overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Enter the jungle

Written by Max Smith. Uploaded 23 August 2006.

Malaysia, Country 22, Diary entry 22nd to 26th June 2006, Total distance in Peninsular Malaysia: 3442 KM

Left, right, accelerate ... beep, beep, accelerate. The truck was being pushed hard to its limits, not by the harsh road conditions but rather the skilful hand of Mazley's rally driving prowess. We had just left Koh Lanta with an expectation to cross the Malay border in about 4 hours. Once again local hearsay and wives tales proved completely inaccurate, which left us believing we were going to miss the border opening times to cross and a heavy fine for being over our Thai visa's, a fine we dreaded paying. So the cocktail of Maz, time pressure and financial penalties brewed into a race like none other. It's the sort of experience a bank robber might have running from the police or a fox running from the hounds. I had a true sense of fear, I never knew a 4 ton cruiser could corner like it was on rails. I kept this fear to myself as the fear of dying in a crash was less than the fear of asking Maz to calm down her driving. That said we arrived in record time and made the crossing into the next wilderness. The crash course in rally driving for Maz was unnecessary as the border didn't close till 11pm! Are you sure this stuff is edible?

The border crossing was quick easy and simple, no cavity searches or trouser dropping for Towns this time which I think he was a little disappointed about. Then off we went into North Malaysia. The only word to describe it is WOW. Perfect motorways, organised signs and courteous drivers, a real rarity in this neck of the woods. You would be forgiven to believe you were back driving the M25 in the UK, just a little warmer and a lot less traffic.

We had no real time plan apart from getting to KL in a 3 days time to meet up with Jeff the 4x4 guy. Alex had visited these parts as a kid and after a 2 second discussion, we speedily headed to Georgetown on Penang. I never realised what a huge international reputation Malaysia had as a tourist destination and how developed the island would be. It always takes a while to get your mind back in gear when leaving remote areas and entering a new huge metropolis, and Georgetown truly is that, with a sky line to match those of London and Paris. I think it has developed a little from Alex's childhood adventures. With tummy's rumbling we searched out the main Chinese area relying on the knowledge that cooked meat is always available. Much to our glee we were in Satay territory and thought it rude not to sample to local delicacy a lot. Don't think, just swallow

We planned to leave town a little, find a remote spot and bed down for the evening... Dare I say it, it's never that easy. After an hour or three and a few dead ends we managed to find a ridiculously steep slope and head into the hills. Once there the token team of pack hounds welcomed us with howls and calls. Mid evening it started to rain, then harder and harder until it was literally bucketing it down. Alex and Maz tucked up in the roof tent and me in my new swimming pool floating on the sodden ground. After a few hours of this it's no longer funny. As quickly as it started the rain ended and the 40 degree heat hit the island. We were found by some local farmers. I think we smelled them before seeing them, as they were carrying the over pungent durian fruit. Maz is allergic to jack fruit and as they are from the same family, she was the only one to have a semi allowed excuse not to try it. The farmers kindly offered us a taster and laughed at the faces we pulled as we tried to swallow the fruit politely. It only took the 6th brushing of teeth to slowly get rid of the taste. Nice view but not worth 18quid

We headed into the nearest tourist area for breakfast and a bit of R&R. After the standard terrible tourist tat breakfast we headed to find an internet shop to continue to let the world know our adventures. It's situations like this that you realise and appreciate how lucky we all are to have experienced a trip like this, with fantastic local food, local culture and true experiences. The worst experiences, food and events have always been when we have jumped onto the backpacker tourist route, funny that! Getting some off road advice from the Petronas Adventure team

After another 5 hour cyber space marathon, we managed to drag Alex out of the internet café and headed to grab a beer. An old trick any seasoned traveller learns is to take advantage of hotels' services when you get the chance. After locating the most expensive to watch a wonderful sunset in the beautiful gardens, I thought it would be nice to order 3 cold beers, it was 'happy hour' after all... "I'll bring them over" the waiter said. Strolled back to the guys who were keen to know the price as hotels are usually 2 or 3 times more than our usual street haunts. The guy walked up holding the bill, which he handed over. I looked, it seemed a lot but handed over the cash not really thinking. Alex did the maths and worked out that each beer was around 6 ukp, which was the next 3 days food budget, so with a stern look Alex marched to the bar to return our cold beers with an expectation of a refund. No wonder these hotels can offer cheap room deals with drinks and food at such mad prices. After initial discussions, we were told that happy hour had finished, we checked our watches, nope, there was still 15 minutes left before it finished. Again the waiter told us happy hour was over and then told us the time......D'oh, Malaysia is 1 hour ahead of Thailand which we hadn't realised, Happy hour had in fact finished. Still that didn't deter Alex. I have to take my hat off to Towns again, as the perplexed and unsure bar staff were a little confused as to what to do, he got the full refund. Tinfish camouflages in nicely

After that little hotel escapade we headed back to our manor, the streets, and grabbed a few beers (the cost of our food and beers that evening was less than 1 round of beers in the expensive hotel!) and put the world to rights. After another night of shocking rain storms the group decided to head to KL via a chance encounter with a cheese sandwich on granary bread (a rare treat for these guys!). Blasting down the silky smooth motorway we passed a service station where a huge group of 4x4 monster trucks sat on the forecourt, all in the same team colours and an impressive site for any 4x4 enthusiast. A few miles down the road the convoy overtook us and with the ritual horn beeping and waves they went off into the distance. As we ploughed through the miles to KL we caught site of the blue trucks again. As we caught them up they waved us down and invited us to a coffee at the next service station. Team photo

The team were the Petronas Adventure Team. What can be said apart from a huge thank you, is their trucks are great and the knowledge they gave us was fantastic. They were about to embark on a 60 day expedition around Indonesia, which gave Maz & Alex a spark of an idea to follow their footsteps around Borneo. After a good chat we followed Stiven into central KL looking for a place to crash for the night. My god, these places were shocking, you would not even want your dog to sleep on the beds. We've all slept in dodgy places but this was grungy and grim. After the best of a bad bunch we found a small hole which boasted porn pink bedding.

After Stiven had treated us to roti cheni, bread dipped in curry sauce - some fine Indian cuisine, we wandered around the tat and fake markets selling watches, pens and penguins. I left Alex and Maz to wander while I got stuck into deep negotiations for a number of fake Rolex watches and a Mont Blanc pen. Once I had been fleeced of all the cash on my person I headed back to the pink palace. Getting the car and kit sorted for Max's final departure

We spent the morning looking round town and had a peek at the Petronas Towers bellowing in the skyline. We had spoken to Jeff and were meeting up with him after lunch, so after the ritual internet café we headed out with Jeff to his home on the outskirts of the city. Jeff is a contact Alex found on the Internet who offered to help us while we were in Malaysia. His and his family's kindness were amazing, and very much appreciated. Jeff's wife Sheema must be one of the best cooks on the planet, and her cakes look and taste out of this world. I must also stress now the Redang curry is to die for, really..!!. You take the left rocket, I'll take the right

We spent the next day or so drying out the monsoon soaked kit and repacking the truck in preparation for my departure. I know Alex and Maz are relieved to have a bit more space back, as it was a little cosy with all my junk in the back. I had a flight back to the sunny UK that evening. It is a strange feeling to leave a lifestyle that you have had for a while and true friends. This was to be the last hop on to this adventure for me and was kind of sad with that thought.

The whole expedition from conception over a few beers, to hand building the trucks and the openness of 50,000 miles has touched all involved. It's hard to say how or exactly what has changed in each one of the team, but something sure has. For Martin I hope it's that he finds who he is looking for, some one to complement and balance him. For Alex and Maz it's that they have become incredibly close, a true example of soul mates. They now accept each other's oddities, of which Alex has a number, and enjoy sharing the moment. I can only say a life long thank you to the whole team, accepting me on my bad days and sharing the great ones. So this is my last entry, hope you have enjoyed a little of my cheek and a glimpse what life has been like on the road for me. It's true, adventures happen to the adventurous.

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Comment from Scooter
ah very sweet !!! You will get over it and how are you not going ot be able to join them again in NZ? btw Pengang+6pm = Rain, always!
24 Aug 2006 @ 22:08:06

Comment from Maxine
As enjoyable as ever - glad you survived the Towns' hospitality road style - strangely that didn't stretch to a £6 beer - funny that... ;o)
25 Aug 2006 @ 21:23:34