Tuesday, 19 March 2019

SOTA Porto - 2nd full SOTA Day CT/DL-001+004+015

CT/DL-001 Serra do Marao (1415m -10 points)
With 7 days to use up in Porto I was fortunate that another full SOTA day would fit in with the enjoyment of the city. On previous days we had explored the riverside in Porto, followed by an hour long cruise on the Douro We explored the city streets and sights and had a guided tour of the Barmester Port Winery, complete with free samples of all different varieties of Port. We would have one further day of city sightseeing to come on Wednesday, including another planned early morning activation of Vandoma CT/DL-012 the next day on Wednesday, so this meant we had Tuesday free for another full day of SOTA, with a plan to activate three summits in the eastern sector of the Douro Litoral region towards the city of Villa Real. This was the furthest we would go inland from Porto on this trip. 

It took almost 90 minutes of mostly motorway driving to reach the parking place for the 10 point summit of Serra do Marao CT/DL-001, but it was well worth it.  An ungated, long and winding minor tarmac road (without traffic restrictions) took us to the parking place for the summit from the main road junction at 41.279N 7.914W. The GPX track saved by Pedro CT1DBS in the SMP was perfect, and for us just a 700m walk to the summit up a rough undriveable track. We parked the car under fir trees as it was a very sunny, but breezy day.  So in the bright sunshine and cold wind with our walking jackets on I recall when writing this four weeks later, we were just about comfortable... 
XYL Judy sets off to the top of CT/DL-001 Serra Do Marao
The summit had two locked chapels and lots of communications masts, walls, pillars, rocks and an enormous tapered stone adjacent to a much smaller trig point:

Aerial Pole with SOTA Portugal Flag near my operating position away from the comms installation
From where I was sat on the stone wall I had no problems with interference from the transmitters, and propgation was very good into Europe and USA with 24 contacts in 30 minutes on the 20m and 30m bands:  

Time for us both to head back down the hill then, and on to our next summit on Pena Mountain, the site of a large wind farm with no restrictions on access by car.  On the way there we stopped to eat our baguettes, custard pies and fruit which we we had purchased at the motorway services on our way out to DL-001. 

CT/DL-004 Pena (1223m - 8 points)
With a combination of information provided by Pedro and our TomTom Satnav we arrived at a road junction from which the track would take us to the top of the Wind Farm on the summit of Pena. The road junction is at the Miradouro e Parque de Merendas viewpoint 41.318N 7.888W where you take the road going west for several miles. To help locate the summits and access points once close in and off the main highway I use the mapping app Locus on a 10" tablet when I am motoring outside the UK. I buy the offline LoMaps which are an enhanced version of Open Street Map. They are cheap and very good indeed. Locus will allow the importation of GPX points for all the summits from the SMP and also GPX tracks which you can create yourself or take from the SMP if other activators have been kind enough to take the time to share them. The method is invaluable for this type of work, so that you know exactly where you are at all times -  providing the navigator concentrates! 
I parked the car near the highest turbine and we climbed a short distance to the operating position adjacent to the trig point and some rock. It was very comfortable sat with my back to the rock as you can see below, however I was experiencing QRN on HF from the turbines, which were turning well in the wind:

At 1512z the signals from SV2RUJ/P Stavros showed himself from SV/TL-074 - a regular contact for me from home when I am chasing stations. Then I logged my friends Nick G4OOE (Scarborough) and SOTA Partner Victor GI4ONL (Bushmills). Larry K0RS (Colorado) was best DX and another familar callsign from the 30 stations worked from Pena. Despite the QRN the KX2 was coping well. I also worked Larry when I was operating as VK2/G4OBK in 2018. World map of contacts made:

After finishing the activation I made my first YouTube video of an activation, describing my station equipment - you can see it here - no laughing at the back there please....
The flashing on the video is the shadow from the wind turbine above me going round... Next stop before dinner in Amarante was the small hilltop of CT/DL-015 Mont de Amarante, where we had a nice surprise meeting with Paulo CT2IWW in person...

CT/DL-015 Monte de Amarante (369m, 1 Point)
I had calculated that there would be time on the way back to Porto to activate CT/DL-015. It was a 10 minute walk to the summit from the car. We later found out the summit is on private land, but the landowner has no objection to adventurers accessing the hill. We parked by the local football teams ground at 41.238N 8.092W. If you go there look out for some old graves of the chambered cairn type by the path as it climbs near the top.
I set up the mast against the raised trig point and started calling CQ:
With my pole elevated on the trig point plinth I decided to do a "knee trembler". Not what you think.... by knee trembler I mean a standing up activation. It's pretty comfortable standing up operating in Morse and Phone, I'm sure I'm not the only one to indulge in this art...
I started on 20m. The band was still open to Canada and USA. It was just after 1700z, an optimum time I would suggest, to work near Stateside and Canada from Portugal in mid-March:
26 Contacts completed approaching dusk on CT/DL-015 Monte de Amarante
Suddenly an extremely loud station burst into my headphones on CW - it was Paulo CT2IWW who, unknown to us, lived just below the hill! We made the contact and as I was packing up the station 15 minutes later, the man himself appeared, having walked up the hill. Fancy living just a 10 minute walk from a SOTA summit, as Paulo does! It was great chatting and thanks to Paulo's excellent spoken English we found out much useful information about the region. It was encouragement indeed, to return to the area again when we can. So, having said byebye to Paulo we packed up and drove into Amarante Town, parked the car and took a walk around the town at dusk, before finding a nice restaurant for our dinner.
River Tamega old bridge in Amarante - the town is well sited as a base for a future SOTA Tour in the region
After eating it was dark as we drove back to Porto along the motorway. One more early morning activation next day remaining, near Porto, before returning to the UK...

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