African Road Journeys

Trips to West Africa are challenging for a number of reasons: culture, security, transport, language, health issues amongst them. Add a group of ham radio operators, a ton of hardware, the need to navigate through local politics to obtain ham radio licenses and you have a cocktail of adventure, enlightenment, fun and friendship. After that, you need to find a hotel on top of a hill, with a flat roof and the management’s willingness to host half a dozen crazy guys with wires and aluminium draped around the hotel for a week whilst taking all their electricity. Welcome to the Voodoo Contest Group!

The three biggest logistical challenges for the group were always:

* Finding suitable hotels to base the operation

* Obtaining licenses

* Transferring the stock-pile of equipment between countries

On the first couple of Voodoo trips equipment was carried by hand, however it was soon realised that to be competitive, the team needed heavy equipment such as amplifiers, towers, beam antennas, rotors etc. Over the years, a ‘stock-pile’ of equipment was amassed and stored, courtesy of local contacts, in garages or sheds on site in each country. Every couple of years there was the mammoth task of getting the equipment from one country to another.

The VooDoo trail started in Ghana in 1994: annually after that various bits of equipment were left behind to embellish the stock-pile resulting in probably one ton of gear requiring transfer from country to country by bus, lorry and one case, helicopter. The roads in West Africa are generally of packed mud – bumpy and pot holed. The November CQ WW CW contest is immediately after the rainy season, hence the road journeys were often fraught with uncertainty and doubt. Add to that the possibility of bandits, corrupt police and ‘pay as you go’ border crossings, and it gave the team what they were looking for: excitement and a sense of adventure.