The International Steam Pages
Selected Penang Walks - Balik Pulau Ridges
This is part of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang.
This is a Grade 3 walk. There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed.
In November 2016, the only suitable 501 departure from Teluk Bahang is at 10.30 (and the last bus back from Balik Pulau is at 17.30), check the Penang buses page for possible updates.
There are 4 side ridges running out from the main ridge between Anjung Indah and Bukit Penara, I now refer to them by their numbers. Strictly there are 3 and the first one splits into two. Hence the Nibbinda Ridge is Ridge 1 and so on. This walk involves Ridges 3 and 4. As I have said before we like this area because it is still almost completely durian and rubber and apart from rotational clearances it is 'green'.
Start from Balik Pulau or park your car if you have one near the house at the turn off (HT NH 4 88) on the Balik Pulau to Air Itam Road, in my book it's the classiest one in the valley. Follow the road left and up, don't take the road with the barrier on the right. Go past the two houses climbing what is now a concrete path. The first junction is at a concrete platform, turn left here as the right path leads only to a small hut beyond which an old man told us there is no way out.
The next landmark is this ruined house with a huge old durian tree in front of it, it must have been a lovely place once. Behind is a small Chinese shrine of the kind that are dotted all over the southern hills of the island.
You will now be in a very well maintained durian estate, instead of taking the valley path straight up, turn sharp left up the path below (the picture is taken looking back down). .
The path climbs steadily with some splendid views across the valley and back to Balik Pulau and Pulau Betong beyond. The durian trees were preparing to flower when we visited and just beyond this one, the path joins the end point of the concrete road.
Turn right on to a second concrete path and follow it round the side of the hill. Where another path trails in from the left take it, at the point shown in the first picture. Go up the top of the path and when it finishes, go just to the left of the hut ahead and the path will come down to the 5 way junction. (In fact there are two other ways to get from the end of the concrete road to this junction so pick the one you like, we prefer this as it has a good view towards Bukit Elvira on the other side of the valley.)
The next part needs more attention. There is a path going up the hill above the junction, which splits almost immediately, take the right fork, the left one soon finishes in a vegetable garden. Keep climbing, there is a good view across to Ridge 4 and the Bukit Penara masts.
There are splendid views across to Bukit Elvira, this is one I took 'earlier', the other pictures in contrast were taken on a much cloudier day:
The path continues past a small hut and then you enter a recently cleared area.
From here you can see Ridge 4.
You can simply blast through beyond the pineapples but it's better to take the old rubber terrace right. On our visit we found what we think are wild boar (Babi Hutan) droppings, a common feature on hill walks. Almost immediately cut left up a level or so and you will be in a mature rubber estate. Simply follow the ridge path up, you'll be almost on the edge of the plantation with an overgrown area to your right which is an old plantation.
Nearer the top the ferns get denser, when there are no more rubber trees ahead, do NOT blunder into the ferns, instead turn right into the old rubber.
There is no path as such, just curve slightly left, keeping a small drop on your right. When that finishes, go down two levels and go round the side of the very small hill (on your left).
Keep going for a couple of minutes and you should sense that the ridge is coming down to you, you'll see the ferns on the top too.
The ridge descends gently for a very short distance and you will see a clear track just to the right, follow this onwards and you will come to a jungle path.
Very soon you will come to a large fallen tree but it doesn't block the path. Keep going through the jungle on a good track and in a few minutes you will emerge into the Nanshan wastelands. You will probably wish you were back in the jungle!
As the path drops slightly, you'll get a brief view down towards the airport. Go past the hut, following the contour path (if in doubt keep left) until you get to the infamous 6 way junction. Take the concrete road that goes up the hill to the left (ahead leads down to Paya Terubong).
This is a short open climb and not pleasant in the sun, soon you'll reach a hut which makes for a good resting point. Follow the road a little way further and then at the water tanks before it starts to rise, be sure to turn left onto a path which soon reaches extensive ginger and then climbs up to a hut among the vegetables on the ridge from where you can continue climbing towards the jungle covered hill top.
Ahead you will see an excellent forest path, take it. Under no circumstances be tempted to take what looks to be a short cut down to the right - it was horribly overgrown lower down in March 2015.
Instead stay with the path (ignore a ridge path left) and you will soon come into the top of a rubber estate, the track becomes concreted and curves down to the house below. Follow the path round to the left and you are now descending Ridge 4. It's impossible to get lost.
After a while the path starts to zig zag, there is just one significant junction and it is clearly a minor trail from the concrete, we had come down from the right and would continue behind the camera.
You will emerge on a road with electricity poles (NH 4 7 8), turn left and when you get to pole NH 4 7 30 by a house continue downwards and just before another house turn right down a small path which which soon bring you to a concrete road. Turn right down it and in due course you will pass a barrier and then join the Balik Pulau to Air Itam road. Go straight ahead following the road left at the bottom of the hill and walk back to Balik Pulau.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson