DAY 1 – December 30, 2020

Cruising at 35 000 ft, our Malaysia Air flight to Viti Levu Island, Fiji, from Queensland lasts roughly 3 hours, made more pleasurable by a few cans of Fiji Bitter and an inflight movie.

I’m with my YL 43DA1112 Leonie and 7yr old daughter Olivia for this exciting dx adventure and they’re under no illusions about our intentions – DX, DX and more DX.

As well as traditional tourist activities, Leonie’s role will involve logistics, coupled with some work behind the mic, just as she’s accomplished in the past from multiple DXstinations – 135DA/OC-042 (2017) and 99DA/OC-016 (2014).

Another advantage of travelling with companions is that we can spread the weight of luggage and save money on excess-baggage hihi.

Disembarking at Nadi International Airport, we’re greeted by 31°C temps and humidity so thick you could drink it.

We’ve dwarfed also by the cloud-capped Sabeto Mountains to the north and, to its southeast ridge, Mt Batilamu or, in local legend, the Sleeping Giant.

After we collect our luggage I’m stunned to discover the new Swiss brand hardcase – housing my power supply, a transceiver, wire antennas and an assortment of DX-cessories – has a 5cm fracture along one of the sides; a tell-tale sign that it’s either been dropped, or thrown, from a considerable height by one of the baggage handlers.

Memories of last year’s dxpedition to American Samoa (70 Division) on which my case was severely damaged by baggage handlers in Pago Pago come flooding back.

I’m hoping the precious contents have been uninjured…

At most Pacific DXstinations the passage through Customs is like putting toothpaste back in the tube.  On this occasion, however, it’s easier than shelling peas.  There’s a couple of flippant questions from one of the security guards about our intentions with the telescopic mast but we’re soon out the front gates.

A $30 FJD taxi ride to accommodation showcases the destructive impact of Cyclone Sarai which ripped through the archipelago here a few days ago. 

The road is littered with sugar cane and coconut palm vegetation, plus soil and rocks from landslides, as we manoeuvre at a snail’s pace past cows, goats and horses who graze along the roadside.

Lying in the heart of Fiji’s sugar cane-growing region on the western side of this island, Lautoka is known as the Sugar City.  Its name, furthermore, is said to derive from two Fijian words meaning “spear hit”.  According to an oral tradition, the name arose following a duel between two chiefs.  As one speared the other, he was reported to have cried “Lau-toka!” (“Bull’s eye!”).

In 30 min we’ve arrived at the ham-friendly Anchorage Resort and are shown to Room 110 which opens onto a spacious lawn area, high ASL and majestic views of Nadi Bay – perfect yagi take offs to the South America and Asia on the short paths. 

Extensive recon efforts to identify suitable lodgings for radio ops have paid dividends and we’re feeling primed to unpack, set-up the station and strike fear into the bands.

Imagine the anguish though when we unwrap the various components of the station to discover that, despite copious layers of bubble wrap to cushion any possible knocks during transit, the Manson SPS9600 60amp PSU has a badly cracked casing and busted voltage nob rendering it useless.

In hindsight, the signs were there when we picked up my case from the baggage collection area but the catastrophic injury to our PSU means no radio ops until it can either be repaired or a replacement sourced.

With minimal daylight hours remaining, we push the clusterfuck to the back of our minds and re-centre with some positive action, unravelling the wire antennas and laying them out across the lawn, establishing possible guying points and assembling the vertical and mast, ready for the skies – hopefully tomorrow.

In the evening, a feed of seafood pizza topped with fresh fish, calamari and prawns, and a few beers wash away the tears of a forgettable afternoon.

DAY 2 – December 31, 2019 (New Year’s Eve)

At 8am local time, we’re into Nadi to address the defective PSU. 

With a replacement unlikely in any shop stocking appliances, we scour the streets for an electrical repair store.

On the city outskirts we discover a small backyard workshop, with a sign that reads ‘Real Repairs’

A mass of circuit boards, old TVs, stereos, microwaves and washing machines on the ground outside make a mountain at the front entrance and we’re hopeful this guy is THE SAVIOUR!

The tech, Mr Ravil, speaks little English but insists I leave the supply with him and pick it up at 2pm. 

“Au lomani iko, Sir!”

“Sega la neqa!” he replies.

For a few hours we explore the streets of Nadi (pronounced as “Nandi”). 

We visit handicraft shops that sell wooden artefacts and souvenirs (including postcards), and vibrant drapery shops with colourful shirts and wraparound Sulu (sarong) adorned with frangipani flowers and tribal motifs such as canoes, bone hooks, fish, sharks and turtles. 

We also drop in to a supermarket to stock-up on supplies to take back to the Room.  Coffee, tea, milk, biscuits, noodles, fruit and hot Shana (chilli chickpeas).

Personally, I find that food is an awesome way to learn about culture; to connect with a place and understand a new destination so for lunch we stop into a café.  Fijian cuisine is a delicious fusion of the robust spicy flavours of India with local foods like coconut, fish, goat, sweet potatoes and cassava and there’s some tantalising selections on the menu board.

My order consists of a spicy Fijian Goat Curry with coconut chutney, Fijian Pea and Courgette Dhal.  Warming, delicious and deeply satisfying, it’s the epitome of ‘comfort food’ and just the ticket for returning to the repairs shop to check on the progress of the PSU.

Great news from Mr Ravil sends shivers down my spine.  The broken parts have been replaced with substitutes from old appliances and, for a fee of $40 FJD, the PSU is now working.  I can literally kiss the man although shows of public affection are frowned upon in Fiji so I shake his hand and bid him farewell!

On the way back to the Resort, we stop at a hardware store behind Lautoka Primary School and acquisition 5 x 8ft star stakes at $15 FJD each.

These are pounded into the turf to provide support for the 10m NBS Mast, and in collaboration with 4 guy ropes to trees on the perimeter, will keep the erection sturdy in high winds that figure in all seaside locations.

With remnants of Cyclone Sarai lingering in the shape of wind and rain, we take a cautious approach with the Moxon’s fibreglass spreaders and, instead, erect a nondescript homebrew wire between 2 coconut palms to at least create a ‘presence’ on the band for the remainder of the evening.

At 02:45 UTC, the first contacts on 11m as 99DA/DX are with prominent stations in the external French Territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

172SD031 Patrice on Grande Terre Island (OC-032) romps in at 5/9+ and he’s soon followed by 201AT102 Camille on Tahiti (OC-046) in the Windward Islands IOTA group , also teetering on the red.

At 01:47 UTC, fellow Dx Adventure Radio Club (DA-RC) member 43DA648 Ray from Australia’s east coast is logged and he’s shadowed by an 80-strong wave of worked stations in just a couple of hours of TX that sees the Cluster DX spot board splashed with action.

Among those are 201RC001 Chris on Bora Bora (OC-067) in the Leeward Islands IOTA Group, 43DA505 John in Victoria, 43DA162 Brett in New South Wales, 41DT616 Lou in NZ and 91EK112 Juned on the Indonesian island of Java (OC-021).

At 7:50pm local time, the band quietens as the grey-line creeps towards the OC-001 mainland so we switch off the rig to enjoy the final few moments of 2019.

By the water’s edge, in the company of other guests and locals, we’re entertained by incredible Fijian dancers in native costume; their bodies oiled, faces painted and combs and flowers decorating their hair. 

A breath-taking experience to behold, dance in Fiji is symbolic of the ‘salad bowl of cultures’ that exist here. 

One performed for us is a ‘Fijian Meke’ – a combo of dance and animated storytelling through song to guitar and mandolin.  Rhythm is supplied by clapping (by the audience and the dancers), the thumping and stamping of bamboo clacking sticks and the beating of slit drums.

Another awe-inspiring routine, borrowed from the Maoris of NZ I’m told, is the ‘Poi’ in which balls are tied to the ends of ropes or sticks, lit on fire and then swung in spectacular fashion to the music.  Beneath clusters of stars that hang like fruit in a tree, the twirling flames are almost hypnotic.

The countdown to midnight and the New Year is celebrated with spectacular fireworks displays up and down the coast, from as far as Denarau Island (OC-016/D) in the east, that are perfectly visible against a sky as clear as sapphire from our QTH here at the Resort.

It’s the ideal end to a wonderful day of dx adventure and the ultimate intro to 2020!

DAY 3 – January 1, 2020

The morning Freeband propagation is akin to exchanging stares with a statue.  Zero sunspots means a reliance, at this stage, on sporadic-e but it’s yet to materialise. 

On the HP Laptop and tapping into Digicel WIFI, time is spent sifting through admin tasks such as replying emails and Instant Messages on social media, organising skeds, updating the private Facebook Sponsors Group, the DA-RC website and tidying up the log.

Later, a stainless steel Bushcomm SWC-100 dipole is installed in inverted V configuration with the apex at 10m off the ground and the arms stretching to vantage points down the ridge.  It’s a footprint which covers roughly 40m and, if past performance is anything to go by, this antenna will deliver results on a number of different bands.

The 4 element Moxon is pieced together too and added to a telescopic mast which jettisons it more than 10m high above the ground, making the station now fully armed and ready for a serious assault on the bands. 

3 lengths of 75ft long LMR-400 cable then run from the antennas, across the lawn, and into the Room, to Yaesu FT-950 and Dragon SS-497 transceivers and other DX-cessories which sit atop a small wooden coffee table.

Overlooking the aqua blue carpet of Nadi Bay in the distance, this proven DX weapon – designed by antenna specialist 30DA016 Dave from DX4.US Wire Antennas for the 339DA0 (Temotu) activity – is worthy of a front cover appearance on ‘CQ Magazine’.

At 00:00 UTC, 27 MHz frequencies become a beehive of activity and we’re suddenly on the DX chew.  Kiwi and Aussie stations are buzzing around the rare presence of OC-016 on the band and roughly 100 are logged over the course of the afternoon.

It’s fantastic to see many of these contacts posted as videos on social media groups (Kiwi and Kangaroo South Pacific CB Group, Fire up the Wire, etc.) by excited ops, appreciative of the DXperience.

43UNIT106 Terry on Fraser Island in the QLD State (South Coast) Centre group (OC-142) is an exciting addition to the log and ignites memories of a previous IOTA activity I performed on Australia’s largest sand island in the early 2000s.

I’m also pumped to work 41/91DD018 Dave, a proficient dxpeditioner himself, who’s strayed from his home in Jakarta to the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ to be with family and friends for the festive season.  I’ve been fortunate to work Dave in Nepal, Timor Leste and Cambodia over the years so am glad to reciprocate the opportunity.

At 01:00 UTC an incredible short opening with the Indian Ocean occurs via the Long Path (LP).  With the Moxon beaming at 80 degrees towards the Caribbean, multiple Western Australian stations are logged at 5/9+ signals.

217UNIT041 Jason on Christmas Island (OC-002), 1550 km north-west of the Aussie mainland, is a super addition to the 99DA/DX log.

Jason is 5/9+20 at 03:00 UTC from this external territory, famous for its red crab migration, and of course the amazing 217DA0 activity by 43DA148 Peter (See pictured right) and myself which achieved more than 2000 contacts in 2015.

Amongst a group of around 50 others logged from Pacifica DXCC, 43JDW299 Brenton in Victoria, Jason the ‘Woodsman’ in NZ, 43SD011 Jordan in NSW and 43DA021 Brian in South Oz, wraps up the log in the early evening and, when the grey-line prop dissipates, 11m metres slips back into silence.

DAY 4 – January 2, 2020

Today’s WX is oppressive on the main island of the Viti Levu & Vanua Levu IOTA Group and its indecent tropical air slaps me in the face when I first step onto grass to rotate the antenna.

Fiji normally enjoys a mild tropical WX averaging 31°C during the summer months of Nov-April and 29°C during the winter months of May-Oct. but, at just 6am local time, you can tell that today is going to be a scorcher.

In the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a large rodent like creature, scurrying into the scrub, trailed by 3 young.  It’s an Indian mongoose (See pictured below), first introduced into Fiji in 1883 to control rats in sugar cane fields but now implicated in the extinction of many different species of reptiles, frogs, birds and invertebrates.

Both rigs are purring away all day but it’s not until 02:24 UTC, some 8 hours later, that the first ‘new’ station is worked.  41SD101 Rene on New Zealand’s North Island (OC-036) is ITL at 5/5 and he’s the first of 54 other keen DX Hunters who call in.

Among those are 43AT101 Steve, plus 43DA392 Graeme who’s ‘bending the needle’ with a 5/8 Sirio vertical from his home QTH in the Sunshine State.

Later, 91AT011 Frankie on Timor Island (OC-148) and 91AT234 Sam on Sumba Island in the Tenggara Timur Islands IOTA Group (OC-151) are prized contacts at 8:01 pm local time and the last station worked for this day is just a few moments later as the band slips into sleep.

“Ni sa moce, DX!”

DAY 5 – January 3, 2020

It’s been 4 days of hectic radio activity in the Melanesian archipelago and predictable patterns of sporadic-e propagation are apparent.

The best time for such openings into ‘The Land Down Under’ and other Pacific DXCC is at dusk where enhanced signals travel along the grey or twilight zone between night and day and at much higher strengths.

Strangely, dawn isn’t productive at all.

HF conditions on Day 5 of our IOTA sabbatical, then, are foreseeable with barely a whimper of modulation outside the local 201 and 172 OM who are permanent 5/9+ signals across a number of frequencies.

Only a handful of new stations are added to the log in the evening, on a band as delicate as a soap bubble, with 172SD106 Eric in Nouméa in the southwest Pacific at 02:30 UTC the strongest worked at 5/9+10.

“Kerekere for some guys in EU…!”

DAY 6 – January 4, 2020

Dosed up on caffeine thanks to 3 cups of ‘Bula Coffee’, I’m behind the mic at 5am, just as the sun rises in the east.

Conditions across the 26-27 MHz spectrum, however, are like a flat soft drink so I leave the Moxon aimed at North America, daring the band to open and so unleash some of the world’s best IOTA Hunters that monitor OC DX-scapades on a minute-by-minute basis.

At 9:00am local time we hail a community bus to Lautoka to replenish the cupboards.  The beautiful blue ocean is seen on one side of the road to Lautoka, dotted with fishing boats and magnificent sand cays offshore, while luscious green sugarcane fields with occasional thatched roof huts and ageing farm machinery are on the other.

In Lautoka there are markets snuggled behind the main street with delightful handicraft stalls selling a wide variety of items from handmade pottery, woven items, spices, and other natural resources, among them sugar and fish.  Here, we purchase breadfruit, taro, sweet potato, cow peas, coconut, banana, papaya, rice and chilies.

On our return, we visit the Lautoka Port to enquire about transport to some of the other islands.  One in particular IOTA dxstination is firming in the itinerary – largely due to its status as an ‘All Time New One (ATNO)’ on both 11m and ham bands, plus ham-friendly accommodation I’ve been able to secure alongside the water.

By 23:30 UTC we’ve arrived back at the Room to resume radio ops and parts of 11m are teeming with a number of Aussie states and territories – NSW, QLD, SA, TAS and VIC. 

Aussie ops at this time are like ‘bulls in a china shop’, charging into each other for the contact while I clean up the breakages and do my best to make sense of callsigns for the log.

Rotating the VFO up and down the Aussie legal frequency allocation, I snap at calling stations like a Fiji crested iguana catching flies, stuffing the log with an additional 50+ stations.

At 02:37 UTC, I’m thrilled to work a few stations in the Western Kiribati (Gilbert) Islands IOTA Group on 27.055 MHz USB.

224DA349 on Marakei Atoll in the village of Rawannawi and 224DA036 Peter and 224KG046 Tamon, both on Betio Islet, are welcome additions to the log.

“Te Mauri, Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa” (Health, Peace & Prosperity) to my friends in the Central Pacific.

At 09:00 UTC, a drowsy murmur of SE Asia propagation floats into the night air like thistledown and a number of Indo DX Hunters are intermittently worked on 27.305 MHz USB via the short path.

These include 91SF777 Bodhi and 91LR484 Aris on Java Island and 91SA690 Gede on Bali (OC-022).

DAY 7 – January 5, 2020

At 20:59 UTC, with the Moxon at 106 degrees, South American beacons are heard on 10m via the short path.

“Ni sa yadra, DX!”

A “CQ DX” on the International Call Frequency 27.555 MHz USB generates some difficult opportunities with stations in Brazil but with patience, we’re able to pull a few callsigns out of the shallows using the Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones.

“Vinaka vaka levu” to ‘Big Gun’ 3DA012 Roger in the state of Alagoas who’s the strongest station logged at 5/7.  Others include 3AT101 Fernando, 3PAT213 Marcelo, 3RC153 Nilson, 3AT137 Vanderlei and 3AT111 Junior in the state of São Paulo, and 3PAT032 Kuchnir and 3AT059 Valdecyr in Parana.

Off the Venezuela coastline, 350AT101 Bert from Bonaire Island  is 5/7 also but he’s a lone station from this part of the southern Caribbean.

From 03:00 UTC, Central Pacific stations such as 201JY63 Jean Yves, 201AT102 Camille and 172AT101 Philippe are like next door neighbours, pulverising our station with brutal 5/9+30 signals. Among them, from Australia’s east coast, is veteran DX Hunter 43DA050 Geoff at 5/3.

Later that evening and with Leonie on the mic, stations from the Indonesia archipelago again have 27.305 MHz USB smouldering with 5/9 signals. We’re elated that a number of new stations and new islands are added to the log.

“Bula” to 91RSN999 Andy and 91EK010 Joni in the rugged Indonesian province of East Java, 91TR222 on Taliabu Island (OC-067) in the Sula Islands IOTA Group, and Maluku Province station 91UNIT816 Charlie on Seram Island (OC-070).

DAY 8 – January 6, 2020

Our morning is spent at ‘The Garden of the Sleeping Giant’ which sits at the foothills of the Nausori Highlands about 10 min drive north of Nadi. 

I’m reluctant to leave the radio shack but arguing with the YL and daughter is like duelling with hand-grenades so I agree to tag along for the ride.

The 20 ha garden, which contains a vast collection of Asian orchids and Cattleya hybrids, was once the private collection of the late American actor Raymond Burr. 

Here, marinated in insect repellent, we wander along a canopy-covered boardwalk, across calm lily ponds complete with trickling fountains, fish, tadpoles, mosquito larvae and croaking frogs (See pictured below) and finally into the heart of a dense rainforest.

After this, we visit the ‘Tifajek Mud Pool & Hotspring’ which is a renowned for its age-defying and healing qualities.  First, we strip down to our bathers, then coat ourselves all over in mud. 

It’s silky smooth to touch, without any earthy odours, and the sensation of spreading it over your body like a full-body mask is orgasmic. 

We then let the mud dry before climbing into the first of 4 hot springs – ranging in temp from ‘damned’ hot to ‘&^$#@’ hot – to wash the mud off and absorb the natural therapeutic properties.

Apart from the terrific sporadic-e DX it’s the highlight of our trip so far and I now feel like an 18yr old!

At 02:00 UTC, with the antenna aimed at South-East Asia, I’m flicking through the band when I come across a ragchew, in a dialect I’m not familiar with, on 27.480 MHz USB.  After a couple of “QSK” attempts, one of the stations comes back to me in pigeon English and I’m able to exchange callsign details with both. 

155UNIT727/MM and 155UNIT615/MM in a fishing boat off the coast of Taiwan are added to the log with booming signals of 5/9+.

On the Indonesian Call Frequency, 27.305 MHz USB, 91LR042 Bimo at 5/7 is logged from his residence in East Java (Jawa Timur), along with 113MB900 Tuah on Pangkor Island (AS-072) in the Perak State IOTA Group .

On the cusp of the grey-line, highflying DX Hunter 43DA007/P Mike is ITL at 5/5.  Propagation then vanishes like my pay cheque at Christmas with only fleeting whispers of 43 Division stations heard across the band.

“Mai kana!”

DAY 9 – January 7, 2020

With Triple 5 as quiet as a thief in a bubble wrap factory in the morning, I’m down the band chasing DX on some of the other well-known call frequencies after lunch.

Outside, the Moxon reacts violently to a washing machine of gale force winds, which creates a ‘fluttering’ like effect on incoming and outgoing signals.

On 27.355 MHz LSB I’m inundated by a cacophony of 5/9 signals as desperate Aussie ops attempt to get their teeth into some juicy Pacific DX.

Standing out like a violin in a marching band, 130UNIT017 Ron on Norfolk Island (OC-005) appears in a pileup of Aussie stations on 27.335 MHz LSB at 03:30 UTC.  It’s the first time I’ve heard this rare Australian external territory since the NZ Sugar Delta Guys were active there in 2016 so I’m delighted to add his call to the log.

Another great contact is with 43WE284 Shannon on Russel Island (OC-137) in the Queensland State (South Coast) South IOTA Group who roars in at 5/9.

In the late evening, Leonie logs some more Australian and South-East Asia DX but, again, there’s no signs of any of the major EU DX Markets.

DAY 10 – January 8, 2020

On the mic at 7:00am local time, after a feed of ‘Gulgula’, watermelon and guava, our first contact with Eastern Kiribati (Line Islands) on 27.385 MHz is achieved while listening for the USA. 

266ET107 Te’Ariki on Kiritimati Atoll is 5/5 from his home in the Tabwakea Village.

Late in the evening, to celebrate the final day of 99DA/DX, we enjoy some bowls of kava and chillax in hammocks outside our shack. 

Known as ‘yaqona’ in Fiji, this drink is native to the Pacific and used for its relaxation effects.  Roots of a native plant, Piper methysticum, are first pounded into fine powder and then mixed with water and then it’s ‘down the hatch’.

The concoction looks a bit like muddy water and tastes like it too but it’s the perfect way to acknowledge the end of our DX-ploits on Viti Levu Island.

“Vinaka” to everyone who made the log for this ‘rare’ DA/DX activity, also to those who contributed generously – in one way or another – to the activity’s success.  We move on now to an ATNO for serious IOTA Hunters a couple of nautical miles off the Viti Levu coast!

73 de 99DA/DX Team


  • Bula – Hello
  • Bula Vinaka – A warm hello
  • Nia sa mothey – Goodbye
  • Vinaka – Thank you
  • Kerekere – Please
  • Mai kana – let’s eat
  • Au lomani iko – I love you
  • Sega la neqa – no worries