I went to Ecuador for the first time in January, 2003. I liked it so much that I decided to go there again with my friends to DXing from different parts of Ecuador, and well, to celebrate my 44th birthday. Why not? I called my good friend Taka San, JA2JPA and we discussed the details of the expedition. Taka San was in Peru at that time and agreed to join us in Quito.
In January I flew to Ecuador by myself and spent 8 days there. This time Natasha, my wife suddenly decided to join me, so we flew together. I bought relatively inexpensive American Airlines tickets from JFK Airport in New York to Quito with one stop in Miami, Florida. We departed on May 18th. It was my birthday, whoops.
The flight was uneventful. However, “AA” service went down so dramatically that “No Service” would be the right words. Anyway, at 8:25 PM on May 18th we landed in Quito International Airport and shortly after routine Customs procedures we were outside the airport. My good friend Alejandro, HC1AJQ, his wife Lyubasha and Taka San were waiting for us. The time was 9:20pm, Taka San was hungry and we started to look for the Restaurant for my Birthday party, wow. Guess which was the only restaurant open… yes, TGI Fridays!! One of the favorite haunts of my boss, John Rogers. Oh well, we went there. It was fun to have a dinner at a U.S. Restaurant on a different continent far away from the States, HAHA. I recalled the same episode a couple years ago when I went to Madrid the capital of Spain to see my younger brother Yuriy, EA5/EW2CR who had been living in Spain since 1998. Where did we spend several evenings?? At “Planet Hollywood” Restaurant, which was located not far away from the FEDEX HQ. Well, “American lifestyle” is everywhere. Anyway, we ordered our dinner, good red wine for the ladies and tasty domestic beer for the men. During the birthday party we made plans for the coming week. Two days to see Quito and then we were going down to the ocean.
We had a good time in TGI Fridays. It cost me less than $100 for 5 people (tips included). By the way, there is no ugly habit of paying up to 20% in tips regardless of the quality of the service (the American way). Actually, to give tips there is not common. US dollar is the domestic currency there, which makes it very convenient to use.
After dinner we were all invited by Alejandro (Sasha is good enough) and his wife Lyubasha to their nice apartment to continue the celebration. He had two bottles of tasty Greek liqueur called “Metaxa”. Lyubasha prepared another dinner, which consisted of chicken stuff, different salads and a variety of fruits. Taka San sang Russian songs and I danced the Japanese foxtrot. We had fun. Taka San and I took turns on Alejandro’s Radio Shack, which consisted of Yaesu FT-847 and Multiband Vertical Antenna. We had beautiful propagation to all sides of the world. In fact there is no word “Bad Propagation”. All continents were loud with 59 or 599 plus, and everybody heard us pretty well too with only 100 watts output. Well we had a mast 2800 meters high, which gave us some help. Taka San, HC1/JA2JPA made a big pileup to Europe. But “Metaxa” gave him some QRM so I continued till 8 o’clock in the morning.
After morning sibichi soup we all left Alejandro’s la casita and went to our hotels. It was Monday. I was already 44 years and 1 day old. We spent this day looking around Quito and eating sibichi soup several times a day. In the evening we were invited by Taka San to an Argentinean Restaurant in the centre of Quito. Very good service, tasty meal and perfect Chilean wine. I ordered steak medium rare as usual. The huge piece of beef was prepared really well, but it was probably too “rare”, because I spent the night terribly sick in my stomach. The next morning Alejandro brought me several medications. I took them and felt much better. On Tuesday we went to the Center of the World, where the Equator divides our Globe into Northern and Southern hemispheres. It was windy and pretty chilly out there. I had to buy a T-shirt and drink some hot sake with coffee. Taka San said this is impossible and that since we were on the equator in Ecuador I had to feel hot all the time. So I had to take the T-shirt back off.
We went to a Colombian Restaurant in the evening. We were invited there by Fernando – a representative of Taka San in Quito. Nice Colombian music played there. There was a lot of delicious food, and good Colombian sake. We spent the whole night there, talking, laughing, dancing, celebrating my 44th and 2 days and working DX from Fernando’s Jeep Cherokee. Taka San almost made DXCC using exotic call sign HC1/JA2JPA/m. After the restaurant we went to Taka’s Sheraton Hotel and had a couple more sakes with hot coffee. After that I felt really hot. And my wife Natasha took a shower in Taka’s room because our hotel was out of hot water at that evening. The propagation was really good.
Next day we planned to go to Manta, which is located on the Pacific Ocean about 350 kilometers west of Quito. Taka San had some important business meetings so we agreed to meet each other in Manta. There we were going to rent a boat to go to Isla de La Plata which is IOTA SA-033 a rare Island to activate this piece of Land in the Ocean. In January I stayed near Manta and made previously arrangements with the captain of the boat to go there. So the next morning, on Wednesday, May 21st we drove to Manta from Quito in Alejandro’s car. I took with me a bunch of equipment including antennas.
I must say that Sasha is a very good driver and he has an iron balls. He made 350 miles from the mountains down to the Ocean within 5 hours. Ohhhhh!!!! We were sitting like in the “Formula Uno” Racing car when Alex was flying and passing by all the trucks, cars and buses. We were half way there, when suddenly we were stopped by a huge number of trucks. I counted 43 trucks. We found out that the only highway to Manta was blocked by bananeros, people who pick bananas. They demanded more money for their hard work so they put big trees on the road and sat on them. Well what we could do? We changed our route and headed northwest towards the town of Pedernales, which is located not far from the island called La Isla, which means “the Island” if you know Spanish language of course. We found a nice inexpensive hotel about 12 kilometers from the town of Cojimies. Cojimies is a small town located less than an hour away by boat from The Island which is SA-056. The time was about 5:00pm. The sun was going down really quick and when the sun is down it turns dark instantly, as if a power switch was turned off. So we started setting up antennas to operate on HF bands from the mainland. It took us less than an hour to set up Inverted Vee’s for 20, 40 and 80 meters. So, after dinner (good sibichi soup and red wine) I was on the air. The propagation was really good and I made 140 QSO’s in less than two hours. But all of a sudden the power went off. I came out to ask the Manager what happened. It was too late to ask anybody. It was a dark like in heaven. Only the ocean was making noise nearby. I then recalled that we agreed with Taka San to meet each other in Manta! There was no telephone service and no internet. There was no electricity in the whole province of Manabi, which Manta belongs to. Before the departure I bought very good watches in Wal-Mart for $38.95 plus tax. These were super-duper watches with digital compass and an ability to send e-mail anywhere in the world. I saw almost the same watches on the arm of Mr. Bond, James Bond. Made in Taiwan though. Well mine are a bit less expensive. I took my watches, dialed Taka San’s e-mail address and sent him an email with our coordinates near town of Pedernales. Later on I heard some noise from a small airplane above the hotel. It was Taka San with the generator and sake on board looking for us. He rented a small plane and flew from Manta to Cojimies to join our upcoming IOTA Expedition to La Isla which is SA-056. He was walking around Manta before in total darkness looking for us to go to Isla de La Plata, which is IOTA SA-033. It was too dark to find anybody so Taka San found an airplane and flew to Pedernales and Cojimies trying to find us. He had no luck in the dark so Taka San flew back to Manta, then to Guayaquil and then to Peru where he had another very important business meeting and a good plate of sibichi.
Next morning I woke up early and checked the electricity. So far nothing. I found the manager and asked her to turn on the generator. The power was back on. I ran back to the room to continue hitting the air. But… I smelt the burned plastic. O, Mama Mia! My powers supply blew up with the multiple outlets and smoke was all over the room. The rest of the power supply I found smashed on the walls and on the ceiling. What happened was when they turned on the generator the jump of the draw was very high and it killed the power supply and the electrical outlet. I had no chance to like put together my ICOM-706MKIIG, two car batteries, cables and dipoles for 10, 15 and 20 meters, catch the car on the beach and head towards the town of Cojimies where we rented the boat and went to La Isla which is SA-056. The owner of the boat Jorge was very happy to bring us there for $100 in cash for the round trip. We landed on the island and set up Inverted Vee for 15 and 20 meters. The propagation was fair enough and we made total over 400 QSO’s SSB and CW within two days. We returned there next day because we were not allowed to stay there overnight and there was no sibichi soup and no place to sleep. But I am a Contest man I don’t belong to an IOTA Klan (I should say, not yet) so I was getting ready for the CQ WPX CW Contest. I was going to participate in SOSB 80 meters Low Power. We set up a mast of 15 meters long and put there Inverted Vee for 80 meters. The power came back on, 4 hours before the Contest. I was so nervous that I dropped my SWR Meter on the floor and it fell apart. I connected the battery and the charger in parallel and then connected the radio. It worked well enough but signal was not so good. Well I had no other option. When Contest began I did not hear any station but only QRM on S8. The filter 500 Hz did not help much. The propagation at this time was good on all bands except 80 meters. I remembered when I came the first time in January the conditions were perfect on 80 and 40 meters. In January I made over 1000 QSO’s just on 80 meters with over 85 countries. At this time I had almost nothing but “xrrr”, “bhhh”, “whhhrzz” etc, etc… For the whole Contest I managed to do 110 QSO’s on 80 meters for 15 hours of work. Second time I had a bad luck during CQ WPX CW Contest. First time I was screwed, back in 1995 from Puerto Rico. Question – will I try again to work on WPX CW? The answer – I don’t think so. Next day we went back to the Island La Isla which is SA-056. I managed to make over 300 QSO’s on 15 meters within 4 hours or so and make some guys happy on this game called IOTA. Well for this trip I made about 1500 QSO’s in total with 76 countries and 47 States. I lost the power supply and the SWR meter. O Well no bigee. Things happen. But we all had a good time during this DXpedition. Some magic events did happen with us in a magic country, hi. And I was happy to celebrate my 44th birthday with my good friends. This is what really counts.
If you like DXing and adventures you should try at least once to get there to Ecuador and trust me you will not be disappointed. It is a great country and nice people. You don’t believe me? Then ask Taka San, JA2JPA. He knows everything. Or ask my wife Natasha or Alejandro who lives there with the family for 5 years and is not going to leave. In fact the “DX Paradise Station” with two transceivers, two amplifiers and all the antennas should be ready in October, 2003. So, anybody who wants to have fun of DXing and continuous pileup including IOTA fans (to visit rare South American Islands from HC and OA lands) is Welcome. The station is still available for CQ WW CW Contest. As for me I am going back there in October for my favorite CQ WW SSB Contest, yeah! And I left behind another Island called Isla de La Plata which is SA-033. I “owe” this Island to IOTA guys so I have to be there and hit the air together with Taka San, JA2JPA no matter what. See you there my friends. If someone is willing to join me or wants to go to Ecuador by themselves please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will have fun together. And you will taste sibichi soup which is really good stuff, trust me.
I would like to thank my amigo Alejandro, HC1AJQ and his wife, Lyubasha for their great hospitality. My special thanks to my wife Natasha, my good friend Taka San, JA2JPA for their support during this trip, to Sergio, W2WB for his help in installing the software into my laptop, to my beautiful daughter Anastasia for editing this episode of my book, to Dale, KB7UB from HRO for technical support of course to Mr. Marconi who discovered the Short Waves and all my friends in the world for answering my CQ’s. Our hobby is the best, right? But of course!!