The International Steam Pages


Penang Hills and Trails - Gertak Sanggul Circular
An Unintentional Roundabout!

This is part of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang. Click here for the index. This is a Grade 2 walk. 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.


Two days earlier, I had made extremely heavy weather of getting from Pantai Panjang (Pulau Betong) to Gertak Sanggul. This circular trail came about as a result of an attempt to rectify the previous less than totally successful venture, as you will read we found a very pleasant walk, but it was not the one we were expecting!

The map on the right shows the key middle section of the route we followed and is definitely NOT to scale (there is an updated version in another walk report.). The paths marked with a "?" were worthy of further investigation, of course nearly all just finished in yet another rubber smallholding or durian orchard. According to Forest Ang's book, there was at least one other trail connecting Gertak Sanggul and Pulau Betong some 10 years ago, this is an area I must revisit (probably without Yuehong initially) as it clearly offers some very pleasant hiking and quite gentle by normal Penang standards.

It was not a glorious day, right from the moment Yuehong cursed me for not bringing her current favourite book to the toilet as we had to leave earlier than usual. The curse worked well, we were one stop along on the 101 bus to Teluk Bahang when I realised I had left the water behind, together with the essential mosquito repellant. I rushed back to the flat and as a result, we missed our breakfast in Teluk Bahang and caught the 09.30 501 with one minute to spare. (Note since then the bus has been retimed, see above)

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.


Pulau Betong Area

Key:

 ____ = Concrete Road

 ____ = Path

 ____ = Easy 'Off piste'

 ____ = Seriously 'Off piste'

(Not all paths are shown, there are many more
which are seasonal or just go to houses.)

Click here for information on the maps.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk