Te Araroa 2001

By Peter Chambers

Quite a few DXers in the League will have great memories of DXpeditions to the remote East Coast hamlet of Te Araroa. a place of extraordinary DX reception particularly on mediumwave. From this site my father Robin Chambers heard Saudi Arabia 1521 kHz longpath in the evening. A feat not achieved from any other site in New Zealand. I remember Morocco on 1233 kHz booming in like a local just on the mediumwave loop. Evening European reception of Portugal
and Spain had to be heard to be believed. Incredible DX was to be had just on the loop while longwires did better still. Unfortunately longwires to the East and Southeast were a bit of a problem. A deep raupo swamp being directly in the way. I think myself and my father were the only ones crazy enough to take on the swamp and run out a 500 metre southeast wire to the beach. The swamp was cold, muddy and armpit deep in places. Dragging in poles, running a straight line and getting the wire up was no easy task. The reception on that longwire was amazing.

The early DXpeditions to the Te Araroa motorcamp were absolute MW DX heaven for all who visited, especially those who put effort into erecting respectable longwires. Good things rarely last long. The motorcamp became more developed bit by bit. A TV room was provided for campers evening
entertainment. 2 tourist flats were built with TV’s installed. The 11Kv power transformer right next to the camp office became progressively noisier.
The appearance of TVI and powerline noise on the longwires and loops combined with the solar cycle changing for the worse saw Te Araroa fall
from favour in the early 90’s.

In early March 2001 I went for a nostalgic drive around the East Cape Highway with the intention of checking out the old site for DX purposes. I wanted to see if the place would still be viable for DXpeditions if one was prepared to use miles of coax, and baluns to beat the RFI problems. In the end I did not even visit the old site. I discovered that a new motorcamp had been established about 2km nearer to Te Araroa township. I drove down the access road to find a large white building about 200m short of the beach. I was delighted to see wonderful flat green grass paddocks stretching hundreds of metres to the East and Southeast. I could see that this place would be far better for beverage MW DX that the old site had ever been. The 11Kv powerlines and transformer were right back on the main road with only 230v lines coming down the access road. The power went underground 100m before the main building. I spoke to the man in charge, told him of my DXing Hobby and how good the location was for what I wanted. He was very friendly indeed, even offering to supply waratah standards from the farm for pole supports. Due to abhorrent weather I did not stay that night.

Neville McKenty and myself returned to the site for a flying one-night visit a fortnight later. The Lady in charge cooked us an excellent feed of fish, hotdogs and chips for tea. We set up the radios on the kitchen table in the little building servicing the tent area. We plugged the sets into the mains, ran out 3 100m ground wires covering N.America and switched on. We were amazed to discover the whole mediumwave band alive with signals just after 0500 UTC. Very very early compared to anywhere else I’d been listening prior to the trip. We had a
thoroughly enjoyable evening hearing mostly West Coast USA signals at remarkable clarity and strength. WWL 870 boomed in brilliantly early on before the Hawaiians faded in. WHO 1040 was like a local, the best I’ve heard them in years. XERF dominated 1570 all evening. KNBR 680, KFI 640, CBU 690, KNX 1070, CFUN 1410 were rock solid signals right through. It’s a long time since I’ve spent an entire evening tuning just MW with armchair copy signals from Canada, USA and Mexico all along the band. While not stunning results compared to years of old, we were only DXing with 100m ground wire antennas during an abysmal period of propagation. DXing from the tent area kitchen building we had nil RFI on any longwave, mediumwave or shortwave frequency. This despite a TV operating in the main building.

Beverage longwires could be run directly from the kitchen block building across the paddocks with ease.The kitchen block is however quite small and can only accommodate 2 DXers. During peak holiday season the kitchen building would not be available for exclusive use. The main building has plenty of individual rooms and a lounge area that could be hired out to a larger group for a listening post. Beverage longwires would have to be erected high enough to clear the access road and parking area, allowing for motorhomes etc to pass beneath.
Baluns and coax are likely to be necessary as a TV does operate in the main building in the evenings.

I would recommend erecting a listening tent near the kitchen block building, running a mains lead out to run receivers and lights. Then longwires could be easily run in many directions with nil RFI trouble. One does not need
to transport beverage poles to Te Araroa, Neville and I counted over 20 suitable poles amongst the beach driftwood only a short stroll away. The man in charge can supply waratah standards and a sledgehammer. Simply lash the poles to the stakes.

The site is beautifully scenic; the beach is great for surfcasting when the sea is calm. Accommodation is very comfortable, breakfast, lunch and evening meals all available on site. Plenty of tent sites for a lower budget option. All in all, this new motorcamp is brilliantly located and the best DXpedition site anywhere in
the North Island by far. The motor camp owner is keen to provide for radio hobbyists and help in any way he can.

The East Coast highway is much improved, being much faster and easier to drive than in the past. I myself will certainly be returning for a more serious DXpedition at some time. Good luck to anyone who ventures forth and has a go.

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