IT’S normal to go off-road with pick-up trucks. These vehicles are usually lifted up and equipped with winches, snorkels and aggressive rubbers. But with a Porsche Cayenne? Yes, we wanted to see that.
Although most of us would probably know that the Mercedes ML has been featured in Jurassic Park movies and there are driving experience events organised by Porsche overseas where they take the Cayenne to tackle snow and desert terrain, seeing a Cayenne tackling our jungle would be an interesting sight.
The two-day, one-night trip on a track along the Gerik-Jeli route started with a rendezvous in Gerik at 11am on Saturday 16 January.
There, we met Jerry Cheong, one of the legends of Malayan Mahseer sports fishing. He’s a regular in the Gerik area and on a first-name basis with some of the Tok Batins (orang asli village headman) in the area.
He was the initiator of the trip and on this occasion, it wasn’t about fishing but sending to his Tok Batin friend in a remote Kampung Krupp two pallet loads of Sunstar canned food that had been donated by Lanc Corporation Sdn Bhd.
At the rendezvous in Gerik, we were acquainted with a few more drivers, including Yap Chee Hoi, the Cayenne owner.
After a quick economy rice lunch, the convoy which consisted of four Ford Rangers, a Land Cruiser 70, the Cayenne – a first-gen facelift V6 - and our official media truck, the Land Rover Defender 110, we started our journey towards Hentian Titiwangsa via the East West Highway and the Gerik-Jeli road.
The uphill road, with fairly good surface and nice curves, is also a popular route for sports and touring motorcycles.
We arrived at Hentian Titiwangsa at around 2.30pm, with a break at the highest roadway point of the Banjaran Titiwangsa (Titiwangsa Mountain), the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia.
It was drizzling, so it was extra cold and foggy, which made the panorama take on a misty, even ghostly, look.
After the 25-minute stop where we had delicious curry pau, we got back to the road for about 10km before exiting into the off-road trail and following the Cayenne to see how the SUV tackle the terrain.
Unlike the traditional 4X4 which uses mechanical differential lock and manual gearbox, the Cayenne with its Tiptronic automatic gearbox is paired with electronic differential system for its full off-road mode.
The system helps the driver gain traction while climbing on challenging surfaces, similar to normal traction control on road cars, but with more complexity on its torque distribution.
On descending, the brilliant system allows the driver to focus on steering the vehicle while it takes full control of the vehicle’s speed and downward rate using engine braking, and braking on individual wheels where necessary.
Through the trail, we passed some beautiful rivers and at some sectors, some views of the Banjaran Titiwangsa which reminded us that we were at high altitudes.
There were also signs of elephants in the vicinity as indicated by their dung piles on the road as well as the electric fence with a warning sign.
One of the biggest challenges of driving our Defender off-road is to keep within the narrow power band.
Since the sweet spot of the 2.5-litre Tdi engine is around 2,000 to 3,000 revs, we have to constantly monitor the tachometer while climbing and selecting the correct gear as the peak torque is in that particular range.
Our convoy arrived at Kampung Semelur, one of the orang asli villages under the Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli (JAKOA).
At the village, we met Samat Jerago, the ketua kampung or village leader. We distributed groceries, consisting of sugar, canned sardines and curry chicken to the community.
According to Samat, there are about 35 families in the village and their resources are rattan, herbal roots and plants as well as vegetables.
They usually sell the forest products at Banding, near Belum Rainforest, which is around 28km from their village.
Most of the orang asli communicate in their own language but a few leaders and representatives of the village, including Samat, were fluent in Bahasa Malaysia.
The village has three Toyota Hilux which they won in a competition organised by JAKOA.
We spent the night at the village in two open-sided halls beside a stream. There are also a few A-frame chalets around the halls as well as toilets.
“The open-sided halls and chalets were built by JAKOA and are for rent to tourists and visitors,” said Samat.
Misson accomplished. The Porsche Cayenne made it minus a few plastic panels but for a more serious trip, Yap already has his eyes on a Land Rover.
Who knows he will turn up in a 5.0-litre supercharged Range Rover Sports. Now, that will be more accomplished.