The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Gertak Sanggul
Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.
It's November 2018 and we are back in Penang for a new season of walks. This wasn't our first walk, in fact it was our fourth, but the others were all ones we had done last time and which showed up as 'no change'. We again have a Mavis at our disposal, but I'll be dropping the Mk 3 from the reports!
Many moons ago (December 2012) we did an unintended circular walk starting and finishing in Gertak Sanggul. Now we would do something similar again, but this time we would be better informed, armed with our experience earlier in 2018. I have promised to show the infamous golf course to a couple of irregular walkers and to make them sweat a bit, I intend to start and finish in Pulau Betong, something we'd done it ourselves, of course. Being of a cussed persuasion, I also want to throw in a relatively new (to me) section but this walk was all about making sure the dreadful prickly vines hadn't blocked the intended route in the months since we were last here.
As the map shows, the start and finish are some 1km apart. As it happens there is a large shade tree almost exactly half way which by some strange coincidence is almost opposite the Heng Soon Coffee Shop. Alas, it was a Monday and as expected my post-hike refreshment stop was closed.
It's a lovely climb up as we have recorded several times before. There was evidence that civilisation as I understand it had still not reached some sections of the Malaysian population. Actually, I suspect this heap of rubbish came not from a party of walkers but maybe a 'works outing' to the popular fishing spot at the far corner of the island as it was near the junction for it.
This pick up is frequently parked here, the furthest point you can take a 4 wheeled vehicle and we assume someone is developing a house and orchard in the area, Anyway, that was the end of modern Penang for the time being.
This is a junction which has tricked me in the past, but not today when we turned right. We assumed that the netting was an attempt to persuade the local wild boar population to leave the pineapples alone. Certainly from what we saw later, there are many of them in this part of the island.
We take our time these days and when we came to the Hakka wall it was time to stop for water. Just after it we came across a flowering bush which was unfamiliar. Any offerings from my readers?
Some 8 months ago, we saw a motorcyclist on this path clearing the further parts so devotees could reach the Da Ba Gong shrine. That's a ride he couldn't have done today.
Hidden in the long grass was today's key junction, left leads to the shrine and right to the golf course, which we took. There is concrete underneath but it's cracked and almost invisible now.
It's not the best time to hike here, it's several months since the durian harvest and with the next one some months away no attempt has been made to keep the grass trimmed. However, we had been here before and we recognised the exit point in the top corner of the orchard.
Ahead was the back gate to the Gertak Sanggul golf course (to be), it was 'closed' but 4 minutes of snipping with the secateurs opened it.
Unfortunately, the area just behind is infested with prickly vines and fallen small trees, which today completely covered what had once been a wide track. I wielded the secateurs but much time was wasted before I finally found what I wanted - it was just as well that I had not inflicted this session on our guests-to-be. After which, it was quite straightforward and for this I have to thank the wild boar who maintain the track and several wallows.
The bright light showed we were almost at the open area and as expected all the ferns which I had cleared last time had regrown. I looked for an elegant alternative but I took so long that Yuehong just blasted through - it was only about 5 metres and she knew exactly where we had gone before. These days, she's a mere sylph and so she left no trace, that's the view looking back.
Since we had been going for some 2½ hours, I was regretting my decision to call it as a 'one beer hike' but nothing could be done about that now. The moonscape was almost unchanged.
There was never any question of getting lost, it was just that it was taking rather longer than I had anticipated. Of course, it might have been 'age related' as the slightest obstruction slowed us down.
We joined what had once been a wide track and with an eye for two days time, I snipped quite a few prickly vines, especially as Yuehong was very sensibly minimising the pressure on her bad knee and taking it gently.
I don't think either of us greatly enjoyed this section, it's not at all beautiful but there is no other easy way through here. Eventually we reached that part of the road which is still intact.
There's not much of it, one must be grateful for small mercies and at least the connecting path out was in good condition, we had cleared it last time and the fact that it is shaded had kept it that way.
This was the 'main path' just below, it's not as bad as it looks, I promise. Just round the corner was our refreshment stop, another hour had passed since I had looked at the watch and the Tiger tasted very good.
From here, we knew the path would be clear, and it was. We came out above the village with a fine view to the east.
To the west it would have been even finer at the right time of day.
It was a case of 'job done', we can only hope that my assumption that the other trails will be sufficiently clear is a good one. Today, we had our usual excellent meal at the YoYo in Sungai Ara and 'enjoyed' Penang's traffic at its worst all the way home afterwards. It may be much longer but in future we'll take the pretty way back through Balik Pulau and Telok Bahang.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson