Wednesday, October 7, 2009

UP5LID DXpedition Report

The first DXpedition by LIDS for LIDS, working all LIDS is now history. The Lost Island DX Society sponsored not one, but two DXpeditions back in August. What? You didn't know? Two groups of LIDS headed out to activate special calls; one to Kazakhstan to operate UP5LID and one to Sri Lanka to operate 4Q2LID.

The UP5LID group arrived at the airport bright and early for departure, loaded down with gear, only to meet their first obstacle. The airlines had no reservations for us. Turns out the package deal we got from Madoff-Ponzi Travel really was too good to be true. With the expedition threatened to end before it began, the group pooled their traveler's checks and maxed out their credit cards and kited a few checks to book new flights. As our travel arrangements were last minute, the routing was not the most direct. Somehow we managed to fly through Atlanta and Newark. Twice. And that was just on the flight out.

After a torturous 72 hours of air travel, over half spent in various airports bars to pass the time, we managed to arrive in beautiful Kazakhstan. Our computer/logging guru, Rusty Key, managed to be in country a full ten minutes before offending our hosts by observing that the Kazakh people were nothing like Borat. Rusty is a phone only operator and not the sharpest tack in the crew, but he does know his way around logging software, so we tolerate him. Rusty claims to be a distant relative of Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem and one of the most unsingable songs of all time. Rusty fancies himself a songwriter as well and we have to suffer his country ballads such as "Mommas don't let you babies grow up to be QRPers" and "Rhinestone Contesters".

Having spent all of our money buying new airplane tickets, we didn't have much money left for accommodations, since those arrangements were also made by Madoff-Ponzi Travel. Fortunately we found a very helpful cab driver named Nockmore who directed us to a very affordable bed and breakfast run by his sister and her husband. Only there were no beds, just mats on the floor, and no breakfast either. But, hey, we were here for DXing, not sleeping. Or eating.

We starting setting up our station in Nockmore's sister's garden. Since all our money had gone to buy new plane tickets, we didn't have money left to afford the extra baggage charges to bring the beams and amplifiers. But we did bring along some wire to make dipoles from. Unfortunately, we managed to leave behind the coax, too. Fortunately, zip cord is pretty universal and can be pressed into service as a feedline when needed.

With a dipole in the air and the rig ready to go, we were ready to put UP5LID on the air. That was when Rusty discovered we had also managed to leave the microphone behind, so he was SOL for the DXpedition, but the rest of us could still operate cw.

When UP5LID came on the air, it certainly stirred up a lot of excitement. We generated lots of on-air activity, but few of them seemed to be trying to work us. In fact, some of the responses we got when we called "CQ UP5LID "were down right rude. The pileups we did generate were exciting . The JA's were the most unruly, while the Europeans were gentlemanly and well behaved. Did I happen to mention that Kazakh vodka is amazing cheap and plentiful?

With the delays caused by our travel snafus, we had to cut our operating time short by several days. But when we shut down the UP5LID operation, we were happy with all the calls we had put in the log, and hopefully gave many a new one.

The circuitous routing to get to Kazakhstan was repeated on our return flights. But as luck would have it, we had a long layover in Morocco, which would allow us to play tourist for a few hours. For security sake, we had to carry all of our gear with us, which made things a little awkward, but we still managed to get out and see a few interesting sites.

During our site seeing trip, our log master, Rusty Key, made the mistake of eating some shawarma from a street vendor. About thirty minutes later, Rusty was in severe intestinal distress. In a fit of panic, he traded his laptop for a half roll of scratchy toilet paper. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Unfortunately, Rusty's laptop contained all of the expedition logs. Our QSL manager was all prepared to order cards and ready to upload the logs to LoTW as soon as we got back, but unfortunately we have no other records to QSL from. If someone is passing through Morocco and finds a fellow named Murkat with a nice laptop, he might be able to confirm a UP5LID QSO for you.

We have not heard back from the 4Q2LID crew, but last reports sounded like they were doing well. The last contact we had from them, they had managed to hook up with what I assume is some sort of Sri Lankan baseball team, as their name was the Tamil Tigers. The Tigers must be in spring training since the LIDS crew said they were staying at the Tiger's camp. Actually, they said they were "being held" at the Tiger's camp, but I assume the message was garbled during transmission. They are a little overdue returning, but we assume they have had travel difficulties similar to the UP5LID team. When they return, we'll share all the exciting details with the Fi-Ni Report.

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