Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Malaysia Rainforest Challenge RFC 2007 The Final Recovery

Day 27+ - 27 December 2007

The final recovery. I get a phone call 26th December 2007. Give us a lift back to Laloh to collect 3 vehicles at Kg Miak as the track is now open. 7.00am 27th The rescue commences we drive back to Laloh (I have my kids with me from Oz so they tag along for the adventure). The day starts badly when YELLOW overheats at bottom of Genting Highlands and I burn my hand badly when the radiator explodes. We buy ICE
and I wear a glove for the rest of the trip with ICE in it and a local chemist visit to kill the pain. OOPS! Arriving at Laloh at 3pm its been along day. We meet Marcus (to rescue Sri Lankan Car) and Max to rescue the Ozzie Toyota and I have Jason to rescue the Ozzie Nissan.

After much stuffing around we get the green light to proceed in by this time its after 7pm and its dark in minutes. I ask only 12k to the Kg right so a few minutes drive? "No" replies Max its 32k and it takes over 2 hours and there is a couple of washed out bridges - GREAT single vehicle and no help if we get into trouble. Signs of the rain are everywhere raging rivers, muddy banks where the bulldozer has made a new track for us. Soon we have a double crossing single log for each wheel with YELLOW on at least a 10degree angle. We inch across the double crossing then its the remains of a huge bridge every cross member ripped of by the raging flood leaving 4 logs each about 400cm wide. Funny I get a 3 man guiding team in usual competition driver carelessness the flood water rages below us you can still hear its anger. We soon come across a Pajero or what's left of it. Abandoned when it stalled in the rising river it was left and was completely submerged. The dozer pulled it out of the way and its totally stuffed mud completely covers the interior and engine bay - total write off. Soon we pass the Ozzie trucks and we drop Jason and Max of to
check them out. An ants nest has made its home in the Nissan poor Jason. Max and myself head into Kg Miak to find the Sri Lanka Landrover on the way in we see vehicles in various states rollover damage panels smashed - interiors covered in mud - interiors turned inside out its like a war zone. We chat with the X-
men guarding the vehicles then its time to roll. The big log bring on the return is fun 3 drivers in unfamiliar vehicles have a tough time especially the Nissan which cannot idle due to a ECU problem. The Nissan falls into a hole and its up to its axle Jason eventually reverses out he cannot do anything else someone has whacked all the plasma winch rope YELLOW is the only one with a functional winch.

Soon its the double log bridge and a few v-gullies and we are out at just after 11.30pm.

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

The Final rescue

Now we have a problem 3 vehicles and 2 drivers as Max and Marcus have their own vehicles. We elect my son to drive the Landrover and Peter gets the Landcruiser (it has almost no brakes as the mud as worn out a set of discs and pads). We are driving to KL 60k south however we have a problem the Landrover has overheated - we cool it down and start again but only get 30K when it does it again. This time its terminal and we discover via torchlight there is a switch for the radiator fan but no warning light that it's off. However there us a warning light for the inter cooler fan not working! The Landrover has blown a head gasket. We elect top tow it the remaining 20K to Gua Musang. However we have to wait longer as Marcus pulls a rear shock mount off. Finally 5.00am we arrive Gua Musang with the sick vehicles - the Toyota is all over the road and is now considered undriveable. The LR is undriveable and the Nissan cannot idle. On the phone and over the next 4 hours rescue is called in. Someone manages to get a tow truck $2500 for the 4 vehicles - Marcus's Jeep, Sri Lanka LR, Ozzie Nissan, Ozzie Toyota. Max and Marcus will drive the Jeep and we can go when the tow truck turns up. 11.00amn we leave Gua Musang and will follow the progress of Max and Marcus via phone. We cruise into KL early evening but not before Max and Marcus have their own dramas with the Jeep dying and they have to unload the Nissan and use that. Mission accomplished and the 3 sick vehicles are dropped at Jason's workshop for the cleanup to commence.

RFC 2008 I have already volunteered my services and both RED and YELLOW again


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Malaysian Rainforest Challenge RFC 2007 A Marshalls story

RFC 2007 Diary from a X-Men Tango Team Marshal

Why is RED lying on its side on a slippery muddy hill? Read on to find out what happened in our view of the RFC 2007. One never to be forgotten!

TANGO Team Vehicles and crew.

  • Landcruiser SWB – Convoy Leader Thomas Foo leader of the TANGO Team – Winch Wench Billy Sim (Fish).
  • Landcruiser II – LJ70 – 13B-T, Auto, 35” Extreme trekkers, Factory Electric and PTO winch(Air Activated), Rear Factory locker (air activated) and many other mods – Named RED and driven by Peter Schmid (TLCV) and 3 Indonesian Marshal's.
  • Landcruiser Troopy – BJ75 – 13B-T 4 speed manual, 35” Extreme trekkers – Stock and 8274 Winch – Named YELLOW and driven by Dave Stewart TLCV - #1397 (cicak (Lizard) to the locals) and an English marshal Liz Lewis and a Local winch wench Sidik (this guy was excellent)
  • Volvo C304 – Ex police riot truck – Nissan 3.3l engine 36” extreme trekkers and huge PTO winch, converted to Coils from leaf. Named T1 driven by Stuart Garrow from Sydney. Winch wench is Polish Marshal Artur.

RFC 2007 Camp 1 Morning

For RFC 2007 I was to provide two vehicles (RED and YELLOW) for the Tango Marshals team and myself and an additional driver (Peter Schmid). Our 2007 RFC started many months before one Sunday in September (2nd to be exact) when one of my guides rolled YELLOW onto its side during a jungle xcursion with customers in it. Oops! Little did we know how much stress this would cause us nearer to the RFC.

The knocking shop (panel beating in Malaysia) were told to have it fixed ready for inspection for its six monthly roadworthy before 18/10/2007 and they were also fixing the 2 air-conditioning units in YELLOW as they were both stuffed and putting in a small roll bar and to remove the visible rust as it would this time fail its 6 monthly inspection.

Well what a mistake. First roll cage welded to floor then roll cage was welded to plates in situ in the floor and the rear seats could not be fitted. The painting was rejected several times due to runs and poor quality and then they chipped paint on YELLOW we blew the date and YELLOW became unregistered. The ROLLCAGE had to be removed as we discovered that they:

  • The workshop wanted to move the rear seats back 12 inches or more and lift the seat to make the seat fit the ROLLCAGE and we would lose all the luggage space - duuhhh do i look that stupid.
  • and could not lift the seat up to fold it up as the rear air cond unit was in the way.

  • They could not remove the rollcage or put the seat in.

  • I in the end just asked for the rear seat to be placed in YELLOW and I would deal with it paid the bill and drove YELLOW away disgusted and added the workshop to the local 4x4 blacklisted workshops.

  • We took a whole weekend to CUT out the new ROLLCAGE, weld up the ripped floor from the first attempt at the ROLLCAGE, weld up or boltup and seal the holes and cover the stuffed bolt holes.

  • Then we finally added the aluminium panels for the side in the rear to replace the disgusting non factory panels.

  • We also fitted new rear door seals and adjusted the doors to ensure a good seal front and rear as they we all put in incorrectly by the panel shop. Like I said WAI AUDIO CAR CARE NETWORK's work sux.

Then YELLOW was finally ready for its 6 monthly JPJ inspection. The Monday nite 9 days before the RFC it is taken in and due back in 3 days.

Mean time RED required nothing to be done to it. It had all been done months before hand the final kit
out being air activation for the unreliable Toyota electric locker and air activation for the PTO free
spool/engage. Two weeks out Monday/Tuesday I should be moving house but i'm off work sick as a dog – Chest
and head and everything else and we get YELLOW ready for inspection – 2 days and we should have it back.

However it all goes wrong firstly YELLOW is now painted YELLOW which it has been for past 18 months but

suddenly this is not right as it does not match the registration papers YELLOW is rejected. Then it’s

suddenly an automatic on the registration papers and not in the car (what's going on here I smell a RAT).

Then it’s the 3rd brake light then it’s the brakes then it’s the SNORKLE they deliberately forget to read

the SNORKLE in the vehicle modifications permit. We have to remove it. A new permit for the modifications


final cost $4,600rm (aaarrrrghh). Finally, its ready however, it’s ready on the day at 6pm we are supposed

to be leaving for the RFC the Thursday night!

Sunday morning 1 week before RFC 2007 5.30am sees me driving fast to KL internaltion airport in the
trusty HILUX to assist in the picking up of the Australian competitors David Metcalf, Lance Gillies, John
Butler and Steve Hudy. I fly past the other local 4x4 taxi Jason Ho on the way out. They are to be
delivered to the CORUS hotel in KLCC. We pick them up at 6.15am but wait, there is a protest march we
cannot drive to the hotel, we cannot catch a train to the hotel, we cannot walk to the hotel during the
protest. So we go shopping for hours in TESCO finally ending up in KFC. 3pm we can finally WALK to the
Hotel from a distance of 1.5ks away only. The teargas stings our eyes and weary RIOT police sit all around
us. Welcome to Malaysia – this is not the Malaysia I have known for the past 5 years. Finally a beer
awaits us crikey not cheap. Monday morning I wake up sick really sick again the chest infection and head
cold has got to me again. So of to the doctors and MC again I go home and rest – yes rest.

But wait there is more drama’s on the Wednesday morning at 2.17am (I’m still awake) I get a desperate
call from Peter he has been home invaded and they have taken all mobile phones and much else (except one
mobile they missed) and locked him in the house can I come round urgently with the keys and what is the
police number. I finally get home at 6.30am I take emergency leave and we sort out the police and start to
pack as Peter decides enough and is moving out to a secure apartment (his loss from the robbery is
amounting to over $20,000rm). We know the departure date/time to RFC 2007 is doubtful. Thursday RED is
packed and ready to go but we are still waiting for YELLOW. YELLOW also needs its winch fixed before we
even think of going to the jungle.

Once YELLOW (Thursday nite 6.30pm I also detect a wheel nut has been snapped off) is in our hands we start to pack it and realize we are still not ready for departure as we still have not finished moving Peter or finished moving the JungleGeckos HQ to its new location (I am moving due to being robbed 7 times over the past months and I have also had enough as we both live in the same suburb). We elect to depart the Friday night (the RFC starts on Saturday 1st December some 600k away). I visit RFC Competitor David Metcalfe somewhat of an expert on 8274 winches with a diagnosis on YELLOWS Warn 8274 problems. I take his advice. Friday morning Peter takes YELLOW to Jason some 25k away for the fitting of the new battery box (we have been waiting 6 weeks to install it) we made and the installation of the two larger batteries and the repair of the Warn 8274 and the checking of the spare XD9000 WARN for YELLOW. It takes all day so I have time to get RED new 35” SNEAKERS trading in the old ½ worn ones and an oil change. RED can go!

Friday night 11.00pm the final tasks change the wheels on YELLOW to the 35” SIMEX Extreme Trekkers and we can drive to Trengannu. I twist off a wheel nut/stud – oops, and then a second since the mechanics broke one off before they returned it we only have 3 left. No spare studs we elect to leave in the morning after getting spares. Frantic SMS’s to RFC HQ to inform them of the problems.

RFC Day 1 - 1st December 2007

YELLOW is fixed next morning by 12.00pm by us. YELLOW can go! We fuel up and do last minute checks finally we are ready to go at 2.00pm. A six hour drive awaits us according to the RFC briefing. We have to get to 20K south of Jertih in Terengganu some 6 hours away across the West Malaysian Penninsular.

The trip is slow traveling at 80k the trip should take 9 hours. We get a GPS location by SMS of the Prologue from a friend there so we can follow our progress. By 7pm we are getting hungry and have some 200+k to go by the GPS and are into the slow roads and its DARK and the driving dangerous cars overtaking everywhere and traffic down to 50-60k.

9pm we have had enough of the crap conditions and have TOM YUM soup to waken us up it’s our first meal since 2 slices of toast for breakfast. 120k to go on the GPS! Don't laugh we get lost in Kuala Terengganu and the police station directions and advice useless. Finally we loose 40 minutes and a service station puts us on the right path. 12.30am Sunday we pass the prologue area and head to the hotel however, I run out of fuel in YELLOW about 15k later. Peter does really well for a non local and finds DIESEL in the middle of nowhere and at 3.30am we find out the hotel booking is cancelled and we are to go back to the Prologue area and camp. 4.30am find’s us in a sea of mud and putting a camp site up in a gazebo. So after 14.5 hours of traveling for a 6 hour trip we are here finally time for a quiet beer to relax. However, we are woken at 7.00am by revving engines and breakfast and voices. Were here finally after 6 weeks of just utter stuff ups and delays. I’m on holiday.

Day 2 - 2nd December 2007

We check in to RFC HQ and are assigned our marshal station Special Stage 1.

Picture Gallery Special Stages 1-6

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS3

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS1

RFC 2007 SS2

RFC 2007 SS2

RFC 2007 SS3

RFC 2007 SS2

RFC 2007 SS2

RFC 2007 SS2

RFC 2007 SS2

RFC 2007 SS1

An almost impossible SS (nowwhere to get anchorage for winching) only 1 vehicle made it yesterday. It’s twin track setup two vehicles can race side by side 15 minute DNF. Ground anchors steep “V” gully’s dug into the flat ground and a turnaround in a u shapes 45 degree channel. The competitors a few and far between today however 3 vehicles make it. Most do not get past the 2nd gully the 3 that do all use an illegal tree to winch off and not ground anchors which keep pulling out of the soft peat soil. Were the rules bent – yes. However a Chinese competitor driver has no hands and half his forearms missing almost makes it his wench cannot lift the ground anchor he’s exhausted however the driver despite his handicap picks-up the huge anchor and carries it down the course but cannot also get it to grip. All the marshals are moved by this eventually they DNF like most other competitors. The stage is passable just the DNF time is too short.

There are several smashes in the 10 special stages one a huge endo resulting in C146 (Italian Disco) crushing the roll cage another 2 rollover – its going to be a tough RFC.

Dave Metcalfe (C150) does SS2 in spectacular style and I manage to capture the pics by listening to the engine sound to start my snapping sequence as he climbs the up and crests the top. I think Lance is wench for this stage just to keep the Nissan on the Ground.

In SS3 I watch the other Aussie team cross the log bridge – Next they are in the thick of disaster and the Toyota wheelbase is to narrow and slips down between the logs in the bridge. It’s retrieved by an excavator from the front but then everyone realizes the back end is going to slip off and it’s hoisted of the bridge by its rear end. Lucky it’s only a practice bridge and not a real jungle bridge they would really be in trouble.

Both Aussie teams end up with 4 passes and 6 DNF’s. Most other teams are the same.

Finished, we all pack up ready for the rollout to the first jungle camp. The sight of the excavator straightening out C146 by a cable attached to the top of the roll cage and lifting it up and down stretching the cage and frame back into shape is too much and the cage is ripped off by brute force. They surface 1.5 days later with a very well repaired vehicle. Malaysian panel beating boleh lah! My marshal/winch wench Sidik is fantastic/organized he packs YELLOW as we now have in YELLOW food for 10 for 10 days. Due to a miscommunication Liz has brought food for 10 people for 10 days and Billy will assist her with the cooking. Peter and myself have also bought food for 8 people for 10+ days along with cooking kit and worse tables and chairs, Sleeping beds for 6 (2 beds are spare), 3 spare sleeping bags, 3 tarps (2 spares for room if we need to accommodate extra people), camera gear, Computer, tent poles etc. Complete spare winch, 2 spare batteries, 30+ liters of water, eggs stacked on a seat and so uch gear it sags at the rear. RED has food for 8 people for 8 days 4 marshals with full kit bags, tools, beds, 2 tables and 8 chairs all in a little LCII. Everything in RED is in military boxes and behind a Milford Cargo barrier and is tidy and safe. YELLOW well say nothing but me thinks "DON”T ROLL IT".

Finally at 3.30pm we are ready for the 120K transport section where we all are to rendezvous’ at a little CALTEX service station in the kampong of Laloh. Little does he Tango team know it will be more than just a passing visit. I’m glad Sidik is a local and knows the way we have no waypoints or map we just follow the very loose convoy – loose being all 80+ vehicles know where to go hahahahahaha and blindy trying to follow the vehicle in front.

We meander though the Malaysian countryside green green green, Hills and more green and kampungs everywhere.

Laloh CALTEX eventually is in sight and it’s a Zoo – grid lock outside the Caltex one by one the 80+ RFC vehicle fill tanks to the top and spare fuel containers fighting for queuing with locals, logging trucks and motorbikes. We line up and when all the vehicles are ready its coming DUSK at 6.50pm. Suddenly without warning the convoy is OFF and it’s like a Le Mans start 4x4’s everywhere. Turnoff to the sawmill is 700 meters down the road finally its jungle time and 42k to Camp 1. It’s all easy driving no problems even when we turn off to a narrow track and a long uphill and downhill (little do we know about the return journey). Finally there is a tough uphill slippery and wet YELLOW eats it sliding everywhere. Then a traffic jam. It’s a log bridge or is it or was once. It has plywood, dirt, planks all on it, I think
nothing of it as Sidik guides me across safely then camp is only 1K away. All segmented into HQ, Officials, Press, and competitor areas. It’s still dry but then it rains slightly as camp is struck. Not long before we hear the Zambian team’s nightclub start up – shit a huge sound box in the jungle.

I’m exhausted from the past weeks activities and do not feel sick anymore but sleep does come quickly after a couple of coldies so does Peter. Cannot remember even what we ate.

Day 3 3rd December 2007 - Camp 1

RFC 2007 Camp 1 Morning

Morning comes round breakfast is readied and scoffed down and attend the morning briefing. The draw for the 2 SS’s today is done. Peter is assigned the tough SS11 which he has to go down and help build. I get SS12 the river SS. Hanging onto the side of a Jackaroo (ISUZU Trooper) I get a lift for the 500 meters to the river water SS. Maybe it was safer to walk. Once at SS12 I’m not needed but I can go down and assist – I am assigned to assist at the turnaround point I get to walk the course several times as we lay it out.

Note it is not driven by any marshal's. 11.00am Action time the course is a dash over the river anything up to waist deep either up the river or over the rocks then into the water again and continue for about 90 meters to the turnaround point in very soft silt and it gets very very (2m+)deep out wide through the soft silt down the river all the way to the start/finish box – an easy stage with 20 minutes DNF. We see many states of driving and lines from excellent to poor. Highlights: Wong (C136) of Sabah (2004 winner) sets the stage alight with a blistering 1’ minute 34 seconds. His driving is fast and precise and flat to the floor – did co-driver Clay even take a breath during the SS we believe he (Wong’s truck) only touched the ground 3 times START, TURN AROUND POINT and FINISH. The nearest to this is a “slow” 1’ minute 57”. The little BJ43 converted to COILS and with a worked 15B-T just fly’s pushing huge amounts of water. He doesn’t even slow for the rocks wham crash bang all the press clear the area. The Italian LEXUS powered BJ40 is also impressive but slow compared to Wong and so is everyone else. A Lebanese team in a local BJ40 stalls every 5 meters or less and almost DNF’s without pulling out the winch cable an amazingly slow time.

An Italian Mitsi pickup gets too deep after the turnaround and drowns both “come up” winches die in the water (a common problem with these winches). Another Mazda pickup dies in a similar spot and the winchy gets a real shock then he realizes the river is over his head as he has to swim for his life with steel cable in his hands to reach a winching point to late they DNF. Soon the sun starts setting the drivers are blinded in the up river run and soon we have a rollover. They DNF as they cannot right it. 10+ adults struggle to push it back on its sneakers. The 1JZ runs for a long time on its side. Meantime we hear that SS11 starts late as Arteks Rangie is stuck in the course and had to be recovered – a bridge is built to stop the competitors suffering the same fate. 1.30pm SS11 is open for customers a vehicle rolls into the finish box and C151 the Aussie Toyota comes down to the finish box vertical and executes and fancy a two front sneakers turn dance rear sneakers flailing in mid air before it finishes sneakers down much to the marshal’s amazement. SS11 times range from 38 seconds to DNF. 3 vehicles to run tomorrow morning. The SS13/14 course markers have gone on ahead. X-Men Artech’s team.

C129 on the bank SS13

Max stuck in SS14 and DNF'ing

Recovering C123 after getting stuck crossing river after SS14

C101 on the bank SS13

C101 on the bank SS13

RED seconds before getting stuck in the soft sand at SS14

Dinner is cooked by Liz and Billy

Day 4 - 4th December 2007

We leave late for SS13/14 for some reason we are slow in getting away Peter is at SS13 doing marshalling of the final vehicles.

We arrive SS13/14 (SS13/14 becomes known as CAMP 1.5) in an event free drive – its fun narrow slippery however if it rains this track will become “well interesting”.

SS14 Tango team (hey that’s us) is assigned recovery and marshalling duties. Peter gets RED stuck in the river. I get stuck in the river in YELLOW driving to the rescue when a marshal walks in front of YELLOW and I have to brake. I’m winched out by Rods customized HILUX and then RED is winched out. When we finally safe we are shown a circled tiger print in the beach beside YELLOWS door – mmmmmmm it’s rather
large and so is the cub's print beside it. Artech and the X-men group head out to setup SS15/16.

We have to put RED up the river bank for recovery. RED breaks a winch cable. A new one is fitted and 30 minutes later we are winching again up the bank and succeed. Once at the top the Indonesian driver Yhusof leaves the PTO running and pulls the new hook through the fairlead and snaps the cable. Buggar! Damn knew
we should have fitted the buzzer and RED light warning for the PTO and not delayed fitting it. It takes 2 hours to fix this meanwhile we start running SS14 some 1.5 hours late. However, the competitors are late as the MEDIA vehicles which followed our little convoy in have had a little fun and held up the competitors traveling behind them. There was nothing on the track to cause problems or was there! Tales
from the foreign journo's tell a different story crikey how, will they get to CAMP2 as the river our of CAMP 1.5 looks forbidding enough

Here is the diary of my view of SS14.

SS14 down the stoney bank for 70 meters chicane over the sand bank hairpin toss rocks at the marshal there (yours truly) through a rock gate up and across the river and up the steep bank negotiating a large overhanging tree which will rip your roof off or jam you hard against it through the jungle and bank down a bank into the river and same route back. Simple! DNF time is 25 minutes.

  • C145 Italian BJ40 immaculate, wood veneer inside and a LEXUS V8 under the bonnet and carbon fiber panels and ROOF. It’s fast and quiet but is too low at the front and hits rocks easily. They finish quite well. I have to dive out the way as they try to run over my checkpoint.
  • Banged up C160 Mazda pickup they get to the DNF gate and surrender.
  • C115 Ssanyong Musso pickup they also get to my DNF gate and surrender.
  • C139 flies past me and then to the ROCK obstacle but they bypass the ROCK gate (immediate DNF) and then run over the marshal’s bag way off the course and back to the starting box – the UK Marshall is pissed a busted camera and a crushed water bottle.
  • C113 CJ6/7 jeep powered by 1JZ very fast and take out stop box on way back.
  • C116 CJ6/7 1JZ very fast and takes out stop box.
  • C152 CJ6 china team no hands they slowly try and inch up the bank but the PTO will not engage and they DNF.
  • C102 BJ40 13B-T Lebanon they go slow and they strike a trek in the jungle after climbing the bank and DNF.
  • 15:02 C135 Cherokee Jeep Denmark fast time and clear run. RED’s winch s now fixed and we have a full compliment of Marshal’s.
  • C110 CJ7/1Jz Malaysia Really fast and dangerous two flags down penalties for seat belts and winching without gloves.
  • C133 BJ40/1JZ fast breaks plasma rope winching and then overheats the clutch finally too put tranquility back in the Jungle they DNF.
  • C122 Range Rover /2JZ VVTi Crikey this is fast and driven well they clear the stage.
  • C125 ????? Very slow got stuck in the jungle and then seat belt violations.
  • Between the cars listen to the rushing river water and the birds and the frogs wondering why the sun is so hot and where is the rain?
  • It’s getting late 16:22 and its C150 (David Metcalfe in the Nissan UTE) he runs wide in the river almost sinks and then winches into the jungle the twin motor 8274 is awesome to watch it go up the steep bank. He gets a fast time.
  • C117 CJ6/7 with 1JZ. Very fast winching however breaks window as car is winched into the now infamous tree.
  • C158 Land Rover Poland struggles to get up the bank taking all the time with 3 minutes left they scale the bank. One minute left when they exit the river bank they whack over 2 posts in a frantic drive back across the river and finish with seconds to spare.
  • C141 Thai Mitsi Pickup – reach the DNF point and stop.
  • C156 Toyota something with 1JZ. Absolutely dangerously fast but could not get up the bank as it is so chewed up and they finally DNF. They try and finish with sand ladders on the drivers and winchy’s laps shackles left in jungle. They not happy but Sidik deals with them.
  • C101 Land rover Sri Lanka excellent driving 9 minutes for the state of the course is excellent.
  • C157 Range Rover Poland (biggest vehicle in the comp) they have trouble getting up the bank snap a winch cable and jamming the RR against that damn overhanging tree. Good teamwork sees them finish just in time.
  • Now it’s dark and C147 lines up and does the DNF gate and exits. Yay we can go eat finally.

Finally we can relax however there is no room to camp. Stu leaves the Volvo on the riverbank and so does Rod in the Hilux. I retrieve food from RED and leave RED in the jungle to give the giant pussy cat something to hunt. YELLOW is also retrieved from across the river and camped on the riverbank. Little did we know that 1 day later this river would be 4+ meters up the bank we we so lucky and friggin stupid to even contemplate camping there.

Me being showered in rocks and sand at my SS14 station.

Marshals guarding SS14 from the tiger during the evening

Fixing the PTO on the Vovlo or is it a joke session

Dinner is mush and a quick meal cooked by Liz.

We sleep on the open riverbank beach after having numerous beers to relax. The Volvo’s bent PTO shaft has been repaired and is now operational as a recovery vehicle again. Remember its monsoon and we are sleeping on a riverbank – sounds so stupid. In hindsight it was as the river was some 4+ meters over our sleeping point a couple of days later.

5.00am I am awoken by rain on my face – woow I’m sleeping out I suddenly remember. I pickup the bed and frantically race to find a space to slip the bed way up on the bank under a tarp.

The rain ceases in time to allow the remaining vehicles to finish SS13/14.

  • 9:13am C137 Austria JEEP Cherokee – Snaps a winch cable and still finish under the DNF time in 20 minutes.

  • C129 Toyota 1JZ they DNF out on the steep bank not before they turn my hairpin beach front turn into a
    rice-padi with a display of Toyota field ploughing that we have not seen for a long time.

  • C??? pickup – missed

  • SS13 I see Max is stuck in the Denmark Jeep Cherokee at a crazy angle on a rock in the river and look
    like the they are flooded again.

  • C109 Jeep CJ6/1JZ they use the spare tire to get up the bank – good team work and a very good time
    (Previous RFC winner) of 6 minutes.

  • C146 Discovery from Italy they arrive with a newly repaired roof and the roll cage repaired after the
    excavator ripped it off it looks almost brand new except the front window is smashed up still. They DNF on
    the bank however.

  • C136 BJ43 /15B-T Wong and Mongan. Damn it’s fast and powerful I have to duck as the stones fly
    everywhere. Impressive time and they finish in about 8 minutes.

  • C134 Land rover Denmark they do well and also finish in around 12 minutes.

  • C148 Suzuki 3.0 Diesel Indonesia Finishes but a very slow time

  • Next is C153 they DNF on the bank.

  • Then last vehicle C123 CJ7/1JZ. And they complete SS14.

We finish up SS14 at 12:57 and Tango Leader Thomas decides we will have lunch and head off at 14:30 for SS15/16 which is at Camp 2 some 7 kilometers away. Two marshals Jackie and Peter Dodd from UK leave their sleeping bags and beds in YELLOW as their MEDIA taxi is across the river and they do not want to get their gear wet crossing the river and we will pass to them at CAMP 2. Little do they know or we know but we will never arrive at Camp 2 and they spend the next 5 days freezing and wets without sleeping bags. A frantic lunch and pack goes on at the same getting ready for the 14:30 departure time.

14:30 we have to wait there are 3 vehicles (Thai team) coming down the hill from Camp 2 one is stuck on the steep descent another almost rolls we can see it careering out of control as it slides and slips down the hill – yikes we have to ascend this soon. Thomas crosses the river in the LC II shorty and parks up in
a safe place. Eventually they (Thai team) make it down and we send Stu across in the Volvo crikey the bank on the other side is slippery and very yukky. Then it’s YELLOW’s turn and then RED and the rest of the convoy. We have to assist Thomas up the hill he winches most of the way in the thick sticky mud. Then it’s Stu and he also winches most of the way up. I show Peter the line to follow in RED before YELLOW has a turn. We almost make it and winch for a few meters then its driveable. However, a Pajero coming down parks badly and it takes me for ever to inch past it in the horrid mud. I walk back down the hill to see where Peter is and see RED on it side and people climbing out of the cabin.

Stu in T1 crossing river at Camp 1.5

Stu in T1 crossing river at Camp 1.5

They have driven too far left and slide down into the large hole and rolled over. It takes us 20+ minutes to prepare RED for recovery and Rod pulls RED slowly to its sneakers but not before RED slides down the hill a long way.. It takes us 2 hours to let the oil settle remove the glow plugs and clean out the turbo. The SsanYong team lends us engine oil and RED is ready to rock. However Thomas decides to head back down to SS/13/14 camp as SS15/16 is completed so we can EXIT the jungle in the morning to go way around to the end of SS19 and play recovery at the top of a 700 meter hill climb which is SS19 in 2 days time. However before we can move mother natures opens the skies and it pours RED slides back down the slope. I get pulled/body dragged up the hill by Volvo winch as it is not walkable. Rod in the Hilux decides to press on as he is part of the going through recovery team for the Twilight zone. However, he has to winch all the way up the slope it’s become so slippery. Then Volvo makes a terrifying slip/slide down the hill. Next is YELLOW and it cruises down the hill easily (The hill is to claim another 4-5 rollovers before the 2007 RFC is over several very hard rolls and causes chaos for the next 4-5 days). Across the river is tough Thomas breaks an axle on the exit bank and is winched out. The Volvo winches itself out. I drive YELLOW up the bank using brute horsepower and SIMEX tires. RED is winched up using Volvo as the anchor (Volvo sits there for next 18 hours as an recovery anchor).

RED minutes after rollover

RED minutes after rollover

RED back on its sneakers

It stays dry enough for camp to be erected then it pours for the rest of the evening. Thomas’s LC II Rear diff is stripped by 3 bored mechanics. They are hilarious two vehicles sit engines idling for 4+ hours their headlights lighting up their camp and Thomas's LC sitting on 3 tree stumps! A plasma winch cable is run out to hold up the tarp covering their camp and the forlorn LC II. The mechanics working in the rain in undies only eventually they have a mud fight and then at 12.00am elect to run off to Kuala Terengganu (alone in a Pajero some 150+Kilometers away) to obtain an AXLE for the LC II (This is the character of the RFC).

Dinner is chicken nuggets and rice with curry yum yum. 10.20pm we pull a vehicle across the river they on way out for repairs. Then another several hours C122 cruises past heading to get steering fixed.

RFC 2007 Diary from a X-Men Tango Team Marshal

Why is RED lying on its side on a slippery muddy hill? Read on to find out what happened in our view of the RFC 2007. One never to be forgotten!

Day 5 - 5th December

Next morning it's still raining (raining being it has not stopped all night) and we are waiting to see if the mechanics will turn up with Thomas’s new AXLE. We recover the Thai team across the river they are running 3 vehicles with 2WD only and one driver has a broken leg he only drives the easy bits and someone drives the hard bits.

His wife walks the now flooded river (tough lady). We open a coffee shop and distribute hot tea/coffee. River is still rising. Next is the NEWSPAPER crew in 3 vehicles and they are recovered. Next is the score master and he almost rolls the Hilux into the river and is winched out. 11:00 Thomas realizes we have to move else we will be here all day recovering vehicles, A Frantic pack and he abandons his busted LCII shorty still sitting on stumps and climbs into a vehicle (later we find out he has not taken anything and only has what he is wearing). The convoy gets 100 meters and a vehicle breaks down the NISSAN has no brakes and is turned around for the mechanics to fix later.

Timekeeper wagon almost rolling into river at Camp 1.5 soooo close!

Timekeeper wagon trying to exit river at Camp 1.5

Broken Leg Colin's Mitsi Jeep being winch out of river at Camp 1.5!
Stu Piloting the Volvo's Winch

Incident free we travel until we reach a small mud hole and the lead ISUZU Media truck (why was he in front?) cannot exit the mud hole. 30+ minutes are lost recovering it eventually the Volvo takes the initiative and ploughs through followed by YELLOW however a competition jeep takes far left line and is stuck for the next 30+ minutes extracting it from thick mud. RED has fun with a beautifully executed
sideways crossing. This mud hole becomes also a major obstacle for the retreating RFC convoy in the coming 5 days claiming many vehicles and becomes an elephant mud hole in its own right.

We do not get far and catch the Thai vehicles sitting at the bottom of a hill they are trying to get up in 2WD (Mitsi and Hilux). The Mitsi digs a huge whole about 2 cars lengths up effectively ruining the track. It takes an hour or more to winch the 3 Thai cars up and recover one from a ditch. Teamwork we lay a winch line out and fix off camber ditch problem with a bit it of shoveling the Volvo drives and then winches to a safe spot. YELLOW destroys the hill and I have to back off the pedal to slow down as we crest the first obstacle and then wait. RED has to winch a long way again. It takes up another 3 hours to get the remaining vehicles a distance of only 200 meters in the pouring rain. The Army Land rover is a heavy pull for the entire 200 meters with 3 vehicles being used as an anchor for it. YELLOW gets stuck in a hole and is winched and RED gets stuck in the same hole. The MEDIA ISUZU vehicle is left at the bottom with a battery and winch failure and poor tires (we meet up with him 6 days later his vehicle was still in the jungle he walked 30+k to the boat recovery point). At this point it is after 4.30pm and we have traveled only about 6k in 5 hours.

RED and Peter in the mudhole which became huge later.

The Thai Hilux stuck at the top of the climb in 2wd only (see the winch cable).

It's an easy cruise and with sunset not far away we pass CAMP 1 and finally reach the funny bridge at 6:15pm. Its only now do we realise this was an ugly crossing on the way over but it has had more damage inflicted by the 85+ vehicles crossing it and it may need repair. Stu does it in the Volvo with one set of wheel on the raw logs and the other up high on the dirt covered log he winches slowly across to make it easier. YELLOW is next and being narrower I have one side on the edge of the dirt and the insides of the other wheels holding the vehicle up on the side of the bridge very scary stuff. I cross also with the winch cable attached and the river raging below. Crossing in the failing light and I decide that no more vehicles can cross without a fix to the bridge. The army is used to fell a tree and we join 2 logs to
allow a safer crossing. By now it s dark and the remaining 5 vehicles cross safely using sidelights and a torch for direction. First being me in RED as Peter does not want to drive the log bridge. Safely across I hand RED back to Peter. This bridge is still intact for the remaining 85+ vehicles to use in the RFC 2007 GREAT ESCAPE over the coming 6 days which we have yet to realize is going to happen real soon.

YELLOW stuck in the hole at the top of the climb

Stu winching across the broken bridge

More crossing of streams by now have become raging torrents of water and we put out markers for people to follow. Where nothing was before have also become streams or raging torrents and water is fast filling up all the low lying land and small valleys.

P10.30pm we finally make it to the Laloh SAWMILL exit. However none of us in the dark realize that the river at the sawmill was almost at the top of the bridge. We are the last ones who make it out of the jungle. What are we going to do a quick team survey tells Thomas FOOD straight across the road and dry clothes. The SATAY shop is inundated with 21 people demolishing everything they had and they close shop
early as nothing is left. They are nice enough to give us permission to sleep under their shop front and the other 5 shops. We all change clothes and pull out the stretcher BEDS. Welcome to Tango Team the new RFC Headquarters at Laloh!

Day 6 - 6th December 2007

Morning Day 6. Liz comes back from the river for and tells us the bridge is gone and the water is up a long way "unbelievable can't be impossible" we check and yup the water has come up over 7+ meters overnight.

We decide to push on the huge distance of 700 meters to Laloh however Thomas needs clothes. A second hand clothing shop is 400 meters away near the CALTEX and he kits out new clothes for $20rm ($6USD).

We have to get to the SS19 exit as we are the rescue/recovery team for this jungle stage at the top of a 700 meter hill known as Hakka Junction. Some 150K away all of it on blacktop. We depart 10.00pm and cruise along and see the IMPACT of the floods water is immense wild brown swirling rivers flooded roads. We turn of towards Gawi from Aring and soon strike problems and a large detour is required as the road is to flooded even for us and the locals have fishing nets across the road making it a little difficult to pass!

The Aring-Gawi road is empty no shops no food nothing no phone reception. Our contact with RFC HQ in Jungle informs us the convoy was leaving at 12.00m and the walking trackers left at 9.00am to start marking the trail for the competition drivers to follow. They have 2 days of traveling alone to make it with only 3 special official RFC vehicles acting as sweep. The rest including HQ, Media, support vehicles and rejected competitor vehicles (only chomp 25 vehicles pass inspection) have to backtrack and follow our route. Media people can walk the track and follow the competition vehicles taking whatever they need on their backs.

Our team will be leaving at 10.30am in the pouring rain we have 120k-150k to travel approximately to get to the Hakka junction campsite turnoff. We are starting to get hungry at 1pm. However, there is no food no service stations nothing almost as desolate as the Australian outback. Then 1.30pm the Volvo decides it needs a rest and gets a flat sneaker. We pump it up with RED's compressor and proceed to the
entry turnoff to SS19. However the Volvo decides to go flat again. Thomas goes to check out the CAMPSITE (Camp 3) while we struggle with changing the Volvo's 36 Simex sneaker. Ok these things are heavy at 50+kg.

Thomas returns with a lost RFC comms official. Camping is out as it is under water and the river crossing impassible. Now we have a serious problem there is:

  • 8 trackers walking in this direction with 2 major rivers to cross and then this raging torrent as we cannot cross and meet them at Hakka Junction.
  • 50+ international press walking somewhere between camp 2 and the trackers following the competition vehicles
  • about 28 competition vehicles in there and 3 sweep vehicles and at camp 2 waiting to turn around and exit same track we did
  • 10+ HQ vehicles and around
  • 17 Press transport vehicles
  • Rejected competition trucks for CAMP 2 to Hakka Junction drive.
  • We also know that HQ and Media trucks cannot move from camp 2 as the track is so bad and the rivers between camp 1.5 and camp 2 are all overflowing.

We decide to get to GAWI some 30k away and it will be time for a rescue (and food yes food were all starving) to be organized. 8K from Gawi a competition truck decides to drop its steering arm resulting in a few hair raising moments on the wet winding road.

Finally we get to GAWI at 5.40pm have a meal and then decide to find a hotel (only one Hotel and no fuel and no shops Spartan would be the best description) to check into. Thomas sets up a rescue HQ and we have a meeting on what to do. Someone smashed Stu's wide window while we are having dinner - why the Fr***nG doors are unlocked. It is decided at 8.30pm that everyone in the Jungle has to turn around and
head back to Laloh the walking trackers can exit at Camp 3 (the now flooded camp) 30k up the road from us. I am exhausted and have been nominated with Zulu 2 (army communications) to turn around and drive back as close to Hakka junction and make radio contact with the trackers and tell them the plan via radio. We drive and get as close to Hakka Junction as possible (its about 13k from the road) About 11.30pm we get a faint click click acknowledgement on our repeated message we try for another 2-3 hours to make further contact. I'm exhausted and give the wheel to Sidik. Bad move he likes my truck. 3.30am I awake we are almost back at GAWI. I logon to the computer and have internet via MASIX 3G. 5.00am the internet disappears

The place is crawling with BOMBA (Fire Brigade), Polis (Police) and other government vehicles.

The washed out bridge at Laloh some 5 meters under here is the bridge.

Day 7 - 7th December 2007

7.00am its pouring we prepare for the team to split we have to go back to Laloh to setup forward recovery team and meet a Bomba team at 1.30pm at the river in Laloh. Meanwhile we also have to escort the Bomba team to the Camp 3 site to rescue the trackers. First we gotta fit a fixed radio to YELLOW and yup the VOLVO has the same tire gone flat again. Stu goes to pack and checkout we change the tire again. It feels even heavier this morning.

Meanwhile this is what it is like for the competitors still in the jungle as they turn around and head back to Laloh.

Day 6 for the competitors in the twilight zone trying to come back

Day 6 for the competitors in the twilight zone trying to come back

Both door windows in YELLOW are stuck down and we drive in the rain wet and cold rain pouring in both the windows.

We escort the Bomba team to Camp 3 to perform the rescue and continue with our journey. Later we find out they could not get their boat down the bank into the river and the Logging Kongsi (camp) use their boat to rescue the 8 walkers. With one days rest 6 of the walkers are back in action and meet us in Laloh however not before one of them gets Hypothermia. It's a slow trip back to Laloh RED overheats its tranny fluid and needs a little fluid to cool it. We meet the Laloh Bomba team and they eventually head of in their rescue boats to get to the now infamous Village of Kampong Mick which is the farest into the
jungle by river at present they can get by river which leads to Camp 1.5 or Camp 2 river has a 30ft waterfall on it and is impassible by boat. Kampung Miak is 30k away we find out later by road or water not the 13k we are informed. They leave at 5.00pm and return just after 7.00pm taking and leaving a film crew in with them. Meanwhile we camp along in a vacant shop lot opposite the now well known CALTEX some 700 meters from the flooded bridge on the main highway near where we stayed 2 days ago. Food is more plentiful with two restaurants across the road where we can sit and pass the time of day.

A meeting is held 10.00am - The Kelantan Police, Fire, Army, Air Force, Government officials to see how and when they are going to get the stranded Rainforest Participants out. A helicopter is due to arrive sometime later that day and recce the area. Peter and Stu have to translate the RFC knick names to GPS
positions on the maps for the government officials. Terminator, Bridge to Nowhere, Elephant Mud hole, Laloh Sawmill, Kampong Mick, Camp 1, Camp 1.5, Camp 2, Hakka Junction, bridge to nowhere and finally Camp 3 all get translated to ALT and LONG (MILITARY uses UTM).

Meeting over and a plan is formed the RFC rescue committee will relocate to Laloh. The Bomba and Police 69 squad will move into walk to the RFC groups and a chopper will drop food etc (The chopper never makes it and remains stuck in KL for the next 4 days).

I start at midnight typing up the list of competitors and officials for the Police and Fire and yup the Prime minister is to have the list in a briefing by 8am. I type until 4am and Stu takes over the final details. A list of who is to come out first is drawn up. Under instructions from the PM office all foreign press are to be evacuated first we also have a list of drivers etc who we know are flying out 1-2 days after the event and they are on the first boat list along with some injured participants and press.

The rescue team is setup in the local school and beds and food and catering is all provided by the Kelantan government. I cannot praise these guys enough for the way they got stuck in and assisted us bearing in mind that also Kelantan was flooded and man thousands of people were being evacuated from their homes. Everything is run by the police. That afternoon a recce trip is run again to Kg Maik and the rescues will start the next day.

Competitors nearing Kg Miak on the great retreat crossing a swollen washed ut bridge

Day 8 - 8th December 2007

We spend some time at the river watching the Bomba (Fire) teams come in and out getting reports ready and updated lists of whose where and the injuries etc. Meantime I lose my sidekick Sidik he is banished to the Kg Mick to assist with the extraction he has the first list of people to come out extraction is planned for late on 9th to early 10th December. I meantime download the manual from the internet for the Yaesu XR6 as I cannot drive it and we spend the rest of the day sitting in the cafe opposite where we have set up our little camp across the road from the now infamous Laloh Caltex. We run down to the river every once in a while and checking the water level its starting to go down and we can now go down far enough (1 meter) to see across the river.

The Gawi rescue HQ decides to relocate to Laloh realizing they cannot function away from Laloh they also discover internet access is still not working in Gawi and has not since 5am on the morning we arrived when Maxis Broadband failed.

The HQ team arrives in the afternoon and a briefing is held to discuss progress and plans.

Great excitement the X-Men who walked out of the jungle at Gawi have arrived and smiles all round.

Meanwhile supplies including 100 stretcher beds, catering staff to cook at the school cafeteria roll in, Clothes and food all unloaded. Someone walks up and delivers over 100 t-shirts and 100 sarong's for people to change into when they arrive, I cannot thank the people of Kelantan enough for what they did for
the RFC. Friendly talkative, those who spoke English sat down and talked to us at cafes.

Day 9 - 9th December 2007

Morning finds us back at the river as the Korean news crew is heading to Kg Miak to get some real first hand action news of the rescue and the survivors as they straggle into Kg Miak wet miserable hungry blistered feet for the lucky ones and worse injuries for those who have been wet for 3-4 days. We muck around eating, waiting watching the river (Sungai Kelantan) fall waiting for something to happen. It's a long day and we relax that evening knowing we are going to finally have a rescue tomorrow.

Day 10 - 10th December 2007

Prize giving day - however there is only about 20 people to attend. Tango Team, The rescued walkers 6 of whom are back in the jungle assisting their X-Men friends rescue people and vehicles. WE hear news the first rescued people are due back at Laloh today and the Police 69 squad and Bomba are leaving Laloh at 7.00am. We wait over an hour and finally at 8:15 the boats are unloaded however it is 8:5-0 before the boats get under way M16's, 45's and other guns and military kit from all over the world adorns these guys, however the boats will not start and they drift for nearly 10 minutes as they frantically try to start the boats. 5 boats disappear down river and will head into the swirling 7+ meter high main river for 30K dangerous haul to Kg Mick its full of whirlpools , floating logs and everything else you could imagine. Meanwhile the 6 X-Men walkers turn up recovered and head across the river in a boat and walk the 30K to Kg Miak with a parang and a some of them not even a backpack - tough boyz.

About 12.00pm suddenly there is movement people we have not seen suddenly start appearing along with film crews and other hangers on. We know the rescue teams are on the way back

12:47pm boats and the first team is back and its got foreigners as we expected. Its the Korean TV crew and the two Ozzie winch wenches wet cold and happy to be safe (they both have to be on a plane tomorrow morning back to Oz. Soon the other boats arrive all full of wet happy RFC survivors. We are flat out directing them to the Police transport trucks for the journey to the rescue center for roll call and then
the dignitaries suddenly vanish as quick as they arrived. We have to also taxi people back to the school as we have run out of transport. The Volvo and the RED and YELLOW trucks are also busy. 3.30pm the next bunch of survivors (including the RFC Boss Luis Wee) is out once they are all cleaned up the whole lot of them have a photo session and are packed onto buses for the trip to the presentation - yay there's going top be a party but we are staying here our jobs not done.

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

We have a quiet meal and celebrate the RFC 2007 party on our own in the rescue center. I have a bit of MS banter with Ozzie Metcalfe who is waiting with their vehicles still until the water goes down so far 2 meters he orders southern comfort and coke haha but that's in the back of YELLOW.

Day 11 - 7th December 2007

I awake to a message on my phone from 1am - water up 1.5 meters its lapping our camp site how do we get out of here? Its David Metcalfe and John Butler. I reply there is a boat 7.00am leaving for Kg Mick be there and you will get a ride out I will give you a lift to KL. The rescue boat leaves at 7.00 and we head down to the river to wait for the arrival of the rescue boat. 10.17am and they arrive - wet happy. According to Metcalfe later the boat ride was scary whirlpools pulling the boat, refueling the boat while someone hangs onto a tree branch surrounded by swirling flood waters and the rain whipping their faces and freezing cold. We take them back to the rescue center and they are processed. I decide my time with RFC 2007 is up and its time to head back to KL with the Ozzie's as all the competitors are now out of the jungle.

The first rescue boat arriving at Laloh

The first site we saw arriving back at Laloh for the rescue.

Home time Metcalfe's a mess a Sarong and a Tour Kelantan shirt on. It takes us 8 hours to get back to KL - RED starts overheating its Auto fluid and we have several stops to add oil and flush out the very blocked up muddy auto cooler.

Midnight finds us sitting in the Coral hotel in KL sucking cold beers along with a few other survivors. Back to work tomorrow!