In November 2021, the third COVID wave was still in full control over Europe, while we explored the Vashlovani National Park in Georgia with our 4×4 camper and were busy planning our next travel destinations. The media was full of all kinds of reports and references to existing travel restrictions. The Foreign Ministry website provided detailed references to all the measures and entry regulations of the individual countries that were currently in force, due to the pandemic. At this point we had already been traveling non-stop for more than 3 years and had traveled to 37 countries with our camper. Only the first lockdown had interrupted our trip for a few weeks. Now, it was time for new adventures!
Radio communication for our journey
Amateur radio was already taken into consideration when we had designed our motorhome. At that time (2016), VHF and shortwave were a requirement that the manufacturer (Dopfer motorhomes) had to implement constructively for us. A separate radio cabinet, self-sufficient power supply, 2 VHF antennas and HF antennas for 10-40 meters were integrated into the structure. It was important that the radio infrastructure would be invisible to any viewer of the vehicle. None of the antennas can be seen from the outside, and the inside of the shack is only accessible after opening a flap. This means, there is most likely no discussion at the borders and checkpoints.
For stationary operation, we have an end-fed wire antenna (10-80 meters) and a 10 meter fibreglass mast on board.
And of corse, friends and family were able to track our travel activities from the beginning via APRS (OE3SEU-9).
AFRICA, the planning:
End of 2021, we started planning for the coming travel years 2022 and 2023. After 37 countries in Europe, we wanted to travel to a new continent. Two options were under serious discussion at that time: South America or Africa.
Ultimately, we decided on Africa, a continent that we had been traveling to (on vacation) during the last 20 years and thus had a clearer picture of travel conditions, culture, nature, weather and people.
When planning the travel route for Africa with your own vehicle, there were actually two options in consideration: Overland via Turkey, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and further into East Africa (Sudan was still open in 2021), or the easier option, a shipment to South Africa and starting from the South.
We then decided to ship, as we thought we could always take the other route on the way back if we like.
QRV via SAT?
In Europe I always used APRS on shortwave (10,147.3 MHz), occasionally also shortwave in SSB for various activities (www.we-travel.at/HAM RADIO). For internal communication, e.g. when hiking, also UHF/VHF. However, radio never had a “vital” function in Europe, as mobile communication is available (almost everywhere) in Europe.
The situation is completely different in Africa, where large areas of our planned travel routes are completely without “signal”. A stable, mobile radio option for APRS and SSB, both for Africa and Europe, was necessary. My installed infrastructure could cover this requirement only poorly because the necessary (accessible) APRS gateways are missing in Africa and my setup for stable European traffic with a wire antenna and 100 watts is too weak.
Mike (OE3MZC) had already discussed with me about this situation and recommended installing a DXPatrol QO-100 Groundstation for satellite operation. While preparing our motorhome for shipping, I had then time to complete the necessary installation of the QO-100, including the fixed wiring in the vehicle. A 70 cm dish was prepared, which could be mounted on our photo tripod. This means I could activate OE3SEU/P on the SAT within 10 minutes.
APRS is now also implemented via QO-100, and OE3MZC (Mike) and DF2ET (Florian) have made an APRS gateway available for the SAT, so I can now reliably transmit my APRS position from all over Africa (OE3SEU-9).
I was even able to setup a eMail connectivity using WINLINK over QO-100 which gave me more than once the chance to connect to the world while exploring Africa.
For me, this setup was perfect for (emergency) communication along our trip across the continent.
Our camper arrived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa at the beginning of June 2022. Since then, we have been “on the road in Africa”. Now, after almost 2 years, we are on the way back to Europe, but still have to cross the entire Middle East. Because of the conflict in Israel, particular caution is required when choosing the route – but that is another story – which you can follow on our blog.
When I started my first QSO as ZS/OE3SEU/P in Port Elizabeth, I had no idea what was about to hit me…
“After a few QSOs all hell broke loose, it was difficult for me to identify the call signs, as I’m not a contester and I don’t had any practice with pile ups either, so after a short time I had to go QRT, I couldn’t work the enormous interest in my station.”
DL2GRC (Nina) then explained to me via email what was going on: “Dear Eddy, you are sitting on a new LOCATOR that has never been activated, therefore half the world wants to work you.”
This was the moment, when I realised that I had to prepare myself for operating pile ups. I would be activating a lot of “unique locators” along our journey in Africa.
In total I could manage to get operating licences of 10 African countries to activate 132 new locators (grids) for the QO-100 community. What a huge activity!
I did over 9000 QSOs with more than 1000 different stations in 63 different countries. The investment of time was enormous, I was active on more than 200 days, sometimes with 3 sessions a day. Maybe some remember the “early morning sessions” which were always less stressful than the evening sessions with huge pileup traffic.
What a project, which I never had planned like this! I am grateful that I am part of the international amateur radio community.
Special Thanks to:
Cordy my XYL supporting me all time and planning the travel route to reach the most possible grids
DL2GRC (Nina) supporting the activity in many ways, especially as QSL manager
OE3MZC (Mike) supporting me with setting up my QO-100 portable installation
OE1WBS (Wolfgang) supporting me with testing and setup
DD1US (Matt) as the biggest supporter of the QSA donation activity
DF2ET (Florian) supporting me with the APRS gateway
ZS4TX (Bernie) supporting me with the Malawi licence
V51 JP (Werner) supporting me with the Namibia licence
9J2REK (Brent) supporting me with the Zambia licence
9J2BO (Brien) supporting me with the Zambia licence
7Q7JN/7Q7EMH (Junior) supporting me with the Malawi licence
DX-Patrol supporting me with a backup QO-100 ground station
See some more details and impressions of the project:
At the very end of our African travel route, when we tried to ship our camper from Mombasa to Salalah in Oman, my LOG looked like this: