I got to Cyprus a few weeks ago, but just got on the air yesterday from SOTA peak 5B/CY-002, Madari. We’ll be here for another three years, so I would like to see how many SOTA peaks I can reach on the island.
I’ve been thinking about these peaks since before we arrived, and here’s my very rough assessment of them based on information that I can glean from online sources. Red means “just about impossible” (like a restricted army area), yellow means “no, I’m not willing to dangle from that cliff” (or, at least not yet — there are easier peaks), green means “a doable hike, maybe in the cooler part of the day”, and blue means “looks like you could pretty much drive on”. These assumptions may prove hilariously wrong when I get a look at these sites in person. The purple marker near Nicosia is home and the darker purple marker is the site for the Region 1 field day operation in a couple weeks by the Nicosia Radio Club, 5B4NC.
What I’m working with
So far, we only have the luggage that we brought on the plane, so I don’t have most of my radio equipment, just the QRP kit. The good news is that I arranged to purchase a car before I got here, set up car insurance, driver’s license, etc. The car I bought is too large for some of the narrow streets in Cyprus, but it is built like a tank. In its earlier life, it spent time driving the Moroccan desert: four wheel drive, roof rack, auxiliary fuel tank, etc., so I thought it would be a good vehicle for getting into the mountains, driving along the shore, and perhaps serve eventually as a mobile station.
As for the radio: the FT817 with external gel cells and an internal aftermarket lithium battery. The antenna is a 40/20/10m end-fed halfwave. This set up did great in the Shenandoah Mountains earlier this summer, but having driven around Cyprus, I now appreciate how much it is like the American southwest: mostly scrub, not a lot of tall trees for support. I’m somewhat kicking myself for not bring my SOTAbeams 10m telescoping mast, which is very compact and would have fit in luggage. I guess I’ll have to wait until our shipment arrives.
Choice of 5B/CY-002
The 5B Sota Association was founded within the last year, so there are many unactivated peaks, but for my first activation, I wanted to choose one that looked like a sure shot, so I picked CY-002, which had been activated four previous times. From aerial photos, it looked like a road goes almost all the way to a peak and that there is a trail over to the peak. That indeed is the case.
The peak is about a one hour drive from where I live near Nicosia. I took the bottom route, which is relatively flat for the first half hour and then climbs. I think I was in third gear for almost all of the second half of the drive. There are some amazing views along the way, a couple of roadside restaurants, and a few picturesque towns. The final road which leads to the peak is paved and a bit narrow at points, but should accommodate passing. There are also frequent cutouts for turning around or pulling to the side.
That road leads straight to a small parking lot near a commercial antenna installation labeled “Cyta” (a cellular phone provider). In addition to a tower, there is a huge parabolic antenna on the side of the hill pointing eastward; presumably it is microwave backbone.
There is a nice overlook here and a bench near the termination of a hiking trail. To the side of the bench, there is a sign that warns that the road upward from this point is narrow. That put us off, and we walked the rest of the way up, but in fact, the road is perfectly fine, broad, mostly paved, and with a guard rail, right to another parking lot between the SOTA summit and the fire lookout. Perhaps the road was improved after the sign was put in place.
At the top of the road, there is some information about the geology of the area on a sign. Paths lead off rightward to the fire tower and leftward towards the summit. The fire tower is not an observation platform on top of a tower, but a large concrete structure at the end of a switchback trail.
I don’t know what’s in the fire tower, but I heard other tourists up there. Instead, we struck out towards the summit marked on the the SOTA map, to the other side of the saddle formed by the parking lot. A dirt trail runs alongside the hill and the peak is just a bit off the trail by GPS.
I managed to string the antenna in the low trees up there, just to the side of the peak (but within the 25m activation zone). Twenty meters was strong from Europe, so I called on 14.061 and had responses a few moments later when my signal was picked up on the reverse beacon network node in Bulgaria and spotted through the RBS gateway. A flurry of calls followed from a total of ten countries. When that died down, I went to 10m and worked a loud station in Hungary and had a reasonably strong S2S contact with a OE5EEP/P on a mountain in Austria. While I wasn’t the first to activate this peak, I can claim the first contacts on 10m.
The noise level on 40m was relatively high, perhaps related to the nearby radio tower. I could hear strong stations, but nobody heard me and I did not show up on any of the RBN nodes, so I packed it in after a while.
In the next few weeks, I will receive the rest of my equipment and apply for a Cypriot call sign. I’m looking forward to more 5B activations over the next few years.