Z21 story

Zimbabwe 2015

In early 2015, we began to plan another radioamateur expedition. Approximately 14 days we were looking for an interesting location and we got the idea to organize an expedition to Guyana – 8R. We contacted 8R1AK. We found a suitable hotel, and after about 2 months we got the response, radioamateur license for US citizens only- no chance for us.
Another target area was again Africa. We were looking for an interesting location, and the choice went on Zimbabwe.


The African country with a rich and mostly turbulent history. In 1890 the territory was occupied by the English, and called Southern Rhodesia. Independence from the UK gained in 1980, the population is now about 12.38 millions. Southern Rhodesia was renamed to Zimbabwe, unfortunately, as one of the African countries are perhaps most extended inverted racism, supplemented by many unprofessional interventions into the economy of the state, which necessarily resulted in the country’s position as one of the poorest in Africa with a huge slump in the economy, instability and massive inflation.


In the DXCC list the Southern Rhodesia is listed as an independent country with prefixes ZE1 since 1935, in the later lists just like ZE, since independence is the prefix Z2. We contacted the Dutch VHF amateur team, which visited Z2 earlier, read several travel stories from independent travelers. Finally we contacted our friend OK1MU.


On the Internet we found local Telecommunications Office and tried to send a request for a license. They responded relatively quickly, in about two days. At the same time we started looking for accommodation in an Airbnb around the capital Harare. The choice fell on a property with a garden. With its manager Walter David Burkhard we have established e-mail communications.


Since the origina request till receiving the license it took 3 months. The first problem was how to pay for license. We tried to send money by bank transfer. Response came very quickly, the transaction is rejected. Bank account doesn’t exist. We tried to ask Mr Burkhard, to tell us the account number. He was not willing, probably was afraid of an account abuse. There remained the last option to send money via Western Union. Peter ok1fcj went to the post office and blocked the counter for 40 minutes. The worker there could not send the money, then she didn’t know the USD-CZK rate. Finally she charged the service fee. Total cost approx 110 EURO, and within minutes the money was in Zimbabwe. We contacted Mr. Burkhard waited, when he’s going to the post office and pick up the money and take it to the Telecommunications Authority. In 2 days he collected the money and, pickup license and sent us scanned copy, we got call Z21MG. We were very happy.

The license is issued from 15.9 to 15.10. 2015 and after an internal agreement, we decided to compete in the CQ WW RTTY category MS. In June we buy air tickets with KLM, the price per person is CZK 25,000 including baggage 2 * 23 kg plus 12 kg hand luggage. Price at Air France is 19 500 CZK, but only one 23 kg bag.


The first meeting of the members of the expedition took place on August 1st in QTH OK1FCJ. First spiderbeam ant control, plus repair of defective parts. Both spiderbeam antennas are wrapped and get the exact weight – 22.8 kg. A further task was to control ant verticals 160 / 80m. In the afternoon we made vertical antenna 40/30 and everything wrapped up with receiving antenna 4SQ for the lower bands. Completion of Saturdays work, was the configuration of computer networks and program Wintest. We tried tested setup with 3 pieces Elecraft K3 and 3 pcs of laptops.In conclusion, we wrote on paper TODO list and assigned it to responsible persons.

September 18 evening, the whole team meets at Petr’s house in Ritka, pack the last luggage and still weigh and combine the packages. Conclusion, each bag weighs 22.8 kg. Carry-on baggage weighs more than 12 kg.


September 19th we wake up very early, at 2am. EXPEDITION began. We’re going to Pavel ok1fps and continue in the direction of the airport. We park at Tuchoměřice near airport. At 4am we are going to check in luggage, and have a problem with our handheld bags. Unfortunately, they are too heavy. But we can not check in electronics. Fortunately, Peter knocks it.


The flight takes directions of Prague – Amsterdam, Amsterdam – Nairobi, Nairobi – Harare. There are several flights and takes over 24 hours. Nobody’s excited, and still not won. Upon arrival in Harare we must first arrange visas, which we manage in 20 minutes, and mostly go through customs clearance.


At customs comes first major complications, they do not want to let us on. We show license, however they ask what we’re bringing, whether we have a local representative who will do temporary import etc. The game of nerves ala cat and mouse. We stood by ours opinion, pointing license, list of equipment and constant explanations. This game took nearly half an hour before we were kindly released.


We left the airport and there is already waiting for us likeable young man Walter David Burkhard. Walter had parked a large pickup truck and took us to the house which we rented. Along the way he explains the house’s own family from Switzerland and the original owner died a year ago. Walter also studied and worked in Switzerland. After half an hour drive we finally drove into a quiet neighborhood at Walter’s house. In Harare there are a few neighborhoods, this one belongs to the richest and safest. Around the house is tall brick fence and above the fence is an electric fence that can be switched off fortunately. In the rear there is a small garden house where lives there gardener Donald, who in case of problems can help us immediately. Resting finaly after 26 hours. No one had really good sleep a lot and in the morning before 9hod we start to build the first spiderbeam and go on, verticals 40/30 m. Second vertical 160/80 has not manage to finish because the dark come rapidly around 5 pm.


In the afternoon we start the first pileup, but the electricity is not on. We find that it is a normal stuff, so the house has two electric systems and a regular user does not notice it because it has a refrigerator, television etc running at battery backup. First QSO David is trying on battery and 50 watts. Pileups starts off immediately. Peter and Pavel contact Walter who arrives with his father, who has a service of the electric generators. We are renting six KW Honda unit. The price for rent is $ 20 / day plus petrol. The consumption is 20 liters per day and liter is worth $ 1.3 per liter. During our stay, we found that electricity does not work from 7 am to 23 pm. Reason: little water and total drought in Zimbabwe and Zambia, which have shared power plants. Moreover, it is a great fault of the power plant and therefore the situation in the supply of electrical power is even worse. The worst thing is the annoying noise from the Honda generator and high Qrm.


The next morning we started to build a second spiderbeam and done a vertical 160/80 m. All verticals have two tuned counterweights on each band and artificial wired ground. Last ant we built receiver Hi-Z 4 sq.


Other days we started to look for interference sources. The first discovery of local QRM, was lit by LED energy saving lamps at the house garden. All the bulbs in the house were energy saving. It took us three nights before we figured it out. We had to turn off all the lights throughout the house. Partly disappeared worst QRM. We had to install a conventional lamps in the broadcasting room and the kitchen.


Unfortunately, we did not have enough into the bathroom and toilet. We did personal hygiene during the day, but we needed to use the toilet also during dark time, so we had to use light from mobile phone. It was quite fun, with one hand on and perform other needs. Another thing was unstable internet connection, so we could not use the online log. It worked for an hour and then the constant blackouts, quite often we reset the modem and after the broadcast band 80 m, the modem has not runned at all. Fortunately the telco guys worked in our street, so we bought from them new modem for $30. This modem has been more stable, but occasional failures guide us to the end of our stay. We uploaded log on clublog manually several times a day.


We’ve seen Walter almost every day and all the important things he arranged, starting from food to gasoline. Food store was pretty stocked and found 2 km from our house. I would compare it to Lidl chain in Europe. Food imported into Zimbabwe were about 50 percent more expensive, so we looked for domestic production, which was as expensive as in the Czech Republic. Everyday preparing lunch arranges Peter. Approximately at 12 Utc we gave QRX 60- 90 minutes and had lunch. The ritual went on an afternoon dip in the swimming pool. After cooking, afternoon coffee, back to reality, pileup again.


The top of the expedition was the participation in the CQ WW RTTY. The race started at 0000 UTC, with all zones closed and at 40 m we were not called. We waited for the opening band 20m. Finally, the EU ran pileup. In the race must go simplex and therefore rate is low. We take only the strongest stations.


At 9 Utc came the visitor. Athol Z21LV, the only one local radioamateur, appeared . Athol invites us to visit his home, which we accepted, and therefore we have inadvertently QRX for 4 hours. During the visit, he shows us a house, a farm, Cushcraft Antenna A3 from 40 to 10m, and of course Hamshack KENWOOD TS 590 and Elecraft KPA500. All his life he lives with his muslim wife, and there is no alcohol in this house. Like a good host invites us for a beer, but away from home. Going to the store for beer and return to our QTH, where we discuss with Athol. Beer has a capacity of 0.66 liters and everyone must drink 2. We have an empty stomach and we all feel the alcohol in our heads. Athol left and we must continue RTTY race. Zone 20 m are open to 00.30 UTC, then again retuning to 40 m and literally scraping. The second day we had no other visit and finally we made at the 2140 QSOs and 2368370 points. It’s less than last year, but the absence of the band 40 and 80 m is known.


In the second half of the expedition, we decided to go on a trip to the capital Harare and its environs. The first idea was to go on Monday, but in the Czech Republic was a holiday, so we moved the plan to Tuesday. Morning, precisely at 8 am, Walter came to us and we went to a small zoo, followed by a tour of the worst and poorest neighborhood in Harare. Car windows were closed, we wanted to avoid someone to stole something. We moved into the center of the capital and drove through the main street. Then we went outside Harare to a snake farm where we seen snakes from green and black mambas next to the python. In the afternoon we went on a safari around 20 km from Harare, which was divided into 3 parts. The first part, the lions and lioness car. It was amazing pass 15m from the animals. The second part, free drive by the car again, between zebras and giraffes. Followed by the last part of the classical zoo, including a guide and interpretation. Trip is slowly coming to the end, but Walter still would not let us go. We had to taste the national dish, roasted corn on fire.


Assessing the bands from our perspective.
10-20 m– Almost every station we made even with basic setup. A coupleof amateurs wrote to me, for example LadaOK1LVwedidwithQRPequipmentat15 m. Josef OK2PDNon 50watts andverticalband 17, 15 m.


30 and 40 m – very helpful RX system and we logged many stations from the US, EU and JA. Transmitting ant vertical for each band and 2 tuned radials for each band. Make the connection here was not always easy and sometimes jamming reached S7. Sometimes we just have not heard anything but the signal strength of 1, the sign we never read about.


80 m – vertical ant plus 2 tuned radials plus passive radials on the floor. RX 4SQ ant. 162 QSO first QSO with amateur OK, who else than OK2PAY. Later on OK2ZA OK7GU 579 and 559. Very nice opening to the JA and the first JA1BK, but unfortunately only 5 minutes.


160 m vertical ant plus 2 tuned radials plus passive radials on the floor. RX 4SQ ant. 5 3 QSO ok station 1 PY.
160/80 m antenna is the same as when shipped to PJ5 / OL8R. Different countries between Z2 and PJ5 was very noticeable, and therefore our signals even in the performance of 800 watts in Europe were weak. Just missing the sea.


We established a total of 25,679 connections in three people and show the highest rate achieved in full operation at the facility mod 3 to 680 CW QSO per hour, normally at that moment was over 500 QSO. Achieving and high-rate one needs to fully open band, disciplined amateurs, without external QRM and rested operators. Usually always something missing so the rate was as it was. In the OK sheet, we read that we are sending too fast. In CW we operated 30 to 32 wpm sometimes bit quicker upto 36 wpm. On SSB we listened split first 5-10 up. They were moments when the whole band was completely over-inflatedand we tried to listen to 15up, then Peter moved on the system followed numbers. At smaller pileup was no problem to record even 2-3 marks into the computer simultaneously


In conclusion, I would like to thank the sponsors who helped us to realize another expedition: www.dxnews.com, www.ges.cz www.okdxf.eu www.hamshop.cz www.mastrant.com www.mdxc.org http: // wp .cdxc.org www.spiderbeam.com

Individual sponsors: OK2ZA, 4L5A, OK7GU, OK1MU, OK2PDN, OK1MR, JA1BK, OK1TP, JH1RVQ, OK2RO, G3SNN. Photo gallery on our website www.cdxp.cz and you will also find links to get the QSL. At the very end, we look forward to once again to hear from some interesting locations.