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 Ba'Kelalan expedition with mondial 4x4

LE CIE DU RAID in Sarawak  page 2

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part 1 in Kuching

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Dropping into Long Sukang

Two car convoy and Lapis has gone ahead

Turning off the Lawas trunk road, our convoy locked our hubs and engaged 4WD which helps with driving over rough surfaces and to avoid rear wheels skipping. Since the road was wet, there were no timber trucks to content with and we saw one truck that was stuck on the trail side. There were a couple that were parked along the way too. There's a whole different system driving on these timber roads. One needs to switch from left to right of the trail. This is because when the trucks are fully loaded, they need to go on a safe line and uses the whole road.

Less than 30 mins later while on the hard packed dirt road, my front right tyre punctured and I radioed Labo to see if he had a real MT tyre as replacement. No such luck (not that I believed in it). So, we revert to using the old faithful spare - highway/all terrain tyre that looked undersized.

The bamboo forest in the Sabah highlands

The most interesting part of the drive starts after Long Semadoh where there is less road maintenance as the timber trucks do not use these routes. By this time, Labo had gone ahead to drop off stuff at other villages and we would try to radio each other. Labo drives a shuttle on this route and knows exactly where we would be needing help. But this runs a risk of him over estimating our vehicle's capability.

Labo and I helping with the recovery of a stranded HJ75

Very soon, the first of the many mud holes appeared. First they were all quite manageable, where we had to cover a short distance of 50 meters and having to content with 30-40 cm deep mud. The pits got progressively longer and deeper.  Without any  suspension or body lift, the inevitable happened- I got stuck first. The smooth front tyre is to blame. Lemur got through this one and the score was 1 - nil in his favour. Labo was on hand to offer a tow and shortly thereafter he went off wandering. We got to another obstacle. I chose to follow the boggy deep mud where the tyre tracks were. Philippe went to the right over what looked to be firmer mud. A few rounds of wheel spins saw him firmly bogged and it was my turn to throw the line to him. Score 1 All.

There was one point where I drove Lemur for a photo shoot and came across some passing Hiluxes. After a short greeting, the drivers looked at my tyres with rounded eyes and told me that the tyres would not be up to the job. I just waived them on.

This section was so bad that the tractor (in the back ground) could not go through it.

We came to a section where Labo had his back turned to a timber company's HJ75 that was firmly bogged. We lent a helping hand, joining the tow rope to a strap and to a cable extension. Lapis's extreme tyres made short work of the recovery. And then it was our turn to cross. Lemur almost got stuck but a few forward and reverse saw him got through the obstacle. I went in at a steady pace and then found myself firmly stuck on Blouie's belly. Again the spare tyre didn't help. A quick recovery by Labo saw us on our way again.

Labo's Lapis is one of the 3 cars that can make it across this bog without getting stuck

We had crossed several pits and we appear to be close to Ba'Kelalan. I radio Labo and asked "are we clear from all the mud holes?" "One more, that even the tractor cannot cross" was the reply. I found it hard to believe him and though he was joking. Suddenly there were a few cars stacked up in queue and I saw that Labo had already cleared the longest and baddest obstacle. We were told to jump queue and to move to the front. Lemur went first and then got stuck pretty quickly. There were many willing volunteers who were wadding the mud and helping to hook up the tow line. Philippe stayed in Lemur and took pictures without getting his hands dirty. My turn soon came and the same happened.

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