The International Steam Pages


Penang Hills and Trails - Gertak Sanggul
Haunted Houses and a New Descent 

This is one of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index. This is a Grade 3 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.


The South West Index records our attempts to document the paths above Gertak Sanggul during our 2017-18 season and latterly we had done a near repeat of our classic December 2012 cock up when we ended up back in Gertak Sanggul instead of Pulau Betong. At that stage we knew there were actually 3 paths connecting the famous coastal path with the top of the abandoned golf course road and the recent account used the first of them while the earlier account used the second which is now effectively 'lost'. Today I wanted to record the state of the third one which we had identified in the 2017-18 season and had recently cleared and made suitable for regular use without the distraction of simultaneously using a camera. Since this was unlikely to take very long, we planned to find an alternative eastern descent to Gertak Sanggul to avoid having to use the main road in which is plain dangerous for hikers.

If you are a construction freak, then the village is full of all sorts of bits and pieces, some of which may date back to the golf course project, none has turned a wheel for many years. On the way to the path up at the west end, we passed an Indian shrine I had missed previously, the base of the tree looks like a face.

It's as good a start as it gets and after the long gentle climb, we passed the open area with the sea views and turned right before the 'dog house' so as to pass above the pineapples. As almost everywhere here, the valley is a durian orchard with abandoned rubber above.

In season, the path will be clear, at other times it will be overgrown to a greater or lesser extent, the open parts are obviously those worst affected and the junction for the first path (left picture) is pretty bad at the moment. The right picture shows what we think is the remains of the second path, there's a tree down about 10m in.

This is the third junction, left leads to the Da Ba Gong shrine, a dead end unless you cross the stream and make your way the short distance up to the rubber estate. We went right and after a short while I could see a bright area above us to the right. This clear area is visible in satellite views, it's much smaller than the nearby 'lunar landscape' and you can see where the second path entered and left it, we've got it marked for investigation as time allows.

The path drops to a stream with a concrete bridge, the 'grass' is very long right now.

Immediately after in the old rubber it's completely clear although we did remove some prickly vines recently. Beyond is another orchard, last year this fallen tree had blocked the path but it's just about passable now.

As we wound around to the right, we could see Penang's rival to Angkor Wat. Underneath is an outhouse for a ruined small house and nearby a water tank. This is the end of what was a concrete path.

However, thanks to our cutting, there is now a clear route onwards and slightly upwards.

Too far right and you would be in a gully and too far left you would soon be climbing quite steeply. Very soon we could see what was probably the remains of a pond in front and we kept right and followed its bank across.

Rather than continuing up, we knew to turn right and cross what was once a flat open area. There amongst the trees is another 'haunted house'. 

The rubbish suggests it was occupied informally not many years ago by migrant workers, but I guess the original inhabitants moved out when the land was sold to the developers. As you can see, it's now in a state of near total dereliction.

We left it and quickly found the 'path' onwards, it climbs slightly.

In a couple of minutes, it levels out and we were at a significant junction. To the right looking back is the path up to the west ridge below Bukit Pulau Betong, a route we had used in both directions recently.

To the other side is the lunar landscape, but today we were going straight down the top part of the abandoned golf course road. As we'd been here half a dozen times recently, the route is reasonably clear, you can't get lost but in places you have to pick your way carefully. 

Soon we got to the best preserved part, I'm amazed that so little of the barriers has been informally recycled.

Where the road turns right, we turned left dropping to the valley then following the path across two streams to where it is in much better condition..

There's a short climb past the junction to the upper orchard which is part of another route to the ridge. Nearby a water tank for this orchard was getting a makeover, it seemed a roof was about to be added, a few days before it was being sealed. Today we were looking to go right and descend directly to Gertak Sanggul.

After a couple of failures, we hit on this path which left the ridge and followed a contour west. At the only junction, we left the minor path down for a later investigation.

We left the open orchard and entered the trees, in a few hundred metres we came to a house.

It was in much better condition than the two featured above and appeared to be occupied by migrant workers. It would not be too far from here on to the lower section of the golf course road but it would have been pretty overgrown. Rather than return to the junction, we were attracted by what appeared to be the original Hakka stone stepped path just after the house.

As it went down, it became less and less defined but by now we weren't too far above the village. We scrambled down to a brand new path.

This is as far as it goes now, further round an orchard has been completely cleared for replanting and this may connect with it. At the bottom we found ourselves behind this house - no wonder we had failed to spot the path when we did a quick car borne survey here.

We were soon back with Mavis where I was told we were going straight to lunch in Sungai Pinang. Anyway, there is more to discover at this end of Gertak Sanggul and we hope we can find a rather better way to do the final section although it is by no means difficult, especially climbing. Maybe then I'll get a chance to keep the local coffee shop in business.


Gertak Sanggul 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