Rainforest Challenge 2005 Trengganu, Battle of the Winch Warriors

by on Jan.01, 2008, under RFC Achives

This year’s edition of the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) is most memorable for its ultimate “battle” at the Twilight Zone of Hulu Terengganu. Fought out intensely over 6 days across 80kms of the most rugged and toughest terrain anywhere on earth, it was like a scene from “War of the Worlds”.

The mud, drenching rain, slippery slopes, deep ruts, gullies, swollen rivers and landslides are so demanding and unforgiving that it takes hours to travel 1 km and more hours for recovery. The difficulty is compounded by the humidity, sand flies, leeches, sleepless nights and unending winching from day to night. The jungle is neutral for both the competitor teams and the scouts/marshals group; they both have to struggle to keep going. The only way forward or backward here is by using the winch; it’s literally live or “die” by your winch power.

It takes that special breed of man to be able to endure such endless struggle. However, the extraordinary adventurers of the RFC have the courage, determination and tenacity to persevere in hostile conditions.

The whole 10-day event started off in Chukai town, Kemaman on 26th November attended by the Chief Minister of Terengganu. The opening ceremony was full of pomp and razzmatazz befitting the international status of the event. The Prologue Special Stages were later held in Awana Kijal and Kemasik Beach, which was attended by hundreds of spectators. A carnival mood prevailed along the main trunk road from Awana Kijal to Kemasik beach which was jam-packed with cars and enthusiasts. This year’s participation came from 25 countries representing Europe, Asia and South America.

The 8 Special Stages (SS) superbly designed, were intensively fought out in style by the competitor teams for two days. The competitor teams came from Holland, UK, Denmark, Mexico, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong (China), Thailand, Philippines, Korea and host Malaysia; the rest comprised of press, support crew and touring categories.

After the warming up stage at Awana, they were led to their first taste of the jungle action at Sg (river) Loh and Sg Kelemin on 27th and 28th November. Moving out of Sg Kelemin campsite on 29th November was an expedition transport stage requiring teamwork to overcome deep gullies and muddy riverbanks. They also built the international log bridge for everyone to cross. There were neither communication nor cultural barriers in this mini United Nations 4×4 force. The hard work from Sg Kelemin to Felda Mengkawang and regrouping at Kuala Berang was a harbinger of tough days ahead. The press group meanwhile moved directly to the next base camp, they too had their own adventure.

By the wee hours of 30th November, everyone had reached Sg Kertiah campsite. For some, it took some 18 hours; transport day of 29th November was named “The Longest Day.” Meanwhile, the scout/competition marshals team 1 under RFC X-Men group had already reached deeper into the Twilight Zone ahead of everyone. Scout team/competition marshals team 2 under Tango kept the competitor group going until they reached the starting point of the Twilight Zone at Bear Camp, by then it had become a battle zone.

From here, the competitors have to ascend to a very steep slippery climb aptly called the Hill of No Return. Beyond this point, the only way is forward. For the press convoy, it was backtracking to Helipad campsite at Sg Puah. If conditions permit, they should move to Elephant Bridge and Bamboo Forest to make rendezvous with the competitor group as they made their way out of the Terminator. They never did. However, some members of the press managed to get 6kms inside the zone and saw for themselves the awesome might of nature.

Then the downpour came in all directions. Everything and everyone was soaked to the skin. The nightmare has begun for the competitors and Scout team 1 crew. The topography and ground conditions are already tough without the rain. Both groups suffered mechanical breakdowns and breakages in differentials, CV joints, half shafts, winch motors and cables. The entire transport stage was already tough going, on top of that, 3 SS were also held here. For some, it was energy sapping to breaking point. There are so many side stories to tell of camaraderie, bravery, continuous driving, recovery and unending winching for 21 hours in the Predator and Terminator of the Twilight Zone.

“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going” applies to the letter. By 5th December when the convoy rolled into Batu Burok beach for the finale photography session, 15 vehicles were still back in the jungle (out of 85 4x4s that went in). The final results could not be tallied at prize giving ceremony, which was graced by His Majesty (HM) the Sultan of Terengganu and His Majesty the Sultana. However, HM was able to give out the special awards to Mexico (First Airdrop entry), China (First Overland entry) and the Philippines (Team Spirit award).

The sweeper group from the X-Men was the last to get out some three days after the event was officially over and they have to go in again to get the last remaining stalled vehicles. By now, the conditions have worsened with another onslaught of rain; the tracks have also turned into a quagmire.

For those who have gone through this year’s edition of the Rainforest Challenge, it’s living out one of life’s great experiences.

Special thanks to: Terengganu State Government, Royal Malaysian Police (General Ops Force), Royal Malaysian Customs and all Federal & State Agencies and Departments.


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