The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Bukit Kampung Pulau Betong
This is one of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index. This is a Grade 2 walk (with a Grade 3 add on). 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.
If you stand by the mosque in Kampung Pulau Betong and look towards what we call Hakka Hill, you will see that there is a small hill on the left It's the start of a bowl in the hills that runs round all the way to the Chinese School near Pulau Betong proper near where the 403 bus turns round. Seen from a distance, it was clear that it was home to an active durian orchard and for the sake of completeness, I had for sometime been planning a visit. Now we had the use of Mavis, checking it out was practical but first we had to find the path up. We parked part way along the road through Kebun Cha where there was a path (it's behind Yuehong in the first picture). It wasn't up to much and a Chinese gentleman collecting banana leaves asked where we were going. Cue Yuehong at her best and she was told that what we should be doing was taking the valley concrete road where the road to the Hakka Centre starts to climb.
That's easy enough to spot, the pole is HT KC 19 and this is what the junction looks like. The first property on the left styled itself 'Jungle Villa' and we correctly reckoned we could ignore that as an option.
The road soon appeared to come to an effective end but in fact it continued under the leaves.
Round the corner we found what looked to be a failed attempt to create a 'homestay', the pool was empty and at least one window was broken. Like many of these places, it had obviously lacked effective marketing.
We passed an empty house and came to the gate of the fruit orchard with a collecting shed, which was unusually tidy for such a place. The gate was invitingly open, I doubt they get many casual visitors here.
The road continued, we expected to find a house at the end as there were electricity poles. We passed two junctions, the one below is the second.
This was the house, a modest affair, I doubt anyone lives here anymore, we had seen the motorbike come up. Beyond, the track was still wide but had not been made up.
Just after it curved to the right to go to the ridge, was this huge rock which was home to a sprawling tree. In this part of the world, such a thing would normally be a special place but not here.
There were some nice views out. The first looks towards the Hakka Centre and Bukit Gemuroh with the recently cleared area we had visited on our previous trip here. The second is looking down to the Balik Pulau plain with a paddy field in the foreground. The third shows a slightly different view of Pulau Betong itself. At the first summit a concrete path came up from the right, this must have been from the second turning we had seen below.
The top was clear and planted with durians which is unusual because they don't do well in exposed areas, often we would still have found rubber here. Maybe it is because the hill is barely 150 metres high. We continued and got another view down towards the corner of the island.
At the highest point we found a large water storage tank, there are no streams into this orchard and this will have been the best option to keep the trees developing their fruit in dry spells. The hill has no name on my maps, hence I have tagged it as 'Bukit Kampung Pulau Betong', not b#to be confused with the well known 'Bukit Kampung Pulau Betong' in the background in the first picture below.
To the left, the steep hill was covered in 'jungle' at least in the upper area and ahead was much the same, it would have been great if we could have readily continued on the ridge but it was very much an unknown quantity and we left it for another day.
We had come to the end of the orchard and below was an easily accessible shelter. It seemed that the 'forest' here was actually old rubber and there was at least one recently active tappers' trail into it.
As expected there was a path out. It quickly led down to a junction where we turned left and came back down to the concrete road. A feature of this orchard is the large number of 'boulder walls' which had previously no doubt supported rubber terraces.
There was the last concrete path to investigate, it seemed quite a recent addition. Soon we passed a relic of rubber days here.
It soon finished and we were onto old stone steps, but they curved left and we found ourselves heading back up the edge of the orchard.
We looked instead across to the next orchard on the other side of the stream bed. It looked easy to get to but in fact the ground under the greenery was very uneven - it's a streambed - and instead we went back to the 'gatehouse', and carefully crossed the stream. (If you are repeating this walk then obviously avoid the awkward bit to come by going back down the hill to the starting point.)
We could have gone round a terrace but climbing up a few of them would bring us to a ridge.
At the top we found a small fence, but fortunately one part had fallen down and we could climb over.
Here we found a viewing platform which wasn't in the best of shape, it may never have been finished. Close by was a house with yapping dogs.
Not surprisingly, there was a concrete road out to a barrier which was familiar as we were now on the main Hakka Centre road, at pole HT KC 34.
We'd only been out two hours and in anticipation of this I had done my homework, looking at a previous visit where we had explored on the other side. I knew that if we went down to HT KC 28 we would find a path. Yuehong wasn't very keen as it looked rather 'green' but at least we were going up it so it would be less slippery.
We climbed past one house almost hidden in the trees (I think accessed from HT KC 31) and came to another. Last time its occupant had helped us find the way up.
The path actually ends in a small valley but before that we knew to get to the ridge on the right.
Underneath there's a path of sorts with some concrete.
Then, just as before we saw the end of another concrete path in a different orchard which was far better used.
There are more old terraces here and also some quite young rubber not far away. We enjoyed yet another view of Pulau Betong with the mosque and school between us.
Very soon we came to a junction and turned right down the hill. We knew to go straight ahead at the 4 way junction and were soon all the way down. There was a foul smell of recently caught fish drying out, they were, of course, covered in flies...
We were back at the car in under 3 hours, a short walk was no bad idea as we had only had two days off in the 5 weeks since the beginning of December. We indulged ourselves with two dinners, a modest 'starter' in the nearby Hai Ching and our usual main dishes in Sungai Pinang.
By 20.00 it had started to rain at home and at the time of writing (10.00 next day) it is still raining. It's time to catch up on the correspondence.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson