Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I have decided to re-launch my blog. I originally started it so that I could blog whilst on my trip 'down under' back in the summer of 2009.
It appears to me that this is a great medium for posting current project and operating news.

I have completed my February GHz bands column for Radcom and submitted it to the editor to be laid out in Desktop published format. The February column (out in January) will carry part 6 of my 'Getting started in EME' series. This is the first of two parts on pre-amps.

Good news. I received my AE5OT licence paperwork from the FCC. Then last Friday (4th Dec) the FCC issued my vanity callsign, W5DDK. I don't have the paperwork for that yet, but the grant appears on the FCC web site, so I should now be able to use it, if I choose to. I need another trip to the USA!

Recently I have been playing with WSPR on 500kHz. Since I don't have an NoV for this band I can only listen and monitor the band.
On WSPR I have copied the G4JNT, G3XBM and G7NKS beacons as well as CW from G3KEV. All of this with an untuned 7m vertical and during the daytime.
The vertical is part of an MFJ1792 40/80m top loaded vertical.
Today I assembled the remainder of the 40m/80m antenna and guyed it at the 12 and 24 foot levels. It looks massive at 33 foot high!
The antenna still needs tuning on 80m, where I was unable to load it, but on 40m, using WSPR, I received signals from VK2 and a W1 as well as all over Europe and T6
The signals from WSPR beacons on 500kHz were all slightly stronger than with the 7 m vertical.

73 de Sam

Friday, 25 September 2009

Yes, it's still alive!

Just a keep-alive message

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Home at last, but first Lantau

Hong Kong by night

Big Buddha (Tian Tan) at the Po Lin Monastry on Lantau

Stilted fishing village of Tai O on Lantau

Although my last blog was from Hong Kong and should have concluded the trip, we did have one further day in Hong Kong and I think this deserves a short blog as well.

Since our flight home wasn't until 23:15 we had one whole day in HK to spend sightseeing. We chose to visit Lantau Island (In Cantonese - Broken Head). The shape of the island gives a good idea of why it has this named. Lantau is where the new airport is located, on reclaimed land. The old Kai Tak airport on Kowloon still exists, but is no longer used for commercial air traffic. The new airport was opened in 1998, one year after HK was handed back to the Chinese.

This island also hosts HK Disneyland. We didn't visit this as we've already been to three other Disneylands at various times! Our coach tour of the island took us to see Tai O, an original stilted fishing village and one of the places to see pink dolphins. Sadly we didn't see any.
There are two small temples in the village, one Buddist and one Taoist. Although small and now overtly commercial, they were well worth the visit and the insides were exactly as I envisaged a small temple to be.

Our main visit was to see the BIG BUDDHA at the famous Po Lin monastry high up on the mountain range on the island. This is not the biggest Buddha in the world, but is regarded as the largest sitting Buddha. It is over 26m high and weighs over 200 tonnes. It is made of cast bronze panels over a steel frame and is, of course, hollow with lots to see inside.
The Buddha sits in the lotus position.

The monastry is home to a number of Buddist monks. Their number is decling but nevertheless it is a fine example of a Buddist monastry and is really majestic inside.

The adjacent vegetarian restaurant is world famous and we were able to have a set veggie lunch whilst there. As a true omnivore I would have preferred some real meat protein, but I have to say that the meal was tasty and worth the money.

On our return to our hotel (which by then we had booked out of) we had a several hours to kill before returning to Lantau and the airport (!) so we decided to go for a walk and see some more of the Kowloon area. The first thing I did was to check the prices of electrical goods. Although there is no tax on items purchased in HK, the price paid was surprisingly similar to back in the UK. There were no longer bargains to be had on electrical goods. The range of food stuffs was again similar to that in any UK supermarket with the exception of a few fruits I hadn't seen before and a few brand names that rang a feint bell from home, some years ago, and no longer available here.

The small apartment blocks that many HK families live in really are tiny and I can see why they like to get out whenever possible. 500 square feet per family of 5 is not a lot of room. I think our guide on the first trip said that most HK Cantonese live in the New Territories. Whilst I can't refute that, a subsequent guide suggested it was not accurate and many more did live in the HK and Kowloon areas. Certainly the size and number of apartment blocks we saw suggested a substantial number of local residents.

So, what were the highlights of the trip?

I wouldn't want to single out anything in particular as 'the best'. Everything was new and exciting. I think we would go back and visit each and everyone of them again, given the chance.

I do think that HK was the most exciting from the point of view that it was very different, although visiting Ularu and Rotorua came very close.

I'd like to thank all the people we met on our trip. We met friends and relations, associates and correspondents and even an American couple who had worked on a project at Martlesham when I was there, although our paths had not knowingly, personally, crossed at that time.

We have been shown the greatest kindness everywhere we went and people could not have been more helpful.

There were no major disasters on the trip. Our baggage was always in the right place and flights were generally on time. Only the trip from Adelaide to Auckland was messed up as Qantas forgot to tell us the flight times had been moved up by an hour. We still got to Auckland the same day (just), via another route and were given admission to Qantas' lounges during the two 3 hour stop overs.

We avoided any major illnesses and if there are no signs by the weekend it looks like we also avoided swine flu as well!

Now, where shall we go next?

73 de Sam and Shirley

Monday, 7 September 2009

Never say never. Never say last!

This may be my last blog on this trip. But then again, maybe it isn't. It will all depend on whether I can get access at the airport tomorrow evening and even if there is time.

Today has been a day of learning and contrast.

Yesterday we kept ourselves to Kowloon and a boat trip round the harbour on one of the little Star Ferries. Today we went on the HK Island tour. To say this was an eye opener would be a gross understatement. I don't think that anything I have ever seen on the box, read about or heard really explained 'Hong Kong'. This guided tour really opened my eyes and my mind to another world.
Reaching the view point near the top of Victoria Peak (where the tram terminates) the view back over the harbour area is outstanding (here we go again with the superlatives) and we both took lots of photos, of course. But the thing that really stands out is the Ocean side of HK island. Like most people, I have seen the pictures of the sky scrapers and the view from the peak out over these just didn't seem to make sense. There was no sign of the harbour. Now I know why. This is still HK, but a very different part. The town of Aberdeen is on the ocean side of HK island and it is this that is often seen in pictures of HK. The film makers compound this in Jackie Chan films, and the like, by freely mixing views from the commercial, harbour, side of the island with this altogether different part of HK. The ocean side is truly beautiful. That cannot easily be said of the Kowloon/ harbour side of HK. The best that can be said about that side is that it is awesome! It really is. The skyscrapers, the lights, the people, the smells. Everything. Awesome.

Our guide gave us some interesting in-sights into the Cantonese people of HK. Most seem to live in the New Territories area, towards China, as they can't afford to live in Kowloon Penisula or HK island. The mass transit systems are efficient and cheap, so people can afford to travel some distance to work in the commercial areas. Few people own cars as car purchase tax is at 150%!

Fuel is more expensive than in the UK. And even when you have a car you have no where to park it! Most people live in public housing. You are entitled to just 100 square feet of living space. A typical family of 5 has just 500 square feet to live in. I can't image that. It probably explains why there are so few radio amateurs here. Our typical shacks would take up much of that 100 square feet. My shack is 150 square feet!

To make up for the high cost of housing (it can be 80% of take home pay) food is cheap (I wish someone would tell that to our hotel manager. 18GBP each for breakfast and 50GBP each for the dinner). The Australian 'Outbacker' restaurant was much cheaper, we found, and the steaks were as good as I've tasted anywhere.

Taxis, surprisingly, are cheap. About 1.60GBP for the first km and irrespective of the number of occupants, so everyone takes them when there is more than one person going out. And on Sundays EVERYONE goes out. It is a national pastime. Eat out and enjoy the public spaces.

Tomorrow we are off on a tour of Lantau Island and the Po Lin monastery with its giant Buddha statue. This monastery also has a famous vegetarian restaurant which is where we are booked to eat lunch. Even as a confirmed carnivore I'll probably survive.............

In case this is the last blog from our trip I'd like to thank you for reading my words. I know a few of you have from comments received back both in the blog comments sections and from private e-mails.

I've enjoyed meeting so many people on this trip, both arranged and speculative (we bumped into an American today who worked on the Kesgrave MM trial video server and his wife did much of the video editing for N-Cubed). We should be back in the UK on Wednesday morning if they let us in again!

Thanks again for accompanying us both on this trip.

73 de Sam and Shirley

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Another picture

ng on!

Or, in English, good afternoon!

I am beginning to run out of superlatives about places we have visited. We certainly seem to have left one of the best until last. As lovely as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have been, this place is really something else. It must rank as one, if not the, most wonderous man-made places on earth. The view of Hong Kong and Kowloon, as we entered by transfer bus yesterday evening was overwhelming. Lights. Everywhere. And the Harvest full moon, rising above the tower blocks was just about unbelievable. It really is a place you have to see for yourself.

Not everything is perfect. The crowds and the noise can be too much. Even on a Sunday afternoon Kowloon was packed with families out doing whatever families do in a large city on a Sunday!

We booked a short tour around the harbour on one of the little Star ferries. That gave us a better idea of the layout of the waterfront. As value for money it would be hard to beat. Tomorrow we are booked on a longer tour of Hong Kong, starting with the tram ride to the top of Victoria Peak and followed by a sampan ride and a visit to the Stanley market.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

View from the top

View from the top?
View from the top of our hotel at the Rocks

Sydney, lovely Sydney!

Here we are in Sydney. Our hotel in the Rocks area of Sydney could hardly be better. Really excellent and earns a big recommendation from us both.

The flight from Auckland was pretty uneventful, but the weather here was much better than that we left behind in NZ. We were able to dine out in one of the Circular Quay restaurants last night and didn't even get cold!

So, what have we done whilst here?

We've been up the City Tower and got lots of photos to remind us of the last time we were here. Little seems to have changed, but then again everyone tells us that the city has changed, so we are mystified as to what we have 'forgotten' in the 13 years since that visit. We do remember the preparations for the 2000 Olympics, even though they were then still 4 years away. Maybe memory fails to record the little things that residents do notice. This is the opposite of what I would have expected.

Of course we've visited the Opera House and even went on a guided tour around the inside of it this time. It was excellent and the commentary from our guide was humorous and informative. I think that it helped that she was so obviously a real opera fan. We were unable to go into the main theatre area as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was rehearsing for this evening's show.

We've also been across to Manly on the ferry to meet our family friend and to spend the afternoon (raining again....) being chauffered around the beaches on that side of the Harbour. Thanks Tess. Hope to see you and Dave in the UK next year. The harbour at Sydney really is beautiful and the Bridge and Opera House really set it off a treat. Our hotel (The Old Sydney Holiday Inn) has a good view across Circular Quay towards the Opera House and with the Bridge just behind us. Superb!

Tomorrow we plan to visit Darling Harbour and Bondi Beach before meeting up with a few of the local radio amateurs here in the Sydney area.

I will probably not have access to the Web again until we reach Hong Kong on Saturday, so this will probably be the last blog from Australia............

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

And yet more rain!

We are now back in Aukland and thanks to some poor map reading, we've seen a little of the North Shore region of the city.

In spite of the rain we were able to visit the Huka Falls again, on the way back to Aukland. This time we were able to see the falls from the land side. It's still impressive so see 100m wide, 4m deep water chanel into a 4m wide, 10m deep channel before pouring over the falls. The roar is deafening!
We were able to contact Kevin Murphy in Hamilton and met up for lunch. This was followed by a visit to Kevin's company for a look round the repair facilities. Even Shirley was fascinated to see all the activities going on there! Thanks Kevin.
Tomorrow morning (at some disgusting hour of the morning) we are off to Sydney. More blogs from the New Zealand 'western island'.............

Monday, 31 August 2009

Capt. Cooker

Huka Falls, downstream from Lake Taupo

Capt. Cooker?
Yes, whilst driving from Taupo down to Turangi earlier today we noticed a small black pig up on on the side of the hill above the road (SHI). It was dislodging rocks down onto the highway! According to Google this was likely to be one of the so called Capt Cookers or decendants of the pigs introduced by Capt Cook or other settlers. Apparently they live all over the islands these days.

This has been a very wet day in central North Island following a very storming and wet night. We checked out from the CedarWood resort in Rotorua this morning and made our way down the SH1 towards Taupo. Just before Taupo we saw the signs for the Huka Falls Jet (boat) and the Prawn Park.
The Huka Falls jet boat is a national institution over here, so we had to have a go. 40GBP for 30 minutes of sheer exhilaration! The small, 12 seater, twin engine Buick powered jet boats reach 80km/hr along the Waitaki river between the dam and the Huka Falls. The driver causes the boat to turn in its own length and skim passed rock faces at high speed, whilst the passengers get soaked. Great! The journey was delayed by torrential rain. The boat cannot run whilst it is raining. Not because you wil get wet, but because at 80km/hr the rain really stings.........
Boy, did those black swans have to get out of the way in a hurry and the guy in the front of the boat nearly had duck pate for breakfast! Feathers don't taste at all nice!

Afterwards, the big plate of warm, fresh water prawns was delicious. These are bred in open tanks, heated by thermal water, and located next to the jet boat terminal.

Later in the day we travelled down to see Mount Tongariro, 20km south of Lake Taupo (Mount Tongariro and its surroundings are also one of the several locations whichPeter Jackson chose to shoot the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.)

So, this is as far south as we come on this holiday vacation. Tomorrow we head back to Aukland.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Kia Ora

Greetings from Rotorua.
After several days absence without access here I am again!
Shirley and I are now in Rotorua, New Zealand and enjoying the fresh sulphur smells from the many volcanic outlets all around this area. To be truthful, they are not in the slightest intrusive. After a few hours you don't even notice them!
So, what's been happening, I hear you ask?
We spent longer in Aukland than we expected (the reason for this I will impart in due course).
Whilst there we met up with Steve, ZL1TPH and 'Brian'. Apologies, Brian. I didn't write down your callsign. Maybe you can remind me?
We had a most interesting chat over coffee and beer in the Langham Hotel (highly recommended, if you are ever here). I hope to follow-up on several subject matters with both Steve and Brian on our return home next month.
We missed the next day for reasons to be revealed anon.
The drive down to Rotorua was uneventful with Shirley sharing the driving on the slightly more busy NZ roads than we had become used to in Australia.
Our first observation is that we saw more cows than sheep. Where are they all?
Our second observation is that this is not called 'the land of the long white cloud' for nothing. Although yesterday was quite clear with the moon in its last quarter and almost overhead in the evening, today it has RAINED. Our visit to the Whakarwarewa Thermal Village was not spoilt by the rain but at times it was difficult to tell the difference between the low clouds and the rising steam from the numerous thermal vents. However, what a place! Well worth the visit.
A third observation is that Japanese tourists must be made of asbestos......We visited the Polynesian Spa. The lakeside Spa has 5 pools of increasing temperature as you approach the lake side. The hottest is at 42C, the lowest at below 38C. We could just stand the 42C for a few minutes. One Japanese tourist was fast asleep in the hot pool.........At least, we think he was asleep! We'll check out whether is is still there this evening..... The Polynesian Spa is worth the trip to Rotorua if all else fails to please (it won't).
Tomorrow, Lake Taupo.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

I guess we were due one screw-up

Unfortunately Qantas forgot to inform us our flight to Sydney, and then on to Aukland, was changed. It was moved up 1.5 hours.
Consequently we missed the new flight by 30 minutes and are now booked on a later flight via Melbourne (two trips to Victoria on this holiday, then!). This means we get into Aukland around local midnight and since I don't fancy picking up the rental car at 1am and then driving into an unknown city to find an unknown hotel in the early hours of the morning, we've phoned ahead and cancelled our previous hotel booking and informed the car rental company we will be picking up tomorrow. We've also managed to find a hotel local to the airport in Aukland so that we can take their shuttle to and from the airport.
At least Qantas have done the honourable thing and allowed us into their lounge (with WiFi access!)
to wait the extra 3 hours. We still have to pursuade them we need access at Melbourne for the wait for flights down there.
I am really glad we brought a netbook on this trip. What would be do without it!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Well, it is winter down here!

Our last day in the Adelaide area, so we drove into Glenelg and took the tram into Adelaide city for a last look around. Not much has changed in the 5 years since we were last here except the trams themselves! They've got new ones and they go further into the city than they used to.

Like Brisbane, Adelaide exudes a vibrance like that of some UK cities twenty years ago but sadly now lacking (or maybe I'm just getting old - but if so, why do I still feel it here?).

The average age of those around us must have been in their twenties.
One other thing we noticed. Every third person we saw was of Asian extract. Things are a-changing.

The storm didn't really affect us here, but some areas of Adelaide had long power cuts and even now, some 20 hours later, it is still stormy out there. The sea off Glenelg was wild.

Aukland tomorrow and unless anything newsworthy happens in the meantime, the next blog will be from Aukland.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Kingston on Thames was never like this!

Tony, VK5KAI

On our way back from Hatherleigh and Robe we stopped off at Kingston on the south coast. There we visited with Tony, VK5KAI, the ARISS Coordinator for the Pacific region (I hope I got that right!).
Tony has an impressive array of antennas for the satellite bands as well as a super shack, that is well set-up for satellite operation. His workshop was equally impressive. Thanks to Tony and his XYL for the visit.
Kingston now hosts the Cape Jaffa lighthouse. It was re-located to Kingston from its original location at nearby Cape Jaffa as it was no longer in use and was in danger of falling into the sea.
It is a most unusual lighthouse, as you can see. When it was at its original location it housed two families, one on each of the btwo enclosed lower floors. There were up to five children in each family. I can image what a worry this must have been for the parents, living high up in a lighthouse on the Jaffa cape!

Kingston is famous for its giant lobster outside the (currently) unused cafe/restaurant on the Princes Highway. Everyone stops to take photos of the Lobster.
It's a pity I can't get the photo off the camera that we used to take it! It will have to wait until we get home.....

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Boiling the ocean

The oblisk on the point at Robe. This was built as a solitary confinement block for the nearby prison. Any day now it will fall into the Great Southern Ocean.

Boiling the ocean

On our way back from Hatherleigh we called at Robe on the Lime Coast. As we rounded a street corner in the town we caught sight of the Great Southern Ocean for the first time, on this trip. It was running at least a 3m swell with great waves breaking on the rocks off the coast. The colour of the ocean is dark green and with the white tops it looked for all the world like the ocean was boiling.

Stop w(h)ining

Hardy's Tintinara 'cellar door', McLaren Vale

One of the joys of being down here is the opportunity to check out the local wines. Here in Happy Valley (what a great name for a place so close to the wine growing regions!) we are surrounded by famous Australian wine regions like Barrossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Conawarra. Last week, before travelling to Hatherleigh, Shirley and I had the opportunity to drive down to McLaren Vale and view the vineyards, taste the wine and take in the atmosphere. McLaren Vale is a small town that serves the valley and has a lovely 'old world Aussie' atmosphere. We can recommend Oscar's Bistro in the centre of the town, opposite the Tintinara cellar door shown in the picture. The service and the food were both excellent. A little further down the street is located the 'Almond Train'. This consists of two 1915 vintage railway carriages that have been converted into a shop and a small restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant was not open when we were there. The shop stocks the largest range of almonds you have ever seen. From lime almonds to toffee almonds there were all there. Best of all? you could taste them for free to decide which you wanted to buy!

Whilst down on the Lime Coast we were also able to drive through the Coonawarra wine region and it is just like driving down the wine rows in Tesco. Row after row after row of famous labels on display. Unfortunately Australia has over invested in wine production and many of the vineyards are now up for sale as they are unable to make a living from selling their wine. Sad, but what is eventually left should be stronger for it.

In the mean time I shall continue to enjoy the output from the vineyards and down here it seems to taste so much better! It must be the climate.

Unley in Australia

Yes, Unley.

My thanks to the guys in Adelaide for making me so welcome at their radio club get together in Unley, last week. After a very tasty Pizza I was taken a few steps over to the St John Ambulance building where I gave a presentation on my low noise preamps, but not before I was allowed to give a bit of background on where we come from, back in Suffolk. I was able to tell them a little about our Bawdsey Project, as well.

Thanks again, guys, for making me so welcome.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Holy smoke. Back to the bat cave......

Back in Adelaide after 3 days in the Lime Coast region of SA. First, I should thank our friends Chris, VK5MC and his XYL, Josie, for their hospitality over the last few days. It was a real pleasure staying with them on their 5000 acre station. For us, a real eye opener about farm life down under. We also got to see a lot of SA that we didn't get to see last time down there in 2004.
I'm much wiser about Moreno ewes and the advantages of covering them with Leicester rams to produce fat lambs!

Chris' 30 foot EME dish is a sight to behold. Real bush engineering at its very best. I also got to the see the site of the famous 2m Rhombic antenna (alas, no more).

So, Holy smoke?

I was invited for a ride on the fire engine whilst it was taken for its weekly run out to charge the batteries and check all the radios etc worked as they should. A 4 wheel drive, 3000 litre pump is an awe inspiring vehicle. And, hey, I didn't get to ring the bell! These engines are similar to the types used to fight the recent Victoria forest fires near Melbourne.

Bat caves?

We visited the Narrocort fossil caves and wet caves. These are interesting as these World Heritage sites contain the remains (not fossils) of Australian animals and reptiles going back 480 thousand years. A site well worth the visit.

Anyway, enough from me for the moment. I'll have more to write about tomorrow. BTW. We are taking less of a ribbing about the cricket at the moment...........

Sam and Shirley in Adelaide.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Time to re-acquaint ourselves with Adelaide

A CODAN HF vertical antenna on the front of the coach.

Sunset from the picnic spot in Toowoomba, QLD.

We had a 'down' day yesterday after two weeks of being constantly on the go. Today we will take a drive over to the coast and enjoy the scenery along the Gulf of St Vincent. The weather forecasters have promised a warmer day than yesterday, when it only reached the mid teens. Today we should reach around 20C. At least the sun is out and that makes all the difference. Although it rained yesterday and goodness knows that they need the rain down here, that did make it seem duller and colder than it actually was. I didn't even venture outside yesterday!
I'm looking forward to re-newing old acquaintances at this evening's meeting.

I did learn one piece of information about Adelaide. That is where those HF verticals mounted on all the AAT Kings coaches I mentioned, are actually made. I don't suppose I will get to see the factory though.

Monday, 17 August 2009

A few more pictures

View across the Brisbane River from the 'Wheel' on the South Bank

View along the Brisbane River from one of the City Cats

Queensland, you beaut!

Monday 17th
We are now back in Adelaide and definitely back into winter!

Our trip to Brisbane was really great. We had 4 days there and I've already written about our time with Doug and Ruth and our visit to the coast at Moreton Bay (OK. I got the spelling wrong the first time!).
I've already mentioned our visit to Australia Zoo at Beerwah, in the Glasshouse Mountains area of Queensland. If you are in Queensland, this is one not to be missed.

Our friends Rod and Maree took us out to see Ipswich and then on to Toowoomba on Saturday.

Toowoomba lies about 150km west of Brisbane and beyond the Great Dividing Range that runs much of the length of the continent. This now much-eroded mountain range separates Australia from Sydney! According to some, Sydney is Australia and the rest is just the bush....

Toowoomba is a growing town that lies amongst a field of small extinct volcanic cones in an area that is seeing unprecedented growth as people move out from other, crowded (!), areas of Australia.

We were taken to the QTH of Phil, VK4CDI, another 23cm EME op and someone I'd met at the Florence EME conference last year.
John (VK4TJ?), an ex-VE, was also at Phil's QTH and Rod, Phil, John and I spent a good amount of time discussing Phil's EME dish and 2m/70m EME arrays whilst the girls chatted about the wonderful scenery of Toowoomba and the look out from Phil's home.

After a visit to the top of the nearby volcanic hill, with its fantastic views in all directions, we visited another even higher hill (Picnic Hill?) with an outlook south towards Sydney and east towards Brisbane. It was a cool evening and with the Australian flag fluttering from the enormous flag pole, it was quite breathtaking. Time for the drive back to Brisi and some dinner!

We flew out from Brisbane on Sunday evening, but not before we'd spent the day in Brisbane, sailing on the Brisbane River in a fast City Cat catamaran river taxi, travelling on the Brisbane wheel (not quite as big as the London Eye) and just browsing the city centre which was just thronging with people, who were shopping, eating and enjoying the street entertainment in the unseasonably warm weather.

Back in Adelaide and we have come back to winter. Further south they have been experiencing some severe wind storms, chilly weather and rain. There has even been structural damage in some places. But not here!

We are off to (near) Hatherleigh in deepest South Australia on Wednesday, but first I have to do a talk to some amateurs in Adelaide on Tuesday evening. You would think that my talk to the Elizabeth (Adelaide) VHF Radio Club back in 1996 would have cured them!............ But I am looking forward to seeing the guys again.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Slower than a lame dingo's back leg

G'day from Brisbane.
Although I'm on the hotel BB network it is SLOW and expensive, so I'll limit what I include today.

We had a great day with our friends Doug and Ruth yesterday. We've now seen Morton Bay and several of the choicest /p sites for microwave operation. Doug has worked ZL on 23cm from one of these sites.

Today we went to Australia Zoo. You know. Home of The Croc Hunter, the late Steve Irwin.

I think it would be an understatement to say this is the best zoo I've ever been to. The live shows are the best orchestrated and most sympathetic I've ever seen. Crikey!

The winter temperatures are holding up well. It was around 20 to 22C today as far as I can make out. Certainly shirt sleeve weather.

No pictures for now, although the number of videos and snaps Shar and I have taken will take for ever to sort out when we return.

Sam in Brisi.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Alice Airport

A short update from the airport at Alice
We mistimed a flight this morning so we are at the airport rather than visiting the Flying Doctor museum. However, our airport taxi driver kindly took us to the top of Anzac Hill, here in the centre of Alice. This turned out to be the perfect viewing place to see all of Alice laid out before us. A full 360 degree view of the town.
Alice is indeed located in a bowl in the Mc Donnell ranges. A narrow gap carries the Todd river through the gap to the south, where the airport is located. Of course the Todd is dry at the moment and the annual river race is due later this month. They are praying for no rain! Only once in the 22 year history of the race has water stopped the event........!!!

We've been in touch with our friends in Brisbane and will be with them later today via a flight to Sydney (no direct flights from here). It is likely to be a little cooler there.

enough for now. From sunny, warm, Alice Springs.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Roger Miller

Trailer for sale or rent;
Rooms to let, 50cents;
No phones, no pools, no (inter) net.......

Yes, no mobile phones in Kings Canyon and although there was internet access, You needed to go to the Reception to access it! All this conspired to prevent me blogging yesterday. Sorry about that.

So, King's Canyon.
Beautiful desert/mountain location. Saw one dingo, no Roos, three wild horses.

We were up before dawn this morning and started the Kings Canyon Rim walk by moon light. Now that was something. Shirley and I are so glad we are reasonably fit. Some of the rest of our party struggled on the climb, but I'm pleased to say everyone completed the walk.
It was 31C and well into daylight by the time we got back to the resort. And we were too late for breakfast by the time we got back........

I must just add here that the

The 6km walk took our party 3.5 hours with extemely rocky terrain that began with a 500 - 700ft foot climb. The view from the rim is unbelievable. This really was a view back in time some 300 million years. Truly a primaeval landscape.

The near-500km coach journey brought us from Kings Canyon to Alice Springs, retracing our steps for 165km back along the Kings Canyon Highway before turning east on the Lasseter Highway and then north on the famous Stuart Highway, to Alice Springs.

Yesterday we travelled over 300km by coach from Ayers Rock to Kings Canyon along the Lasseter Highway and then the Kings Canyon highway.

The large table-top mountain on the way to Ayers Rock turned out to be Mt Conner. This looks like another interesting place to visit some time. It is a over 100km from Ayers rock and within 1 degree of a straight line from the Olgas, through Ayers Rock to Mt Conner. We passed through 8 cattle stations on the route to Kings Canyon. The sizes of these are beyond our imagination.

I'll try to say more about Kings Canyon another day. Right now, Alice Springs town is not at all what we exepcted. It is modern, bustling, prosperous and it's nestled in the Mc Donnell mountain range!

Enough rambling. My PieWiFi voucher seems to be holding up. In spite of it being a 25AUD voucher with a 3 day time-out, the voucher still says 209AUD left on the card. It's a pity I can't use it after today!


right in the centre of the red continent.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

How ya' doin'?

We've been pretty busy since the last update.
Yesterday we went to the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and Shar and I walked the 5.4km round trip to Lookout 2 at the head of the Valley of the Winds. All that walking and cycling practice did not prepare us for the rock scrabbling involved in reaching the look out point. I now know I've got muscles where I didn't know were there previously!

I was mistaken about the geology of Ularu and Kata Tjuta. They are not the two ends of the same semi buried monolith I'd been led to believe. As explained by our guide these were started as two very large sink holes, some 450 million years ago. Ancient rivers washed debris from the eroding Peterson mountains (these were as big as the Himalyas in those days) filling the two sink holes. Kata Tjuta, being closer to the mountains, filled with the larger boulders and in-filled with rubble. Ularu, is further away (40km from Kata Tjuta) and it filled with finer grade silt. These were BIG sink holes. When the area was covered by an ancient sea some millions of years later the debris in the sink holes was compacted to form rock. Later still the seas retreated and erosion exposed the rubble in the sink holes. Erogenous (!) movements of local fault lines caused the exposed rock to tilt so that the layers are now inclined at about 15 degrees at Kata Tjuta and a fantastic 89 degrees at Ularu.

Today the Kata Tjuta domes are over 300m hight with an estimated 6km of unexposed rock still under the ground. The Kata Tjuta rock is made up of very large boulder aggregate. It is possibly the more spectacular of the two sites.

Ularu is composed of much finer, almost scale-like, sandstone which has weathered well but has many fine shallow caves and suspended depressions.

Sunrise and sunset over these monoliths is every bit as spectacular as we were led to believe. The shifting colours just have to be seen to be appreciated.

Many of the legends of Ularu and Kata Tjuta are kept secret by the local Aboriginals and we'll never know all their stories. However, the reported sacred status of Ularu is a little exagerated and you are not only allowed to climb it, you are positively encouraged! After all the walking of the last few days I limited myself to a short stretch of perhaps a few hundred metres just so I could say I'd climbed Ayres Rock........and got the certificate to prove I'm a Minga......

So, tomorrow, it's off to King's Canyon and another long walk.

BTW, I did photograph the HF antenna on one of the coaches. I did not recognise the little HF radio but it looked remarkably like any VHF mobile I've ever seen. The HF vertical is presumably remotely auto tuned as there is a separate multicore cable connection near to the base of the antenna.

Today the daytime temperature reached 30C, but will fall close to 1C this evening. Tghis place never ceases to remind you it is a DESERT.

Sam at the Red Centre

Friday, 7 August 2009

G'day 2

View of Ayers Rock from the 'lookout' near the hotel. Sun just going down.

As I have a little time before breakfast this morning (Saturday) I thought that I might add a few words to yesterday's blog.

We were up early yesterday in order to get off to Adelaide airport. Out nephew kindly drove us out to the airport where we caught a Boeing 737 to Alice Springs. The route took us up over the Gulf of St Vincent, across the Yorke Peninsula and up into the heart of Australia. As it's winter down here it's also the dry season and the sky is really clear.

I wasn't prepared for what I saw next.

As soon as we were back over the mainland the landscape changed from greenery to endless miles of dried-up lake beds, covered in white salt. These were interlinked by an intricate network of dried up rivers. The Woomera test range is in this area and we passed nearly overhead of the station. Beyond Woomera the vast Lake Ayre dried up lake lay off to the right and just out of our sight from the right hand side of the plane. The pilot told us it was there!

Two hours after take off and still pretty much following the Stuart Highway and the Ghan railroad line we approached the Alice Springs area. Instead of the previous flat landscape there were now low mountain ranges ahead. These are the MacDonnell Ranges and they lie between the Simpson desert and the Tanami desert. Alice Springs lies in a bowl in the ranges and the area is rather hilly.

Alice Springs airport was, again, a surprise. No tin shed on a red dirt strip, but instead it is a modern airport, about the size of Norwich airport, well equipped, with a nice terminal building, lots of facilities and a good bar!

Another two hours and we were on our way again. This time in a Boeing 717 jet to cover the 400km from Alice to Yulara.

As we approached Yulara Ayers Rock (the aircrew and Alice airport departure boards still call it Ayers rock) there was no mistaking that large, red, monolith. It is easy to see why it seems to have magical properties for both the Aboriginals and the white settlers.

Yulara is a small 'town' that has grown up around the desert resort complex, mid way between Ayers Rock and the Olgas and to the north of them. The desert resort comprises a group of 'hotels' ranging from camp grounds to full 5 star hotels. We are staying at the Voyagers Desert Sails hotel. The town centre (really just a typical small collection of single story shops grouped around a rather nice town 'square').

Yulara airport was also a surprise. It would give many UK regional airports a run for their money in terms of facilities and layout. Single story, red tin roof (maybe?) and completely harmonious with the surrounding desert.

The large coach that took us to our hotel, which is located about 5km from the airport, is equipped with the most enormous HF vertical whip antenna right on the front nose of the vehicle. I didn't see the HF radio, but I will be looking next trip out. It seems all the vehicles here have similar HF set-ups.

The resort is served by microwave links from the Alice Springs direction. My FiFi connection for the netbook is by WiFi 'kiosk' for wich I have had to purchase a 25AUD voucher that lasts 24 hours (elapsed time) so that's enough to see me through until Monday when we leave for King's Canyon.

Sunset at Ayers Rock was spectacular. The changing colours really lived up to their reputation.

Later today we are off to the Olgas for a long trek followed by a desert Barbie at sunset.

More anon.

G'day from Ularu

Arrived Ularu via Alice Springs. It's winter but it was 23C here today, but much colder this evening. This really is a magical place. We are just a few km from Ayers rock (Ularu) and the sunset colours of the monolith were incredible. Just walking up the small overview hill near the hotel resort gave a great view of the monolith as the sun set behind us. It was a really incredible experience.
I'll post a picture tomorrow. Right now it's getting late, the wine is having its effect and it's been a long day anyway.
Shirley has a had a truly memorable 60th birthday...........

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Is this Wednesday or Thursday?

Brr, it's cold down here.....! Back into winter.
Have arrived safely in Adelaide. Our flight from Singapore arrived here at dawn and it was chilly once we left the airport. However, we expect it to reach about 21C later today!
The view out over the Gulf of St Vincent, both from the plane on the way in and later from the car driving down to Happy Valley, was absolutely fantastic
Tomorrow it's off to Ularu (Ayers Rock) via Alice Springs.
Still nothing, radio wise, to report on at this early stage although I am expecting a call from a local amateur down here later this evening. This should set up a date for a talk to the local radio club here in Adelaide.
Sam, down under.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Day 2 (3 actually)

View from the 19th floor bedroom window of the Furama Riverfront hotel. Down town Singapore.

Good morning. Rise and shine. At least it is here. 31C at the moment.
Still in Singapore. This is a very nice hotel and the breakfast went down a treat after 36 hours without eating! We fly out of here at 11pm this evening, so after we check out we will spend a little time at the Botanical gardens, just about a mile north of the hotel.

I wonder what the propagation is like down here, 200 miles from the equator?


Tuesday, 4 August 2009

First day

Well, arrived safely in Singapore. Our first reaction is that they are still building the place. When we were last here in 1996 they were building and it's still going on. The old Colonial buildings are still there but even more surrounded by high rise buildings.
If there was any reason to doubt the downturn in trade, you only have to look out to sea. There are container and other ships moored as far as the eye can see. Probably awaiting an upturn in trade, yet Singapore continues to grow!
I have to say that Quantas were superb. Comfortable seats, lots of attention and the food looked good enough to eat, although I declined everything but soft drinks. Only because this is a recent recommendation if you want to ward off jet lag. Don't eat on board. Wait until you arrive. So, where is the nearest Singapore noodle bar....?
We got a complementary hotel room upgrade, so the internet access for the netbook is free. It's the first time this netbook has been anywhere near a CAT5 lead!
Signing off from day 1.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

A further update

I have been collecting together all the bits I have to take out with me. It is amazing just how many chargers, memory cards, cameras, phones and parts for people I have had to get together!

I notice that the good ol' pound has been falling against the all the other currencies we need. I'm glad we have already purchased ours. If we were to keep them for a few weeks we might actually make some money!

We are going to use Cash Passports for the first time. Travellers cheques are all but dead now and these things look like the future.

Vodafone are roaming-charge free with Vodafone 'Passport' until the end of August, so we will be using a different phone number on this trip. The offer works in Australia and New Zealand as well as across Europe. Worth getting a free Vodafone SIM card and putting it into a spare phone? We think so. And with a Freedom pack, it looks unbeatable at the moment.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Purpose of the trip

On the 3rd August my wife and I depart for a trip to Australia, taking in Singapore on the way down and New Zealand and Hong Kong on the way back. We are linking up with various radio amateurs and clubs on our trip including several club talks in South Australia.
Foremost is our trip to Ularu for Shirley's birthday!
Assuming we have web access at a few places on the way, I intend to send reports to this blog, including some photos on our progress along the way.

Initial post

If all goes according to plans I will post regular blogs to this page during our trip down under. Of necessity these will be amateur related posts!