9X/ON4WW - 9X4WW : Story 3

9X/ON4WW - 9X4WW : Ham Radio in the Great Lakes Region, Central Africa.

I first got down here in Kigali in April '95 as a Telecoms Consultant. It's over 2 years now, I am living here without my dear wife and 8 year old son. Brave them. They've been down here for a short time in '96, experiencing life in a sometimes wonderful dark Africa.
When they were not around, I had my job and my 'ham' family keeping me busy.
At the first house I stayed in, I put up two inverted-Ls. one for 80m and one for topband, 160m. I later also erected an R7, which Peter, ON6TT (ex VK0IR, what a great job they have done !), left behind for me when he returned home after a two months job in the region.
The inv-L for 160 was attached to a tower on top of the house, a tower which was put up by Alex, 9X5EE (PA3DZN), who was recently active as 9Q2L and D25L. Top height for the inv-L was about 18m, and it had 6 radials between 15 and 30m long.
I borrowed a TS-50 from ex-9X5LJ, got licensed as 9X/ON4WW at that time, and was ready for take-off.
My first sked with ON4UN on topband I will never forget. For some reason, this TS-50 only gave an output of 30 Watts on 160m. After one call, John came back to me ! I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. My antenna was working !
Then I received a FT-900 radio, together with the R7, so I got 100 Watts on topband, and made over 200 Qs on that band.
End of June '95, after some 20.000 Qs in the log, I returned back home for a break, and returned the FT-900 and R7 to Peter.
When I returned to Kigali in August '95, I had to move houses. Now I was situated in the middle of town, but luckily had a garden with some trees (no way I would have moved to a house without garden and trees...).
Yaesu Europe sponsored a FT-900, Telex Hy-Gain a DX-77 vertical antenna for 10-40m coverage. The two inverted-Ls moved along and found their way into the trees. This antenna set-up was not as good as in the previous QTH, the trees covering all antennas to the North. I could feel it was not going as smooth as before. The radial system for the inv-Ls was even more limited as before.
At the end of '95, I moved to another house (yep, some moving around goes on here..), be it only next to the house I was living in before. The 80m inv-L and DX-77 could stay in place, the 160m one had to be moved to the next garden, some six trees away. A 'strong arm' from an ex-sailor/radio operator (his name was 'Armstrong'), did the job with the fishing line again, up went the inv-L. Height now is about 16m. Radial system is far from optimal, at least got five radials between 15 and 25m now. As the North direction was still covered by the trees and my outgoing signal not strong enough, I brought along my family to help me carry my 'very heavy hand luggage', end of January '96. That was of course not the only reason why they came along...Thanks to them my signal improved 'a bit' on topband. As for reception, I had always listened on the inv-L, for EU this was OK. But NA and JA (where most stations outside EU were to be worked) was very difficult. So I brought along some kilometres of copper wire beginning of '97, ON4UN gave me a special treat and made me two super quality transformers for the beverage antennas I wanted to put up.
This was going to be fun : the beverages had to cross the road...And fun it was. When putting up the JA beverage, the wire got caught to the mirror of a bypassing car...at a speed of 40 Km/h...the big coil kept unwinding rapidly, I thought this guy would take my beverage all over Kigali...luckily it broke when he got some 100 meters further down the road. Think he didn't notice at all...
The second attempt was successful. Still got plenty of wire on the coil, that'll be for another place.
I listened during daytime on the high bands on the beverages to some broadcast stations, waw, I got some directivity. But oh, oh, at night time the disappointment was great. The beverages were two S-points down from the Inv-L, but the noise level was the same ! What had gone wrong ? Back to the master, John told me that they were to close to the Inv-L (both feedpoints only 3m away from the 160m Inv-L feedpoint). Also I have no other possibility but keeping them up about four meter above ground, which is a bit high for a beverage. So back to the drawing board. I needed two lengths of 40m RG58 coaxial cable to cross the street and get the feedpoint reasonably far enough away from the transmitting antenna. I had none left, nor the organisation I work for. Other agencies also nothing. But then I met Andy, LA2HFA, ex-HF0POL, JW0P. Great, he provided me 100m RG58 !. As of today I am still waiting (two months...) for some guys to put up a large pole so I can safely cross the feedlines across the street...unfortunately, the low band season is over for this year (sic).
Now, the 'beverages' are actually working as 'long wire' antennas, and on the higher bands I get more quiet reception than on the vertical, which is not ideally placed as well. On 80m they actually seem to work fine too, but I haven't been active on that band lately (80m inv-L feedpoint is away about 30 meters).
In the past two years, I made about 37.000 QSOs as 9X/ON4WW, 9X1A (WPX cw '95) and 9X4WW in RTTY, CW and SSB, during my limited time off from the job.
Hope you enjoyed this 'Insight' from Kigali (not to be seen on CNN). With a special thank you for my dear wife and son for supporting me. While I provide humanitarian help down here, they have to cope alone with daily problems back home. And as may be expected, when the man gets out of the house, Mr. Murphy thinks he ought to replace him....I can confirm this !
Also thanks to Ghis, ON5NT, my faithful QSL manager and ON4UN for antenna support.
73 - Mark - 9X4WW/ON4WW

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