Start: 28-01-2018 End: 04-02-2018, IOTA: AF061, Island: Ibo
Johannes, PA5X/C93PA and myself had decided that we wanted to activate an IOTA entity and the reason why we have chosen a destination in Mozambique is partly because Johannes is currently living in Mozambique which has some advantages. Johannes, PA5X/C93PA and myself had decided that we wanted to activate an IOTA entity and the reason why we have chosen a destination in Mozambique is partly because Johannes is currently living in Mozambique which has some advantages.
Mozambique, Ibo Island
Johannes, PA5X/C93PA and myself had decided that we wanted to activate an IOTA entity and the reason why we have chosen a destination in Mozambique is partly because Johannes is currently living in Mozambique which has some advantages.
With that in mind we started to search for a suitable location. In fact, we had the choice for 6 different IOTA entities (AF061, 068, 072, 098, 103, 088). There are a couple of criteria to check when looking for a location: situated on the north side of an island (have free take off to US, Europe and Asia if possible), on or very close to the beach, electricity 24 hrs a day, within our affordable price range). We quickly learned that there are lots of nice hotels and resorts but it was not uncommon to have price tags of 500-1500 dollar per day. This became actually the main issue and after checking every location we finally found Baobibo on Ibo island that had an acceptable price range.
Ibo Island is one of 27 islands that from the renowned Quirimbas Archipelago. It is located off of the northern Mozambique coastline near the town of Pemba. It is renowned for its stunning scenery and world-class diving.Ibo Island
Ibo Island has a long and interesting history. Ibo Island was a centre for the slave and ivory trade, and was considered to be an important trading post on the East African coastline for 500 years. Remnants of the Arabs and Portuguese influence can be seen in the local architecture, particularly the old Catholic Church, three forts, and many trading posts. These ruins are from the 1500’s and still harbour many secrets. Visitors can go on tours of the islands and the locals can tell many stories about the pirates, slaves, gold, Ivory and intrigues of days gone by.
It is not just its interesting history that makes Ibo Island a wonderful tourist destination. The island is one of the most pristine beach destinations in the world. The island falls within the Quirimbas National Park which has some of the most un-spoilt reefs in the World. Divers can enjoy some of the best diving in the world. Turtles, Dolphins, Whales are often seen on dives. The Park is also a sanctuary for the rare Dugong. The Island also has a diverse and varied birdlife.
The Quirimbas National Park was declared in June 2002. In an unusual move, the park was created at the request of the local communities and stakeholders. They now work together to protect the region. This is founded on the understanding that conservation is only effective when it involves the local communities. The park is home to rich marine life and is one of the last refuges of the endangered Dugong. Several species of turtles and three species of Dolphins occur in the park. The main goal of the Quirimbas National Park is to protect the regions great ecological diversity so that they can be used productively by both present and future generations. Tourism is of great benefit to the region, but can also damage this fragile eco-system and thus is managed carefully.
Now we had located a suitable accommodation, very close to the beach, free take off to US and Europe and within the price range. Next, we started to communicate with the accommodation on electricity, internet availability, permission to erect antennas on the compound, etc. This was all OK, but with the remark that we should also request permission from the local authorities. This was obviously a more challenging task.
In the meantime, Johannes had arranged the licenses for the operation and we had received the callsigns C8X and C81G. For the permission of the local authorities we first ask the INCM to write a letter to the Delgado District (which Ibo Island is part of) that our license was also valid for Ibo Island. The other initiative was to ask our Dutch embassy to reach out to the local authorities and inform them about our scheduled operation. This was a more challenging task. Finally, we were able to get the letter sent to the Administrator of Ibo Island. We were actually conscious that it was unlikely that we would get a written permission, but anyhow, we did inform them.
Initially we had a plan to both of us traveling to Pemba and from there to go together by car to Tandanhange and from there taking a public boat. The trip to Tandanhange would take 2.5-4 hours and next getting all our luggage on a crowded boat. Finally, we decide to take a bit more comfortable and predictable route and hired a boat to bring us from Pemba directly to Ibo Island, a trip of about 100 km and would take 3-4 hours.
Logistically Johannes and I had to meet each other somewhere in Mozambique. The closest destination I could get by plane was Pemba (via Nairobi). Consequently, Johannes had to travel from Beira to Pemba and decided to go by car, which was a distance of 1,500 km and would take two full days. The advantage was that he had not weight limitations and could bring whatever he thought was useful (other than the necessary stuff). That was exactly what he did and ended up with a pickup truck fully loaded (only the driver seat was available).
Since I was traveling by plane I carefully selected the needed equipment and materials and packed it as efficient and economically as I could, resulting in 3 cases of checked luggage and two pieced of hand luggage with a total weight of about 75 KG.
I left on Friday evening to Nairobi where I had to wait 8 hours for my flight to Pemba. The same morning Johannes left Beira by car and used a tracking system (APRS, https://aprsdroid.org/) which allowed me to follow him in real time. I could see his location, speed, direction and altitude. So now and then we exchanged messages and Johannes sent pictures of his road conditions and environment which could post on my web site (www.dx.to).
I had my flight to Pemba in the afternoon and Johannes was already at the airport at the time of my arrival. So far everything went smooth and my luggage appeared on the belt in good shape. Just 2 meters before the exit to the public area, I was stopped by customs and asked what I had in my boxes. Since it was equipment, they asked for the invoices. I was prepared for that and handed over the invoices for the K3 and Expert 1.3K FA plus some small equipment. The total value was estimate at USD 8000 and I had to pay temporary import duties. The duty was about 10% of the value so we were confronted with a cost of USD 800. I was told that I would get this back when leaving the country again. That sounds OK but I could imagine that when on my way back, I would experience that the right people would not be available, the money was not available, the procedure was changed, etc.
I was able to call Johannes to assist me in this situation. He explained he had imported several pieces of equipment already before and only paid small amounts of import duty. Finally, after some discussions, and negotiations, we had to pay USD 300 which would be refunded on my return.
One issue for us was also that it is difficult to withdraw foreign currency at a bank in Pemba and on Ibo Island you can’t get local or foreign currency and the only ATM on the island is out of order. Therefore, you need to bring your cash money with you. Obviously, paying USD 300 to customs would go out of the budget we had for payments on the island.
After the import duty formalities, we could leave the airport and went to our hotel Jardim dos Embondeiros. It is a fantastic hotel, and located directly on the sea, so we concluded already; a fantastic place for a radio operation, however, it’s not an island. That evening we went for dinner and early sleep.
The next morning we were greeted by Pieter, our skipper. We loaded the cars and went to the beach where Pieter his boat was anchored off shore. Pieter had arranged some local guys to bring all the luggage to the beach and to load it on the boat. Around 8 AM we left for a four-hour journey to Ibo Island. We arrived around noon at Ibo Island where we located the boat at the pier. Some local guys helped us to off load all the luggage and transported it to the lodge. We directly inspected the compound and discussed the antenna setup. Based on that we decided to take the “family bungalow” as our accommodation. It was pre-arranged that we had two suitable tables with chairs for our operating positions. We directly started to unpack our boxes and suitcases in order to build up the most important antenna, the Hexbeam on a 14m high telescopic aluminum mast. That had to be ready before sunset so we could start the operation the same evening.
After the Hexbeam we installed the 40m vertical with two elevated radials which was easy to do. With antennas for 40-10 meters ready, we could start our operation. We knew that internet was a bit of an issue and for that reason we brought a WiFi router with 3.5G dongle. We had initially issues getting it to work and registered with the new SIM card. In the following days we also had issues with the top up via scratch cards but overall we were having reliable internet access.
Previously we have had correspondence with the authorities about our planned stay in order to avoid surprises. Johannes went to the administrator in the morning for courtesy and the meeting went very well. However, the director of infrastructure and a police officer still had to inspect the scene. So we had 3 officials visiting somewhat later and with all our documentation and some discussion they were satisfied. With the approval of the highest official on the island, no further surprises were expected.
We were experiencing regular power cuts, some very short, others somewhat longer. That means we were sometimes cut off, just in the middle of a QSO so you may not appear in the log due these outages. I started assembling the VDA for 30m which we put up at the end of the day since it is too hot to work in the sun. Assembling was done when the mast and boom were on the ground. Erecting the antenna was difficult since the area was scattered by trees, bushes and guy wires but finally we got it in place and having the ability to move it from US to Europe direction.
On Tuesday we did setup the 60m vertical on a 18m Spider pole with two elevated radials. It was located in the front of the compound. Later that night we discovered that it produced a lot of QRM so it was impossible to make contacts.
Johannes was able to use all features on his FT-5000 to get the noise and QRM somewhat reduced and we decided to give it a try on CW that evening. We got reports (on the packet cluster and via mail) that our signal was good in Europe. However, finalizing QSO’s was a struggle. Finally, we were able to get 43 CW QSO’s on 60m in our log (all firsts on 60m).
We did experience technical difficulties that had an impact on our simultaneous operation and thus impacting the QSO rate. With some combinations of bands, we had trouble on the receiving side or HF feedback impacting the SWR protection on the Expert 1.3K FA amplifier. Since we had quite a number of band pass filters of different brands, we experimented if we could solve the problems, but without better results. As a consequence, we had to reduce power in some band combinations and in other combinations we could work with only one station. Especially for the 17-20m combination this was a pity as conditions on these bands were sometimes excellent at the same time.
During our stay, there were no other visitors at the lodge and therefore we had all freedom to place our antennas. Obviously with other guests around, they can’t allow you to do that, so we were really lucky. However, this situation was also used to do maintenance on the bungalows and the open kitchen. Since there was previously leakage during heavy rain, we were asked if it was OK to do some maintenance on the roof of our bungalow as there was rain expected. As we did not want to see water leaking inside our bungalow, we agreed to carry on with the construction works. However, the workers made so much noise that it was impossible for Johannes to make SSB QSO’s and had to stop his operation. We expected the works would perhaps take an hour or so, but it lasted several hours. On the positive side, there was heavy rain during the night and we did not have any leakage.
I went up very early because I got awake from the heavy rain. This allowed me to start operating on 40m and later continued on 20 meters. Some hours later I moved to 17m but soon we got a terrible QRM (like the old woodpecker) which made it impossible to work any longer. So I returned to 20m for some time and checked when 17m was quite again to continue on 17m again.
Saturday was my birthday and Johannes had managed to order a birthday cake somewhere which was made on special order. During the birthday song, I cut the cake and we enjoyed eating it and having a Coke. For the rest of the day we continued our operation.
As we had to leave the island on Monday around noon, we started to dismantle part of the antenna’s already. The best was to take down the 60m vertical as we would not be able to make any more QSO’s on that band. Since the VDA would require considerable time, we decided to take down also that antenna. The remaining antennas would leave enough options to make good QSO runs during the afternoon and evening/night. We were able to have a really good run that afternoon and evening on 20 and 17 meters.
Early morning Johannes was able to log his KL7 station, the last remaining US state for his WAS. After that we started to take down the Hexbeam and 40m vertical. The latter was easy but the Hexbeam on a 14 m high aluminum mast took more time and was also more difficult with only two people. Besides that, the sun was burning already heavily on our bodies and it was terribly hot. Only when the Hexbeam was on the ground, we could move it a bit in the shade of the trees and do the further dismantling and packing.
When everything was packed, we took a refreshing shower and said goodbye to the staff of the lodge around 11:00 hr, earlier than scheduled. Some local strong guys did the transport of our luggage to the boat by a motorized cargo transporter. Since it was low tide, we could not load the luggage from the pier onto the boat. Therefor they had to hand (and head) carry all the luggage across the beach, into a small dinghy which transported it to our boat. Around noon we were ready and left Ibo Island. Again it was a fantastic journey to Pemba. The boat regularly hit waves that created a shower on the boat and our luggage. This also showed us how important it was that we had packed our sensitive equipment well.
Once we arrived at the beach of Pemba, some guys were waiting already to bring all luggage back on the beach and into the cars. From the beach we drove again to our hotel Jardim dos Embondeiros. We first took a fantastic real shower and later had a nice dinner and a good night rest.
The owner of the hotel all of a sudden became interested in our activities when he heard what we were doing. It turned out his father was CR7RL? and was the former president of the Mozambique amateur radio society (that was before independence).
Johannes left around 08:00 hr commencing his 2-day trip back to Beira. My flight was at 12:15 hr but went early to the airport as I had to visit customs to get my temporary import duty refunded. Most people told me that chances were that I would not get my money back but Johannes was firm it would all work out fine.
I went into the customs office and the same lady that we negotiated our import duty with, was sitting at her desk. Of course she recognized me and directly said that she would call her colleague to pay the refund. It was amazing, but within 5 minutes I left the office with my USD 300. I managed to check in my luggage without paying excess luggage which was the second pleasant surprise.
I arrived at home in the Netherlands and directly looked up how Johannes was progressing with his journey to Beira. It turned out he got stuck somewhere on a dirt road where big trucks were blocking the road. He decided not to wait any longer and to drive back for some distance and take an alternative route, which was an additional 150 km on top of the 1,500 km of the total distance and finally he arrive safe in Beira.
For Johannes and me it was a successful and exciting DXpedition which resulted in over 10,000 QSO’s. Certainly, there are people who did not make it into the log for which we apologize. The logs are uploaded to Clublog and LoTW. QSL cards are expected to arrive from the printer soon, so we can start processing the requests. We make use of Clublog OQRS for direct and buro cards.
We like to thank you for being part of the pile ups and which makes it so enjoyable on our side. It was a great time and we are looking forward to work you from the next DX location.
FT-5000 with Acom1010, K3 with Expert 1.3K FA, 10-20m Hexbeam at 14 meters, 40m vertical with two elevated radials, 30m VDA, 60m vertical with two elevated radials, 80m dipole. Total weight of our equipment and luggage was 300+ KG.