08 December 2005

Land Pirates!!! (The 4x4 Expedition)

This was one of the best trips I've ever been on, partly because it was sooo relaxing, but mainly because it was a really interesting experience for me.

Plus, I took over 500 photos - most of which are near-duplicates from bursts of action shots. It's trips like these which really make my Nikon D70 worth every sen I paid for it.

Anyway, the trip...

It was actually one of those Ford-organised Lanun Darat (Land Pirate) expeditions into the forest for Ford Ranger, Courier and Everest owners (these are all the hard-core off-road Fords - you could take your Laser TX3 into the jungles but you'd have to abandon it about halfway through the journey...)

The entourage was quite huge - about 20 cars or so. I rode in Paul Si's car as his personal photographer and co-pilot of sorts. Our destination was this campsite in Sungai Berakit, Pahang - somewhere near Taman Negara, I believe.

The journey was relatively incident free - it had rained halfway during our trip from KL to the to entrance into the forest, so we had been expecting quite a lot of mud and some slippery 4X4 action.

Instead, the entire trail was bone dry - it hadn't rained here at all. So, it was fairly simple, except for this moment where we had to cross this river:

The problem was that the riverbed was mostly soft sand and there was a huge tree stump in the middle of the path. There was a bridge over the river but it broke. A couple of cars got stuck but - otherwise - there wasn't any real danger of damaging our cars.

Here's a shot of another car entering the same river:

This next shot looks like we're crossing a plain, but it really used to be a dense forest:

This was the result of some logging activities carried out by some uber rich people. We stopped for a short while to take a closer look at the destruction. Apparently, it was slightly better now, with bits of greenery sprouting up from the ashes. Another group passed through a month or two ago and it was completely dead.

In any case, it was quite a sad sight.

However, I did catch a glimpse of a rather nice mountain range in the horizon, behind the trees:
I don't think my photograph does this mountain range any justice, but it does look rather majestic when you're actually there.

Malaysia is a trully beautiful country - it's a shame that some people don't appreciate it.

After another half hour or so, we were approaching our campsite. It was already getting dark and my arse was staring to hurt from the ultra bumpy journey.

Here we are, crossing another river.

This is the river by our campsite - our bathtub, swimming pool and kitchen sink for the next couple of days.

After finding a nice spot in the campsite, Paul did the sensible thing of whipping out the foldable chairs and Stella Artois (really nice beer)....

...While the others pitched up the tent (yes, we're evil)

It rained later that night - quite heavily, I might add. Which was good because it meant that we'd have a cool night.

But that wasn't the highlight of the evening. You see, what I didn't realise was that these 4X4 trips were also an excellent opportunity to get completely drunk - and that everyone had already prepared for this with shitloads of booze.

I didn't get any pictures, but it's probably better that I didn't. Anyway, I was wasted - we were playing some incredibly daft game - picking cards from a deck where the ones with the lowest-valued cards had to take a swig. The rules changed a couple of times throughout the night and the goal seemed to shift from not wanting to take a swig to wanting to take a swig and - eventually - back to not wanting to drink. (If you're observant, you'd notice that this follows the usual progression of "too shy to drink" to "getting high already" followed by "F**k, I'm going to puke.")

It was a blast...!

Breakfast the next morning:

Still feeling rather pukey from the previous night's events - It took me a while to get out of my sleeping bag.

Being morning, it was also time for my morning ritual - only it's the first time I've actually done it in the woods (Never actually shat during any of my camps as a scout in school).

I was briefed on the proper technique. First, you need to grab three things: an umbrella, a cangkul and a roll of toilet paper. Then, you need to walk to a quiet spot away from the campsite.

Then, you dig a small hole in the ground - preferably next to some dense forests - and prop the umbrella in front of you while you take a shit. Of course, you should make sure that your arse is facing some bushes rather than a clearing - you don't want passers-by to catch a glimpse of The Eye of Cthulhu.

It was a very calming experience - almost divine. Now, this is what it's like to become one with nature. Returning to our roots. Shitting in a forest while peering over an umbrella to look out for other people. It's magic.

Later on, we were jumping into the river for a swim, resting under the shade and - generally - just having a helluva relaxing day.

Paul then proceeded to check his car for any damage and found something rather strange:

There was this huge piece of wood stuck under his car - pressing against some rather vital hoses (the ones that allow him to engage 4-wheel-drive, I think). He said he could have picked it up from his previous trip. Luckily, it didn't cause any damage.

You think we could cook this?

Some of the women in our group having a bath. Nothing naughty about this shot... Honest!

That's Mike, the GM of Ford Malaysia. He's got this cool portable hammock thingy that doesn't require trees, pillars or slaves from 3rd-world countries to hold up.

"I think my boat's sprung a leak!"

That's us chilling under our tent. Clockwise from the top: Paul, me, Edward, Juwene (the head at the bottom), Jeffrey (the 'Young man' - not sure if this is the correct spelling) and his son, Richard. There's another dude, Julian, but he's not in the picture 'cos he's the one taking it.

Here's a gratuitous shot of Juwene:
She's a really sweet, soft spoken girl. And - unusual for a woman, I think - she actually seems to enjoy these outdoor activities. Nothing naughty about this shot, then. Nope. Honest...

That's Paul's ammunition box, gas stove and pot - and a rather famous Ford Ranger in the background. Apparently, this Ranger has made several TV appearances (mostly ads) and has been painted several different colours throughout its life.

Later on, the organisers held a special stage competition, Basically, it's a timed event - drivers and co-drivers have to get their 4X4 through an obstacle (in this case, a river) and later change a wheel in the river.

Since I'm the least experienced fella on the trip, Paul paired up with Julian instead.

That's Julian carrying the wheel around Paul's car (it's part of the competition). Ever the opportunist, Paul took advantage of the situation and cleaned his brakes with a cloth.

There was another special stage at night, basically a river crossing. Only nine cars took part in this event and only three managed to make it across without assistance. I managed to get this shot of Paul's car just as it plunged into the river:

He was one of the three who made it across.

Now, the funny thing was that we had the closing ceremony at the same riverbank the next morning, and nobody had problems crossing the same river with their 4X4s this time!

And that's it! The end of my first Lanun Darat experience. Suddenly, the whole idea of owning a proper 4X4 has become a lot more appealing. I'll probably join Paul on another trip in January - I can hardly wait!!!


max said...

Brilliant! Sounds like you had a really good time.

Chris Chong said...

Oh, yes...!

The thing is, this is what camping's about - none of that building furniture with bakau shite.

max said...

I couldn't agree more. However, seeing that in the past there was a distinct lack of big boy toys to play with.... guess bakau was the next best thing :PPPPP

Tan Kit Hoong said...

It's spelt "Cthulhu" by the way; in reference to HP Lovecraft's distinctly naughty-looking monster.

Chris Chong said...

OK... I'll fix it.

The Wanderer said...

no don't, let your ignorance shine on for the whole world to see. i see TKH is an otaku too. we rule the world! muahahahahahaha!

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