We have friends that left the UK in Aug '21 and moved to Carvoiero, Portugal. One year on, our son was anxious to meet up with his former school buddy so… flights to Faro are booked for 7th Aug. I was initially reluctant to go as it would take place soon after a trip to Italy but a quick look on the SOTA database revealed nearby 6 & 4 pointer summits - this proved too tempting as all my activations to date have been 1 pointers with only a couple of 2’s and a single 3p winter activation. Coupled with the fact that they appeared to be ‘drive ups’ cemented the decision to tag along and activate them. Similar to my trip to Italy, there were no raised eyebrows or questions asked at Bristol Airport regarding the FT817 & the homebrew 4S1P Li-ion batt pack.
After breakfast on Wednesday, we headed off for Serra de Foia CT/AL-001 and following a rather slow final section of drive to the top in our small hire car (with not much torque at lower gears) we arrive at the car park. I’m surprised that we are at +902m with such ease, so much so, that it feels like cheating but in this heat I am not complaining. My wife strolls off to the nearby cafe/shop after I had informed her that the activation would probably be over in 20mins. Meanwhile, I’m off searching for a set up point and the 4m pole + EFHW for 20m gets attached to one of the re-bars seen on the right hand side of the photo below.
It’s exposed up here so I have my back to the sun and a bottle of water that my wife has bought me before returning to the cafe.
After some 15mins of calling CQ… nothing is heard back despite my self spot and I couldn’t work out what’s going wrong. The FT817’s PWR is correctly set (at 5w) and the internal MTR/swr reads zero so I flick it over to /pwr and see nothing on the display when TX’ing & talking into the mic. I’m even more confused at this point and re-attach the NanoVNA to the wire and check it again. It’s fine so I decide to try omitting the SOTABeams Speech Compressor and voila … I’m getting out. So, 30mins after my initial set up I manage 5 QSOs in 16mins including a s2s with GI4OSF/P on GI/CA-001. Even when eventually up and running, this activation felt oddly tough and I put it down to unfavourable CDX on 20m. Meanwhile, my wife is not too happy about the 60min wait - so much so, I hastily took down the antenna and didn’t even manage to grab a pic of it in place! Driving onto Serra de Monchique (only 25mins away) was now out of the question so it’s back to the hotel for some more lounging around the pool and a few cold Mojhitos.
Two days later, I’m now driving alone up a track to Serra de Monchique CT/AL-004 (known locally as Picota) and park near the fire warden’s car. On reaching the summit, I have a brief chat with him - he in Portuguese and me in Italian and we sort of understand each other … enough for me to learn that he is there from 8am till 4pm and is equipped with a handheld. I certainly didn’t envy him being under that tin roof for all that amount of time.
The landscape was charred in places during the drive up but at the summit itself I couldn’t work out whether this was also the result of fire damage.
I managed to set up by inserting the pole into a rather flimsy bush and against the tension in the wire.
Compared to Wednesday’s attempt, this was a breeze. 10 QSOs in 10mins with three s2s (thanks to M0GQC/P, GW4TQE/P & MM0SNA/P). I then struggled with another s2s (S5/DK1ZX/P) and gave up after 10mins but then managed to add 2 more s2s (F/HB9EAJ/P & HB9NBG/P (but missed out on Carine)). Five s2s’s in one session is my best count to date and rounded off the activation nicely. I was glad for the infrequent slight breeze and after being up there for 2hrs, I was sure that the fire warden had better protection than me from the sun.
(ps - on my return to the UK, I checked the short length of rj45 cable that comes with the compressor for continuity and it’s fine so I’m left wondering whether I had the compressor connected the wrong way round. It’s not like me to do that as it’s clearly labelled and I do check it whilst inserting the jacks - so, if I had… i’ll blame it on the mild sun stroke!)
73, Lea M0XPO