I have a lot of respect for those that are able and do take part in the SOTA challenges. I don’t have many defined summits near to where I stay but I did try to access two of them. I did it in conjunction with my salt mine activities trying to expand on our wireless network.
The summits in question were ZS/NW-008 and ZS/NW-004.
My colleague Jaco and I left early Friday morning for the Marico area traveling mostly on gravel roads. I’ve traveled these roads a few times over the years one of which was used for final training for the Comrades marathon a few years ago. Rough, with steep uphills and downhills and it brought back some fond memories.
The first recce was to NW-008. This summit was on top of one of the biggest mountains in the area. What lay between us and it was miles and miles of eight foot game fencing and private property. No contact numbers on the many gates that we passed.
We continued down the road towards Groot Marico, the mountains became hills and the hills became flatter. It was time to turn around and that’s what we did. It was starting to get warmer and I climbed out of the car and took off my jacket. A farmer that was cutting feed in a field for his cattle came towards us and we introduced each other. After a discussion about looking for hills and places to expand our radio network he asked us to follow him home and he’d show us the top of a mountain on his farm and so as he drove past on his tractor we followed him.
What a kind gentleman, he took us through his hilly farmlands to the top of one of the highest hills (BERGG) in his Mahindra bakkie. He said we are most welcome to install whatever we need on the hill. It was not as high as NW-008 though.
I took a few measurements while we were up there and then we returned to the farmers farmhouse, bid our farewells and thanks. I wrote down his contact information if needed for the future.
We continued back down the road with the intention of going to NW-004. We passed NW-008 on our left and there was a farmer and farmhands working with a bull whose horns had gone septic. I stopped and Jaco and I introduced ourselves to him. “How can I help you?”, the gentleman asked and so I explained again what we were looking for. He said he’d take us to the top of a mountain on his farm. In fact he had three farms adjacent to one another all with mountains on them! Jaco mentioned NW-008 and the farmer said we can’t go there and I didn’t push the matter any further. He was kind enough to take us to another hill and I accepted his hospitality.
I had to use my own car this time, a Nissan X-Trail. It has 4×4 capability but not a fully fledged 4×4. So we climbed up embankments, through gates, and steep shale covered pathways. I had doubts in my mind that the car would be able to climb the mountain. In first gear, the car in 4×4 mode with hill assist the X-Trail climbed faithfully up the hill. It certainly surprised me! The farmer agreeing to take it slowly and then I found out he was 77 years old, as fit as a fiddle and very open minded, an interesting man!
I took measurements at the top of BERGJ and we traveled down the steep hill again. The 2.5 liter X-Trail handled that very well too. Jaco and I said our goodbyes and our thanks for his hospitality too. I also took his contact details.
We drove off to NW-004 stopping for coffee and sandwiches alongside the road. To prove to Jaco I could make contact with someone via shortwave while we were in a valley amongst the rocky hillside I did a quick RaDAR deployment with my FT817 and end fed antenna and had a short SSB QSO with Flip ZS6PJK. We packed up and continued to NW-004.
A final realization.
I could not access any of the two defined SOTA summits. There were thousands of other places from where to operate. Later while trying to get access to NW-004 I did another RaDAR deployment on a ridge and made two CW QSO’s with Barrie ZS6AJY and John ZS6JBJ. We had to move because a number of cattle on their way home for the night looked unsettled with what they saw and so I packed up and we moved off to the cellphone tower (CELLT), Tafelkop (TFK) and eventually back home (NWK) changing a flat wheel on the way where a sharp rock had cut a hole through the back tyre just before leaving the gravel road.
I traveled a little over 300 km’s for the day, over 200 km’s were gravel roads. No summits could be activated but RaDAR deployments were effective and successful.