My Rwanda guest house has a modest garden which can be let for weddings. Last November (for CQWW) a wedding made a big noise and a major interference problem. African weddings are brilliant huge, happy but incredibly noisy. They now also come with unfiltered switch mode power supplies. The whole event is totally incompatible with digging out those dipole in the attic BERU signals. However, weddings are great if you are a guest.
This time I ensured a promise that there would be no wedding during the contest. I arrived on Sunday evening and started preparation. On Friday (one day to go) a lorry arrived with a full wedding set up (tents etc.). My reaction was unfavourable.
Yes, there is a small wedding tomorrow but it will be finished by lunch time
Yes, really. I think so.
By evening my confidant and friend (the cook) said he had discovered the wedding was now changed to the afternoon and possibly the evening. More protest to management.
Well we don’t know what they want. There are many. They have just asked for some food but we have none yet. One of them is American. We can’t really change it – sorry. Will it really be a problem if you start your contest later?
No old chap. That was exactly what I had in mind when I bought the air ticket, paid you $500 for accommodation and confirmed there was no wedding. I always planned to miss the first 25% of the contest to heighten the challenge
Nice of you to take it that way, Basil.
The first six contest hours were dire – and totally impossible when the band played. The entire wedding party (approx. 300) walked past within a metre of my window, chatting on their way. That took an hour (each way). Drummers drummed. Singers sang. The volume of the music brought down birds in flight. I felt old and pathetic asking the bride’s young and beautiful supporters if they could move so I could pull up my antenna. I think they understood but why did they laugh? After dark someone wrecked the radial system for my 40m vertical ( before its use) .
Distraught, I fixed my bedding across the window for some sound insulation. I used my cheap (aircraft) noise cancelling headphones with a strap to hold them tightly to my ears (worked fairly well and I looked really cool). There was of course a power cut break and I went to help the cook get the generator going – good man. Later I felt I was about to explode and had to go and sit at some distance for an hour or so. I was invited to join in the wedding (kind and lovely thought but I was considering suicide and needed time alone). Despite my frustration I could see it was a great wedding (but…..!)
So when you wonder about my inaccurate calls or serial numbers – the reason was (this time) not solely my incompetence. When you next go to a huge wedding arranged at less than 24 hours’ notice, spare a thought for the old guy in the corner; weeping, wearing headphones and shredding dollar bills. It may not be the bride’s Father. Radio conditions this year in Rwanda were not outstanding,. The low bands were very noisy. 80m was very poor with no QSOs and little interest shown. Activity during darkness was light and only those high scoring Canadian stations kept things alight. I was delighted to work Nigel, Bob and the Monserrat team – Caribbean has always been difficult from East Africa. I did unusually well with New Zealand. I was impressed by UK, Canadian and Australian scores so someone was cutting it. Overall it felt like activity was slightly down – but it was probably just North South conditions.
My rig was my well worn K3 and a link dipole(80 10) at 45 feet (see pic – by moonlight), a fan dipole at 35 feet and my attempt at a 40m vertical (with its damaged radials). Had the usual problems with callers who have no clue what BERU means – absurd since it is only 60 years since Empire! Some were very persistent. I had to struggle to make up much lost ground from the wedding period and so am not unhappy with my final score. Travelling solo with all your gear and antennas remains an absorbing and frustrating challenge. Not sure whether to laugh or cry really. I love Africa – I think I’ll laugh!