The Trans Borneo Expedition 2014 – PART 1

The Trans Borneo Expedition 2014 (TB2014) is organised by JAVA Adventura headed by its CEO and Expedition Leader, Pak Harry Sanusi from Indonesia. The 4WD Expedition event successfully circumnavigate the island of Borneo over more than 6,200 Km taking a total of 23 days. TB2014 had 75 participants and 25 vehicles from 4 nations Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore.

TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

Trans Borneo is not a new event, for a select few, it will be a trip down memory lane and a reunion of many personalities who have become legends among the 4WD fraternity, including Indonesian Offroad Federation (IOF) founder Pak Harry Sanusi (better known as Pak Harry), Anuar Ghani and Dr Teoh Siang Chin from Sabah, Hj Ibrahim Awang Damit of Brunei, S4M magazine publisher Yamin Vong and Richard AKA “Volvo” Voon and Chai Yew Foo from Sarawak. These personalities truly are some of the fore fathers of 4WD expeditions in this region and it’s from their initial efforts that many world class 4WD events like the world famous Rainforest Challenge and Borneo Safari International Offroad Challenge were born.

Anuar said the last circumnavigation of Trans Borneo was done more than 17 years ago way back in 1997 and it was tough then, where in the 1995 recce, it took 21 days and it seemed everything from the recce vehicles broke down, the radiator burst, they had 4 punctures, one tyre came off and overtook them, numerous mechanical breakdowns and repairs and a broken GPS.  They were also arrested by forest officers, got robbed in the middle of nowhere during a flood, not to mention getting bogged down on mud roads and numerous river crossings. Above all this, Anuar said “It was an unforgettable experience and I had the time of my life!”

TRANSBORNEO 2014 ROUTE MAP

transborneo_route_mapFor others like myself, and being the promoter and key organiser of the recent 2012/2013 Borneo Safari International Offroad Challenge, the TB2014 will be an adventure of a lifetime. TB2014 official event dates are to flag off from Pontianak on August 17th, 2014 and closing ceremony at Kota Kinabalu on August 31st, 2014. The event dates are also made to coincide and a co-celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day during the flag off ceremony and Malaysia’s Independence Day on the closing. TB2014 officially is a 15 days 4WD expedition traversing through 2,500 Km of on road and off road experience, 2 ferry crossings at Tayan River & Balikpapan Bay and 14 days of Hotel & resort lodgings with 1 day camping at Seimanggaris army outpost. There were four convoy leaders; Reza Hariputra – from Pontianak to Palangkaraya, Hj Ibrahim Awang Damit – from Palangkaraya to Seimanggaris, Sanny Ho – from Seimanggaris to Kota Kinabalu and Chai Yew Foo – from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching.

PREPARATIONS

Never been on a road expedition this long, my journey starts with a curious phone call to my driver/co-driver and good friend Chai Yew Foo of 4×4 Quest of Kuching Sarawak asking him what needs to be prepared. After being briefed by the conditions, I organised my equipment accordingly and arrived at Kuching on August 15th.  Greeted by Paul Si from the airport, I was introduced to Dr Teoh and Volvo Voon. The Sarawak Adventure Travel Association gave us a wonderful dinner later that night with a taste of local Iban delicacies as well as celebrating our friend, Clarence Labo’s birthday.

SLIGHT HICCUP!

We start rolling at 7 AM says Chai during the briefing, I thought this is only for the first day as we need to cross the Kalimantan border at Tebedu early in order to reach Pontianak before night fall. 7 AM, however become the standard rolling time for almost every day!

At Entikong, everyone was getting the vehicles documents done and passports processed and I was happily in line for my turn until the Indonesian immigration officer looked up to me and paused. I sensed something wrong and the next thing he told me was “your passport is less than 6 months validity and I cannot let you through”. I was shocked as I was overseas 2 weeks earlier! In disbelief, I double checked and true enough, it was just out by 5 days! I was so disappointed and started cursing myself and told our convoy leader what happened.  Chai just smiled and introduced me to Rizal, a scout team member sent by Pak Harry to escort us to Pontianak. Rizal went to talk to the immigration officials and I was given the green light to pass with a warning to renew my pass port upon reaching Malaysia.  Thank you Rizal! I was about to pack my bags and take a bus back to Kuching!

We reached Pontianak 7 PM that night after a 12 hours journey. Pontianak is the capital of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan. It is a medium-size industrial city on the island of Borneo. It is located almost precisely on the equator, hence it is widely known as Kota Khatulistiwa (Equator City).

MAKING NEW “MILLIONAIRE” FRIENDS AT PONTIANAK

At the welcome dinner briefing at Hotel Kapuas, Pontianak, I finally met the rest of the convoy. The Brunei team headed by Hj Ibrahim Awang Damit has already arrived a day earlier. The Indonesia team headed by Pak Harry arrived by shipping their vehicles from Jakarta. All the participants were formally introduced to each other during the briefing with Team Brunei 12 vehicles, Team Indonesia 2 vehicles, Team Malaysia – Sarawak 7 vehicles, Team Malaysia – Sabah 4 vehicles. They were also 2 participants from Singapore who had joined the Brunei vehicles. The eldest participant, the mother of Hj Ibrahim, Hjh Dayang Damit Awang Ahmad is 78 years old and she still insist she drives some of the stretches!!  The youngest participant being only 12 years old, Liu Jia Han who currently resides in China. The next elderly couple were Chai’s parents, Chai Kien Thin at 75 years old and his wife who has driven even to Sulawesi Island and Borneo Safari over the years. I have also met the “Iron Lady” AKA Manja who drove all by herself the entire journey. Her signature phrase throughout the convoy radio was “COPY THEN”. All of us were also made instant millionaires after we changed our money to the Indonesia Rupiahs. There you have it, a convoy of 75 people from 4 nations, all millionaires, of different ages, of different experiences all ready to circumnavigate the island of Borneo over 15 days!

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To be continued…

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