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Day 12

         

   Monday 16th April, 2007

   I'm excited today. I'm waiting  for the Post Office to open at 9am so I can check for parcels.  I say parcels because I am expecting the antenna parts from Roger but also a memory card for my camera that Bill has sent. If I receive the memory card today, I will be able to post back the card I have now with a hundred or so photos on it. Bill will be able to get a better "picture" of what I am experiencing.

   Also, today, I am hoping for further progress regarding the satellite phone. Although the DeafBlind Association has decided to finance one for me to carry, there has been a delay in making the arrangements. I have mobile phone coverage here in Hawker but after my first  night away from here, I will have no mobile phone coverage until Mt Isa which is 1,800km away. 1,800kms. Wow! Luckily, I don't often look at the big picture. But at an average of 25km per day, that is 72 days and add some on for stop-overs and delays and for my self imposed "stopping to smell the roses".

   In fact, I have decided to post my phone and the 240V and 12V chargers back to Bill before I leave. The sat phone is considerably heavier than my mobile, so I sure don't want to carry the mobile as dead weight.

   After a long chat with the four young neighbours from last night as they packed up their gear, I headed of to "town". Although only a bit over a kilometer away, at least half of it was a "short cut" across a large area of basically bare ground. The "out of town" caravan park was definitely a bit out and for a car just a minute away, but on foot it meant 30 minutes of exercise.

   I was sitting on the Post Office steps waiting for it to open at 9. The lady that runs the Post Office came out early and wheeled a couple of cartons of freshly baked bread off around the corner. She told me later that she is the "agent" for the bakery (I  think she said Port Augusta) who drop off the bread to her and she distributes it around town before opening time.

   Finally the Post Office officially opens and while I was waiting, sitting, relaxed, two locals snuck in before me. But I  was well rewarded as there were two parcels for me. Back outside I tore them open and, as expected, the balun ferrite core and wire were there from Roger and the camera memory card from Bill.

   Back at the caravan park I laid out all my electronic gear on the camp kitchen table and started on the balun.

   TECH ALERT  The construction of the balun follows finishing with photos.

   The ferrite core is made of iron ore dust and "glue" mixed and compressed and dried into the shape of a donought or in this case, a cotton reel. It is about 25mm outside diameter, the hole through the middle 15mm diameter and an overall length of 35mm. The ferrite is purchased from Jaycar or similar electronics specialist shop.

   The wire in fed through, then around and back through again about 10 times.  Altogether, 3 wires are wound giving 6 ends. These are then connected in such a way that the "coax" feeder from the radio passes electrical energy into the ferrite core which then magnetically passes the energy onto the antenna wires. This transfer of energy is "transformed" by the balun so that there is little or no energy loss and is necessary as the coax cable from the radio would not "match" the di-pole antenna without the balun. Roger's parcel included a diagram for me to follow to finalise the connections.

   I tied the wound balun to the coaxial cable with venetian cord for support and the wires at this stage are twisted and not soldered as I don't have access to a soldering iron. They eventually get soldered 1200 kms further on (but worked fine none the less).

   The two wires that make up the di-pole antenna are tied to the two extended ends of the cord holding the balun. This allows the balun to suspend  on the wires between the trees. Two wires from the balun are left sticking out and these are clipped onto by alligator clips that are permanently attached to the di-pole wires.

   I set up the radio with  the new antenna and tried it on low power. This is important with a new antenna as a bad mismatch between the transmitter and the antenna can cause damage to the transmitter. A low power to start is always prudent. I started with the receiver and had a listen on the 40 metres band, starting at 7MHz and sweeping quickly through to 7.1MHz. The difference to  the long line antenna was immediately apparent. There were "voices" on quite a few frequencies and very strong and clear on several. It was obvious from the receiver performance alone that the balun was a "goer".

   But  the results on transmit were definitely not! The transmitter has a built in Standing Wave Ratio (SWR)  meter and this displays the "match" between the transmitter and the antenna while you are transmitting a signal. On this display, there are a number of bars shown. If all 5 bars are displayed, it is a bad match, that is the SWR is too high. No bars or one bar is desirable. I had a close look at the balun and all the wires looked ok.

   The two di-poles wire lengths are set by the frequency in use. The formula I used to determine the length was 75 X 0.95 / 7050 where 7050 is the frequency in KHz and produced 10.106 meters for each wire.

   Now I have to admit to being pretty slack when I made up the dipole wires after making the balun. I will claim that I was excited to be moving ahead and all I did was measure out one wire by pacing out the distance and adding a "bit"  for "trimming" back. For the second wire I just used the piece of wire that I  had previously been using for the long line and this was just made "more than a quarter wavelength" at the time. It didn't take me too long to wake up to where the problem was but I put off making the necessary changes as the antenna was now down and I was rushing to prepare for a live, "on air" ABC radio interview.

          I carried enough gear for making the balun         The finished balun        Set up for first tests

   In spite of my advanced age and extended experience in my work and private life, I am not comfortable being interviewed or standing in front of a microphone addressing even a small number of people. Over the years I have held an "office" in clubs that I or my children have been members of and I usually accepted the job of president as I do have the confidence to make decisions easily. Also, I think there is less work involved  than either as secretary or treasurer. I would have thought that these many such positions would have prepared me sufficiently for public speaking, but I guess that with a club it is just the local group of friends and close acquaintances.

   Earlier during the day, while I was engulfed in the making of the balun, I received two phone calls from the ABC. First was from Anne from Brisbane ABC local radio 612 who is the producer of the afternoon "drive" show. In fact, the one I was listening to when I first heard of the cyclists who had finished riding across Australia. I had contacted Janne from the DeafBlind Association a few days earlier as I felt there was insufficient "action" regarding media coverage of the charity side of the walk. I passed the info on to Janne regarding contact with the Brisbane ABC and it was no real surprise when they rang. I agreed to be available at 2:30pm.

   But a short time later my mobile went off again and this time it was the regional ABC in Townsville that covers the north Queensland area. When I inquired how they heard of me, they told me that the ABC 612 "drive" show supervisor in Brisbane had contacted them. We agreed to an interview at 4:45pm today.

   I made some notes about things that I should not forget to mention like contact phone numbers and psyched myself up and "started" waiting 15 minutes before the appointed time. Anne, the producer, called on time and told me I would be on in a few minutes and the presenter would be David Iliffe. I spoke fluently enough through my nervousness for 5 minutes and managed to answer his questions ok. I didn't get a chance to look at my notes as the presenter "led" the interview with his questions. On reflection, I could see that being the "interviewee" was a minor part and if I wanted to ever talk about what I thought was important, then I would need to organise a meeting prior to going on air (and that probably aint the way they want it) or I needed to gain confidence through practise.

   At least, by the time I was interviewed by Nicole Dwyer for the Townsville regional centre for the ABC, I was considerably more relaxed and felt that I had "come across" better.

   I called Janne to tell her about the interviews and that I felt that they had gone "fairly well". Janne told me that the final details for the satellite phone were organised and it would be dispatched from Perth today or tomorrow. You can't really complain about the delay as it was ordered from NSW from a retailer in Adelaide and dispatched from Perth to a location in the outback.

   My new neighbours for tonight are a Dutch couple, Jan and his wife. They are on their fourth visit to Australia. On their last visit, they purchased a camper van and stowed it in Perth. They returned four months later and are loving "grey nomading" it  into the interior. Jan has retired as a taster for Heineken beer back in Holland. Sheesh! He could have auctioned that job off in Australia and got a magnificent mobile home.

         Jan, retired beer taster from Holland, and his wife         Some photo ops are more pleasant than others        Flinders Ranges Caravan Park from the air


   The aerial photo on the right is of the magnificant Flinders Ranges Caravan Park.

   Over at the pub for dinner this evening and Jazmine came from behind the bar for a photo opportunity. Hmm. Some photo ops are definitely more pleasant than others.


    Tomorrow, the joys of good radio comms