Posts tagged charity

Reaching out, touching lives

Just last weekend, we spend a day among the Temuan tribe in the rain forest of Pahang with the CSR team from Sanofi-Aventis. The day started with our quick drive up the Karak highway to a little sleepy village called Sang Lee. The primary economy of this little village is heavily centered on its durian orchards. It does boast a charming little watering hole by the interesting name of Kedai Runchit dan Sayor Choy Hing (review here) that specializes in old town goodness coffee and curry wild boar noodles. As the crowd is much larger than what they were used to, the Sanofi staff had to improvise and started to help out, dishing out noodles, putting condiments and little saucers of chilies — and it looks like many of them are capable of running a noodle stall too!

With our fill, it’s no surprise that we don’t tell our passengers how rough the journey can be. I know many KL-lites complain about our pot-holed city roads but those are silky smooth compared to where we’re going! And the main rule when going off-road? Tread lightly. In all circumstances, respect the terrain and respect the ground you’re going on. Trying to bull your way anywhere gets you into trouble… or your vehicle with problems. We also never travel alone which means that the buddy system helps to get you out of trouble too! Then again, I serve a miracle-producing God and the same God that can part the red sea, can easily dry up a 4×4 trail. On Friday evening, a text message came mentioning torrential downpour and an impassable road. Well, we still go in faith. The news wasn’t so good the next morning while we’re having our wild boar breakfast but still we went. Have faith!

Well, watdidya know? The trail was bone-dry!!

{continue to read on for more…} Read More

Off-road prepping

{edit: should have been published yesterday morning — got stuck in draft mode}

Like I blogged earlier about 4×4 adventuring for a cause, there’s still a lot of preparation behind the scenes. While as a group, we’ve gone in faith that the Good Lord will never fail us (never did), there are some basic things that will always prove handy when you’re going into the bush. This trip is no different even though the road is one of the more challenging trails. I also carry my spare tire in the truck tray. It makes it easier to get out when you’re stuck in deep ruts or knee deep mud. Not necessarily for use when you have a flat or shredded tire but it can fill up a deep hole or rut you’ve managed to slide into.

Things I always have in my truck when going off the tarmac are listed below. Some may sound silly but you never know if it comes in handy.
1. Hi-lift jack. While a winch helps, this jack will save your ass.
2. Tow-cables (steel). I normally carry two along with a nylon strap for use on trees.
3. Chain saw. Some obstacles require trees. Include extra pre-mixed fuel.
4. Extra fuel and lubricants. Running off-road is not your Sunday afternoon drive.
5. Extra floor mats. Not because you want to keep your car clean, they help on muddy ground.
6. Flashlights. It gets pretty dark in the jungles. I bring 3.
7. Long handle shovel, hand-shovel and fold-able spade. Getting stuck is no fun
8. 2×4 inch wood beams. You never know.
9. In-car phone charger. You may need to call for help!
10. Leather gloves.
11. Leatherman wave tool.
12. Water container. 5 Liters. Engines do overheat.
13. Canvas tarp.
14. GPS units with extra batteries.

Get a 4×4 adventure and help someone

While there are off-road enthusiasts and aficionados who love nothing more than a challenging trail, I prefer to do some good in the process. Besides, you’ll going to end up with some vehicle damage anyways — kind of guaranteed except that they vary in terms of severity. Most of the time, their cosmetic, scratches, scuffs and the like but you might get some dings or dents in under body panels. It can always get worse like shredding your tires or breaking a suspension. Why do it if it’s not for the welfare of some poor, neglected and needy folks? These are our orang asli, the indigenous peoples of Malaysia. The original inhabitants of the land, they’ve been marginalized and mostly displaced and they need our help!

This August 28, 2010, Sanofi-Aventis, that big pharmaceutical firm is bringing doctors and pharmacists into the interior jungles of Pahang. It’s going to be quite a challenging track with foot deep mud, river crossings and 30 degree ascents and descents. Obviously they’ll be needing vehicles so if you have a 4×4, do drop me a note. If you have a virgin 4×4 that you’ve never put that lever/dial into 4×4 Low mode, give me a call. Stock 4x4s can manage this trail although it’s strongly recommended that you have either all-terrain (AT) or mud-terrain (MT) tires. The stock highway tires (HT) are not so suitable for the thick mud.

That said, like good photography, equipment only gets you so far. It’s the person behind the camera or the wheel that matters. On a similar trail like this, we had 9 vehicles from the Land Rover owner’s club of Malaysia that had two vehicle breakdowns and two parts where we needed to extract them. You wouldn’t think a short-wheel base Defender 90 would get stuck would you?

If August 28, 2010 is not a good date for you, you can always drop me a line and I’ll see what other upcoming trips we have that you can help out or participate in. There’s one early in December for sure. I typically go several times a year; usually to the interiors in Pahang around the Bentong-Raub area. The tracks are fairly narrow (single-lane) and range from easy to challenging. They are not extreme trails nor do they qualify for rain-forest challenge kind of difficulty. Any decent stock 4×4 with low-range gear, limited-slip differentials and all-terrain tires can make it.

p.s. Did I mention you get to sample some excellent wild boar curry noodles and durians too?

A Rancho upgrade

After 125,000km and about about 6% of that something else other than bitumen tarred roads (gravel, sand, kaolin, mud, river beds, rivers, etc), it was time to swap out the factory installed shocks. They’ve grown rather soft and in the case of the rear pair, one side was definitely much softer resulting in a slight tilt. Must be all those crazy teenagers from our Church Youth ministry riding shotgun in the tray, singing, jumping and doing everything they can to fall off while I’m trying to do the opposite. Eight teenagers can weigh quite a bit and you’ve got to throw in 400 kilos of rice and supplies to boot.

Trawled the forums for suggestions but most came down to Rancho‘s. Remember that unlike many 4×4 drivers I see in my daily commute, my truck gets dirty regularly. It’s just so silly to see a 4×4 with solid rear axles, low-ratio 4×4 mode with 18-inch super polished rims and low-profiles. The forums also strongly recommended me to go to Off-road Equipment in Batu Caves. So off I went and a full set of Rancho RS9000XLs got installed in under fifty minutes. Great service, good people and well, I’ll be back for more upgrades later this year!

The RS9000XLs are heavy duty adjustable shocks which seemed like something I would need as an unloaded tray tends to bounce on KL potholes so I figured I can adjust the rear stiffness based on loading. Right now, my front is set to the mid-point which is 5 (it goes from super-soft 1 setting to hard at 9). My unloaded rear is set to 2. I just had them for two days and what a difference it makes to the handling. Ride quality is improved along with reduced bumpiness when the tray’s empty. Overall stickiness to the road’s also better, especially taking corners although I can’t quantify it. Well, the big test in coming in two weeks when we head off for some community service in conjunction with Sanofi-Aventis. The road’s pretty tough but don’t take my word for it — members from the Land Rover owner’s club in Malaysia who went with me once judged the trail at about 4 if following this scale here or about 7 to 8 (depending on wet weather) using this rating scale. Ok, let me go and look at some MT tires…

SEMOA Fund Raising Dinner

A month back, I was helping with selling fund-raising dinner tickets for SEMOA which stands for Semenanjung Orang Asli (Indigenous Peoples of the Peninsular). They were raising funds to help empower the next generation of Orang Asli kids who lack not only a lot of basic things we city folks take for granted but most importantly, the access to education. They purchased a large plot of land in Raub and opened the Kebun SEMOA which I covered here.

I generally do pro-bono photography work for SEMOA so when, Pastor Timothy called me at the last minute to cover the event, it was definitely a yes.

The SEMOA Fund-raising dinner for the Orang Asli children was held at the Chinese Assembly hall in KL. It was co-organized by the Melia Hotel Kuala Lumpur. With over 70 tables, it was really wonderful to see so many people show up in support. There was a small souvenir booklet along with several performances, including Francissca Peter, Elvis “HT Long” Presley, AMPAC and CDFM Ballet. The food was excellent and so was the dessert.

It’s also interesting that they had Arno Thony, GM of Melia KL and David Jones, the President of the Malaysia-Europe Chambers of commerce in attendance and also giving speeches. Arno had this wife, daughter and son even performing a couple of musical performances! A bit sad to see no local company or MD/Director/GM participating in what is a Malaysian cause. Hong Leong and a few others had notable mentions in the booklet but sending some senior people would have lent more credence.

The guests also had a lot of fun as both Francissca and HT Long mingled with the crowd. At one point, almost everyone was on their feet dancing away. Here are some of the photos for the night… if you want to see the entire collection, you can head over to the OA Ministry Blog over here.