28 April 2014

Kruger Park Satara, Pretoriuskop and Berg en Dal camps

Back from our morning drive near Satara on Saturday morning, I was on 40 meters at lunchtime with a 569 report from Barrie ZS6AJY. Band conditions were definitely down from the evening before. I then checked into the AWA (Antique Wireless Association net) and met Andy ZS6ADY and also a call from ZS6PTA  (Pretoria Radio club), Ray who was looking for points towards the QRP contest.

On Saturday evening we went for a drive towards Orpen Gate. Fantastic! We witnessed two young male giraffe 'necking' in the middle of the road. We watched them tangling with each other for quite some time competing for dominance. Thereafter we returned to camp for an evening braai under the stars. The  piri piri chicken was certainly spicy but went down well with a couple of glasses of red wine....

On Sunday morning we were up bright and early and heading along the S100. There they were! Two massive male lion walked out of the bush just in front of our car and crossed the road.

One of the large male lions crossing the road in front of our car.

We were treated to a wonderful private viewing. We switched off the car engine and watched them walking silently down to the river for a good drink.

At 9:30am I had a QSO with Monk ZS4SF. He was using a vertical half wave. His signal was definitely down (559). But he had worked some PY (Brazil) stations earlier. This is definitely a DX antenna.

We then headed for Pretoriuskop camp about 150 kms to the south, stopping for a pie and ginger beer lunch near Skukuza atop a granite outcrop 'called a dwala where we come from' with a 360 degree spectacular view of the veld.

Pretoriuskop and the surrounding bush has a much different feel to Satara. This being thick bush with fewer game. Ideal Rhino country. We checked into a rondavel with a great view of an open space area looking towards the swimming pool which is built into the side of a granite outcrop. Most picturesque.

My end fed antenna here was excellent. Completely in the clear. A sloper configuration. One end at 20ft and the other at 8ft. The band at 06:15 pm was in good shape with 569 reports received from Barrie, Bruce ZS6BK and Evert ZS6AQW (599). Evert  was using a fb older rig which I believe was a Halicrafters but not completely sure. QRM was high but the band was open for mid-distance 500Km QSO's with no problem.

Lamb Chops Sunday evening. Oh how we will miss South African lamb chops when we return to the USA!

On Monday April 21st I was up early, before the sun, listening to DX. Initially South America and then North America as the sun was rising. By 7 am the band was short enough that I was able to establish excellent contact with Peter ZS1JX in Cape Town (559/QSB), Barrie and Monk. We were surprised that the band was so good so early in the day.

End Fed Half wave wire at Pretoriuskop camp. In the clear and high
After an excellent hearty breakfast of roosterkoek, bacon and eggs at the outdoor bush restaurant I spent some time optimizing my antenna. I was able to get both ends up above 20 ft and completely in the clear. Judging by the 589 reports from Monk ZS4SF, this was a superior antenna. We spent about an hour comparing signal strength's from ZS4SF as he tried different lengths of end fed wire on 40m. The conclusion was that a true half wave of 66ft 4 inches yielded marginally better results when compared to a better balanced 61 ft antenna. This was an interesting set of experiments.

The view from our hut at Pretoriuskop

 At 11 am om Pierre ZS6A gave me a 579 report. It was nice to talk to Pierre again.

After a leisurely time spent swimming and exploring the camp I was QRV at 3pm. QSO's and good signal reports were made with Eddie ZS6BNE who was running 15 Watts, and another round with Monk. Thanks chaps!

Our evening game drive was fully rewarded when we came across two young male elephants fighting for dominance right in the middle of the road. We spent about 30 minutes watching them clash and push against each other in a show of strength. Eventually one of the young elephants stormed off into the bush and started to push over a number of small trees as if to emphasize his superior strength. At one point we were obliged to reverse the car to give then space. Certainly we had never experienced anything like this before.

That evening back at camp I enjoyed my contacts with Eddie, Evert and Monk before a dinner of braaied borewors and a glass (or two) of good red South African wine. Good night...

On Tuesday morning after a relaxed breakfast we set out for our final destination in the south of the park near Malelane Gate. A camp called Berg en Dal. We had about 60 kms to drive. Soon we were amongst a large group of elephant feeding on the lush vegetation.What a pleasure it was to watch these majestic creatures going about their daily routine in their own habitat.

By lunchtime we had arrived at Berg en Dal. Here in this lovely wooded camp we had the pleasure of meeting up with my brother Ed and his wife Linda. We spent an enjoyable few hours catching up on news while we sat in their caravan camp overlooking a large river. 

I deployed my antenna into some nearby trees and reasonably in the clear. Up about 20 ft. and sloping down to 15 ft. I received a good signal report from Monk before we headed out for our evening game drive.

We could not believe it when a young Leopard casually walked out of the bush in front of us and ambled down the road to the drift crossing the river below. What a magnificent sight! We crept down the road to obtain a second glimpse before the leopard was gone. This was the first time Berry and I had seen a leopard in the wild. Memorable indeed.

On returning to camp I had a nice chat with Barrie and Monk at 6pm. Excellent band conditions once again.
After an enjoyable evening with Ed and Linda we crept into bed for our last night in the bush. Hyena could be heard throughout the night calling from somewhere deep in the bush. When would we hear that sound again?

I awoke early on Wednesday, our final morning. It was still pitch dark when I called CQ. To my surprise I was answered by Adrian ZS1TTZ at 05:45am (439). The band was wide open to Cape Town and Welkom! After an enjoyable chat with Adrian and Monk, Ed and I were at the gate by 6 am for another early morning drive. This time we were rewarded by the sight of three Rhino sleeping side by side sardine fashion and a Hyena standing quietly by the side of the road. Surely the litter must have been nearby. 
What a lovely end to a wonderful trip!

Hyena near Berg en Dal
Rhino sleeping 'sardine fashion' at Berg en Dal
Our hut at Pretoriuskop


The operating position at Berg en Dal
A kudu bull with a large pair!


The little table is perfect for QRP operations and can easily be moved around

My lovely wife Berry. How can I ever thank her for her tolerance of my hobby :)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dick,

    I would like to congratulate your blog site , I found very interesting and stimulating for every ones doing experiments concerning to the radio and electronics, expecially the cálculos together with the circuits It´s very importante, and clear and useful explanations about them.
    I live in North east of the Brazil, at Maceió state, my call is PP7HP ; I am also to do some experiments with radio and related electronics, I am a technical guy, I got some measuring instruments, that was my work tools for 15 years at philips telecomunications.
    At the moment, I am trying to build a q meter, to conduct some experiments in RF.
    well dick it was a pleasure to talk with you, I hope to exchange some informations with you.
    All the best to you and your family !

    Regards, Renan _ PP7HP