STANDING THE TEST OF TIME
A Decade of Adventure!
(The Rainforest Challenge 1997-2007)
Extraordinary off-road 4x4 adventurers in an extraordinary event held in an extraordinary season – the monsoon; the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) has been running for the past 9 years in Malaysia. It is one of the toughest 4x4 events and one of it’s kind in the world. From it’s debut in November 1997, the event has also progressed to become the “world’s most internationally represented 4x4 event” with annual participation from over 25 countries.
However, putting the event together has been a challenging experience. From pre-event preparations to the actual D-Day of operations, every detail in planning and coordination counts, every decision is important no matter how big or trivial. The sum total of all these 12-month long happenings is what makes up the RFC each year.
“Live your passion in 4x4 adventure” is the RFC tagline. The event, created and founded by Luis J.A.Wee has, at last, come of age this year – its 10th anniversary and it will be a Big Bang celebration befitting its image as one of the world’s most unique adventure event. “This achievement of reaching a decade goes to everyone of my team (both foreign and local), RFC scouts/marshals X-Men, support crew, friends, sponsors and the State and Federal Government of Malaysia,” added Luis.
The debut event was held in November 1997 with participants from 7 nations. The route was long, from Kuala Lumpur to the north-east through Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and back to the capital city of Malaysia. The weather was kind even though the convoy had their fun through the various types of terrain from mud, slippery tracks to dry tracks and tarmac. Every thing was completed in time.
The 1998 RFC was flagged off at the Twin Towers of Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, which was then just recently completed. Rolling off from the tallest building in the world then, with all its high tech steel and concrete as a backdrop was a most memorable occasion. For the adventure part, the monsoon rain fell during the last two days - it was a race to "get out of the rain" which built up the camaraderie of the participants which by then has increased to 14 nations. Even if they did not understand each other, sign language was enough among them to cooperate and get out of the jungle.
The 1999 RFC was a most unforgettable event. Memorable flagging off in Johor Bharu in the south of peninsula Malaysia by His Majesty the Sultan of Johor and ended facing the South China Sea in Kuala Terengganu in the north-east. This was an infamous year indeed where the monsoon rain wrecked havoc on the tracks. In a tropical jungle, rainfall makes all the difference between getting out in time or being stranded for days. In 1999, even the easy escape route turned into “muddy hell.” No one was spared from the wrath of the monsoon. But it was a great time of adventure, camaraderie and teamwork as groups of adventurers made their escape from the “green hell.” Many stories, dramas of adventure and ingenious ways of escape were told and retold. By this time too, the event already attracted 20 countries. This episode was named “The Great Escape” (from the rain). The Terminator and Twilight Zone got their names here in Hulu Terengganu. The legend of the RFC was born, just before we reach the new millennium!
The year 2000 RFC was the year of the landslides. It was flagged off with pomp and razzmatazz in Ipoh (Perak) and ended in Aa Kijal (Terengganu). Continuous rain from the upper reaches of the jungle of Hulu Terengganu caused many landslides and the biggest of which was called the “Grand Daddy” which was impassable except for a small group of scouts, teams from Italy, Spain, Thailand and Malaysia; and a group of foreign and local journalists. The rest of the convoy had to turn back. That was also the year where the RFC achieved the Malaysia Book of Records for “Most Countries Participation in a 4x4 Event” with 27 nations participating.
From 2001 RFC onwards, the event changed its strategy of traversing a long route passing from one state to the next; from north to south or west to east. Instead, the RFC was concentrated in one state only to give the adventurers more time in the jungle. After all, in a jungle environment, even 5kms can take days to cross and within 2kms, there are already more varieties of obstacles than anywhere on earth, such as mud, steep ascends and descends, slippery tracks, gullies, ruts and rivers to conquer. That year, the event took place in the state of Pahang (from the northern part covering the National Park and ending in Kuantan on the east coast). The rain did not come; the weather was kind. However, traversing the jungle part even in dry condition is something of an achievement for the 4x4 adventurers.
2002 RFC was also held in the state of Pahang, this time covering the southern sector from Temerloh to the edge of National Park of Endau-Rompin. Again, the major rain did not come, only occasional thunderstorms. But that did not stop the adventurers from having fun crossing the numerous challenges of the jungle terrain. This episode will be remembered for the crossing of the longest log bridge (more than 60 feet in length over a ravine of more than 50 feet).
The 2003 RFC was held in the southern state of Johor, from its capital Johor Bahru to Hulu Sedili and ending on the beach of Desaru. The deluge came during the first three days of the event causing floods, landslides and the swelling of the Selai river to triple its size. The convoy was beaten by the deep and fast flowing river of Selai. Getting in and out of any route, was a challenge in this wet world of water, water everywhere. This was the year where RFC and its organizer both won the award as the Top Te Winners of Malaysia’s Most Spectacular Sports Tourism Event as well as Top Ten Best Organizer from Malaysia Tourism Council and endorsed by both the Ministry of Tourism & the Ministry of Youth & Sports.
In 2004 RFC, the action shifted to the northern state of Perak. This time the rain came early, a month before the event. On D-Day, it stopped raining. However, the early deluge has made the tracks in the northern sections impassable and a last minute rerouting had to be done. The first three days was spent trying to overcome the impossible. Many parts of the route including crossing of the Temenggor Lake had to be cancelled. The highlight was at the last few days of getting through the Twilight Zone of Hulu Kenayat.
In 2005 the RFC went back to Terengganu. The Twilight Zone lived up to its name yet again. It was a mission of “To Hell and Back” episode of camaraderie, teamwork and high adventure facing the natural elements head on. The rain made the going much harder of course and the adventurers lived up to the tagline: when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. It was a memorable event from the Opening Ceremony by the Chief Minister and ending with an unforgettable Closing Ceremony by His Majesties, the Sultan and Sultanah of Terengganu.
The 2006 episode took place in a completely new state for the RFC, in Kedah, facing the frontiers of Thailand. The route is unknown to most off-roaders even those from Malaysia. It was a challenge putting the event together. But the end results were worth it, The event was both media friendly with good transport stages. It was also the first time that a Chief Minister flew into the campsite (Pedu lake) by helicopter to make rendezvous with the convoy. Competition stages were challenging as well as an unforgettable “Stairway to Heaven” and the Twilight Zone route of Hulu Muda. It was also the best coordinated team effort by the RFC officials.
The 2007 episode was supposed to be a celebration of a decade of the RFC. And what a Big Bang ending it turned out to be. It was the longest, toughest and wettest RFC in a decade. Never in the history of the RFC has the rains been so heavy and unforgiving, the river levels so high and swift, the tracks so treacherous. The human spirit to endeavour through those difficult times shone through brilliantly. Great stories of drama, teamwork and heroism!
The participants and media had to deal with apocalyptic monsoon rain and widespread deluge and inundation half way through the event, which were unprecedented in its 10-year history. The bravest of the land daredevils went into battle on land and had to be rescued by boats. Dubbed as the Monsoon War, it was certainly a Great Escape extraordinaire which will be told and retold for a very long time. “Youtube” was among the various global media which showed the extreme river crossing of RFC 2007 which will be remembered for all times. The 10th anniversary event has earned its place in the annals of extreme off-roading.
For those with a penchant for adventure, correct mindset for a jungle event and dreaming of coming to join RFC, you can join us in the various categories like Supporters Package, Touring Adventurers, Support Crew and of course, as competitor teams.
The Rainforest Challenge is a time to live your passion in 4x4.