10 March 2013

Saamrus Magaliesberg 'Piet-my-Vrou' 

Saamrus between mountains. Not good for radio!
Berry, our dog Chaiya and I spent a wonderful weekend at Saamrus, a guest farm nestled in the beautiful Magaliesberg area and only about an hour from our apartment in Fourways. The main attraction here being the fact that it is dog friendly, a huge plus for us, especially Chaiya. The road access was terrible to say the least. We kept touching down in our very low Toyota Corolla. I wished that I had a higher clearance vehicle for this trip. Our bags plus my radio gear, minus the moxon were man-carried the last 100m up a steep 4 wheel drive only road. The cottage, called  Piet my Vrou after a popular local bird, was beautiful. Very peaceful among nice shady trees. Extremely clean, neat and nearly new.
On friday evening I was able to erect an EFHW about 5 meters off an extremely steep slope behind the cottage. Upon orienting myself using my BB compass I was disappointed to see that mountains to the north behind the cottage and the Magaliesberg would completely block the path to Europe.
During the evening nothing heard and a lot of noise on all bands except a few stations on 40m in the noise. I tried connecting the EFHW tuner to the fence via a short lead but no real difference.
The next morning I was up early and was surprised to note that 40meters sounded better. I deployed a 40m dipole up about 10m and facing N-S. This involved a lot of scrambling around in dense bush, getting tangled on small aloe bushes and generally falling and stumbling over the steep rocky ground. Not fun and dangerous. But it sure was good practice for field operations! Since this was a new antenna I had to take it up and down to trim it to resonance. I noted about 1s unit improvement between the EFHW and the dipole for near in stations with a definite noticeable improvement in the dipole for Region 1 and 5 stations in the Cape and Natal. At around 8am I was able to QSO with om John in Witbank ZS6JBJ. John gave me a 579 report improving to 599. He was unable to hear any difference between the two antennas. I then had a nice chat with Andy ZS6ADY in Benoni and Pierre ZS6A also in Benoni. They both gave me a 599 report and Pierre noted a slightly better signal on the dipole. The results interested me and I assumed that the EFHW is a good antenna for NVIS work and is adequate for local contacts within Region 6 Gauteng, NW and Mapumulanga areas. I also assume that I was getting some benefit from the extreme slope behind the EFHW for propagation towards the south.
After a stiff and enjoyable 3 hour walk I was back on the air for the AWA net at 2 pm running 2 watts. The following stations checked into the net ZS0AWA/ZS6ADY, ZS5DM, ZS5CQD, ZS6AJY, ZS6JBJ. All stations in region 6 had no problem copying my 2watts. However the region 5 stations were having some difficulty. They were also experiencing heavy QRN at the time in Natal.
Later in the afternoon I erected a 15m dipole facing N-S. I was amazed at the difference between this antenna and my long wire (20meters). I could hear no stations on the long wire. On the dipole the band came alive although the signals were weak from Europe. No doubt due to the mountains blocking the low angle signals. It was very frustrating hearing all the G land stations on the air and participating in the BERA contest but they were barely above the noise. My log for BERA (Commonwealth contest) stations worked was as follows (UTC).
15:14 7Q7BP 599 599 177 15m 001 Malawi
15:20 5X1XA 599 599 214 15m 002 Uganda
16:27 5H3EE 599 599 285 15m 003 Tanzania
16:52 9X0NH 599 599 244 20m 004 Rwanda
04:05 5H3EE 599 599 585 20m 005 Tanzania
04:28 9J2BO 599 599 360 40m 006 Zambia
I am certain that given a better QTH that I would have been able to contact the UK and also the many Canada and Indian stations calling. Clearly I had  continental communications into East Africa.
My 15meter and 20meter dipoles also performed well. These were all antennas built in a hurry for this trip.
I could also hear that 10m was well opened and I kicked myself for not having a 10m dipole with me. I did contemplate shortening the 15m dipole but I ran out of time. Propagation appeared to be good with the SFI above 110. However the A index was high and thus the noise level was too high for good QRP conditions.
On Sunday morning I was on 20m by 6am local and worked 5H3EE before the band closed. I then deployed my 40m dipole and was surprised to hear the path to North America wide open. I believe I was copying via long path since there was flutter and echo on the signals. I am sure that I could have worked some of the big guns if I had been on top of the mountain. Once the band went short I called CQ for an hour between 7am and 8am local with no response. I guess Sunday morning is not the time for 40m CW in SA?
During our walk on Saturday we walked to the topmost point on the farm mountain. From there we could clearly see the Magaliesberg to the north and the Witwatersberg to the south. We scouted the area and found a good spot where I could deploy a field station in the future. However no tall skyhooks are up there. Still I reckon a low dipole would work given the clear take off in every direction. I need to look at a topo map of the area to see what the altitude difference is between the Magaliesberg and where we were at Saamrus.

Lessons and observations from this trip:

  1. Get a topo map of the area
  2. Re build the 20m and 15m antennas to strengthen the connection to the feeder hub
  3. Build a 10m dipole
  4. Buy more thin 'lacing cord' from Builders Hardware and build a new and better antenna launcher. This cord is nice and slippery and extremely light weight.
  5. Remember the back pack!
Berry and I will definitely return to Saamrus. Recommended for all dog lovers who have social dogs. The end of another enjoyable adventure!
Berry and Chaiya taking a break

A picture of fitness and good looks :)

Berry and Chaiya with a beautiful stone fence post. (Note the  lichen).

A view of the 40m dipole and the cottage Piet-my-Vrou

Piet-my-Vrou from the steep hill where the EFHW was deployed

Far too many wires and too few QSOs!


  1. The road access was terrible to say the least - Because it is a private road and not a public road, Saamrus does not have consent from Mogale City to operate.The grazing right servitude is for livestock grazing of farming animals not dogs.

    1. Hello Shaun. Thanks for the reply. We just were visitors to Saamrus so of course we are not aware or involved in local issues of course. Best regards