15. August 2000 10:41
by Rene Pallesen

The Competitors . . .

15. August 2000 10:41 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

the competitors
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

The Competitors . . .

The competitors did not rest... three of the teams were half way through the 600 kilometre course after only three days... pretty amazing!

Two of the teams were Australian. 18 teams were out of the race. At least 10 of these were due to medical problems.

Hardly any people around here get enough sleep... the place is active 24 hours per day because there are always competitors coming in!

I was keen to find out how the Danish team would turn out. At the beginning of the race, they were not very sociable. But by the end of the race, I think the tension of the race had gone, and I managed to have a chat with them. By the third day, the Danes are doing pretty well... they had a 22nd place!

Race on mountain bikesRace on mountain bikes

This was the mountain-bike leg of the race.

The guy you see being transported to hospital in the helicopter (photos below), was doing this part of the race. He was rounding a corner on his bike and rode straight into a large branch.

Rush to medical facilitiesRush to medical facilities

We had a lot of medical urgencies... we almost lost a guy with a punctured lung !
I got some great photos and helped getting the guy into the mobile hospital. There was a lot publicity on the website and through the media about it.

Fortunately, he was only 15 minutes away from HQ, so it was possible for us to get him to the helicopter very quickly, and to the nearest hospital.

River Race

Another leg of the race involved rowing in these “sampans”, a Malay term for “boat”. At some point, the teams in the race had to also split up - some of them swimming, some of them rowing, to complete the water leg of the race.

Below, the competitors had to use a flying fox to cross the canyons. I managed to have a go at it - compared to rock-climbing... well, I found it pretty boring *smile*. I imagine most people would find it quite fun though.

Setting up of flying foxSetting up of flying fox

There are no places to climb here.

I had hoped to take one of the helicopters to Madai Caves to check out the 200 metre abseil. The road to the Madai Caves lead directly through the tiny village of Gua Madai - a small cluster of homes, their wood bleached grey.

The town’s main sources of income are tourism and birds’ nests. The nests are found high up the walls of the cave, tucked away in cracks and crevasses, and can command thousands of dollars. They are harvested about three times a year.

My girlfriend mentioned trying "bird's nest soup" whilst I was there. She said normally the bird's nest they use belong to the swallow. It is a delicacy to many Asians, and similar to shark's fin soup - that is if you have tried it. Normally the nests are made out of the birds' saliva.
Headquarters flooded!

There was so much rain at Silam that HQ was often flooded.

Many of the competitors took the opportunity to get some sleep and the slept on whatever they could find.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:41
by Rene Pallesen

Repeater Stations . . .

15. August 2000 10:41 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

repeater stations
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Repeater Stations . . .

Paul and repeater Station in aircraftMe and repeater Station in aircraft

Here, you see Paul and I transporting some of the repeater stations by air.

From Silam, we flew down to DFVC. We stayed there for three days before going back to Silam.

Me at site of repeater station

I am at one of the repeater sites. Here, the top of one of the mountains was cleared, so we could safely land a helicopter there.

Oh... did I forget to mention that I almost chopped one of my fingers in half at the repeater site?

On top of my infected eye, I had another thing for the medical team to look at. The fingernail had been chopped in half and there was not much I could do about it except clean it up and try to avoid infections. The medical team was great there... they were extremely good.

Site of Repeater Station

We had a few problems with some of the communications gear.

Paul and Glen were handling it, and at times I tried to assist.

The first few days had been really tough.

Solar Panel Photo 1Solar Panel Photo 2
The top of Silam is covered in clouds for most of the afternoons, so the solar panels are quite useless. A survey of the conditions made prior to the race was useless.

If you ask any of the locals, they would have told us that the peak is always covered in clouds... but apparently no-one asked them!!!


We had problems keeping the generators running - they were using more power than predicted and there was no sun on the top of Silam to recharge the batteries.

The generator itself was a re-built petrol engine with a car alternator on it.

We basically tried to use a system where we used a jerry can, cut holes into it, and relied on the force of gravity to transport the fuel to the generator.

This design ended up working best for us.

Site of repeater stationSite of repeater station
Our helicopter pilot sitting on the side there, just grinning...

On the third day of the race, I hiked up the mountain three times. I was really tired and all I could think of was getting a bit of a rest and some food. I managed to get a bit once I got to Danum. In Danum I managed to get 6 hours sleep before someone woke me up and told me that the repeater had died in Silam... again all the cars had to leave in a convoy... so rush, rush to find my driver and managed (just) to get into the convoy!

The road to Danum closes at 6.30pm and all the cars had to go in the convoy.

Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 1Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 2
The helicopter flew all of us to the top of the mountain, and waited there for us till we were finished. Glen quite often told the pilot, "You don't have to shut down, because we'll only be here for 5 minutes." Well... quite often, we were there for as long as an hour and half! (Don't worry, the pilot was sensible enough to shut down immediately... he got to know Glen very well.)

I went up there often make sure that it was still running. It is much better getting a helicopter to fly me up there so that I can bring some fuel with me !

Glen fixing generator Photo 1Glen fixing generator Photo 2

Glen has mostly been on top of the mountain getting the generator back online.
We have to keep the generator running 24 hours per day until the end of the race.

Glen fixing repeater Photo 1

On the third night after the race started, one of the repeaters went dead.

I had to hike up the mountain on the previous day as the generator had died.

I did not leave the mountain until it was dark, so I had to climb down through the jungle in the dark!

Fortunately I had my torch with me!

Glen fixing repeater Photo 4

Paul later gave me strict instructions to make sure that I leave the mountain so that I could be back at HQ while there was still light!

I found out that I did not have any problems navigating at night... I even offered Paul to go back up when the repeater died!

Anyhow, we ended up having to send the airborne repeater up!

Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 3Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 4
Glen fixing repeater Photo 2Glen fixing repeater Photo 3

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:40
by Rene Pallesen

Silam and Jungle Ops . . .

15. August 2000 10:40 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

silam and jungle ops
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Silam and Jungle Ops . . .
It is so bloody hot in Silam! It must have been at least 40 degrees and 100% humidity!

Silam was the overall headquarters, and Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) was referred to as Jungle Ops. Jungle Ops controlled all radio communications and conducted the race through the the jungle.

From Kota Kinabalu, we flew to Lahad Datu and drove the rest of the way to Silam. Silam was the site of one of the repeater stations. We had to set up a HQ a few kilometres from this station... heaps of opportunities for a few walks in the jungle.

The operation at Silam was huge!... I had never seen such a busy place before. The place was crawling with energy. It was bigger than any military operation I had ever seen! You would be amazed to see the logistics involved in this project ! At the time I did not have the time to take a lot of photos.

We had many army trucks transporting the competitors' equipment - very good cooperation from the military. They helped out with the preparation and set-up of HQ, and with the transportation of fuel.

Arrival of army trucks at SilamArrival of army trucks at Silam

Office at HQ

This is the headquarters on the left.

The whole Ecochallenge race is governed from this office.

The map in the background contains the position of all the checkpoints at which the competitors have to go through.

View from helipcopter

Aerial view of headquarters
Both of the above photos are aerial shots of HQ and were taken from a helicopter.

I managed to get a nice aerial shot of Silam HQ. The big white patch in the middle is where the competitors stored all their equipment. Just to the left are the containers from where the race is controlled. The 4 'finger-like' white pads on the right are the heli-pads. The long rectangle to the left is the eating area, and just above it is the hospital.

Aerial view of Jungle Ops HQ

Approaching DVFC in helicopter.

This is actually a research centre in the middle of the jungle - commonly known as DVFC (Danum Valley Field Centre).

DVFC is not normally accessible the tourists and the general public, only to researchers.

DVFC is concerned about contamination into the jungle.

Jungle Ops HQ

Outside Jungle Ops HQ.

The green boxes contain bottled drinking water.

By the time the race was over, most of this had been consumed - quite amazing really, considering there were really only 10 people at Jungle Ops.

During the competitors were not allowed any help from us, and that included the provision of drinking water.

Paul at HQ

Paul with some of the radio equipment at Silam.

He is standing next to the HQ matrix, which contained all the communications equipment for headquarters.

Paul is also standing next to the only 2 beds in the HQ building. These were used by the radio operators to nap in between shifts.

Below, you see me sitting in the catering tent at Silam.

I think it must have been a good day, to have been sitting there, smiling... I am just guessing here, because obviously I did not take the photo, and I cannot remerber the place.

Me relaxing at Silam

Bad hair day

Bad hair day?

I did not have a shower for a very long time, and to hold my hair in place, I adopted various techniques, such as the sunglasses-hairband...

This place is a breathing ground for tropical diseases!

As you can see, my right eye is really red. I somehow managed to get conjunctivitis and did not know it was contagious. I did not want to trouble the medics as they were pretty tied up with the competitors. When my vision on the left eye was getting blurry and I had problems seeing what was in front of me, I was ordered to get it checked. Just as well I did!

In Kota Kinabalu, I had the same problem on the other eye... at one point both my eyes were infected. It started on my left eye on the way to Kota Kinabalu in the plane ! It then spread to my right eye. The nurse at Silam told me that I should be careful because it could re-infect to my left eye. It started to look and feel a lot better after using the eyedrops that they gave me.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:39
by Rene Pallesen

Preparations at the Magellan Hotel

15. August 2000 10:39 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

preparations at the magellan hotel
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

View from from balcony of our room

Preparations at the Magellan Hotel
( Kota Kinabalu ) . . .

All the Ecochallenge teams gathered together at the Magellan Hotel in anticipation of the race, which was due to start on 20th August.

During our stay at Kota Kinabalu, we were staying at the most extravagant hotel - as pictured on the right. It is huge! It has 3 swimming pools, and takes us an hour to walk around the perimeter.

The radio communications team had to arrive a few days before the start of the race because we had to hand out over 2,000 pieces of radio equipment. We had problems getting the necessary approvals for helicopters so I ended up having to hand out most of the equipment whilst Glen and Paul sorted out the issue of the helicopters. We had to get all the equipment and our team to Silam before the the race started.

Paul & Glen preparing the equipmentPaul & Glen preparing the equipmentPaul & Glen preparing the equipment

Glen and Paul checking all the equipment and re-programming some of the radios.
Yes, I'm busy working too!

Behind me are all the radio equipment, ready to be handed out. I am standing here waiting for the competitors to arrive as I have to sign out the equipment as I give them out.

We had to improvise a lot of the furniture, using old crates to set up tables.

Vegging in really nice rooms

After the race, Glen and I decided to make most of the luxury and just veg... aaahhh... bliss!

Relaxing on our balcony

Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:39
by Rene Pallesen

Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

15. August 2000 10:39 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

ecochallenge sabah 2000
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Click here for full size map of Sabah, Borneo

Ecochallenge in 2000 was held on the east coast of Borneo, in the jungles of Sabah. It was an extreme race where the competitors taking part have to endure 10 days of running through the jungles; kayaking and swimming many kilometres offshore; and mountain-biking for 150km on dirt roads. All in all, the fastest competitors travelled 600km in a space of just over 5 days!

I had the privilege of being there, being the developer of software that was used by the radio communications team. I also helped out with the setting up of all equipment and made many trips to the repeater stations.

Being in the jungles of Sabah, let alone part of the Ecochallenge preparations, has proved to be a challenge and an experience worth remembering, and hope to be part of any future Ecochallenge events.

As shown in the map, the red trails are where most of the competitors either ran or walked. The purple trail was the kayaking/canoeing leg. The orange trail was the mountain-bike leg and the blue trail was where the competitors had to swim with all their equipment.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

4. March 2000 11:07
by Rene Pallesen

Chilli Festival ( 4th March 2000 ) . . .

4. March 2000 11:07 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

chilli festival 4th march 2000
Three Dancing girls

On this particular Saturday, I drove to Terrigal to see the Mexican Chilli Festival... it was excellent. I shot two rolls of film up there. Some of these pictures have turned out beautifully!

A couple of my Mexican friends were doing the entertainment there. Victor is very good at playing the mexican harp. His wife, Shiraz, is an excellent dancer.

I took a series of shots in colour and a series in black & white. I shall first show you the ones in colour and then in b&w, as the b&w ones are very artistic!

Victor playing the harp

Victor playing the harp

Victor playing the harp

Victor plays the harp like a dream!

I was once at Lance's place - Lance was helping Victor record his music onto CD. The harp does not look like your ordinary orchestral harp. It was ornate and somehow different. It is was a very beautiful instrument.

One of 3 dancers


One of 3 dancers

As you can see, these women are gorgeous! Something about silk stockings, I think...

Shiraz is the photo in the middle. She did quite a few numbers, and this was one of them. All 3 girls danced in a colourful combination!

Dancing couple

Dancing couple

Dancing couple

Here you see Shiraz dancing in a duet.

I have seen her do this dance at a similiar concert May last year, here in Lindfield. Victor and a couple of guitarists provided accompaniment to the dancing. Shiraz moved so fast that at times, all you could see was this colourful wave of skirts.

Her partner's costume reminded me of the costumes the Spanish toledos wore (except without the cape).

Shiraz in white

Shiraz with feathers

Shiraz in red

As you can see, Shiraz danced a number of dances that day.

It takes a lot of energy to do those dances!

14. November 1999 11:10
by Rene Pallesen

Donkey Day Out . . .

14. November 1999 11:10 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

donkey day out
Grandparents on donkeys

Whilst we were in Morocco, our whole family went riding on donkeys.

That included my grandparents! They needed a bit of support to keep their balance, but otherwise they were doing all right.

You can see my grandmother, my brother Claus and my mother in succession behind by grandfather.

My father on a donkey!

Here is my father! Do you not think that he looks so much like his brother in one of the photos on the 80th birthday page?

Claus on a donkey!

Here is my brother on the donkey. It is quite amazing how much these small animals can carry.

Mum on a donkey!

My mum on her donkey. Not quite as elegant (maybe relaxing a bit would have helped) as the rest of the family, but at least she didn’t fall off!

This is one of the few pictures I have of her where she is not smoking! (oh, and the other one at my grandmother's 80th, of course! It was a very nice picture of her smiling!

Me on my donkey!

Finally, someone got a photo of me on my donkey!

14. November 1999 10:59
by Rene Pallesen

Morocco ( 1999 ) . . .

14. November 1999 10:59 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

morocco 1999

Our main reason for the trip to Morocco, was to come together as a family and attend my grandmother's 80th birthday. We also managed to explore Morocco, and even had a fun day riding donkeys - yes, the whole family - my grandparents, parents and brother!

We met different people and there were some really beautiful women in this country. There were some interesting buildings and we even found some strange goats!

The Women of Morocco . . .

One beautiful girlAnother beautiful girl

Girl being offered

People in the city tend to be more extremist/fundamentalist when it comes to religion, then those who come from the country areas.

One reason could be that the people living in the cities are mainly Arabic, and those living in the countryside are Berbers.

Berber women are less dressed up than in the cities.

Some of them are extremely beautiful.

Also, I noticed that those in the city tend to be more self-conscious of photos being taken than those in the country.People are naturally a bit shy, but by showing friendliness, it a makes it a lot easier to take good photos.

Hmmm... Do you know that I was actually offered to buy this girl on the right for two camels? I do not know why they wanted to get rid of her. Maybe she was making too much trouble in the village?

Anyway…I refused the offer.

Henna hands

The girls decorate themselves with what is called henna. It is a dye that stains there hands for a long time. They paint different patterns onto their hands and it actually looks very pretty. Much nicer than tattoos - which are permanent!

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Goats . . .

A goat in a treeA goat in a tree (black & white)More goats in a tree!

We came across a couple of trees full of goats. They were climbing around the tree to reach all the green leaves. Our first though was that someone put them there, but they were too much out of reach for that idea.

14. November 1999 10:34
by Rene Pallesen

My Grandmother's Birthday ( Morrocco 1999 )

14. November 1999 10:34 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

my grandmother s birthday morrocco 1999

Mon Grandmere

My whole family was in Morocco to celebrate my grandmother's 80th birthday.

This is my grandmother. Even as an 80-year-old woman, I find her pretty cool (you should see some of the pictures I’ve got of her with dark Blues Brothers sunglasses).

(No need to say that the flags are Danish.)

It was a family reunion. We do not all live in the same place, but all of us make this journey as it is one of the few times that we all get together. Unfortunately, there were a few of us who could not make it.

It was important for me to be there it was hard to tell whether the whole family will ever come together again as a large group, as my grandparents are no longer living there.

My brother

My brother, Claus!

Another person I find pretty cool is my brother.

He has not been well in the last few years, but I love him anyway
( Definitely can't do without my big brother )

Mum's pretty cool too! She will probably hate me for putting this photo on my homepage. But it is a really nice photo of Mum with a big smile.

She hates the idea of me climbing mountains, but at the same time she bought me a climbing helmet as a Christmas present. She thought it will keep me safer when I am so far off the ground.

Thanks Mum for supporting me.

I also find my dad pretty cool. He’s a bit of a nerd just like me which means that we probably understand each other better than anyone else in the family.

My Dad's brother & his wife

This is my dads brother and his wife. The resemblance is unequalled. My dad and his brother looks very much like each other. They have the same bad habits (just like my grandfather) and both their wives are smoking like chimneys.
Me stuffing myself!

Finally, a picture of me...

I do belong to the family even though most of them have probably forgotten about it by now!

I am sitting outside one of the food places on the local market. We each got a serve of excellent calamari, shrimp and fish. I think this was the best meal I had while I was in Morocco.

Most tourists would avoid a place like this just because of the hygiene, but I have never had diarrhoea because I had been eating local food.

Perhaps all this travelling I do has made me immune to germs and bugs! Or maybe I just pick good food!

Do you want to see my family on a Donkey Day out?
Click Here!

Created: Jan 2000 Last Updated: 16 Sept 2001