The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Bukit Gemuruh Ridge
This is one of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index. This is a Grade 3 walk verging on Grade 4 with the obstructions experienced. There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed.
Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.
Our report card for Part 3 would have read "Not good enough, will have to try harder". Now 5 days later, we would do the same walk as intended but in the reverse direction. Nothing quite concentrates the mind like failure, especially the inglorious variety and our touch returned, the allotted task was completed absolutely perfectly.
We again turned off Jalan Gertak Sanggul into what we call the Hidden Valley (electricity pole JGS 90) but this time we parked further up at the base of the new road. The banner celebrates the visit of a delegation from China in 2015, looking to import durians from the Balik Pulau area. Present was the old man, the owner, whom we had seen driving out last time. After a quick language check, I asked Yuehong to charm him which she did and we were indeed welcome to roam through his orchard.
The initial climb is gentle but after the hut gets steeper. The original path came up behind the hut, but is almost invisible now. After the U bend, we passed the junction where we had come down from the left previously.
Were we heading east for either Teluk Kumbar or the Pulau Betong Mosque via the Hakka Centre we would have carried on up the road. As it was, we needed to take the concrete path left and almost immediately start to climb the hill beyond the shelter.
It's just another attractive orchard path and soon we could look back down on the house and area where we had come out of the forest last time. Today we would climb rather higher before entering the forest. We knew to keep left at the only junction, straight ahead does not go far.
After one more bend, we were close to the forest and Yuehong spotted a boundary marker. With the Bukit Gemuruh Forest Reserve sign above, there was a distinct feeling that the wily old man had 'borrowed' part of it.
Above we heard a shot, which was most likely someone hunting a wild boar and near the end of the path we found a motorbike. From our visit 2 years earlier we knew it was quite easy to get into the forest here and we clambered up.
Once we got into the forest we spoke to each other loudly to discourage anyone from using us for target practice. We heard a loud scuffling human like noise but no doubt the miscreant thought we were some officials and kept well away from us. The forest was again quite clear here and in less than 15 minutes we were on the ridge. It was a good job we were going left not right as the latter was at least partly blocked. There are no real landmarks which would help identify this spot but it is a flat area on part of the ridge that generally climbs from west to east. We would now see what the ridge 'trail' could throw at us.
We didn't have far to go to the first blockage, two trees had been blown down next to each other. We looked to go left but finally decided to clamber over them. Another tree was down just beyond and it looked as if the wild boar had been rooting around it.
After which it was the mixture as before. Yuehong had described her first visit here as a 'hike from hell', now she loved every moment especially as we could quickly deal the prickly ferns and vines where we met them. In just 40 minutes from where we had joined the ridge we were back where we had left it 5 days earlier. We had been dropping steadily but from now on there was no obvious change in height.
We paused for some 'water'. I had hoped to find Yuehong's missing gloves here but alas there was no sign of them. On we went.
The next section is surprisingly clear, most of it was naturally that way, but we had given it a little help last time. There aren't many markers but at one point we got two painted trees and a small metal pole in one picture.
Soon we got to the old rubber, there are cups and plastic here, but no sign of activity for a while. It's quite clear but there is no obvious (former) access to it from below. Almost immediately after was a significant blockage. It's in the nature of these things that we chose to go left of it now and when we got to the other end, we realised we had gone to the other side previously. There was a mass cross island hike quite some time ago and I guess this marker (the only one we have seen on the ridge) dates from it. There was one final blockage to get round.
After which it was enjoyable hiking under the canopy which kept us clear of the high midday sun.
Eventually, almost exactly an hour after we had last stopped, there was another tree down in front of us. However, in a strange way this was welcome because it was a sign that we had reached the point where we would leave the ridge and go down. The small 'bridge' was quite unmistakable, the picture being almost identical to the one I took earlier.
We now had to get down the short distance to the bananas. Yuehong didn't believe me, but I was sure we were following a trail. Certainly, it was a better route than the one we came up on which involved clambering over small boulders.
We found another 'hole' to exit through and beyond was a metre high wall of greenery. In my younger days, I would have just used my body weight to smash through it, but this time it got the 'snip' treatment and within a few minutes we were into a clearer area, in fact you could have called it a path. When I failed to spot one continuation, Yuehong politely corrected me.
Soon we were among the durians, there was just one problem and that was that I couldn't see the path out - I knew it was there because we had walked it before.
The orchard was 'out of season' and it was only when I looked up towards the forest that I managed to work out where we had come from before and, sure, enough, there was the path, unfortunately, the last 50 metres or so had never been concreted. Once we got started, it was dead easy.
In a couple of minutes we were into the clear area. Somehow, we had managed to spend an hour coming down and now, since it was not yet 14.00 we sat and relaxed. My lovely wife had an unexpected treat for me, a third can of Tiger which was very welcome, not just because we were coming to the end of our water supply. The path down looks overgrown but in fact it's completely clear.
The dogs must have been having their lunch as they were not in evidence today. The gate was padlocked, but there was a gap next to it so we didn't need to climb out.
In fact the only mistake we had made was to leave the car in a spot which now received full sunshine. Nominally, we had been out for 5 hours, but we had barely spent 4 hours hiking. That was considerably less than for the previous visit and as a result, we had a comfortable early dinner in Sungai Pinang. Not for the first time there had been a 'coming together' in Batu Ferringhi and there was a long queue. Most Malaysians are patient drivers, but a few are not. Those on motorbikes, however, are almost universally brainless and have a death wish, exemplified by the one who fatally rode into the back of a stationary 501 bus we were sitting in at Teluk Bahang prior to departure a few years ago.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson