9X/ON4WW - 9X4WW : Story 2
Ham Radio from the Great Lakes Region, Central Africa.
March 1998, almost on my way to the next assignment in 7X land, close to the
It has been seven months since I left Rwanda, after a two and a half year mission as a Telecoms consultant.
The Great Lakes Operation must have been one of the biggest humanitarian aid efforts ever, starting after the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Should say 'must be', as it is still ongoing, though downscaling now.
Rwanda, the 'Land of a Thousand Hills', is situated just below the Equator, in Central Africa. The movie 'Gorillas in the Mist' was filmed in Northwestern Rwanda, where unrest between the populations is still ongoing.
When arriving in Rwanda in April 1995, I was picked up by Alex, 9X5EE (PA3DZN). He gave me the grand tour of Kigali, which I repeated for several newly arriving colleagues between 1996-1997.
The main roads in between major towns exist of asfalt, secondary roads are in the typical red/brown colourish sand. The sand roads conditions vary with the several rainy seasons throughout the year, and can be very challenging.
The climate in Kigali is charming, with temperatures between 20-30 C in daytime, cooling off comfortably after sunset ensuring good night rest (if you are not a low band addict). These temperatures are due to the height of Kigali, about 1800m asl. Inside the country it can get real hot at lower levels.
Fauna and flora are a lust for the eye. Birdlife is really fascinating, they have no fear of man (yet). You can easily observe big preybirds and small songbirds from distances as close as 2m.
It is in this scenery I was priviliged to put up antennas and give a shout to the DXing world. Boredom was far away...
At the first house I stayed in, an inverted-L went up for 80, and one for 160m band. These two antennas together with a R7 from Cushcraft covered all nine HF bands.
9X/ON4WW came alive and my very first topband QSO from 9X remains forever in memory. For some reason the radio only got 30 Watts out on 160. At the first call made on sked with ON4UN, he came right back. The inv-L, only with six radials varying in length between 15 and 30m, was getting out ! And how...this was going to be fun.
And indeed, the next two months some 20.000 Qs were made all over the globe. Some Europeans made it 17 times in the log....9 bands cw, 8 bands ssb...in Japan some found their way 8 times cw, 6 times ssb. Never managed to make a QSO on topband with JA during my first stay, most stations worked were EU and NA.
After a break, and moving to another house, the inv-Ls went back up and this time a DX-77 vertical from Telex Hy-Gain was used for 10-40m. Due to an increased workload, activity was low for the rest of 1995.
In 1996, my wife and son came along to enjoy the sometimes wonderful life in dark Africa. Quite an experience for them, and as well for me to have them there. Nothing beats family life, not even DX for the avid DX-er I am. Another house (yes, some moving around goes on there) made me attach the 160m inv-L to another tree. The other antennas stayed in place. Mostly, the antennas were bystanders at that time, not participating too much in the good times we had together as a family.
But beautiful songs don't last for ever, so when they returned to Europe, I was thinking about getting ham activities again in higher gear. When they left though, the heavy handluggage that was brought along stayed behind...could this help improve the signal on topband ? Guess it did somehow, as in the 96-97 lowband season, some 1200 stations made it on topband. This time JA and US West Coast openings were found, although not often. Also SA and the VK6 beacons made it in the log...what a thrill. And the new callsign 9X4WW facilitated things a bit. Licensing got strict and at that time I had to pay the same amount as official agencies had to pay for fixed frequencies, $330 per frequency. So I 'bought' 14118 (not a good choice) and 1827.5 Khz and remained on those two bands until I left in August '97.
The last months of my stay were mainly used to try getting ham radio accessible for local people. Some very interested local technicians organised meetings, which DL8BAX and myself attended.
One of the meetings was with the Military, when we gave a demonstration about ham radio. Their interest was in a positive way and the Head of Communications gave green light for starting up a radio club. Unfortunately at about that time, DL8BAX and myself were leaving the country for good. Otherwise we would have donated equipment to install a club station, but we couldn't do so until a callsign and license were granted. And this did not happen before our departure.
I sure hope to talk to these fine people on the radio one day.
For expats licensing has been liberalised again. Andy, 9X0A, has been very active and done a great job. The following figures give an idea of activity out of 9X the last couple of years : 9X5EXV (F6EXV) : 16.000 Qs - 9X5EE (PA3DZN) : 20.000 Qs - 9X4WW : 41.000 Qs - 9X0A (RW3AH) : +40.000 Qs as of to date.
Rwanda must be off the Most Wanted List, but I'm sure it's always a thrill to QSO with Central Africa.
I wish the people of Rwanda good luck and peace and thank them for their hospitality.
Special thanks also to my family and to all that made me happy with the big pile-ups.
And of course tnx to Ghis ON5NT, who answers your QSL requests either direct or via the bureau.
73 and cu from another location - Mark - 9X4WW/ON4WW