Traversing a new track

Published on July 17th, 2009

It was the middle of the week when Jeff Chan, the owner of South East Asia Automotive Repairs & Services, who just so happens to be an avid offroader, gave us a call inviting us to join him and a few other offroading enthusiasts on an explorative trip to a newly opened offroad track that was off the Kuala Kelawang road.

Without thinking and hesitation, the answer to Jeff’s invitation was a straight ‘yes’. Only after agreeing did the questions come streaming in like a tirade for poor Jeff, such as “what is the condition of the track like?,” “how long is the track?,” “where does the track lead to?,” “who’s leading this explorative convoy?,” “who opened the track?,” “is it hardcore or light and easy?.”

Jeff’s answer for all these questions was simple, “Just come to the designated meeting place early Sunday morning and all your questions shall be answered,” he said with a firm tone.

After carrying out the necessary preparations on Saturday night, Sunday morning came in no time and we found ourselves at the designated meeting place in Petaling Jaya among known, friendly and fellow enthusiastic company.

After a light breakfast made up of assorted ‘Dim Sum’, many glasses of chinese tea and friendly banter, the explorative 4×4 convoy began its less than an hour’s journey to the new track.

This convoy of about half a dozen equipped 4×4 vehicles, with a multi-racial group of drivers and passengers of four different nationalities, was led by seasoned and experienced offroader Steven Lee, better known as Uncle Steven in 4×4 and offroading circles.

Uncle Steven has been offroading for about thirty odd years now, and he was the perfect choice for leading such a crack, explorative 4×4 convoy as he is well versed with the many jungle tracks that litter the ever-shrinking beautiful forests of Peninsular Malaysia.

After reaching the opening to the new track, Uncle Steven advised all the drivers to switch their vehicles transmission modes from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive low for better traction and a safer drive through the ten to twelve kilometer track as certain sections of the track were found to be quite muddy and slippery when Uncle Steven visited the track a week earlier for recce purposes.

Uncle Steven also advised all the drivers to keep a safe distance from the vehicle infront while keeping an eye on the following vehicle behind, as the convoy would be going through quite a few ascends and descends and it was vital that visual contact was maintained for the overall safety of the convoy as the convoy’s communication was limited due to the lack of walkie-talkies.

The first three to five kilometers of the track was rather light and easy until the convoy reached its first crossing of a muddy stream. Uncle Steven’s spritely white Toyota LandCruiser, which was the lead vehicle, gave a clear indication that crossing the stream was anything but easy as it got stuck in the mud right after crossing the stream.

Winching was called into action for the first time and Uncle Steven’s twelve thousand pound winch had no problems in freeing his large, imposing LandCruiser from the clutches of the mud. After that, more than half the vehicles in the convoy had to winch through the mud as well, although such actions were not frowned upon as it brought about teamwork and a good workout.

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The next stream crossing which was about a kilometer or two ahead also saw more than half the vehicles in the convoy winching themselves out of the sticky mud in the seemingly simple yet arduous task of getting across. There was a small bridge for convenience of crossing, but being a 4×4 convoy made up of equipped offroading machines, it was simply unthinkable to take the easy way across.

The next crossing saw the convoy making a five-minute pit stop before easily crossing the half a metre deep or so stream of water, no winching required this time round though. After a few kilometers of steep climbing up a hill, an open clearing paved the way for the convoy to break for a much-needed lunch stop and later on to inspect the vehicles running gear.

Once lunch was over and done with, the convoy proceeded with its journey without knowing that the toughest obstacle yet lay awaits just around the corner. A sharp left turn on a steep slope about five hundred metres above sea level with mud almost a metre deep had the drivers scratching their heads wondering how to cross such an obstacle without getting stuck.

In truth, there was no way of crossing such an obstacle without getting stuck in the mud. One by one, each vehicle charged through the mud as furthest as one could before putting their respective winches to good use.

About forty-minutes went by at this particular spot before the whole convoy managed to get through. After traversing through a rather thick jungle canopy that shielded the track and the convoy from the blistering hot sun, the convoy reached the end of the track, which had a cooling and soothing waterfall running.

Uncle Steven commented, “If the track had been finished, we would be coming out of the jungle somewhere around the Janda Baik area, but because the track ends here, we’ll have to go back the same way we came. Perhaps the next time round when we come again, the track will be completed, then we can go all the way and come out on the other side”.

After resting for about forty minutes at the waterfall, the convoy made its way back the same way it came, encountering and successfully overcoming each of the obstacles faced only a couple of hours earlier.

Halfway through though, it began to rain and the convoy was initially more than happy with the change in weather. However, the last three to five kilometers of the track became very slippery due to the rainfall, which saw the all the drivers battling hard for traction and control of their vehicles to avoid any unwanted mishaps or problems especially on their way out after such a problem free but rather exciting drive through a new track.

In the end, the whole convoy slid their way safely back to the Kuala Kelawang road and hence back to civilization.

text: Offroad Stroker

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