2 Years African DXPedition, a HAM Radio adventure!

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!

November 2021, Vashlovani National Park / Georgia

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.

Planning the trip to 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.

Southernmost Point of Africa, Eddy & YL Cordy

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.

QRV in African dawn

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.

Operating situation in the Camper

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.

LOCATOR please!

When I started my first QSO as ZS/OE3SEU/P in Port Elizabeth, I had no idea what was about to hit me…

QSL Card from Namib Desert, can you find our QTH?

“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!

All worked grids in Africa (thanks to: Gridmaster.fr)


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.

73
EDDY

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:

Licence received in Zimbabwe
All on the way to KJ83RD the most northern activated grid along the border to Ethiopia

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:

listen to the last activation in Africa
operating at the corner point of 4 Equator grids in Kenya
operating very close to wildlife in Zambia
children joining my operation in Malawi
visiting 7Q7JN/7Q7EMH the HF station of Embangweni Mission Hospital in Malawi
Zambia: Eddy 9J2SEU, Brent 9J2REK and Brien 9J2BO
visiting Bernie ZS4TX and his EME array in Bloemfontein

2 thoughts on “2 Years African DXPedition, a HAM Radio adventure!”

  1. Torsten, DG7RO

    Danke für deine großartige Aktion auf dem Satelliten und die Mühe, uns immer wieder neue Felder zu geben. Es war spannend, dich auf der Karte zu verfolgen, und zu warten, wann du wieder zu hören sein wirst.
    Hoffe wir können uns irgendwo/wann mal persönlich treffen. Gute Reise nach Hause und bis bald auf dem Sat.
    55 es 73 de torsten, dg7ro

    1. Danke Torsten,

      gerne können wir ein Treffen organisieren, wir sind so Mitte des Jahres wieder in Zentraleuropa.

      73
      EDDY

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