Monday, 8 September 2014

Day Two CT7/G4OBK Algarve SOTA: AL-007 & AL-005

Day Two: 5th September 2014

CT/AL-007 Serra da Rocha da Pena  QRV 1130z - 1218z

Information board near the excellent and welcoming Cafe Bar das Grutas at the start of the walk
After breakfast we left the hotel at Carvoeiro to head into the limestone hills of the Algarve interior. We had found that driving on the some of the motorways in the region was necessary to get to the summits as quickly as possible, and that there were toll fees to pay. At one point we paid a fee, but at others you couldn't. An ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) system was in use, which meant that you had to go to a post office within 10 days and pay the tolls or face a fine which would be levied by your hire car company, with an additional surcharge on to your credit card.  I paid the fee the day before we left to come home, it was around €15 I recall. 
My actual GPS track taken from Base Camp on my PC running Open Street Map
I came across a moderate circular walk in our Cicerone Guidebook "Walking in the Algarve" which took us across the Serra da Rocha da Pena, so we did that walk in its entirety. We set out from near the Grutas Cafe below the escarpment and then followed the switchback path to the summit trigpoint within what is a nature reserve. The footpath is well marked and maintained, and we came across some footpath workers on their way back down. From the evidence we saw later they had been concreting marker posts in the ground to mark out the footpath.

The information board which tempted us to walk the defensive wall - this was time wasted!
Once on the top of the escarpment and a good distance along it, we turned right after I was tempted to follow a fallen defensive wall, believing this to be higher than the trig point by a few metres. A fingerpost could be seen around 500m at the far end of the wall, and this aroused my curiosity....

The marker post we visited over a difficult stony route.....not recommended if you go there - I do not know what ADP means
G4OBK XYL Judy at AL-007 Trig Point
When we reached the end of the fallen wall at the highest point, there was nowhere to sit down, just large uncomfortable stones and that marker post, so we returned to the main path and continued on to the trig point overlooking the south coast, and this is where I set the HF station up. It was a hot September day and the shade offered by the large trig point and the extra height for mounting the antenna was most welcome... This was only a one point summit, and unfortunately, not a SOTA Complete for me, unlike the one we were doing later AL-005. I started operating in Morse on the 30m band, then moved to 20m and 17m in CW/SSB. After 40 minutes we packed up and continued on the walk to the village of Portela where the cafe did not look too encouraging, so we just purchased ice lollies there.

Typical vegetation of  the Algarve interior
When we got back to the car we put our gear away and entered the (simple but excellent) Bar das Grutas which is near to the car park. We had ham and cheese sandwiches and for me, two ice cold beers to celebrate the successful activation of the Serra da Rocha da Pena. I can recommend this bar for sure. 

Bar das Grutas - recommended at the start or end of your walk
So that was our first activation of two on the day, it was to be the best and most interesting SOTA walk of the holiday. My most productive band out of the three used from the summit with low power was 18 MHz  / 17 metres. 

Band - Mode (QSOs): 30m CW (6), 20m CW (6), 20m SSB (3), 17m CW (7), 17m SSB (13)
Total QSOs: 35

AL-007 Distance Walked 7 Kms with 220m ascent

CT/AL-005 Monte das Sarnadas  QRV 1500z - 1541z

The summit was approached from a small car park near some rural houses with barking dogs - 1.2 Km walk each way
From the parking area near to some well seperated private detached houses it was a 1.2 Km walk along a path to the summit. We crossed a broken wall about half way there. The activation area around the trig point was heavily vegetated but there was just sufficient room to peg out the dipole before the land fell away. The antenna was cut for 30m. If it had been much longer we probably wouldn't have been able to peg it out as an inverted vee. 

My long suffering (but willing) XYL ties off one end of my inverted vee on AL-005 before she settle down to her book...
All done - ready to leave the summit

As you can see the trig points are on the whole substantial and well maintained in the Algarve Region.

Time was getting on so I stuck to two bands, 20m CW/SSB and 17m CW, which is my preferred mode. I did work one DX station which was regular caller N4EX on 18 MHz CW. It's a good feeling to hear Rich coming back - I don't often work outside Europe using 5 watts. 

When the pile up was worked out on 17m CW I pulled the plug and we packed up. Just two summits in the day was enough - geographically the others targeted for later to finish off the full set of eight Algarvian Summits, were too far away to consider doing them in the day and getting back to the hotel in time for our dinner was our priority.....more tomorrow then...

Band - Mode (QSOs): 20m CW (13) 20m SSB (24)
17m CW (19) Total contacts: 56

Distance walked: 1250m with 42m ascent (both ways)

(Day 3>GO)

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