arrived Heathrow about 10:00 a.m. and spent the day at the airport.  No Wifi - even the paid for kind wouldn't work.  Hey Heathrow - get with the program and make Wifi accessible in the whole building.

Left Heathrow Tuesday night around 9:30 or so.  Eleven hour flight and managed another two hours of sleep.  Arrived Johannesburg, and the immigration / custom lines were brutal.  They were also minimally air conditioned, and I was hot and sticky before I cleared there.  Met up with some of the guys, once through Customs and we waited for the rest of the team.

We left the airport by SuV at about 11:00 a.m. - Frosty driving, Neil riding shotgun, and Keith and I in the back seats.  Beautiful drive - very scenic and some very 'South African' trucks and signs.  I'll upload those separately - later.  We arrived into Roma Trading Post about 6:00 p.m.  We crossed into Lesotho at a border crossing - and although I didn't take any pictures - it is exactly what you would have expected if you were writing the script for a movie.  Made it out of South Africa and into Lesotho  - with a half a dozen more stamps in the passport, and permission to stay 14 days.

The four of us had a nice dinner, and some of us had some nice South African wine.  We talked for a few hours, discussed the next day's activities and lamented the lack of Internet and for some of us, no phone connections either.  Another four members of the team showed up around midnight - and we were concerned about our other group, driving up from the south of South Africa.  Frosty managed to finally contact them, and they indicated that they were making poorer time then they expected, and wouldn't be here until Thursday.  I hit the sack around midnight.  The room, shared with Neil was sweltering - even with the windows open. 

I got two hours sleep and was woken up by the sound of barking dogs.  Oh well, two hours sleep is better then none.  I got up and read for a few hours, heading over to the main building around 5:30.  There were a few other people up, several for hours, and we enjoyed some of Frosty's special coffee.  I think Keith said he brought some Tim Horton's coffee - so we'll have a 'Canadian Treat' later in the week.

Breakfast on Thursday was good - we got to know our other travelling partners better, and we set out the day's events and plans.  I still did not have my Lesotho license, and we put that on the end of the day activities.

So - I should talk about the Trading Post - I'll try and post some pictures soon.  It has been around for many years, since the turn of the 19th century.  It is on a large plot of land.  There are a number of buildings - and I will have to get the right name of the sleeping buildings.  They are round buildings, with stray / hay roofs.  They hold the heat!  There is the Trading Post proper about 250 meters from where we set up our operations.

So Thursday morning, I'm reading on my Ipad, and there is every imaginable noise you might expect from African.  It started out with the barking dogs about 3:00 a.m., and it was followed up by the braying of a burro (there are a wack of them here - pictures to follow), then a couple of his buddies joined in, cows bawling and more dogs barking.  Shortly after the roosters cut in - followed, as the sun started to peek up, by what sounded like hundreds of birds (sounded like our ravens).  I'll listen again this a.m. and make sure I've captured all of the noises - because it was loud and proud.  Birds that sounded like owls - hooting.  There is also a sound like frogs - but I can't believe they have frogs here.  Oh yes - the neighing of the horses chimed in another chorus.

Thursday a.m. found us, after breakfast, packing all of the equipment into the presentation room that we will use as our operation's room (pictures to follow).  We dug out a small tower and multi-band beam Frosty had left there from before.  A couple of hours of effort, and we had our first beam assembled and elevated to its operating position.  Did I mention it was warm.  We all look a little sun burnt - a little toasty around the edges by the end of the day.  We all worked hard to stay hydrated in the heat.

Another team was working on getting up an antenna about 100 meters from the operating shack.  It was a hex beam, and it was not cooperating.  The steel mast was buckling under the weight, and after a number of times trying - the guys changed tactics and used a different mast.  Later in the day we got the 40 - 80 meter dipole up in the trees - thanks Emil for the climbing. 

The operations room is about 25 by 20 foot.  There are a set of doors on the North side, and in back is a sink and two bathrooms.  There are some simple chairs - same stackable ones that you would likely find at any banquet room around the world.  There are some narrow tables, and all of the power is concentrated around the perimeter of the room.  We've brought the coax in through some windows that open next to the doors.  Gradually we are getting all of the equipment in place and hooked up.  We should be 100% by the end of the day on Friday.  Most of the antennas are behaving and are resonant where we need them.  Our tuners should do the rest.

Some of you Hams know, but some of my friends aren't Hams.  We will be running several modes of operation - CW (morse code), SSB (voice) and digital (likely TTY - Teletype).  These modes are usually, by convention or law (Canada is a free for all - you can do anything you like, as long as you stay in the overall band plans.  The US - very stringent on where each of these signal modes goes) used within different parts of the overall band.  That means that an antenna, resonant for CW - is  a long way down the band from where you might want to use it for SSB.  You can usually trim an antenna to where you want to operate - but here, we have two very distinct groups - the CW and the SSB boys.  I'm sure we will find a happy medium.

We will be setup to work 160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters.  We're still discussing 6 meters - but I expect we will get some signals there.

Our third team members had not arrived yet, and Frosty, Neil and I headed into town.  We went to the mall (a modern concrete mall - which could have been anywhere inside of North America) and went to the Vodacom store.  My devices were locked to TELUS - so no go there. 

I loaded up 4 GB of data on Frosty's dongle - and it worked.  We'll try and hook it to a router today, and get some better access for all of our devices. If you get this Blog update, you will know we made progress.  Neil got his phone and data plan working, after some little bit of time making things work. 

Next was the Telecom building to get Bill's license.  We left Neil in the car, working on his emails, and went into the government building.  One of the three elevators worked - and you had to be careful of the significant tripping hazard when the door opened on different floors (sometimes three or four inches low, sometimes high).  Wasn't quite a leap of faith, but it was important to look before you stepped.  The lady we needed to talk to was off on leave, and we were pointed to her replacement.

Building was warm - very warm for me.  The gentleman could not find my application, and he called in an associate.  They found it, and started the process of getting it printed off and approved.   I didn't keep track of the time we were in there, but figure an hour.  We got my permit, paid 240 Rand for it, shook hands all the way around, and exited the building.  The staff were polite and competent and wished us well on our trip.  I am now 7P8BG for the next year.  The team call sign is 7P8D.

Going downstairs - I had noticed a furniture place.  We went in there, got redirected to another store next door - and I picked up two standing fans.  Remote controls and all (no batteries included of course - I'll need to dig around in my bags for the extra batteries I'm sure I packed).  Neil wanted one, and so did I.  Came to about 350 Rand each or $50 US.  Set them up in the operating area for the evening.  I took one to the room, and it did an amazing job of cooling the room down.  We'll use it in the operating room whenever we aren't using it to cool the sleeping areas.

The third vehicle had arrived, and the teams had gotten another spiderbeam up in front of the house.  A bit more effort and they had another directional beam set up to the West of the operating room.  It was just on the other side of the stone wall.  I'll get some pictures and push them up shortly.

An observation - there seemed to be a small mob of young children at the gate all day.  They would never pass through the gate, but would play up top and around the gate.  There were mostly friendly, happy and laughing their head's off.  I'm not sure, but that may have been children of some of the people that worked at the Trading Post - sort of a do-it-yourself daycare?

The people on staff here have been very friendly and have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.  When we need something, we usually just need to ask, and they try to accommodate us.  CD worked with us a good chunk of Thursday, and was a big help assembling things, and sourcing replacement bits and pieces that we couldn't find in our kit or with the antennas that were left here before.

There is a night time security guard - he shows up around 5:00 p.m. and is here until after breakfast.  The place is well maintained, clean and I have seen nothing that would make me concerned about our safety (Mum -  read the last sentence a few times eh?).

Let me describe some of the residents and the area.  We have driven through the local town twice now in the afternoon.  There are a lot of people walking and hitch hiking.  Yesterday we were coming back through the little town, and there were hundreds of school kids (in school uniforms), soldiers, policemen, etc., just trying to get home.  There are a lot of taxis and little mini busses.  The mini busses seem to stop along the streets, and always have room for one more person.  The windows are open and hands and arms are waving as they drive down the road.  Oh yes - they aren't air conditioned either.

There are hundreds of homes, mostly built out of concrete blocks, but some out of indigenous  rocks.  they would be very small by North American standards, but they mostly appear to be well kept up, and clean.  It would seem to be very apparent that the daily drive to keep your family fed and clothed is here for all of these people.  All of the children we have seen were in clean clothes, and were happy.  A group of kids outside the gate, along with a few older individuals (siblings, dads - don't know) are playing soccer every night.  They are loud and having a lot of fun.  I will push up some pictures of the villages and the homes.  Some are cookie cutter, and some are downright ingenious.

When we were coming through South Africa we saw some villages, out in the middle of nowhere.  Hundreds of homes, many falling into disrepair.  They were surrounded by razor wire.  There were large lighting units, on very high towers, every few blocks.  It is right out of that movie where Earth had been invaded by aliens and the aliens were being held in the internment camps.  I will try and find the movie name.  One of my travelling buddies said it was deliberately done that way as a political statement in the movie.

We haven't spent a great deal of time checking out the local sites.  Other then what we have seen going to the Trading Post proper, and the trips into town.  The Trading Post is exactly what you would expect.  A number of buildings - one held a store (grocer and hardware store).  There were racks of pipes and galvanized steel (roofing).  There was a mill of sorts there.  I saw several people ride up on their burros, with a large bag of, I think  Maize.  They would get it ground, and put back into the bag, and the bag and the boy/girl would ride back to their home.  The burros aren't big, but they appear to be strong.

Things you see as you are driving?  We were driving into the Capital, and there are people everywhere herding a few cows, some sheep or burros and or horses.  I was looking at one individual, about 100 meters away from the road.  She was tall, and wearing brightly coloured clothing, her head and part of her face was covered.  She had a stick, and a dog and was minding the animals.  They I saw the unmistakeable actions as she pulled out a smart phone and began texting.  It took me by surprise - from pictures I have seen in school etc., the act of herding the animals could have been taken anytime in the last millennium!  The texting could have been my daughter or anyone of her friends - today.

The roads in Lesotho have been mostly paved - or more correctly, asphalt although they call it something different here.  No one else is awake for me to ask - so will follow up on this later.  There are speed bumps - some real beauties.  If you weren't paying attention you would get some extreme air.  There is a lot of courteous passing - a slower car or truck will pull off to the side of the highway and continue to drive, while we would slip by the slower vehicle, trying to avoid on coming traffic doing the same thing.  Cab drivers' honk incessantly.  Neil thought there were using their own version of CW.

You see a lot of young men riding in the back of pick up trucks, all wearing identical clothing.  I'm thinking they work at a store, business or company together, and they collectively find ways to and from work.  They always seem to be happy and both wave and high five each other as the jump in and out of the back of the trucks.

There are many of one of my most favourite traffic control devices - roundabouts and not!  It is standard to drive on the opposite side of the road from North America, and you go the wrong way on the roundabouts (at least that is what my mind is screaming as we head into one).  There seems to be a few police traffic stops going into or out of these traffic rounds.  Not sure if they are safety inspections, seat belt enforcement or their own Distracted Driver crackdowns?  I'll have to ask.

The plan for today, Friday, is to get the Battle Creek antenna installed.  It is supposed to get us 40, 80 and 160 meters.  We will network the computers, test everything and maybe start getting some Q's (contacts).  The CW (morse code) contest starts at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning.  Our team will be there fighting for a frequency.  Those of us who are not feeling the urge to work CW (Frosty and Bill for sure), will likely be up on the WARC bands working SSB or RTTY.

It is now 4:41 a.m., and I'm hearing more animal noises.  Birds - I  don't know what type, but they are noisy.  I'll come back and update this paragraph as the world wakes up and starts welcoming dawn

Weather has been good so far.  There were weather reports that we should expect thunderstorms and lightening (Hams love lightening - not).  So far, no rain, lots of high cumulous clouds and occasionally a refreshing breeze.  The ground is very dry here, and some of the help waters the flowers and other plants.  I don't know what the cycle is, but would be surprised if they didn't have to water every day.

The region is mountainous, and very dry.  There is not a lot of vegetation, except around the rivers and creeks.  Many of the waterways are in fairly deep gorges, the water having worn its way down through the rock.  Some of the terrain reminds me of Southern Alberta - where they get very little precipitation and there are cuts where the creeks have gone down into their own gorges.  There was one area coming in from town, where Frosty pointed out a program too plant trees and shrubs along the highway.  It looked like it was going to be successful - and it looked good.

Another thing you really notice here, is the little roadside 'shacks' along the highways and roads.  They are predominantly made out of galvanized steel, although we have seen some made out of large culverts.  They are road side eateries, hair salons, barber shops, public phone locations, vegetable stalls, grocery stores, etc.  I'll push up some pictures as time permits. 

It is nearly 5:00 a.m. now, and it has been getting light for about 30 minutes.  I've heard alarm clocks going off in some of the rooms, so I'm sure I will have some company soon.  The roosters seem to be warming up nicely, and dogs are telling them off.  There are piercing cries from some sort of birds - seems to be circling the buildings and telling anyone who will listen it is time to get up!  Just heard some truck horns - maybe their travel mates hadn't heard their alarms and were late for their pickup.

There are some beautiful trees around the Trading Post.  Some of them look like some of our North American coniferous trees.  They have needles, but I can't quite figure out what they are.  Pictures - later I'm sure.  I've seen a lot of willow trees - usually around creek bottoms.  There is grass around the Trading Post - but it appears to be dormant and about a half an inch high.  The non-paved areas are dusty.

There is another guest staying at one of the cabins.  She drives a company truck - Diesel, standard crummy (four door truck) and works for Doctors without Borders.  I introduced myself and explained what we were doing (I'm certain she was wondering!).  She indicated that she was leaving the Trading Post - last night on Sunday as they had other bookings.  Her organisation was trying to find her new accommodations, but it is not like there is a Motel 6 on any, let alone every street corner here. 

While Neil was waiting for Frosty and myself to get my license, he stayed in the car.  Later, he was telling us what kind of offers he got - one fellow with a bath scale, so many Rand and you can weigh yourself.  I'm not sure what else he got approached on, but there seems to be a very active group that work the streets - offering to write you letters, etc. 

121119 - Big day - need to finish my packing, clean up some last things for work, go to court (as a witness - had you guessing didn't I?).  I've pretty much got what I need together - just get it packed.  I will be heading to the airport around 4:00 p.m. - have a one hour conference call to take en route.  Will meet Daniel - he will keep my car for the two weeks that I am gone.

Flight is around 8:30 p.m. tonight - get into Heathrow on Tuesday and cool my heels for about 8 hours.  Leave late Tuesday to arrive in Johannesburg on Wednesday a.m. about 10 local.  Then we drive into Lesotho.

121114 - Been a hectic week.  Remembrance Day 詴 the Legion with one of my brothers, some nephews, some friends and my mum and dad.  Thanks for the service and the sacrifices. 

My tickets are booked, and paid for.  Still working on the things I need to take 㬯thes, medical supplies and what have you.  Work is busy ᮤ likely going to be right up until I leave.  Longer layovers both ways then I would have liked, but that is the way it goes.  I堵pgraded my tickets ᠬittle bit ಥmium economy 㯳t went up to $3,100.

It looks like I will be joining the team in Johannesburg on Wednesday a.m., with a drive into Lesotho that day.  Set up of the equipment and antennas 䨥n on the air!  It is starting to sink in that this is coming together, and I expect it will be full of thrills and chills.

My new Heil headset arrived today 穴h a foot switch.  Got some extra adapters 㯠hopefully we will be in good shape for the trip.  Also got a travel bag with it, and stuffed it all into that bag.  Tried the headset on my laptop rly blew my ears off.  Great quality audio 쥴৥t it on the air and see how it sounds.

C:\Documents and Settings\x113841\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\QO1B91G7\Trading Post Lodge[1].jpg

Found out that Lesotho has a Mounted Police Force.  I also found out that trying to use a credit card was going to be difficult and forget about a debit card.  The infrastructure isnനere to support it.  Hmmmm 衴e travelling with cash. 

I堍 been downloading reading material, study material and other 䵦f䯠cover off some very long flights, layovers and waiting times for flights.  I堢een working on invertors, convertors and adaptors to power my electronics for this trip. 

Sunday will be packing day ൬ling together everything that I need to take.  All electronics will need to have their serial numbers recorded, and engraved where it makes sense.  Printouts for the border security in my carry on bag.

121108 餥ntified my flights 欹 out evening on November 19th, 2012 and arrive in Johannesburg around 0630 Wednesday November 21st, 2012.  About a 4 hour layover in Heathrow airport.

Coming back 쥡ve Johannesburg on Tuesday December 4th, at 2140 hours, a 10 hour layover in Heathrow, and home to Vancouverࡩrport on Wednesday  evening at 1825 hours.  Baggage class both ways, and a total of about $1,900 Canadian.

It is about 20 hours in the air each way ᤤ in the early arrivals at the airports, and the layovers 篩ng to be very long days. 

British Airways ﮥ checked bag at 50 pounds ﮥ carry on bag and a personal item 䯴al of 50 pounds between the two.  Iயt taking much equipment, as I was a late addition to the team, so that should work for me.  I likely will carry on my laptop, Ipad, Iphone, Heil headset and other support gear that I don෡nt to check.  My suitcase will likely have mostly clothes 㯭e other handy radio odds and sods.

It is starting to sink in that this trip is happening.  I堢een doing some additional research on DXetiquette and some backgrounds on managing pileups.   I can always use a refresher in this area.

It looks like I will be able to catch up with Frosty, Neil, and Keith and we젤rive in.  Frosty is renting a vehicle. I understand it is about 500 kilometers.  Some of the team is going across the Sani Pass.  A You Tube video  here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtXYAV4HDoo  

http://www.ecotravel.co.za/Images/sani-pass-climb.gif

Nice write up here - http://www.sanilodge.co.za/DAsani.htm 

The Pass looks awesome.  I堤one some pretty good 4x4ing in my day 䨩s should be great for pictures.  It looks like it is over 2800 meters at the summit ॲ the above.  Not sure if we are all going this way - but it looks way cool.

Roger఩c from a previous trip ⥬ow - summer on the summit!

 

Roger's vehicles - testing out carrying the antennas

 

I got my shots, and my oral 'shots'.  Working on clothes, gear and other stuff.

121105 - I'm officially able to join 7P8D - a DX-Pedition to Lesotho.  I am so pumped.  It has been a tough haul, and I am ready for two weeks off - the long trip to Africa, and getting on the air.  I'm also nervous - I've done one mini-Dxpedition - to Belize, and it was by myself.  This trip is with some well experienced DX'ers, and I'm stating right up front, I don't have an ego you can bruise if you have advice on how I can improve my 'game'. 

Passport is securely locked away.  It is valid and ready to go.  I'm pulling together my supplies, clothes, equipment, information, etc.  Will have to hit my kids up for some tips - they were both travelling internationally this last year.  I'm borrowing some things from Daniel - including his 'carry on pack'.

Talked to Frosty today - and have an email with the rest of the team's account info.  Sent a note introducing myself.  Visited the Travel Clinic and have the sore arms to prove it.

I am looking for flight options to get me to Africa to join up with the team.

110323 - Long time - no update.  It is 3:00 a.m., a Wednesday morning, and my day has started.  The hound (Nikki - a Sheba Inu) was up with me for a while, but even she has realized that it is too early to be up and about.  CNN is on in the background - Libya is getting bombed back into the stone age, and I'm catching up on my web site.  Big contest this weekend - the 2011 CQ WPX contest.  I'm working it, just not sure how many people will be working it with me.  We'll see.

The 'Project' is moving along well.  It is operational - it will never be done.  Next steps are to insulate the rest of the floor area, and put in the kitchen.  We have two fully functional stations, and room for a third guest station.  We also have some two other locations where guest will be able to 'plug in'. 

091006 - Been going at the 'By The Farm' project hard the last few days.  The Compound is in, and the three Hydro poles are planted.  There is still work to be done to finish the swale, but the contractor is going away for a week.  It won't impact my project.  The weather is supposed to be nice for the next week - so we'll see what we can get done.  There is an awesome access road - and the Compound is done.  They used 3 inch and minus rock, and will put chips and dust on it Once I get the C cans moved in.  Check it out

090927 - Wow - it has been so long since I've updated this blog and my web page.  Last week I had a handshake deal with my two farmer brothers on access to their field.  We are moving ahead with the project.  Check out the web page devoted to this project.

Finally picked up a mount that can be used with my car Amateur Radio equipment - need to get it installed this week.  Spent last week in the Big Smoke (Toronto) on a project.  Things went well.  Rumours abound on what Ontario is, or isn't going to do, with implementing their cell phone legislation.

090728 - Updated the cell phone legislation page.  Bought a new vehicle this week - A 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid - fully loaded.  I picked it up on Saturday, after some extensive research by my son Daniel and to a lesser extent, myself.  I can't believe the reviews and kudos that this vehicle is getting.  I've been honest with both Ford and my friends - the thought that I would ever buy domestic, let alone Ford, ever again, in my life time, would have been unthinkable.  I'm very impressed with this product.  It has an unbelievable electronics package.  It includes Microsoft Sync - which gives voice commands to run virtually everything from the climate control to the satellite radio.  It integrates with my Blackberries (yes - two for me alone!), and multiple users can connect their phones (one at a time).

The car is rated at 51 MPG (Imperial) on the highway, and 61 MPG in the city.  We have been going through a very heavy hot spell in the Lower Mainland right now - and it is putting a beating on the  mileage. Air Conditioning runs off of electricity - not the engine, so when I am running the AC, it puts a huge load on the High Voltage (HV) battery.  I've only had the machine about 3 days - so it is still early.

Initial impressions - wow - was driving down 96th Avenue with Daniel when he asked me how fast I was going.  I looked at my speedometer and told him that I was driving 76 Kph.  He then said 'Dad - do you realize that you are running in EV (Electrical Vehicle) mode, or on battery, at that speed?'  I hadn't - so was pretty impressed.  I can now see why the rating for in the city is higher than the highway.

I've had two problems so far - the first is that the BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) has failed twice - both times it said the sensor was covered.  The second problem was that the Sync system quit working - and just generated static.  In both cases, a reboot (turn the car on and off), fixed the problem.  It is being looked at this Thursday by Ford.

I need to do some more research on what is needed for installing radios - HF and UHF/VHF in the Hybrid.  Needless to say - it is going to be tricky.  A buddy of mine may have helped me out without knowing it.  He provided me with some wire, towards my 'By the Farm' project.  It is a fully shielded wire.  It can be buried.  It contains two x six gauge wires - very small wires that make up the six gauge.  There are two other rubber shielded strands in the package - and I'm not sure what they are?  The overall thickness of the wire is about 5/8ths of an inch.  It is heavily shielded.  I think this may work to get me my power without interference from or to the system.  I think I am going to have to try and install a second battery in the trunk to run this equipment - just need to figure out how to isolate it and charge it - maybe solar?

My test in the farmer's field was successful.  I was as far East as I could go in the field, quite close to the High Voltage lines - zero noise floor.  Half way back to the gate - still no noise floor.  I worked a few stations, and there was a six meter opening that I managed to take advantage of.  It is back in my court to talk to the farmers about the next steps.

090707 - This sure isn't a daily blog!  No time.  So where are we with the various projects.  I've just gone back and talked to the two farmers about my 'By the Farm' project.  I believe it went well.  The location has so much going for it - private entrance to the field furthest from their farm buildings.  Only one neighbour, and they are a couple of hundred meters from where I want to build this environment.  I reviewed a PowerPoint with them, which went over the proposal.  We've agreed the next step is to validate the Noise Floor at the sites where I expect to set up antennas.  I was hoping to use a portable tower, but a little shy of volunteers, likely because it is summer.  I'll use my HY-Q 5-80 on the jeep, and it should give me what I want.

Next steps, if the Noise Floor looks ok (and I really think it is going to be), is to walk the land with the owners, and lay out what I want to do.  I've made some big asks, but you have to start somewhere.  I can back off from some of the asks without compromising too much.  Others, well - you know, too much to lose.

I've got the Flex-Radio 5000A up and running in my shack.  The SPE 1K Expert Amp is awesome.  The remote control of both is very good.  I've got some 'issues' I need to work on, but I have a plan, and I am working the plan.  Some of my issues are around having two USB to serial ports - one of them just 'quits' working.  I've ordered a USB to eight serial port adapter, and that is in.  I'm hoping / expecting that it will remove some of the problems.

Power to the site is still a concern.  My back up plan is a generator - diesel, gas or propane is still to be determined.  There is no doubt in my mind that utility power is a requirement to be successful moving forward, so it will have to be done sooner or later.  I think that getting cable and internet to the site will also hinge on this as well.

The Olympics - stay tuned there - we have a plan, and we are refining the plan.  BC will be on the air for the Olympics - and you will be wanting one of our QSL cards!

Finally, the Province of British Columbia is looking into Cellular phone and electronic device legislation.  This is a huge potential threat to Amateur Radio, and I have started a page on it.  Please see here.

090415 - So, another big step forward.  The Flex-Radio SDR 5000A has been ordered, and is expected in another 10 days.  The SPE Expert 1K solid state amplifier - I am on the waiting list for it - near the top I am told.  I also discussed with Steppir, the new distributor for SPE in North America, their Steppir DB36 - a huge antenna that will do 80 through six meters.

I need to get in front of the farmers, and make sure we still have something that is workable.

090405 - Another Swap meet today - did the RAC thing, flew the flag, and talked to a lot of fellow Hams.  I ordered the Flex-radio 5000A this week.  It should be delivered in about three weeks.  I need to get into the field, with a portable tower and and a Yagi and truly convince myself that the 500 KVA power lines aren't going to be a problem.  I also need to get back and talk to the farmers with my proposal, and see if we are going to have a deal.

Charlie and the team finished off the trailer this weekend.  I stopped by to see how they were doing, and it is looking great.  Al and Dave E., and Dave G., put on the decals and put on the pneumatic semi-automat 10 meter mast.  Sweet.  Check out www.langleyamateurradio.com and follow the links in What's New.

090402 - Mailed some more PSE from the Belize trip.  Continuing to work on the remainder that will go via the Bureau.

090329 - Went back to the farm yesterday, and did some more looking.  I need to walk the property and through the wooded section - to really understand what I can, or cannot do there.  Surrey Amateur Radio Club has (SARC) is having their swap meet this afternoon, so will be running the RAC table with help from Ed.  I've pushed up some more info on my 'Farm' project.  See here for dimensions, and here for my first cut at proposed plans - neither of which are entirely workable at this point.

090318 - Went and saw the township yesterday.  Much better meeting.  See my Remote HF section for more info.  Was elected, by acclamation, to the Board of Radio Amateurs of Canada as the Director for BC and the Yukon.  I'm taking over from Ed Frazer VE7EF, and I have some pretty big boots to fill.  I've been travelling a lot over the last four weeks.  A couple of trips to Toronto and one to Ottawa.  The time zone and the hours can be a bit brutal.  We (the Vancouver Olympic Amateur Radio Group - VOARG) have worked out our arrangement with VANOC, and have ordered the Special Event call signs for the Olympics.

090227 - Friday a.m., up at 5:15 and on the road to the 'farm'.  I had a conference call at 5:45 my time.  See the results of my testing here.  I'm continuing to do my research, and will put together a proposal for the brothers.  I'll give the Township another week to get their heads around it, and then will formally submit some paperwork.

090222 - Sunday morning, I'm up bright and early.  There is a Amateur Radio Swap Meet this morning.  It starts at 10:00.  I'm going to get there a bit earlier, and help Ed setup the RAC table.  I've decided that I am going to throw my hat on the table to replace Ed Frazer as the RAC Director for BC and the Yukon.  I've obtained more than enough sponsor's signatures to support the petition.  I need to get a 500 word or less Bio done up and send off the materials to RAC in the next few days.

I met with the two brothers who have a farm and who are prepared to rent / lease me access to the property.  To see the story of what I am trying to do with the Remote HF access, click here.  The plan is starting to gel.  We would keep the core group fairly small, but make some form of access available to those other hams that would like to operate, either on site, or remotely.  This is not going to be an inexpensive undertaking.  It would likely scale over several years.  We would be looking for a 10-20 year commitment, with options to renegotiate and renew at that time.

It looks like we can get power to the property line, and would need to go underground a hundred or so meters into the field.  We will need to build stable road access, as well as a pad for the Shipping Containers (C-Cans) which will store our equipment and operating positions.  It looks  like we can get Shaw Cable to the lot line as well, so that would give us high speed Internet access.  I've discussed with the brothers putting up several towers, as well as some utility poles to string dipole antennas, and maybe a square loop for 80 meters.  Need to do some work to figure out what kind of antenna we would put up for 160 meters..

The farmers grow hay in the field, as well as letting Hereford cows graze in it.  We would try and minimize any impact to the use of their land.  We would avoid using towers that required guys.  In addition, we would run all of the coax and control cables underground in conduits.  C-Cans are very secure storage facilities, and we could dress them up a bit for our use as operating stations.  I've cut and pasted some ideas here.

 

 
 

This site was last updated 12/06/12