The International Steam Pages


Penang Hills and Trails
Gertak Sanggul Circular

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, much of it is through overgrown old rubber. 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.


This was an unplanned return to Gertak Sanggul, three days earlier Yuehong had dropped her watch after our hike to Pasir Pandak and the good people at the Heng Soon coffee shop had found it. So instead of doing this hike from Pulau Betong, we found ourselves climbing the abandoned 'Golf Course Road'. For once I didn't have to take a new picture of our starting point which was the same as last time. All the rest of the pictures (except the last and one historic one) are new. By now we had collected the watch as the coffee shop would be closed by the time we got back.

For the first time, the house at the end of the road appeared occupied but the long grass suggested that the road was as lightly used as ever.

The first part is indeed very overgrown and we had to be careful to remember to turn left after 50 metres but thereafter it was almost exactly as we had left it and the secateurs stayed in my bag.

Quite how this mug had got here I have no idea, Yuehong is a born scavenger and attached it to her belt.

Progress was excellent until we got to the landslide. All blockages are relative and this was actually minor, a couple of minutes with the secateurs creating a suitable hole. 

When we got to the top of the climb, Yuehong went to answer a call of nature and of course she had forgotten about the mug. Fortunately, it fell on some leaves and thereafter it went into my bag. I don't recall the plastic trail marker, it was one of a few we saw but was not new. 

This was the most surprising sight of the climb, the Tuesday Hash styles itself as Penang's simplest hash and we rarely see their paper as they stick to tried and trusted routes. Maybe they had come here for an anniversary run but in any case, their traffic had cleared this section and when we got near the moonscape area, we went slightly right and started to climb seriously.

We saw no more paper, the trick here is to simply go as straight up as possible and not wander off left or right any more than is absolutely necessary.  

Near the top, it does require a dog leg to the right but when we got there we found the rubber terrace clear and signs of recent tapping, the first time ever this high up the hill..

We carried on along the level and suddenly we were at the cleared area. As I had hoped and expected, the felled rubber trees had been burned off and replanting had started. Since March, the path had been extended upwards and it was no more than 50 metres in front of us so the descent would now be totally straightforward. It was time to relax, take some refreshment and enjoy the view.

It doesn't look too beautiful but the lower part had looked like this a year ago and now it was covered in a forest of banana plants. The same will be true here next year.

I have to say that this is a text book example of how to redevelop an abandoned rubber plantation. The bananas secure the soil and provide some income and in between them the young durians flourish. This is one of many which would have been about 30cm high two or so years ago. Yuehong talked with one of the owning family who had brought up yet another young one who said there were now 1000 durians here and half had been planted in the last year.  Next to the path we found confirmation of who was tapping the rubber. They are now employing workers and every cent is needed until the cash flow turns positive.  

We headed for the familiar house and its old rubber rollers safe under the corrugated iron. Every year the roof looks less and less secure and I hope at some stage they will find the money to replace it. They will need a store in due course and a secured heritage building like this would probably be cheaper than building something from scratch.

The rest was pleasant if unexciting. We went down to the 'famous path' and turned left, grateful that we would not be wrecking our knees on the descent to Pulau Betong - the Hai Ching could wait for another day.

The possible fate of the house up the hill is graphically illustrated by this pile of 'stuff', on the right is how it looked back in 2012  when we first came this way.

The later parts with coastal views is particularly attractive, definitely unspoiled Penang.

We soon got to the point where the path broadens and starts to go down. We were rejoined by our route up from Pasir Pandak which means I can use another picture again.

I had estimated some 4 hours and in practice it took a little bit longer, we have still some way to go to achieve full fitness. Overall, it's an extremely pleasant walk a nice combination of different kinds of trails.


Pulau Betong 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