Rainforest Challenge 2005 Trengganu – Tales from the Sweepers

by on Jan.01, 2008, under RFC Achives

What’s it like to be the last to leave? When the tracks have been totally devastated by rain and by the preceding competitors’ vehicles, the job of the sweepers is to get stragglers as well as themselves out of the jungle.

The rains have come and gone, one’s energy is almost sapped, glutinous mud, sand flies and leeches are everywhere; on top of that, one’s feet are both sore and damp for hours. Sometimes it means having to travel at night in order to catch up on time. At night, the obstacles seem ten times more awesome than in the daytime and much more dangerous.

Driving and recovery is unending. Every uphill is slippery and treacherous with deep ruts and big gullies. Muddy tracks have turned into swampy and soggy ground with no anchor point. Erosion and landslides have chiseled off some tracks showing off a precarious steep fall of hundreds of feet. Even a small river has its banks turned into soggy mud holes that can sink all four tyres. With the mind mentally tired and body physically worn out, the way ahead may sometimes seem like an impenetrable wall. Under such attrition in a hostile environment, one may loose mental control. These are the hard facts of being the last in the convoy and facing the might of Mother Nature.

It takes that certain kind of people to be able to endure all these and still be able to control their senses and take command of the situation to keep going and to do tiring recovery work at the same time. In the recently concluded Rainforest Challenge 2005 (RFC), the scouts (X-Men) struggled out of the Twilight Zone, having to “fight” every inch of the way.

It was already night on 6th December; the closing ceremony of 5th December is already long gone. The hours of struggling seem like ages. “This route leading out of Terminator Hill looks like World War III has begun,” remarked Martin Lewis (UK). “All the competitors, those who have made it this far have already gone ahead. Rain has been falling non-stop for hours. The X-Men’s vehicles have been working overtime, everyone’s wet, damp and tired,” he added.

“Atek’s Range Rover (Jedi) looks like a wreck on wheels,” commented Peter Taylor (Australia), “ It’s amazing how it is still up and running and the winch still working after all the thrashing and rollovers,” he added. If the winch fails, they must repair it there and then otherwise it’s a long and winding walk out of the jungle.

Two Land Rovers (88 and 110) each with a Warn 8274 were the first batch of scouts to leave carrying Peter Taylor, Syed Mohd Yaacob and Daan Schreuders (Netherlands). “Very hard going indeed,” exclaimed Daan, “ You get stuck twice as often and lots of things break down, we also have to watch out at every corner for hidden holes, ruts and landslides,” he added. At last they arrived at Helipad campsite, the final jungle route out to tarmac road. However, they must first cross Sg Pauh, which has risen due to the heavy rain and the muddy riverbank looks like it could swallow a whole Land Rover intact! No other choice but to winch (again).

“I pray hard that that our winch will not fail us at this last hurdle,” confessed Peter. Both he and Daan have a flight to catch respectively. “I watch particularly at the winch cable of the 8274 as it strenuously lift our vehicle up the bank, no problem,” he smiled (prayer answered). Physically, they look like walking wrecks themselves – unshaven, thinner, dirty clothing, muddy shoes and sore feet! But glad to have made it.

The last to leave were Rate (Atek) and Alyna Tai (Recee Queen) in a Range Rover Jedi, Martin Lewis and two officers from Public Order/Safety Dept in a Land Rover 110, Shah Zain and Anba in a Land Rover 88, Engku Min and son in a Land Rover 109 and Mat and Fadzli from General Ops Force in an Isuzu SWB. The “wreck on wheels” Jedi turned out to be the saviour here once again as the group “limped” out. Most of the scouts’ vehicles have suffered casualties in one form or another; some with winch problems, damaged cables and parts; and its up to Jedi to do most of the winching and pulling work.

“Luckily for the spare cables we bring along and the extra fuel brought in by Tango (scout team 1), otherwise we would still be in there,” commented Atek on 9th December, four days after the event was officially over. “We have taken note of the last remaining 5 stranded vehicles and would go in for them in round 2,” added Alyna Tai. But first, it was regrouping time, to refresh, get supplies and do the necessary repairs at Kuala Berang.

It has been said that the jungle is neutral, however, in reality it is more neutral to some than to others. For those unprepared in mind and body, it can be a nightmare of extreme proportions. The event is not for the faint hearted. Living out the experience of a jungle event is one of life’s great experiences.


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