Amateur Radio offers the privilege to form
friendships without preconditions. It creates, it generates, it
leads the way, and it expands horizons. Several months ago I visited
one of its temples. It is called “Jumanji,” and it is the home of
HK1NA. The story of Jumanji is good enough to warrant further
documentation. Back in the day, some radio amateurs operated
individual contests from the farm when nothing was there but a
rustic old house. Large and small animals grazed all around, and the
amateurs tried to get along with them, even having some of them
sleep between their feet during long nights in front of the radio.
Jumanji refers to a literary work by Chris van Allsburg, later made
into a movie starring Robin Williams, in which a house is suddenly
transformed into a quite inhabitable jungle as a result of magic —
much as HK1NA has been.
In May 2013 I received fantastic news from Juan
Carlos, CO2JD, that we both had been invited by Jorge, HK1R, to
participate in the CQ World Wide CW event at the HK1NA contest
station. E-mail exchanges with Pepin, HK3TK/CO2TK, confirmed the
good news. From that moment there were countless e-mails and many
visits to Havana from Las Tunas to deal with many bureaucratic
hurdles and consular requirements, which Jorge always helped us to
deal with in a timely manner. Finally, one day before our flight, I
had the visa in my hand. Juan Carlos, who resides in Havana, had
received his visa earlier.
We flew to Panama City in the morning of
November 19, and boarded a connecting flight to Cartagena. We
arrived in this beautiful Caribbean city at noon the same day.
Pedro, HK1X, greeted us at the airport.
Cartagena de Indias
Pedro proved to be just what we had imagined,
after so many years of contacts via radio — someone of excellent
character and, above all, a very good host. He took us to a small,
very comfortable hotel. We agreed that he would pick us up that
evening for dinner and a tour of the old part of Cartagena City.
Juan Carlos and I decided to go out for some lunch and then spend
the afternoon checking out the surroundings. Cartagena is
undoubtedly a very beautiful city, and its inhabitants make it proud
with their modesty and their amazing politeness. We soon discovered
that friendliness and great personality are distinct characteristics
of the Colombian people, at least for the “costeños,” which the
inhabitants of the northern coastal regions call themselves.
Back at the hotel, I finally had time to e-mail
my family and friends and bring them up to date on our trip. To that
end, I had taken along an iPod, and I never missed an opportunity to
connect to the internet via WiFi. In the evening we went with Pedro
to see a part of the old city, which somewhat reminded us of
historic Havana with its cobbled streets and an architecture dating
back to that common era when the two cities were founded.
About 9:30 the following morning, Pedro picked
us up and took us to the terminal for the “busetas,” which is what
the locals call the small buses that provide a primary means of
transportation between towns and cities in the Caribbean. We boarded
the buseta for the Cartagena-Barranquilla route. Pedro instructed
the driver to make a stop at a gas station close to a farm, where
Jose, HK1R, has built his station. Two motorcycle riders were
supposed to be waiting there to take us to Jumanji. What actually
showed up were two “motorcycle taxis.” We were told that this means
of transportation was very common, to meet the transportation
demand stemming from the opening of a nearby Chinese-owned factory.
As we approached the Jumanji station, holding on for dear life to
our luggage in the back of the motorbikes, the antenna field became
visible, and I was beginning to comprehend the enormity of this
Salim, HK1T, greeted us upon our arrival and
invited us into the building that housed the radio room, a huge
kitchen with a dining and assembly area, sleeping quarters for at
least 15 people, and three large bathrooms with showers. Salim
escorted us to the radio room, so we could get acquainted with the
equipment. Stepping inside, I further realized how privileged we
were to have been invited to operate from there. Seven comfortable
operating positions equipped with Icom radios — 7600s, 7700s, and
7800s — and Alpha 8410 amplifiers added to that emotion. Salim is
one of the leaders of the Jumanji “brotherhood.” He was working on
the rotator for a cubical quad when we arrived.
The Foreign Legion
Jorge had already welcomed us by telephone and
Pedro kept him updated during our stay in Cartagena. We learned that
Jorge was in Barranquilla to meet some other contest colleagues
arriving from the US and Brazil. He arrived around 3 PM accompanied
by Lars, K9FY; Ville, PY2ZEA/OH2MM, and Thomas, PY2ZEA/SMØCXU. They,
along with Mariano, LU8EOT; Juan Carlos, CO2JD, and me, completed
the group of foreign operators. I met Mariano a bit later when he
arrived from the home of Bolmar, HK1MW, where he was installing an
SDR for our skimmer with Jaime, HK1N.
Later in the day, Jorge asked Juan Carlos and
me to come along on a trip to Barranquilla to assist with some of
the necessary shopping for the next few days. It quickly felt as
though we had known each other forever, and we talked about many
things during the trip to the city. We noticed impressive building
construction activity everywhere we looked. The part of the city we
saw reminded us of some of the more modern parts of Havana. After
shopping, we picked up Frank, HJ1FAR, another member of the team,
who would be responsible for computer issues and general
By Thursday morning, the whole team had
assembled, except for Pedro, who had to deal with some business
issues, and Pepin, HK3TK, who had missed his flight from Bogota.
Bolmar, HK1MW, and Jaime, HK1N, were like the patriarchs of the
group, not only because of their seniority, but also because of the
respect they inspired and deserved. The morning was abuzz with
activity, with everyone attending to some last-minute details or
projects. We in the Cuban contingent helped Salim make baluns for
the cubical quad from 75 Ω coax.
After lunch, Bolmar invited us for a tour of
the antenna fields. In particular, he took us to see one of the two
5 element 80 meter vertical arrays, which he had worked on. While
admiring his magnificent job and hearing him speak so passionately
about it, I felt like I was at an initiation rite, facing a
radiating monster and with Bolmar as the ceremonial high priest.
Figure 1 — The HK1NA towers
Figure 2 — Inside the HK1NA
When we returned to the station, I sat down at
the 10 meter position and, in what seemed like the blink of an eye,
I had worked more than 100 stations. This was the first time the
HK1/CO8ZZ call sign was heard on the air. At mid-afternoon, we
stopped by Bolmar’s house to check on Mariano’s and Jaime’s progress
with the skimmer system, before continuing on to Juan de Acosta.
Juan de Acosta
The town certainly doesn’t dazzle visitors with
its beauty, but it possesses a particular magical simplicity. Its
typical small-town character, the parish, the park and everything
else I saw brought to mind the illustrious costeño poet and author
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A colorful sculpture of Simon Bolivar the
Liberator stood in front of a building, which I surmised could only
be City Hall. After a brief tour, we returned to Bolmar’s house.
Mariano and Jaime were still working on the skimmer SDRs, which, for
some reason, did not work as expected. This, with just 24 hours
before the start of the contest! We suspected at one point that the
receiving antennas were the problem, and we decided to raise them as
high as their feed lines would permit. In the end it turned out to
be a software issue, and the problem was solved just as night was
By the time we got back to Jumanji, it was late
at night. I sat down at the 40 meter station. The plan was that
Pedro and I would operate this position in 4-hour shifts during the
first part of the contest, and that I would also do some 10 meter
operating later. Because some of our colleagues were absent for
some of the shift changes, we had to alter our original plan. That
night I had the pleasure of operating this magnificent HK1NA 40
meter station — an IC-7800, an Alpha 8410, and an array of antennas
to select from. For the most part I used the 3/3 stacked Yagis.
There was also a 5 element vertical array aimed toward Europe as
well as various wire antennas and a SAL-20 receiving system. Being
accustomed to very high noise levels at my home station, I was in
paradise and enjoyed working a pileup that kept up for the entire
time I was on the air. One of the many Cuban stations I worked was
Douglas, CO8DM, who phoned my wife. I managed to speak to her myself
a little later. It was an indescribable experience to hear my loved
ones from my home station — a veteran TS-130 putting out a mere 10
W. When I shut down the station, I had logged more than 650 contacts.
With Pedro’s and Pepin’s arrival that morning,
the team was complete. Pepin was the last one to arrive. He is a
Cuban who has lived in Colombia for many years. This was the first
time we’d met in person after numerous radio contacts. Pepin holds
CO2TK, and, while operating from Cuba, he was one of the most active
DXers and contesters on the island. I spent part of the morning at
the 10 meter station — a K3 with an Alpha 8410 and choice of
excellent antennas. As it was for 40 meters, it was a pleasure to
work pileups with the added advantage of no noise. Around midday, I
made my way up the hill, where most of the towers are located. Salim
was already there, and two of his tower workers, aided by Frank,
Pepin, Juan Carlos, and me, hoisted the new cubical quad for the
multiplier station to the top of the tower. When we finally had the
assembly completed, it was already a few minutes past 5 PM, so we
headed back down to the station for a meeting and a pre-contest team
A few minutes before the contest started, each
first-shift operator was parked on a clean frequency — Bolmar,
HK1MW, on 160; Jaime, HK1Nm on 80; Pedro, HK1X, on 40, Ville,
PY2ZEA, on 20; Jorge, HK1R, on 15, and Mariano, LU8EOT, on 10 meters.
At 0000 UTC November 23, the powerful signals from HK1NA issued
forth! An hour into the contest we had accelerated to a rate of 672
QSOs per hour, and we had 591 contacts in the log. I had been
planning to catch some sleep and then relieve Pedro a bit before
1100, but I could not fall asleep. Instead, I decided to wait for my
turn while watching our contest progress, so I parked myself in
front of a screen in the kitchen meeting area. When shift change
came around, we already had 650 contacts in the log on 40 meters,
and 2150 total. The next few hours were intense, and by the time I handed it back to Pedro we had around 1200 contacts in the 40 meter
log. A few minutes later, I relieved Bolmar on Top Band, as he was
not feeling well, and I honestly was not feeling sleepy.
Working 160 at HK1NA was a wonderful
experience because of the marvelous setup for this band — an IC-7600
and an Alpha 9500 amplifier, a full-size vertical, dipoles and a
Hi-Z receiving system. Using this system was a new experience for
me because of its directivity. At 6 AM, I returned to 40 meters and
stayed there until the band closed at 8 AM, and then I went to sleep
for the first time.
I spent the day filling in for short periods on
10 and 15 meters, although later in the evening I operated on 15 for
almost 3 hours. By then we were at 8000 contacts and maintaining a
rate of 468 QSOs per hour. Jumanji’s setup on 15 meters is an
and an Alpha 8410 to a stack of 6/6/6 Yagis and a vertical. At 7 PM
I started my official shift on 40 meters. Pedro was supposed to
relieve me at 11 o’clock, but he was not feeling well, so a few
minutes before midnight, I was back in the operating chair for 40
meters. Feeling better, Pedro returned a couple of hours later, and
when I went for some rest, our statistics showed 11,600 contacts and
a rate of 280 QSOs per hour — typical for that early in the morning.
I woke up
at 7 AM and immediately went to 40 meters. A little later, having
closed that station, we were approaching 12,800 contacts. I spent
the rest of the day filling in on 15 and 10 meters and working the
multiplier station — An IC-756PROIII and an Icom PW-1 amplifier,
with a 4 element cubical quad multibander. Something I enjoyed
during the contest, in addition to the magnificent pileups, was the
maneuverability that CW Skimmer offers in the hunt for
multiplers.The Win-Test logging program easily identified which
spots were needed multipliers, and double-clicking the displayed
multiplier call sign immediately took the transceiver to that
station’s frequency. This makes it possible to change frequency and
complete a QSO quickly enough not to lose your run frequency.
the final 4 or 5 hours of the contest on 10 and 15 meters. Contrary
to my expectations, 10 meter conditions were not as good as they’d
been on Saturday; the same applied to 15 meters. Typically these two
bands are very productive at the end of the contest. Without doubt,
this contributed to a result that did not meet our expectations. In
the end, we failed in our initial objective to exceed the 2012 score,
and we ended up with 42,822,198 points for a total of 15,156 valid
contacts, 203 CQ Zones, and 756 countries worked.
everyone started back home shortly after the contest ended, but
Lars, Juan Carlos, Frank (who lives in Barranquilla), Mariano, and
I stayed on for a while. I had no problem at all spending another
night at Jumanji and hoped to work 40 meter SSB for the first time.
Despite my fatigue, I was going to take advantage of all the
amusements that HK1NA had to offer.
day, Bolmar came by and invited Juan Carlos and me on another trip,
before it was time for our farewells. He was later accompanied by
his neighbor and brother-in-law Freddy, HK1ANP, whom we had known
before at Jumanji. We went to Baranoa, which turned out to be much
like Juan de Acosta but with slightly more commercial activity.
visiting a shopping center, I was taking a picture with Juan Carlos
as the model. The manager approached and respectfully explained that
it was the company’s policy not to allow picture taking. When Bolmar
told to him that we were visitors from Cuba and that he and Freddy
were local customers, however, he went out of his way to give us a
tour of the place. This experienced helped to reinforce our already-positive
opinion of the Colombian people.
return, we took the opportunity to see Freddy’s magnificent station
and to exchange cards. It was already 3:30 PM, and Jose was waiting
for us at Jumanji. About 5 in the afternoon we took off on the road
to Barranquilla. As we left Jumanji, it seemed to me that it was
entering a magic state of slumber, although I’m sure that HK1NA
never really sleeps from one contest to another.
learned to appreciate farewells, especially when I’m leaving behind
good moments and great friends. At 9 o’clock sharp, we departed for
Cartagena. We arrived in Havana at 6:45 PM, ending a week of intense
emotion and unforgettable experiences. It was a week that, in an
almost mystical way, saw the confluence of friendship, a common
interest, and a love of ham radio.
like to thank those who, from the beginning, helped bring about the
happy outcome of this event. Above all, and despite his aversion to
recognition, Jorge receives our profound gratitude for bringing our
presence at HK1NA beyond the realm of a dream project.