Disclaimer: This drive was done in Mitsubishi Tritons, but very little about this article is about the actual truck.
The typical corporate social responsibility project starts with identifying a body or organisation to assist, and then crafting an activity or event for the best possible munificent outcome. Not so for Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM). In the process of charting a route for the Borneo Triton Adventure, a very specific watery issue came to light. Thankfully, there is more than one way to travel from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang, and this discovery was made as a result of choosing the one furthest from tarmac. As you would, in a convoy of pickup trucks.
“It wasn’t just a case of visiting Kampung Sinaron once and asking for permission to pass through the village,” said Silas Martin, CEO of Borneo Tru Events and our squadron leader. “In the course of a few recce expeditions, it was made known to us that this village didn’t have a proper way of storing water during drought seasons, which is when we went back to Mitsubishi with an idea.”
The idea was simple. On our way from the Pacific Sutera Harbour hotel in Kota Kinabalu to our night stop at the Puteri Nabalu in Kundasang, we were to handover 10 industrial-size water tanks to the villagers of Sinaron — and join them for lunch during the stopover. These water tanks were to be positioned primarily at locations within Sinaron where the villagers tended to congregate, e.g. the kindergarten, clinic, community hall, church and surau.
MMM of course, was completely on board. As a result, what started out as a standard off-road media drive turned into something far greater, resulting in a significant impact on a small and little-known community. According to Sinaron village chief Mahadi Lakang and Ketua Anak Negeri Jining Lakang, about a third of the villagers were school-going children.
That’s a high percentage, and for a simple economic reason. Many if not most of the young adults had left the village in search of employment opportunities, including in some instances some of the parents of these children.
And so, on a sunny Wednesday morning, eight Tritons led by big bad Double Zero — the zombie apocalypse-spec Triton you see here — we set off from the Pacific Sutera Harbour. Double Zero is the result of MMM giving Borneo Tru Events a budget and letting them loose upon the countless 4×4 tuner and customising outfits around KK. Where do we sign up for this?
The 200km journey to Kampung Sinaron was uneventful, and for the most part was spent on the road. Lunch was delicious, not just because we had worked up an appetite joining the villagers in the graceful Sumazau dance but also due to the freshness of pretty much everything. Seafood goes from river to plate within the day; great for us, not so much for the fish.
As we pushed off into the rough we waved goodbye to our new friends in Sinaron village, fervent in the hope that the water tanks would go some way in alleviating their difficulties. At some point during the 50 or so kilometres though Keningau and Beluran before we got back out onto the open road, the trees dropped away to reveal the mountainside steppes of bario rice meeting beautiful, clear skies above.
What this means of course is that between the dirt track and certain tumbling death was a two to three meters of error margin at best, but the view was spectacular. There are checkpoints at the entry and exit of this mountainous path, for the purpose of checking that the same number of vehicles that had gone in had also made it back out. In a Triton, there is no doubt you will be accounted for on both ledgers. After clearing the gate, we continued on for 150km to the Puteri Nabalu for a good night’s rest before making our way back to Kota Kinabalu.
Over two days and roughly 500km later, the convoy was completely intact save for generous helpings of mud and dust. The terrain we passed through was just another day at work for a Triton. No truck got stuck, no winching, nothing. Even the use of 4L was mentioned in passing, because for the most part, 4H was plenty up to the task of the trail — selectable in the automatic VGT variant and above through the Easy Select 4WD knob.
Also, for those potential truck customers who spot a glaring omission on the spec sheet in the form of stability control, there is more than meets the eye. The Triton’s hybrid LSD functions as a mechanical stability control mechanism, eschewing sensors for a helical gear and viscous coupling to trigger the channelling of torque to the wheel with traction. When roads are nowhere in site, the simplest technology is very often the best.
Not long after the drive had been concluded — exhausting, but wholly fulfilling — in 2.5-litre Tritons in both manual and automatic guises, MMM launched a significantly updated version carrying the new 2.4-litre MIVEC turbodiesel with VGT churning out 179hp and 430Nm. Maybe it’s time to revisit the Borneo Triton Adventure…
[Words by VB]