24 March 2013

River Cottage at Malelane Mpumulanga

I started writing this blog while sitting under an acacia tree at the river lodge in Malelane on the southern border of the Kruger National Park. Berry and I plus Chaiya (we  have been here since Thursday lunch time). Really a pleasant spot. Of note we saw four rhino, a huge croc, a lone buffalo and three hippos out tussling on the bank. All this from the comfort of the front lawn at river cottage. No driving. We stayed in a small self catering cottage, number 14. This was the last available by the time we booked and is not the best at river cottage. Now we are back in Jozi and relaxing before the start of another week.
I was able to set up a 40m dipole at about 6 meters high in the center and strung between a palm tree and a mango tree. It was tough getting the launch rope to slide over the palm tree branch since it is quite 'sticky'. The good news about palm trees is that you can get the wire in the clear. The bad news is their roughness. I experimented yesterday with 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m dipoles facing E-W. 15m was the best although I was unable to make any QSO's. My dipole was definitely working and was directional. India and Indonesian stations broadside on were S9, however Europe was just above the noise for me. I was surprised to find 20m very noisy in the evening. I believe it was local QRM.
On Saturday morning I called CQ on 7020KHz and was able to have two excellent rag chews with John ZS6JBJ in Witbank and Monk ZS4SF in Welkom. Both gave me 579/599 reports. Monk came on at about 7am local and indicated that the band was just opening to him. I was able to copy John at 599 with no problem on his QRP signal. Monk kindly sent me an email and pic showing his EFHW on 10m. He is simply using a small length of coax to provide the needed capacitance for resonance with a toroid wound coil on 10m.
On Saturday afternoon I did not show up for the net due to us being in the middle of a wonderful piri piri chicken braai with our friends, however today Sunday I called CQ at about 8am and was able to enjoy an excellent regchew with Andy ZS6ADY in Benoni. Andy gave me a 599+ report with a bit of QSB. I was really delighted by this. Not bad for a 430km distance. I now have high confidence in my ability to QSO using QRP and my EFHW throughout ZS6 region albeit perhaps an S point down on a traditional dipole.

Observations from this trip:

  1. I can  deploy an EFHW on 40m during daylight hours QRP with a high degree of confidence that I will make a QSO.
  2. Persistence calling CQ on 7020Khz in the mornings over the weekend will eventually pay off although there seems to only be a small group of enthusiasts on this CW frequency.
  3. Try building EFHW's for all bands. 
  4. Use more slippery cord for the antenna launcher. When launching up to 30foot a longer launch cord is needed.
  5. Next trip book room 3 or the large boma cottage. Better trees there than room 14.
  6. If you start a braai at noon then likely you will not make it to the 2pm AWA net hi hi.

Buffalo & croc. Crocodile river Malelane opposite river cottage
Friends and a braai, river cottage Malelane
The deck restaurant Malelane

My radio gear packed for this trip

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dick,

    I was working the last few days. I would have like to work you whilst you were in Kruger.

    Sounds to me like you had fun. The local CW activity does peak a little during the local contests. The most noteworthy is QRP contest, The RaDAR event, SARL CW contest and the SARL field day. Planning an outing around those events might be worthwhile.

    73, Pierre ZS6A