This is a family holiday in Albania, not a DXpedition. Operating amateur radio is just part of the fun.
Planned period: 28 June - 14 July 2011.
Main QTH: Orikum, Bay of Vlora, Albania.
Portable/battery operation also planned from the beach, lighthouses and/or national parks.
You can follow Our holiday blog.
HAM NEWS UPDATES
And yes, yesterday (Saturday) we arrived to Orikum. We are staying at the same apartment as last June, in full comfort, bar one: antenna. I am currently dealing with the building's caretaker about the possibility to put the antenna on the roof, but I have to wait as he needs to talk to the owner of the apartment on the top floor. The terrace I used for the antenna is private property, it belongs to an apartment. Last year the owner allowed me to use it as he was not in Orikum. He will be asked again this year. However, last year we were here in June, while now it is July, which is the high season: there are far more people in the building and this does not make things for a radio HAM any easier. So I stil have not unpacked the radio station, but it won't be long before I start to operate in some form. I have the backup plan: drive out and operate portable.
Things in Orikum and neighbourhood develop rapidly, there are new buildings, new shops and new construction sites since November. On the way here we passed by the ZA3HA QTH of November, and to my surprise a new pedestrian bridge/staircase has been built from the hotel next to our place direct to the beach. My first thought was: should it have existed in November, we would have been able to use it to lead the coax over the road and put the antenna right on the beach. My wife told me I was an idiot. Then when we arrived, I told Happy, HA5TMK on the phone about the new staircase, and guess what his first reaction was :) Hehe, HAMs are all stupid.
Another major development since November is that Vodafone Albania has been given a licence to operate a 3G network. Half a year or so after they started, they have covered a lot of areas: I had great 3G coverage at most places we have visited so far. Just a few weeks before we started off from Budapest, I asked Vodafone Albania if they have coverage in Orikum, and I was told 'not yet, but it is a priority'. Now that we are here, the LED on my 3G router is constantly green, meaning excellent signal, and indeed, I have measured speeds of 4 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up, which I believe is more than sufficient. Compared to the - actually very usable - EDGE (which we enjoyed in Albania last last year) it is a great step forward. It is not cheap to use though, 2 GB of traffic is 2500 leke, ie. about 18 EUR. But the major problem is that seemingly you cannot buy a SIM-only data starter package, you also need to buy a USB modem for 6500 leke, but fortunately, the modem comes with 2 GB of traffic/month for a period of 3 months. But still, it is expensive. I am sure that once other operators (there currently are 4 GSM operators in Albania) also acquire their 3G licences, competition will start resulting in better end-user rates.
My WFF activation on Dajti was not so much of a success. I was trying to operate QRP, which meant my signals were not strong enough, especially as propagation also seemed quite weak. Timing was not lucky either: activity at noon on a weekday on a deserted band, with weak propagation is not the best time for an activation. As my family was with me on the hill, I also had to close down after 50 or so QSOs, but the QSO rate was not truly enjoyable anyway. My very first CQ from Dajti was answered by ...guess... ZA1KP. Miftar, was just tuning around the band in Tirana, heard a strong CQ on 20m, and asked QRZ. Very nice to get a call from locals, especially if the local caller is the president of the National Association of Radioamateurs in Albania. Dajti is a marvellous place, pity we did not have a bit of time to wander more in the national park. But the family utterly enjoyed the vista from the amazing cablecar, the rotating bar and - as we were with two six-year-olds, the playground.
In Tirana I had the luck to meet Lazer, ZA1V, who was a member of the ZA3HA team, and we had a nice chit-chat, also discussing the possibilities for another contest expedition in the near future.
We are in Albania. We started off from Budapest about midday our time on Monday, and arrived to Albania at about 4 am on Tuesday. We had no problems on the road whatsoever, except for a detour near Beograd, where we lost an hour so. Traffic was light, and it was a great timing to drive after Nis and cross the whole of Macedonia at night: it went faster than the previous two times. When we are in the car, you can track our route real-time at: http://tinyurl.com/aprs-ww1www/ . When we had that detour near Beograde, I got a funny e-mail from a friend, asking whether we had lost the way. It looks people are following us :)
We spent the first night at the petrol station's motel near Quafe-Thane. As we were faster than schedule, we had enough time to spend almost the full Tuesday at Lake Ohrid. We visited the beautiful town of Pogradec, having a nice stroll along the corso and the plazh. We tasted some local fish and then returned to the motel. Wednesday morning we drove to Elbasan, had breakfast there, then drove on to Tirana. Today we met our friend Ildiko and her daughter Niki and went to the lunapark "7 Xhuxhat" (7 Dwarfs) and walked down a newly renovated area of Tirana.
For Tuesday we are planning to take a local minibus and then the teleferico to Dajti Hill (I'd rather avoid driving in Tirana :) I also plan to take my FT817 QRP with me and try to operate from Dajti National Park (ZAFF-003) for an hour or two. I hope I will be able to contact many of you. In the evening we hope to meet Lazer ZA1V, who was member of our ZA3HA team in last November. Pictures and more details will follow once we are in Orikum, which is expected to be towards the end of the week. That is also when we will attempt to start the albaniaholiday.blogspot.com blog.
We decided to spend this summer holiday in Albania again. We all loved the place last year; Albania had a lot to offer for all the family. The kids enjoyed playing in the sea and on the beach, and of course a lot of icecream. Marta and I loved the nice fresh food and the outings to wonderful places. Wherever We went, we met very friendly people. And, of course, I enjoyed the immense pileups on the air both from the mainland and from Sazan Island (EU-169). In the two weeks, beside all family programs I made 11k+ QSOs in the two weeks. I enjoyed it so much that I even returned with my club friends in November to take part in the CQ WW DX CW contest as ZA3HA.
Now, I plan to be on air a bit less and be with the family a littlebit more, but certainly, no holiday is full without radio. I would like to try things I did not have the chance to do last year: ie. work portable, and operate some RTTY. By the way, RTTY is going to be tricky: a/ itt will have to be done on a slow and low-resolution netbook as my laptop's screen is dead now b/ I have not worked RTTY since the 1980s, which was different... do you still remember the Sinclair ZX81? Well, things have evolved a littlebit since then :) We plan to blog this time on http://albaniaholiday.blogspot.com/ , which will be mainly in Hungarian by Marta, but perhaps I will add a few posts in English, plus we will hopefully post a lot pictures. Exactly as it was last year, you can also follow us on Facebook.