Sugar Delta Radio Activation from the South Cook Islands of: Aitutaki, Akaiami & One foot Island’s.
The Team: 163SD026 (001) Richard, 163 SD 103 (003) Ian, 163SD500 Debbie, 163SD080 Ant, 163SD114 Laura, 26SD029 Tim, 26 SD 212 Ged.
Islands Activated: OC-083
250 SD 0 (Aitutaki)
250 SD / OF (One foot Island)
250 SD / AI (Akaiami Island)
A Dream Holiday Come True:
250 SD/0 Cook Islands (Aitutaki Island OC083) November 2001.
How it all started
The team have done other activation’s in the past but we needed something a little more exotic, so we decided to look and see what was about.
Richard came across one of his customers in Chester Dee Communications and Tony gave him an Idea to look at the Cook Islands and gave him some contact details on Aitutaki.
Richard told us about the idea and all was agreed and set in motion, within 2 months all was planned and flights were booked…250SD/0 was born.
So the Story of our entire trip, enjoy the read.
10/11/01: As many of the team members had to drive from Wales, they decided to start their journey on the Saturday and stay at an airport hotel in London. I just think it was an excuse for a good drinking session myself!
Spirits where high and as I was busy packing that afternoon the team members in the hotel phoned me singing the anthem for the expedition ”Hi Ho Hi Ho, Its off to the Cooks we go, with lots of poles and radios, Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho’’
11/11/01 : The day arrived after many months of planning and waiting. We all met up at Heathrow airport in London.
At check in we knew we were going to have to explain our odd size luggage but I was pleased to see that our planning had paid off.
On the check in computer it was all listed exactly as I had explained in my letter to Air New Zealand. No explanations required and there was even a porter to carry our fragile cargo to the plane by hand.
We took off as scheduled at 2.30pm and were soon flying over the Atlantic. We followed the sunset for the entire flight and from 33,000 feet gave us some stunning sights. Over Canada I thought about the recent expedition to St Pauls Island and thought how Stacey and the team would love to be on this trip also.
The skies were so clear we could see below us the frozen wastes of Hudson Bay with snow all around. The same as we flew across the border into the USA we could see ice flows in the lakes below.
After pillow and food fights to while away the time, Jed 26SD212 had slept for much of the flight and we kept other passengers amused by balancing paper cups and coke cans on Jed’s head.
We were approaching the end of our journey for the day flying over California. Arrivals at Los Angeles were very strict after recent terrorist activities of September 11th.
At immigration we were summoned to security. Lucky for us with 13 suitcases and 3 long containers, the security staff took one look at us with that look on their face of ‘’I am not looking through that lot’’ However they made some checks on our documents to verify our equipment and reason for our stay in the USA and were let through with our passports stamped.
On the sidewalk outside the hotel we tried to work out how to stop the hotel courtesy bus from passing us more than three times, we decided that Richard should stand at the head of the ramp awaiting the arrival of the next bus and walk out in to the six lane Daytona racetrack of a highway and proceeded to step in front of the bus with his hand up shouting ‘’Stop bus driver!!!!’’ Seeing the size of Richard the bus driver not wishing do damage the bus stopped.
However the driver did not seem to understand the words FRAGILE on our luggage and proceeded to throw our cases and kick them into his luggage compartment, this filled the bus and other passengers had to put their cases on unoccupied seats and stand up.
We were relieved to arrive at the hotel a few minutes later with Richard realizing that one of his cases was still at LA Airport baggage reclaim. Retrieved and back at the hotel it was time for a meal before getting some sleep.
12/11/01: We had two days in LA, so we took the opportunity to visit Universal Studios in Hollywood. On the advice of the tour guide from VIP Tours, which we highly recommend, we started the visit with a tram tour around the studios. Taking in Jaws, Back to the Future, Mummy, Earthquake and much more, with some surprises of which we were not quite prepared for, getting wet on numerous occasions although thoroughly enjoyable. We decided not to take in too many of the big attractions so as to not waste too much drinking time. The afternoon we spent in City Walk in the Hard Rock Café as outside the rain came down just like home.
13/11/01: Today we decided to take a bus ride to Santa Monica Beach a few miles north of our hotel. Drank a few more beers in a beach bar before heading back to the hotel.
The airport was the next destination as we were now to continue on with our next leg of the journey to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
Again no problems with check in or security in fact within just 20 minutes we were in the departure lounge waiting for our boarding call when I suddenly remembered that I had left my wallet and all my money in the hotel safe deposit box. Oh shit !!! Mad panic as I ran back through the gate, through check in, and into the highway outside LA Airport. Richard also came with me as I had no US Dollars to pay for a taxi back to the hotel which I was lucky was only 5 minutes away and retrieved my belongings from the hotel and made another dash back to the airport.
Phew!! I was so relieved to be safely back with my friends back at the boarding gate. Well, after a bit of mickey taking from the rest of the team we continued on the flight to Rarotonga. We also remembered our dear friend Jim 108SD025, who died earlier this year in a tragic road accident. Jim dedicated much of his radio time to IOTA activation’s; it seems a fitting tribute to dedicate 250SD/0 OC 083 to you Jim. Hope your looking down on us and enjoying the fun.
14/11/01: What an incredible day, the time was 03:00 Hrs when we landed on Rarotonga Island, with a typical Maori welcome by the Cook Islanders.
We had several hours to wait for the connecting flight to Aitutaki Island, so we sat down and talked to a few locals who were also waiting on the grass outside departures.
We had hoped to find a way to go to 249 division, one of the people we spoke to this morning lives on Manihiki Island and said that we were welcome to stay at his home which took care of the accommodation, Richard and Jed decided that they would go for it.
Working together the whole team split up the equipment so that we had two sets of transmitters. The whole team were on a high, the air line opened its ticket office and we were told yes there is space on this mornings flight to Manihiki Island but there were no return seats on any flight available for a whole month. Words cannot describe how low we all felt at this moment. We all now had tickets to go to Aitutaki Island and boarded our plane.
We were soon on our way on our last flight. The approach to Aitutkai Island was absolutely stunning, the view of the lagoon and the Island gave us the perfect photograph opportunity. Our welcome on the Island was made just great by Des and his staff as he showed us around the Island.
The lodges were just perfect also, tired but buzzing everyone worked to set up the station so that we could start our expedition. 250 SD /0 now running, we were quickly working all continents as the hours went by. In the evening we were treated to some wonderful entertainment by a touring Maori dance group. Their singing and dancing was great to see and rounded off the perfect day.
As the days went by we had only short openings to Europe, at 0615 – 0800hrs local time. It became very difficult to predict the propagation pattern. Here in the South Pacific, the conditions seem to act very differently to those anywhere else that we have activated.
Here in the evening I would have expected to work Europe long path but we soon found that a second short path opened for a short time and was not open every day.
Late in the evening we had been told to look into the skies to watch a meteor shower. With lots more cans of beer and all sitting on the back of the pick up truck, we gazed up to the sky to watch a beautiful display with orange trails through the night sky.
The team hired 4 mopeds and a pick up truck to take us around the Island the very beautiful Island, Lagoon and Samade Bar, which we found offered excellent food, drinks all at a very cheap price, we tried very hard to each spend more than £10 each per night but could not do it and we still managed to get fairly drunk 🙂
There are several other bars that serve food, but they seem to have tourist prices and not the same appeal as Samade Bar. On a drive back to the lodges we stopped at a banana plantation, where the girls decided to pick some bananas, As Debbie and Laura proceeded to pick some, a lady wielding a machete started to approach us, on this thinking we were being attacked we quickly tried to drive away, however she was only trying to tell us the bananas we were picking were no good for eating and she went back to get us a bag of the biggest size bananas we had ever seen.
Again this shows how friendly the Cook Islanders really are. We also wanted to activate other smaller Islands in the lagoon so we decided to hire Des and his staff to take us first over to Akaiami Island. Richard, Jed and Tim were to active as 250 SD /AI OC 083. Akaiami Island is not habited, but Queen Tutai has a hideaway there with a generator that we had permission to use although we could only use 100Watts power.
The three-element beam was erected on the beach and worked quite effectively. The first day had gone well here, so we decided to stay for one more night. The mosquitoes here were biting both Jed and me hard and we were not enjoying this experience at all. Des let us have two of his staff as Man Friday’s. Richard, Leon and Pinky put the fishing nets out so we could catch some fish to eat, as there was no food on the Island all our food had to be caught from the sea then cooked by Leon and Pinky.
This fresh fish is the best fish I have ever tasted. On Akaiami Island at night we could hear the creepiest of noises it sounded like something from Jurassic Park.
Over the two days we had 147 QSO’s into 37 DXCC.
We then attempted One Foot Island with the call 250 SD /OF OC083. One Foot Island is much smaller again is un-inhabited and has no accommodation at all. Des helped us transport a table and batteries to the Island in his small 15 foot boat. We again used the 3 element beam and 100 watts. We had missed the European opening but we were happy to work Americas and a little Pacific. While we were waiting for the band to open, Ian, Ant and Jed , Debbie and Laura had a go at snorkelling in the lagoon. Some of the most beautiful fish we have ever seen were right there in front of our eyes in their natural world. It was like swimming in a fish tank!! Soon, the band was open and many stations were piling up to work to us in the short time we had on One Foot.
We had to get back for 1700hrs so time was precious. 36 QSO’s into 11 DXCC’s. Apart from radio the team also spent an evening crab hunting. Some of the biggest crabs you could imagine live here. They are big enough to carry a coconut up to the top of a tree and drop it to the floor to open it.
Leon, one of our man Friday’s, leapt out of the van, ran into the pitch darkness of the coconut trees in pursuit of the biggest crab he could find. Ian and Debbie sitting on the back of the pickup truck thought it would be funny to put one of the crabs on the drivers seat to give Richard a fright. The problem was the crab disappeared into the seat upholstery !!! The next three days we were all paranoid that this crab was going to find its way out to bite us in the cab.
One evening Ian felt something walk across his leg, Ian started dancing around like a zulu warrior shouting crab, crab !! and Ian & Rich immediately nearly stopping the truck were out of the Cab before it had stopped the truck throwing everyone on the back into crash positions continued to roll down the road with no drivers Lol, Ian and Rich had bailed out of the cab only to find that the crab was actually Ian’s wallet.
Returning home one evening after several drinks Anthony felt brave enough to try to catch a crab but after seeing the size of them ran back to the truck.
23/11/01: This afternoon after a heavy but short shower and a beautiful sunset, I switched the radio on, beaming west towards Indonesia. Just when you think you understand how propagation works something happens on the sun to throw the rulebook out the window. A massive solar storm causing serious disruption to the radio spectrum gave us Aurora to Europe with Italy.
I received our first QSO to Russia to Alex 50SD555. No direct contact to Alex was possible either short or long path only beaming west. There were excellent conditions to the North and West Pacific.
24/11/01: This morning, for the first time, we had no propagation to Europe. The band was very quiet. Back at the Samade Bar, the team took Kayak’s out into the lagoon, finding it very strenuous in the extreme heat, we decided to return into the bar and sink the beers instead of the Kayak’s. The last couple of days the propagation improved, Richard on the last but one day fired the radio up made the call first thing in the morning with no noise at all on the band only to hear 40+db over 163IR001 Steve with the words ” Morning Breaker” incredible signal and we still had enough to make more contacts into Europe, however the band was still only open to Europe for about one hour each morning.
The station was to be closed down on Monday morning. All our antennas have been donated to Des. The four-element beam is now permanently erected at the lodges so that anyone can take a holiday on Aitutaki Island and transmit without having to carry beams with them on the plane. Des will also be active on eleven with his call 250SD100. Monday evening the team got the chance to thank our friends on the Island with a farewell meal at Sam and Adrian’s Bar on the beach. After sinking many more beers we laughed all the way home.
Ian found a souvenir flag along the way. Anthony, Leon and Pinky caught more large crabs in a bucket, which is not a safe idea when you have had so much to drink, especially you Anthony picking one up And allowing it to pinch you, however you got your own back on the Crab when you dropped kicked it over the Palm trees Lol, ( the crab was ok folks)
27/11/01: The very long journey home was to begin.
With all our bags packed we made our way to Aitutaki Airport. We bid farewell to our dear friends Des and his wife Tutai, “Queen Manarangi” who had done so much to make us feel so welcome.
The first leg of the journey was then to take us to airports in Rarotonga, Tahiti and Los Angeles were we arrived 21 hours later.
Our departure was to be timed very well as Tropical Cyclone Trina was bearing down on Rarotonga with winds and very heavy rain. Quite exhausted and really needing a good rest we checked in to a hotel near LA Airport for the night. Waiting for us at the hotel was 2SD155 Dave who had driven for 6 hours from San Francisco to meet us.
It was great to meet Dave and from the team, a big thank-you for taking so much time out to meet us, we all had a great night out drinking at a local bar playing pool. It was about 2am in LA when we finally called it a night.
The following morning came quickly and we all felt rested after a good night’s sleep. We needed to be to as we still have another leg of the journey to do today from Los Angels to London.
We have many people to thank for the success of this expedition, Des and Tutai, Queen Manarangi and their staff Sally, Leon and Pinky at “Ginas Garden Lodges” Thanks to the many who donated communications equipment from Dee Com, Curtis Comm’s, 163IR01, G Mack. Thanks to Paul Bowen and David 163SD106 for the support with the website and forum. Also to the many who sent in donations for the transportation of equipment..
1900 QSO’s on the log into 100 DXCC’s.
DXCC Worked: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 , 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 41, 43, 47, 49, 50, 56, 62, 64, 67, 68, 69, 72, 79, 80, 81, 91, 93, 96, 97, 101, 104, 108, 112, 120, 121, 122, 126,
127, 130, 132, 133, 136, 152, 153, 158, 161, 163, 166, 172, 173, 177, 178, 195, 196, 205, 207, 218, 224, 232, 249, 250, 302, 308, 320, 325, 327 & 328.
Tim put the most of this story together and done a great job, but you cannot do Aitutaki Justice with words or Pictures you need to go and visit this wonderful place as it is beyond words.
I hope even though it was 15 years ago you all have a good read and enjoy the story.