The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Gertak Sanggul
Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.
Fortunately, the coffee shop in Balik Pulau turned out to be a treasure and very good value and we demolished everything they threw at us. As we walked down to catch the 401 bus, I made the effort to photograph this lovely traditional Chinese doorway which had attracted my attention before. According to Yuehong, the inscription bewails the fact that there are many mountains between here and the family's original homeland...
Despite the advertised frequency of every 30 minutes, it was 40 hot and polluted minutes on the roadside at Teluk Kumbar before the 308 bus turned up. Gertak Sanggul is an unspoiled treasure, Yuehong suggested tellingly that maybe I could go off and do the walk and come back to pick her up later... Little did she know.
For a while all went as planned. We climbed the gentle slope to the point where we reached the inevitable 'no trespassers' sign and reached the view of Pulau Kendi I recognised from two days earlier, with the gate landmark.
Obviously, I had been tired and insufficiently attentive coming in the opposite direction where all the paths converged downwards. My recollection was to take the right fork at the gate (above), the left fork at the immediate next junction where the concrete on the right climbed significantly and the right fork to take us round the house with a dozen dogs. (This was nearly right, I had forgotten that there was another fork before the dogs, which needed a left turn which takes you almost next to the dogs as opposed to several metres away.) Quite honestly, after a while all durian estates tend to look very similar and by the time we had taken a couple of wrong turnings which were dead ends, we were again climbing (this being in effect the first right fork after the others) but into an area I didn't recognise at all, one open space looked as if it had been cleared for a house and nearby the trail went through ferns.
I had ruled out any jungle bashing from the day's activities, so we had no choice but to continue on this trail which was marked intermittently with red and white plastic. It vanished back into the overgrown rubber and at a junction branched sharp right (twice in quick succession) which led on downhill. It didn't feel right at all and it certainly wasn't what I was expecting or looking for. Suddenly the path widened, we could see traces of what had been crash barriers and then in front of us was an abandoned road. (Google Earth shows a cleared area above Gertak Sanggul, I assume this was intended to connect with it.)
This continued for a few hundred metres until the vegetation had grown out and blocked further progress. Returning just a short way, we found a good path to the left which soon turned into a concrete path heading downwards and generally east. We were back into durian country again. We met a motor cyclist who told us we were heading for Gertak Sanggul, oh dear!
After which the final view of the day came as no surprise! The trail finally emerged about 500m east of the village as a concrete road.
The 308 buses were having a bad day, we had to wait an hour for an outbound bus. When it came, we clambered aboard and on the way to the end of the line, we saw a failed 308 bus (of course it was a Chinese Higer) which explained the lengthy service gap. Rapid Penang were not finished with us because we had a half hour wait at Teluk Kumbar for a 401 bus to Balik Pulau as well. It wasn't too disastrous as there was still some time before the 17.30 501 bus to Teluk Bahang which always leaves very late. So there was plenty of time to take advantage of the current fruit glut before returning home. In front of the rambutans are the much less familiar pulusans, they taste like rambutans but are rather sweeter, I would say not worth the premium.
As for the definitive path between Gertak Sanggul and Pulau Betong, that had to wait for another visit.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson