Salango Island

Puna & Salango Islands IOTA expedition

text by Alex Ogorodov, HC2AO
photos by Sergei Yanovsky, RZ3FW


Unlike Puna, Salango was a terra incognita to me. I had driven by a few times on my way to Portoviejo or Canoa. The island is less than a mile off shore and can be clearly seen from the Ruta de Espondilus Highway. Yet, I had never been there. I recall that once when travelling with Paul, VY1PW, we stopped on a hill nearby and fantasized that it would be nice to get on the radio from there. It seemed that the dream was about to become true.
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Salango Island from a high ground
Before the expedition I placed several phone calls to the local tourist agencies but didn’t manage to find out much beside a dry affirmation that we could land on Salango. So, pretty much it was a deal-on-the-spot affair. My teammates, however, felt enthusiastic and were little worried about the outcome. Whatever way it would turn out would be fine with my Russian brethren.
There was a serious problem to be dealt before going – a generator. There is no electricity on Salango and a generator or batteries is a must. I had arranged two options. One of them failed and I switched to plan B, which was to borrow a generator from Salinas Fire Department through Victor, HC2DR. As soon as we reached Placido’s I began calling Victor to find whether the generator was still available. (I know it must have been done earlier but I forgot my cell phone at Placido’s when we took off to Puna. Shame on me!) To our luck, Victor, HC2DR responded and confirmed that the generator was available and we could pick it up at any time. Great news! We jumped in a taxi and drove to Salinas, about 3 miles away from La Libertad where Placido lives. At the Fire Department, folks handed us a robust and somewhat bulky 2800V generator without asking much. We asked them to test fire the device just to make sure it was working. They tried and failed. It seemed that the entire FD tried to pull that poor cord. But all in vain. It was a dramatic moment; the journey to Salango was in jeopardy. We did some quick thinking and decided to take it to a mechanic in case it was a fast fix. As I mentioned before it was holiday and there was little hope that the mechanic shop was open. Lucky again – it was! It took the mechanic a few minutes to find and fix the problem. What a relief! With the generator starting up like a clock, our hearts filled with joy, we set off to Salango.
It is about 2 hour drive from La Libertad to the town of Salango along the picturesque Ruta de Espondilus highway, a newly built and well-maintained highway that goes alongside the Pacific coast. We reached Salango almost at sunset and looked for a place to settle. We found a small, inexpensive hostal La Bocana and moved in.

The town of Salango is a small, dusty, laid back place with unpaved streets and a cannery as the main business. The beach is packed with fishing boat of all types and sizes. The only attraction is the island of Salango, to where tourists are taken on a day snorkeling tours. What was somewhat cheering is that Salango wasn’t as squeamish about selling liquors as Puna: beer and rum was available in nearly every little tienda.
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Russian gang on the streets of Salango (R4WAA and HC2AO)

After some investigation, it was clear that the island was a point of friction between three institutions, namely the Salango Township, the Parque Nacional, and the NAVY that according to the constitution was the main owner/custodian of Ecuadorian coastline and islands. Locals were a bit puzzled when we inquired about a possibility of staying on the island over night even perhaps a few nights. To them there is nothing interesting at night there and our intentions caused suspicion, We were sent to talk to authorities, which seated in a nearby town called Puerto Lopez. It was still holidays and we found the National Park office closed. We tried Capitania del Puerto, or the naval authority. We were lucky again – their office was open. I explained our goal to an officer on duty asking for a permission to stay on Salango for a few nights. The officer asked me for my papers including the ham license and passport. He called someone, then copied all my papers, noted all our names into a book, and said that we were allowed to go and stay on Salango. That was good.
Our next step was to hire a boat to take us to the island. We asked our host at the hostal, Guillermo, if he would recommend someone in particular. It appeared that his neighbor from across the street was a fisherman and had a boat and I was to talk to him to arrange the transfer.
The neighbor listened to me and asked whether I had an authorization from Capitania del Puerto granted. I said yes. He said then that he would take us to Salango and pick us up whenever we would like going back. We set a day and the hour. He was kind enough to lend us a spare gas canister to get some extra fuel for generator.
The generator deserves to be mentioned in particular. Besides being bulky and heavy (no complains, though), we had no idea how much fuel it would consume. The generators tank stored four gallons of fuel .Firefighters, we borrowed it from, assured us that with a full fill it would work for about 5 hours. That left us puzzled. Was it really such a glutton? We asked the mechanic who fixed it. His estimate sounded better – 10 hours. That was more assuring. Just in case, we bought a full fill plus the 4 gallon canister plus a 2 gallon jar. The bottom line was that we would operate till it all dries.

At our hostal we met a couple of young German travelers, Karen and Arnie, Guys were friendly, smart, and curious folks and we made friends with them quickly. By the way, Arnie’s school teacher and his boss at work are both hams and he was asking a lot about ham radio. He said that when he’s back home he may try to become a ham himself.
Karen and Arnie were going to a snorkeling trip to the island and invited us to come along. We didn’t feel like going but it was our chance to send a scout t the island in advance to understand better what we would have to face. Sergei, RZ3FW was the man. When they came back, Germans were happy having had a lot of fun snorkeling while Sergei looked grim. He said that it would be difficult to find a good place to stay and worse to put antennas. The beach was narrow and the walls of the hill too steep. Oh, well! There was only one beach n the island and it meant that we would deal with what we have trying to squeeze the best out from the situation.
Back to the story. The fisherman postponed our departure to the afternoon. But it was not a problem and bought us some more time for last-minute shopping. At around 2PM local a swarm of men showed up at our hostal and without much talking grabbed our belongings rushing them in the general direction of the beach. I had never seen how a generator could be transported on a motorcycle. That afternoon I did.
Loading into the boat went smooth, the local fishermen knew what they were doing abd soon we were on our way to Salango, short but still by the sea. The ocean was calm and the weather was great if a bit too sunny.
We anchored some 60 yards from the shore and unloading began. Again, it was swift and smooth. At the last minute I remembered that I hadn’t taken care of bamboo. No bamboo, no masts. I asked the captain to bring a couple of poles on his evening fishing tour, they would go by at any rate.
Salango was not what I had dreamed of as a perfect location for HF. Some eighty meters of sandy beach with sharp, volcanic rock at the ends. About twenty yards deep and the beach turns into the bush on an uneven, sloping terrain that ends in pretty steep rocks. We looked around to find a suitable place to camp. Our choice was a bush that would give us shade and make our presence not that apparent since we didn’t want to be constantly disturbed by curious tourists. We dragged our stuff from the beach and cleaned some space under the bush. Without a machete (Another thing I had forgotten despite the boat’s captain kept saying that I would need one – Man without a machete is not a man, quoting his very words) it was not an easy task but somehow it was accomplished and we began to deploy the station.
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Nature-friendly, Guerilla style shack of HD2RRC/4 on Salango Island
We took only 30 and 20 meter dipoles with us to Salango, leaving VDA and 40 meters dipole behind. We did so because of two reasons: fist, 40 meters proved to be poor at the given time, and secondly, we didn’t know if we would be able to find a suitable mast on the island. Anyhow, the first antenna to be installed was 30 meters. I climbed the rock looking for suitable something to tie one end. Thanks Almighty we had enough rope to go as far as one wished. The slope was steep; the ground under my feet was crumbling. Somehow I made it up some 150 feet and found a solitary bush with enough roots to be used as an anchor for our dipole. There were more attractive spots but I didn’t dare to get there. Safety first. I was already pushing my luck, playing a Spiderman on a very unstable slope.
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Can you see a white spot? That’s HC2AO tying the 30 meter dipole on the slope
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A close-up
We fired up the generator, checked the SWR, and called CQ. HD2RRC/4 was on the air. Almost instantly there were callers – a nice NA/EU mix. I made first hundred QSOs and changed with Sergei, RZ3FW. He carried on with the pileup. R4WAA’s turn was next but he asked me to take his shift but logging QSOs on paper – he wanted to hook up CAT, which by some reason did not want to work. Despite his attempts CAT was never operational on Salango and we had to live without it. We must apologies for tons of errs while sending – we had no table and the paddle was placed on one’s knee, real guerilla style. Another discomfort came from a plastic chair we had. It always wanted to flip on you and one had to keep balance at all times. However, that kept shifts short and any of us was willing to step down on the first request.
First log entries of HD2RRC/4 from Salango

Sergei, R4WAA trying to launch CAT Alex , HC2AO as usual smoking

Due to the terrain profile, the path to VK and ZL and even partially to JA was hindered. Given the time at hand, the lack of climbing gear, we could not place antennas any better. To make our camp on the hilltop was nearly impossible. Nonetheless, we had a constant flow of callers from Europe, Asia, and North America. VK4MA broke through for the only Australia contact. Later, reviewing for spots, we saw VK5JN messages asking to listen for the Down under. Unfortunately, there was no internet available to us on the island and we could not react accordingly. We tried to focus on remote and difficult areas at the propagation peaks, sunsets and sunrises and that helped us to log a number of zones 17, 18, 21, 22, 26 QSOs. Comparing the flat Puna to the rock of Salango, I should say that Puna operation was way more comfortable but pileups on Salango were more intense and lasted longer.

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7P8RU plaque0190 Lesoto 7P8RU.   The Plaque "LESOTO 2021 7P8RU". Activity of Russian DXpedition Team (RRC Club) 2021   C92RU plaque 2The Plaque "MOZAMBIQUE 2021 C92RU". Activity of Russian DXpedition Team (RRC Club) 2021.

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MALAWI 2020 7Q7RU To get this Plaque you need to work 3 QSO with 7Q7RU from 07th till 19th of November 2020.

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The Plaque "Palestine 2020 E44RU". Expedition of Russian Robinson Club 2020.

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"MOZAMBIQUE 2018" plaque.  This award is dedicated to the 25-th anniversary of the Russian Robinsone Club.


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The Plaque "ALASKA 2017.The Plaque "ALASKA 2017. Rare Islands on the air". Work VE7ACN peditions to 3 Islands of Alaska in 2017: 

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The Plaque "NOBILE-90". In connection with the 90-th anniversary of reaching the North Pole by the Umberto Nobile's expedition on the airship and the rescue ....

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The Plaque "LESOTO 2021 7P8RU". Activity of Russian DXpedition Team (RRC Club) 2021. This plaque is issued for contacts with the... Read more
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