TransBorneo Last Frontiers Part 2

POSTED BY Kaynis Chong ON 14 December 2019


Part 2- The Killer Hills

Winching as a group up the Killer Hills of Selukut

On hindsight, it would have been better if one of the heavily modified Nissan Patrols with Power Takeoff (PTO) winches had been reassigned to assist the left-behind group. We called ourselves the Team Nakatachan (“left behind” in Dayak language). was with the first group while the left behind group had only one PTO vehicle – Nan Thien’s Land Rover Toyota hybrid. Fortunately for us, his LRT hybrid proved itself as an unstoppable off-road machine. Equally, Nan Thien and his affable son Evant Adam Yap, lived up to their reputations as Iron Men.

To add to the burden, the left behind group had to support a Toyota Hilux which suddenly appeared, to join the Komatsu bulldozer-aided crossing of the Sungei Pa’Karayan.

The villager’s Hilux was a burden to us because it was without a winch or even a recovery point at the rear. The only saving grace was that the driver, Johannes, was an agile and fit young man who helped with establishing anchor points and all the other muddy work of hitching hooks, extending lines with D-shackles and changing winching angles with snatch blocks. Also, he was well supported by a local leader, Lapinus, in a strong Toyota 80 Series VX with a winch.

THE Border crossing from Ba’Kelalan, Sarawak, to Long Midang CIQ in Kalimantan Utara had a bit of a moment.

One of the Malaysian team members in a moment of exuberance pulled out a can of beer and started chuffing it down in full sight of the Indonesian border guards.

Three officers quickly approached AW and brusquely asked him where he got the beer from and that it was illegal to drink and drive and that all alcohol had to be declared and taxed by the customs. They frisked him, asked him to take off his shoes and checked shoes and his purse and threatened to pull the whole convoy over for an inspection. Luckily it was quickly settled by some profuse apologising on our part.

Left to right: Indonesian photographer Agustinus Tri Mulyadi and paramedic Kellyn Chung

The biggest test was, of course, the uncompromising off-road conditions that the rain had turned into a muddy quagmire that Anuar and his reconnaissance team never had to contend with in September.

As off-roaders know, rain can turn day into night. And it indeed became that after the pleasant stay at Kpg Binuang while waiting two days for the Sg Pa’Karayan to subside.

After that was six days of slogging through the clay and mud. We reckoned that it was one hill a day.

The bulldozer track crossing the Selukut hills is a killer of 4 wheel drives and equipment when tackled in the wet as we did in the monsoon months of November and December.

I called the series of Selukut hills which peaked at 1,400 metres the Sacrifice Hill because there were signs of previous 4×4 expeditions. One hill had a broken Warn snatch block. One side plate had torn apart because the centre hole had been enlarged and the retaining pin had popped out.

Another hill had a Warn 8274 brake hub with spring and plate arranged neatly but sitting forlornly on the side berm of the next hill.

On the campsite of the third hill, a radiator fan and viscous coupling assembly were rusting on the ground.

The hills are kills of 4×4 equipment so be warned for those who want to attempt.

The organisers, Anuar and Jason, had had the wisdom to instruct a full complement of 4×4 gear to be carried by each participating truck. There were three ground anchors in the whole convoy. Team Nakatachan took two of them. Each truck had at least two extra straps and some of the more equipped trucks had extension plasma rope.

The starter motor of the Toyota Hilux gives up after its abuse in the Pa’Krayan river crossing and Labai (foreground) applies his wireman genius to do a field repair in consultation with farmer cum inventor Nan Thien (right) and his son Evant (holding the WD40). They succeeded, in two hours. The lesson: You can’t attempt a Selukut Crossing in the wet season without technical support with the capability to field repair.

All but two of the trucks in the Team Nakatachan had plasma ropes on their winches. Nan Thien’s Landy was running wire rope on his PTO as was our Toyota Hilux. Towards the end of the Selukut Hills, Nan Thien’s wire rope had too many kinks and was replaced by a spare plasma rope that he had prepared.

Our wire rope also had become too kinked to be laid on the drum and was left wounded around the bull bar. Plasma rope is friendly to handle and safer compared to wire rope.

One significant innovation by the TransBorneo Last Frontier was Anuar Ghani’s decision to minimise single-use plastics. He mandated that teams bring in large containers of drinking water. Participants were required to decant their supply into personal water bottles. This significantly reduced the amount of PET bottles discarded into the jungle. Wish more 4×4 events will minimise littering in the real wilderness that they enjoy.

For me, I’ve had the great honour of being part of the TBLF.

Every one of the participants was a champion and a winner because they strived together as a team. A heterogeneous group from senior managers in multinationals to farmers and youths. They melded as a group to winch and drive themselves out of mountainous terrain that in the rainy season, would have been better attempted with a convoy of bulldozers. Hooray.

Table of Participants Mission well accomplished!

About the Writer Yamin Vong

Yamin Vong on the Trans Borneo Expedition.

Yamin Vong is a veteran of 4×4 expeditions. His first participation was as the first Malaysian to take part in the Camel Trophy as an embedded journalist in Borneo in the late ‘80s.

He went on to select and train the Malaysian teams for the following two Camel Trophies in Australia and Madagascar successively.

He was a founder member of the 4×4 Adventure Club of Kuala Lumpur which organised the Monsoon Challenge and the first two Trans Borneo events in the late ‘80s when Feri Malaysia operated a Kuantan-Kuching-KK ro-ro service.

He’s also a founder member of the Land Rover Owners Club of Malaysia.