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   INTRODUCTION  

Malaysia’s rugged terrain, dense rain forests and numerous mountainous regions make it an irresistible destination for off road driving enthusiasts. Mud, heat, sloping hills and rainstorms add to the challenge in the grueling and exhilarating sport of off road driving.

With 58 per cent of the country still under jungle cover, Malaysia’s terrain bring out the best of man and machine in a test of skill under ever changing conditions.

The three international off road events held in Malaysia annually around October and November are the Trans Borneo International Rally, the National Challenge and the Rainforest International Challenge of Malaysia.

The casual visitor may not be cut out for the rigours of world class international event like the year-end Camel Trophy or the Rainforest Challenge, two of the world of 4 X 4 driving’s most competitive events. However, there is nothing to stop an interested novice from learning the rudiments of off road or 4X4 driving and having an exciting time exploring places off the beaten track.

   WHERE TO DRIVE AND WHEN  

The East Coast offers the best terrain in Peninsular Malaysia for off road driving. Gua Musang in Kelantan and Tasik Kenyir in Terengganu, Endau Rompin in Johor, Tasik Chini and Cameron Highlands in Pahang are the routes most often used for the sport. The are around the Kinabalu National Park in Sabah and Bintulu in Sarawak are places of off road enthusiasts in East Malaysia.

There are also some good places to drive closer to Kuala Lumpur and the Peninsular. The most notable are Pertak in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor which is two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. The route is especially scenic with fruit plantations and fresh produce stalls fringing the approach road.

Pahang and Terengganu still remain the favourite off road driving destinations. The Sungai Lembing mines in Pahang are a safe though challenging route and anglers may like to pack their rods for some fishing as well. The Endau Rompin are in Johor is a more trying route and a group expedition is strongly recommended since a lone vehicle may encounter difficulties.

Kenyir Lake, Kuala Berang, Sungai Loh and Sungai Kelamin in Terengaanu are also great spots for off road adventures. The proximity of these places to small towns make it easy to get provisions or fuel.

Because of the ruffed terrain and jults and bumps sustained during a drive, participants need to be of a sound body and constitution.

  SEASONS 

Off road driving is a year round activity, but depending on the level of expertise of the drive, some months are better than others. The dry season from March to October make for firmer terrain and less mud. Visibility is also much better without the slashing November – February monsoon rains and so the dry months are recommended for the Casual driver.

   EXPERIENCING OFF ROAD DRIVING  

A number of companies offer safe, true to life off road driving packages. These are designed to suit individual visitor’s time constraints.

Enthusiasts can choose between day trips and a two night short haul to Cameron Highlands. A six days long haul trip flies a prospective adventurer from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu where a 4X4 whisks them of to a campsite in the beautiful Kenyir Lake before heading to a beach resort and returning to Kuala Lumpur.

Food, drivers and camp beds, where needed will be provided by the operators. Although visitors can rent 4X4s by themselves, they are advised not to venture into wilds without a guide and a few other driving partners as the terrain is difficult to negotiate without the help of a seasoned driver. Monsoons, landslide and rain may also change the tracks and make them impassable or inaccessible. Some operator also offer off road training training courses of a one or two day duration with a certificate upon completion.

   PARTICIPATING IN OFF ROAD COMPETITIONS  

There are two major off road driving competitions held annually in the country. The national Challenge is held in July and the top ten teams are eligible to take part in the November Rainforest 4X4 International Challenge of Malaysia which pits the 50 teams against the full force of nature’s tropical rainstorms.

Team will need to take charge of the transport and freight expenses of their vehicles and fuel. Although teams can hire 4X4s, these are limited and arrangements need to be made two months in advance. In soft or open topped vehicles, it is mandatory for competitors to wear certified crash helmets. Alcohol and drug abuse is banned and will result in immediate disqualification.

The Rainforest Challenge covers 2,500 km through seven states in Peninsular Malaysia with varying competition stages. The major emphasis first and foremost is on safety, 4 wheel driving and recovery skills. Awards given include Team Individual Spirit awards for exceptional motivation, leadership skills and the ability to act on ideas to assist other; Jungleman award for outstanding teamwork, survival, mechanical and outdoor skills and the Environment award for demonstrating the most care and attention to the preservation of the environment.

The vent itself takes eight days but most contestants take three days prior and after the event for repairs, adjustments and a holiday in beautiful Malaysia whether by the sea, or in the city or wilderness.

   ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE  

The casual driver as well as the contestant must always bear in mind that off road driving seeks to unite man and nature. It is never a test of wills of one against another. Internationally accepted practices are to be abided by when traveling and camping.

Always remember to take your garbage with you. No burying of thrash is allowed. Carry out bodily functions at least 100 meters away from campsites and well away from water. Keep to marked trails and do not drive over vegetated sand dunes while on beaches.

Never run over or flatten any living undergrowth or saplings if your vehicle can safely go around it. Attempt also to move fallen obstructions blocking your track rather than trying to drive over them.

   PRACTICAL OFF ROAD DRIVING TIPS  

  • Wear light but absorbent natural fiber clothing
  • Nights in the rainforests may bet cooler than expected so bring along water-proof jacket to keep you warm as well as protected from the rain.
  • Sturdy shoes are a must especially in competition events. Bring a pair of thongs or sneakers to let your feet breathe and relax when you make camp.
  • Socks are a must to keep your feet dry and unchaffed.
  • A pair of heavy duty gloves are also advisable.
  • Bring a sleeping bag and a camping tent for overnight shelter.
  •  Always check vehicles before starting out on a drive. Pay special attention to tires which can develop punctures from the rough terrain.
  • Carry a first aid kid with elastic bandages, surgical dressing, antiseptic, burn cream, eye drops, scissors and tweezers

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