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A road less travelled

Whoever thought that road rules and codes belonged only to roads, thought wrong. Anyone who decides to take a bold step and venture off well known trails will find that learning and practicing the “Off-road Code” is an important area of focus in the Taprobana 4×4 Challenge organized by the Four Wheel Drive Club of Sri Lanka, the point being the adventure traveler is penalized for unsafe driving and environmental negligence, among other offences specified in the code.

Aside from the required adherence to the code however, the challenge is as tough and unpredictable as it gets. For four grueling days, competitors and marshals must brave the worst conditions with no mechanical assistance. And the event dates are deliberately set to coincide with the monsoon rains, where the chosen terrain typically changes as the showers descend.

“Since 1993,” recalls Sean Hameed- Event Coordinator of the Four Wheel Drive Club, “I have ventured out onto old mapped trails- especially the abandoned ones, cataloguing them, and putting a loop together that could be managed within a specified time period depending on the number of vehicles in the convoy.”

Overcoming numerous obstacles, negative attitudes and several hopelessly damaged tires, the challenge is now an eagerly awaited event among the 4×4 community where in the thick of the action, garage owners and Corporate CEOs mingle and vehicles range from the latest to the older models with technology light years apart, and yet these differences become immaterial as camaraderie is the key to success.

In its seventh consecutive year the Taprobana Challenge has- like surfing in Arugam Bay- already begun to put Sri Lanka on the map as one of the best 4×4 destinations. Inspired by the Annual Rainforest Challenge which was first held in Malaysia since 1997, the Challenge is taken to many locations across the island where contestants are tested to their limits in a bid to bring their game up to international standards. Sri Lanka first entered the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge in 2006, and in 2009 Team Sri Lanka- Indika Sanjaya and Naveen Marapana finished third overall; bringing about a change in the Malaysian dominated competition.

“This achievement,” explains Sean, “ has given much needed attention to Sri Lanka as a great 4×4 destination. The 2010 challenge which was held in Buttala was officiated by Rainforest Challenge officials along with our local officials, where they endorsed the event to be of international standards.” “And in 2011,” continues Sean, “the Rain Forest Challenge chief Mr. Luis J. A. Wee has offered the Four Wheel Drive Club, to bring Taprobana 4x4 Challenge into his selection events which will become part of an International 4x4 calendar. Such selection events are currently held in China - Sanya, and Vietnam and Philippines are in the cards as well.”

For the nature lovers out there who like to get their adrenaline pumping, the Taprobana 4×4 Challenge is a magical and thrilling experience. “It is an awesome feeling,” says Sean, “when people come to our jungles and are struck with amazement that such places exist in Sri Lanka. This is the message we have been trying to get across to many we meet at overseas events- not to underestimate the Sri Lankan wilderness.”


Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 @ 10:19:24 LKT


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