Sunday, November 13, 2016

Borneo Safari – Choose Your Own Adventure Edition

No matter what people say, no matter what advice they give you: nothing can fully prepare you for the first time you take part in the Borneo Safari.

You might have gone trekking in the jungle before, or you might do a spot of camping on the weekends, or perhaps you fancy yourself as an off-road aficionado- the Borneo Safari is an event that takes all of it to another level.

This year, over 340 cars turned up for the event. Some of these participants flew over from Peninsular Malaysia and tagged along, while others drove their own vehicles up from Sarawak and across from Brunei.

But regardless of where you come from, the annual event offers a unique opportunity to catch up with friends and take part in a rigorous challenge together- with plenty of stories to tell after.

While Arvinda and I were both attending the event, we were assigned to entirely different teams. I happened to be with the Isuzu team, and as media I was riding in one of Isuzu’s modified D-Max pickup trucks. There were two other D-Max trucks and an MU-X as well, along with over 10 other support and crew cars.

These vehicles are properly built, sporting lifted suspension setups and 35 inch tyres, along with extra reinforcement and secure areas to store fuel and cargo. The point, however, is that these cars are capable of going into this kind of terrain with only the simplest of modifications- no air-locking differentials here.

Many Different Faces

There are a few different groups that attend the Borneo Safari aside from the media contingent, and each has their own purpose throughout the event. While the event does have a ‘hard core’ section that all participants have to traverse, there are also specific special stages that occur throughout the event.

These stages are almost like a gymkhana reimagined in a rainforest setting, with specific routes that competing participants have to take.

For this, it isn’t uncommon to see modified Suzuki Jimnys with tube frame architecture and powerful turbocharged engines blasting along. But while these cars are the “focus” of the event, they are also so bare bones that they can hardly carry enough fuel or equipment to make it through the entire safari on their own steam.

For that they have a support crew that follows them through, and these vehicles carry the necessary tools and equipment to keep the cars going- much like the support crew in a rally. The support cars have to be able to traverse the trail as well, meaning their drivers must be adept at navigating through the thick jungle.

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