The International Steam Pages

Penang Hills and Trails - Reverse Bukit Pulau Betong Horseshoe

This is one of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index. This is a Grade 4 walk not to be attempted unless you or someone guiding you is experienced in this area. In my book that means me or our good friends Rexy Prakash Chacko or Peter van der Lans.

There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed.

There are other hikes in the same area listed in the South West Index.

Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.

Mavis delivered us safely to the road by the Chinese school in Kampung Pulau Betong for a 09.40 departure. The Chinese are very number conscious, a '4' is the mark of death while an '8' is a sign of heaven. We Brits just like round numbers and as this was going to be report 200, I needed a walk which was more than a little bit special, hence the area and the target Bukit Pulau Betong which demands respect from even the most experienced of Penang hikers. Peter van der Lans had been up here a couple of weeks earlier and had emerged somewhat the worse for wear, vowing be would not be back in a hurry. For our part, we were both armed with garden secateurs which had proved themselves in action on Bukit Papan and elsewhere earlier.

That's 'Dragon Fruit', not my favourite but Yuehong is partial to it. My mind must have been on the later stages of the walk because I knew only that we had to turn left before the last house. Unfortunately, since my last visit nearly two years ago, someone had inserted an extra path and I directed Yuehong up it.

I knew we should end up on the opposite hillside but it was a great path and obviously 'going places' but not where we wanted. Oh dear. let's try the other path a bit further round.

To be honest that wasn't much better and died after this dead tree. Never mind, that's the right path not far away. Yuehong went rock hopping but I took the soft option and went down and up, of course, when I eventually met her again she was rubbing my nose in the dirt.

We'd wasted nearly half an hour but at least now we were going places.

Above us the State Forestry Department had allowed itself the extravagance of two yellow notices and the path finished just below the forest with the stream bed in front - not the kind of route I would ever recommend. Instead, I insisted we take a slanting route left and reluctantly Yuehong acquiesced. Ridiculously, it had taken us an hour to get here.

No one looking? Snip, snip and let's get climbing, it's not the kind of country you can rush but 20 minutes later we were just above the col and ready for the main ascent.

We had been warned of trees down on the ridge after the recent storms and this made it almost impossible to keep to what passes for a path up. This was perhaps the biggest blockage, there were two large trees, it seems one had brought down the other as it fell.

Above it, we had to cross from the left to the right side and half an hour more brought us to the mini-summit, time for some water..

This is a critical point, we needed to go right here past the big tree and down a small dip. I was glad we had done this part before when it was much clearer.

After which we were faced with a lot of 'ducking and weaving', when the camera went away, but we made steady progress. The wild boar obviously don't have much of a problem finding their way around, there are supposed to be lots up here but unlike Peter, we've never seen them. 

This part of the climb is a little longer and took 45 minutes. We made the summit by 13.00 and took a good break. Yuehong had her fruit and I had a cake.

The next part was always going to be tricky. In March, I had come up here and the ridge path was anything but clear and it would be worse now. Throw in the difficulty of keeping close to the desired ridge going down and that's a potentially serious problem. After 20 minutes, I should have seen a  flatter area ahead, instead I could see the ocean and could hear traffic to the left. We were several degrees off course and that meant we had to turn right and try to follow the contour round.

It was a timely manoeuvre as we came out just where the rubber started. "That's one of our rocks" said Yuehong recognising a landmark.

We may have hit the proverbial bulls eye but our problems were not over. In the past, we've easily found our way along the abandoned terraces but this time they were infested with prickly vines. Dealing with them slowed us down but eventually we came to a clearer area. 

Decision time, we had spent 90 minutes coming down from the summit and it was now 14.30. Here was the way down we had used all those years ago when we had first climbed to this ridge from the Gertak Sanggul side and which would get us 'out' quite quickly. Continuing along the ridge would bring us to another overgrown area and risk losing our way as we descended. Enough and down we went. Yuehong's body language suggested she wasn't convinced but I think that she, like me, was a little tired. Anyway 15 minutes later, we were out in the open. You might see 'slash and burn' but the reality is that it was ecologically and economically useless life expired rubber. Now it will soon be planted with durian trees like the area behind. All we had to do was aim for the house.

In the right hand corner, I knew we would find an old concrete path and that route also made for a gentle descent. The rubber here had been cleared a little earlier, the ground cover was healthy and the intermediate bananas as a cash crop were in. The path was as clear as I had ever seen it and we could relax once we got to the house as the rest of the hike down was on a good well-graded concrete path.

The house is now used as a store and it was nice to relax out front and enjoy some well earned refreshment.

The knees were more than a little sore and it was quite warm so it would take nearly an hour to get back to the car. It had been by some way the toughest hike so far this time but very rewarding. We had 'special pork' reserved at Sungai Pinang and it went down very well indeed. Yuehong relaxed in the swimming pool which she had all to herself and I did some serious rehydration.

Pulau Betong Area


 ____ = 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