Sunday, 1 December 2013

Mudding with SAKTA

An adventure does not have to be a month-long epic trek that takes you thousands of kilometres from home. For sure, going on such odysseys from Kuching to Sabah, or driving to Balikpapan, or Casablanca, does make for some bragging rights around the campfire.
But when you live anywhere in Borneo, an adventure can be just outside your doorstep. Case in point, the SAKTA (Sarawak 4X4 Travel & Adventure Club) Jamboree over the weekend (Nov 30 to Dec 1, 2013).
Just get together a bunch of four-wheel-drive nuts, assemble their 33 cars, load up the family and food and drinks, and head for the hills.
The hills this time were the picturesque limestone outcrops of Padawan, which made for a pretty backdrop as the convoy made its way through the little-known route from the eastbound Kuching-Serian road to Krokong in Bau, to the west of Kuching.
The participants comprised a good mix of 4X4 regulars and old-timers, including several veterans of the Borneo Safari (Sabah) and Rainforest Challenge (Peninsular Malaysia) and a bunch of eager first-timers, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the prospect of playing in mud and water.
The route took the convoy past the township of Kota Padawan, better known to locals simply as "10th Mile", past the mainly-Bidayuh villages of Kampung Benuk, Kg Giam, Kg Semadang, the Bengoh Dam Resettlement Scheme to Krokong, in Bau District.
After some 60 or so kilometres of tarmac from the flag-off at MJC, Batu Kawa, the radio chatter was beginning to show signs of boredom. "I'm feeling drowsy", "I'm falling asleep" and similar sentiments were broadcast in English, Malay, Hokkien, Hakka, Bidayuh and Foochow, and even Iban. This was the 4X4 equivalent of "Are we there yet?"
This is good, a sign of enthusiasm. Hope they are ready for what they wish for, in case they get it. There would be some mud, as promised in the programme, but that is always dependent on the weather, and a nice river crossing.
As the pictures show, they got what they wished for. By serious 4WD standards, the route through a mature oil palm estate wasn't all that tough for a well-equipped vehicle but with some members driving stock standard cars, and even with 20" wheels and road tyres, it threw up enough challenges to keep everyone entertained.
What was most encouraging was the absolutely positive attitude, the gung-ho, can-do spirit shown by all, especially the newbies. For them, coffeeshop discussions of techniques and equipment will become more meaningful now that they have seen some real action and, more importantly, what works and what does not.
I predict a windfall for some tyre shops in the Kuching area, especially those with the foresight to keep stock of MT tyres. There should also be a mini economic boom for the 4X4 accessories and camping gear dealers out there.
After a couple of hours of getting stuck in the mud and some first-hand practical lessons in recovery techniques using winches and snatch straps, the appetite for adventure was satiated and everyone was ready to to head to the campsite at Adis Buan, which happens to be less than 10km from my house. So, I went home, had a hot shower, uploaded a hundred or so photos to Facebook and took a short nap before heading over to join the guys and gals for beers and barbecue in the camp site.
The value in 4x4 Light events such as this jamboree lies in the exposure it gives to beginners, and the opportunity for them to put into practice some of the knowledge they may already have gained from listening to others and reading books and from the Internet.
Truth be told, it's a lot of fun as well even for the veterans, being a chance to share their experience with the young 'uns, and just simply doing what they love doing most, in the company of like-minded enthusiasts.
Thumbs up to SAKTA stalwarts, club president Laurence Baraw, Meek Mapes and all the other members who put their heart and soul into making it happen.

More photos here

A little bit lost, aren't we?
One is oh-so-ready for the mud, the other is not so ready.

But there are always friends willing and eager to lend a hand.

Oh Boy! That's deep!
Kembara also can!

Some prefer walking to wading ...
Nah, you wanted mud ... now, you got mud!

Even Billy the Golden Retriever got to join the fun in his Rover.