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A trial run into the heart of Malaysia with B10 biodiesel.

POSTED BY Amirul Hazmi ON 15 July 2017

The author joined Yamin Vong on a 4×4 adventure through the jungles of Malaysia to test the capabilities of B10 biodiesel.

 In an effort to introduce palm oil B10 biodiesel, a group of 4×4 community leaders were invited to participate in an expedition covering a total of about 800 km.

The convoy was officially flagged off by the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong at the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan, Perak.

In his officiating speech, Mah reiterated that the B10 biodiesel has undergone a series of tests while also continuously being improved. Validated by comprehensive benchmarking and long-term field testing, both domestically and internationally, the biodiesel – which uses 10% palm methyl ester in addition to 90% fossil diesel – adheres to international blend standards.

The 4×4 expedition was jointly organised by the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) and Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) in collaboration with the Malaysian Recreational Off-Roader Society (MyRoff).

The B10 fuel is yet to be retailed at petrol stations thus, the expedition served as a further testing platform, this time into the wilderness with many off-road trails. The 10% palm methyl ester biodiesel mix (a three per cent increase over the outgoing mixture) is said to bring a significant and impactful environmental benefit by way of reducing greenhouse gasses and pollution. It will also yield noticeable positive industrial, economic and commercial benefits for the country as the demand for oil palm subsequently increases.

The expedition

The 4×4 vehicles in the challenging and ambitious expedition comprised two Land Rovers, two Ford Rangers, a Range Rover (first-generation), two Toyota Land Cruisers, two Mitsubishi Tritons and two Toyota Hilux.

Participating in the three day-two night expedition were veterans of the off-roading community who came from different and interesting backgrounds; Steven Lee (Buaya Puchong), Peter Choy (owner of a 4×4 modification workshop), Thomas Foo (4×4 World Explorer), Hezeri Samsuri (editor of Careta.my), Niklas Albakri (The Star), Rate de Silva (president of Land Rover Owner’s Club), Mohd Forzi Wahid (Perak 4×4 Club), Jerry Cheong (River Anglers Society), Dr Colin Nicholas (Centre of Orang Asli Concerns,  or COAC), and Yamin Vong (editor of Carbay.my, Motorme.my and S4M).

Our planned route was to depart from Teluk Intan to Sungai Koyan, Pahang and then proceed to Gunung Stong, Kelantan, and onwards to Pos Lemoi, Gua Musang, Jeli and Kuala Kangsar before heading back to Kuala Lumpur. However, since time did not permit, the route was shortened; Teluk Intan-Sungai Koyan-Ringlet-Pos Lemoi-Kuala Lipis-Kechau-Kuala Lumpur.

After being flagged-off, the MyRoff convoy headed to Cameron Highlands through Ringlet and I was given the opportunity to swap seats with Yamin Vong to drive the Land Rover Defender.

Driving the Defender on the first day was done with extra caution as I constantly reminded myself that we were carrying a jerry can full of B10 biodiesel in the truck’s bed. This was our additional fuel that was filled the day before the trip at the MPOB office in Bangi.

The convoy stopped for a quick break at Ringlet before turning to Sungai Koyan. The Ringlet-Sungai Koyan road is known for its epic curves and sceneries. It is not too much to say that it could make for the best driving road in Malaysia. The convoy cruised along the stretch at a rather relaxed pace and everyone seemed to enjoy the weather and scenery that took us pass the Ulu Jelai Power Station.

Soon, our convoy turned onto an off-road trail to head to Pos Lemoi, a few kilometers off the Sungai Koyan road. This trail required 4×4 capability as the surface became more challenging as we got further in. After carefully navigating the trail, of which every vehicle managed to get through, our convoy arrived at an Orang Asli village at about 6.40pm.

Dr Colin of COAC and Cheong of River Anglers Society – who were already familiar with the local Orang Asli community – met the Tok Batin (the village headman) to seek his permission to spend the night near the village. As it was almost dark, our team then proceeded to the campsite (about 150m from the Tok Batin’s house) to assemble our tents.

I got to experience an impromptu rescue operation as I got the Defender stuck by the river bank while trying to make a U-turn. The Defender’s front right tyre was already half-submerged in the water and I could not seem to maneuver the truck out, even with low range engaged and full axle locked.

With Hezeri’s (careta.my) help in the Ranger and instructions from Foo from 4×4 World Explorer and Vong himself, we managed to bring the truck out while being winched by the Ranger.

Later that night after dinner, we had a classroom session on how to do off-roading in the correct manner, where the experienced drivers exchanged opinions before setting up a quick guideline. Vong also made an instructional presentation on the proper way of winching.

The next morning, we started our day by contributing food such as rice, flour and sardines as well as colour pencils to the Orang Asli children.

We also got to lighten our load by refueling with the B10 biodiesel we carried. Our convoy then left for Kampung Bertang, Kuala Lipis, for a quick giveaway ceremony from MPOB to the villagers.

During lunch in Kuala Lipis, we decided to drive to a loggers’ camp near Felda Kechau and spend the night there as the original route to Gua Musang and Jeli (near the Pahang-Kelantan border) would take too much time. This decision reduced our total distance from over 1,200km to around 800km.

The off-road trail towards the loggers’ camp was not as deep into the jungle as the one to Pos Lemoi, but the surface and overall condition was more demanding from my observation. Each vehicle and its drivers were put through a pretty stern test with the more slippery surface demanding a lot from the suspension setup.

Our convoy then arrived at a fork junction and we were unsure of which way to take. Cheong volunteered to take his Ford Ranger together with a few other team members to check and clear one of the trails ahead. While the rest of us waited, Forzi from Perak 4×4 Club believed that the trails appeared to be abandoned for quite some time, judging by the surface and trees alongside them.

During this time, we also took a closer look at the white Land Cruiser HDT 80 (dubbed Gajah Putih or White Elephant) belonging to Lee of Buaya Puchong that had full-sized sirens and Red Crescent Society logos, a vehicle that had seen action in numerous disaster relief activities.

Nearly half an hour later, we received a radio call from Cheong asking for rescue as his truck got stuck. This time, Rate of Land Rover Owner’s Club drove his vehicle to retrieve Cheong’s truck. Moments later, we were informed the route Cheong took earlier was not the correct one and we thus took the alternate path.

We arrived at the loggers’ camp before 6.00pm but as the compound near the campsite is a bit muddy, a lot of our time was spent helping Dr Colin navigate his Triton into the area. Even after applying full axle lock, his truck struggled to gain traction on the slippery surface as the Triton was riding on all-terrain tyres.

We had another classroom session after dinner with Dr Colin sharing his experiences and advice when dealing with the Orang Asli community. Being a former bank officer, Dr Colin quit his high-paying job in 1987 before founding COAC two years later.

Personally, the classroom session was quite an eye-opener and it transformed the way I see the Orang Asli community. From how to properly build a relationship with the community to understanding what they need, I along with the rest surely absorbed beneficial input.

Our convoy wanted to let loose on the third and final day. As our journey entering camp was a bit tricky, we strategised to ensure our convoy would get out of the jungle smoothly – each vehicle was arranged in a particular order based on off-road capability.

Rate also helped Dr Colin fit mud chains (similar to snow chains) to his Triton’s tyres. With the combination of proper planning, radio communication and some crucial off-road driving techniques, the journey out to the main road was completed without much hassle.

At this point, our convoy separated as some of us wanted to check out a few areas in Kelantan that were affected by flood while others were heading to Taiping. Our Defender and several other vehicles headed back to KL through Raub-Bentong-Karak.

Based on the feedback gathered from a few drivers, the B10 biodiesel works generally well with their engines. There was no noticeable difference in terms of power delivery and fuel consumption. For the latter, a proper test covering various road conditions would be required to have a better comparison.

The takeaways

With the input from both classroom sessions, we came up with a few guidelines. The topic on the first night was how to venture off-road with the correct mentality.

Why is this important? According to Vong, about 15 to 20 years ago, 4×4 ownership in Malaysia was not as common as it is today. However, with modern and more comfortable 4x4s such as the new Ranger, Navara, DMAX and Fortuner, 4×4 ownership is more popular and accessible now. Customers who own 4x4s tend to bring the vehicles for weekend escapades to spots such as waterfalls, beaches and rivers, and it is thus crucial to ensure that 4×4 owners enjoy their vehicle while at the same time being mindful about nature.

After discussions and sharing of opinions, we agreed to these key points:

  1. Rubbish: You bring in, you take out – Instead of burying or burning rubbish at the campsite, off-roaders should take the trash with them and leave the camp site clean. Yes, some of the rubbish may be bio-degradable but we need to take responsibilityby taking good care of these camping spots. Space onboard our vehicles is unlikely to be an issue as we managed to bring these products in.
  2. Sanitation: Good distance from the camp site, and bury them – It is only common sense to attend to nature further away from camp and bury them. Carry a parang to clear a path and a small shovel to dig a spot. It is also important not to offload any waste in the river.
  3. Cleanliness: Be a good example ­– It is essential to keep the campsite clean, not only because it is the right thing to do and it would preserve nature, but it will also make for a more pleasant experience for the following visitors. The 4×4 community should work together to be a good example for all picnickers.
  4. Orang Asli: Meet and notify the Tok Batin – When entering an Orang Asli village, it is highly advised to first seek the head of the village or community leader (usually called the Tok Batin). This is to notify them of your presence as well as to gain permission to camp or spend the night within their village grounds.

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