The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Journey to the End
of the World
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, well graded with just a short uneven section at the far end . There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed, my apologies for the missing final tip of the island.
Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.
Penang in particular and Malaysia in general have been poorly served by their politicians since independence as they have chased 'modernity' in all its worst excesses. As a country it lacks 'soul' and the cultural awareness of its larger neighbour Indonesia. More than 50 years after independence it seems trapped in the racial morass delightfully expressed in Anthony Burgess's 'Malayan Trilogy' which was written a long time back, the only thing missing from it is the British presence. I lived here 40 years ago when the quality (not to be confused with quantity) of life for the island's inhabitants was far better than it is today. Amazingly, the only way this view of Gertak Sanggul has changed since then is the erection of the communication tower. Now the latest Penang master plan will turn this idyllic view into that of three artificial 'reclaimed islands', egregious concrete monsters whose sole justification is that they would pay for the development of a proper transport system for the island. A classic case of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs if ever there was one.
If you mention "End of the World" to a true Penangite, they will go misty eyed and wax lyrical about the seafood restaurant of that name at Teluk Bahang, never mind that some time back the original owners sold out and it now operates from the middle of the village as opposed to near the sea. For me, it means that area beyond Gertak Sanggul which is as far as you can get from so called 'civilisation'.
We left Mavis as normal just before the road runs out and walked up the shady wide trail to the point just before the summit where this path leads off. I had always wanted to investigate it as we had seen numerous motorbikers using it, almost all with fishing gear. Yuehong had looked at it a few days earlier while I was 'jungle bashing' and reported that the first section was attractive and well graded.
She didn't lie, initially it's through old rubber before emerging into a durian orchard and then descending.
Since the path was sealed by the orchard owners the concrete runs out some way above the sea shore but there's a perfectly serviceable path down beyond the point where the fishermen leave their transport. Each one (most seem to be Malays) has his own favourite spot among the rocks, I guess from the number of motorbikes parked that there must have been at least a couple of dozen at work here.
Most use rods, a few use nets. It looks a great occupation but, in the middle of the day, it's baking hot.
Unlike almost all of what is served in local restaurants which these days comes from fish farms, this is all 'real' but my guess is that most of the fishermen will have little over from what they need to feed their families. In other words, it's a hobby that is a 'nice little earner' but no more.
On the way back, I popped down to this house at the bottom of the fruit orchard. It's more than a bit shabby, it looks as if it was never intended to be more than a weekend retreat, but look at that view...As the estate agents would say 'location, location' location' and it has great 'potential'.
Currently, it appears that the only thing standing in the way of the desecration of this area is a few billion Ringgit to get the project kick started and the stand off between the federal (Barisan Nasional) government and state (DAP) government. It's all rather sad to put it mildly.
On another one of her walks in this area while I was away exploring, Yuehong got into conversation with a gentleman who was managing an orchard of some 8 acres on behalf of its elderly owner. As such he could bank the proceeds but he had no incentive to develop it. One consequence was that he had never replaced its 60+ clove trees which means he probably has charge of a very large proportion of the island's remaining 'population'. Much of it appears to be inaccessible but this one is right next to the 'famous path' and there is another nearby. We'd walked past it several times without noticing despite its characteristic fragrance.
It was a very pleasant 'fill in' day as we wind down ahead of our return to the UK. Afterwards, I dragged a reluctant Yuehong to Gertak Sanggul's coffee shop ('Heng Soon') as I wanted to sample their Tiger. As always such a place was an absolute delight, Yuehong was in her element and on those rare occasions when she paused for breath I primed her with a series of appropriate questions. There are three seaside Chinese villages on this side of the island (the others are Pulau Betong and Pantai Aceh) and each is an absolute treasure. Get there before it's too late.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson