The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Pulau Jerejak
This is one of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang, click here for the index. This part is a simple Grade 2 walk. There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed, I am grateful to Mike Gibby for passing me this scan and also providing the background information about the features covered in this and the other reports.
There were three parts to the report of my March 2017 visit. Click below for those, the fourth part dates from December 2017.
Pulau Jerejak Part 1 - the South East corner of the island
Pulau Jerejak Part 2 - a hike along the main ridge of the island
Pulau Jerejak Part 3 - the North West corner of the island
Pulau Jerejak Part 4 - more on the South East corner of the island
Visiting friend John Baker from Bangkok had been to Pulau Jerejak some years ago and 'wanted more'. There is now a daily ferry service (MYR 20 return) to the island's resort which has reopened after some refurbishment - https://www.jerejakislandresort.com/. There are various timings suggested on the web, but basically there are at least 10 services a day and on public holidays there will be two or even three boats providing a frequent service. I strongly suggest checking a few days ahead by asking at the Jerejak Jetty.
It was a public holiday (Thaipusam Day), on arrival at 10.00 there were maybe a couple of dozen people ready to board and we didn't have long to wait. No, that's not the ferry at the end of the pier and neither is the other one which is 'Pulau Rimau' parked up surplus to requirements from the Penang Butterworth ferry.
There were maybe 30 people on the brightly coloured boat. One of them had discovered the life jackets under the seats and most people seemed to put them over their heads, much as many of Penang motorcyclists use crash helmets without strapping them up. There was no attempt to enforce their use and none of the crew felt it was necessary to use one, in marked contrast to our previous visits in a chartered fishing boat. As soon as we landed we fled north ignoring the 'no entry' signs. It's a wide 'road' and quite shady.
I had intended to go to the east side of the island first, but I had obviously forgotten that the road over starts at the back of the resort! So we wandered past assorted ruined buildings. My copy of Mike Gibby's book on the island.(https://arecabooks.com/product/jerejak-penangs-untold-story/) is in the UK so I cannot say anything about these buildings. That on the left is former officer's quarters for Camp 5 and on the right a former school during leprosy hospital days.
There is a Christian cemetery next to the road, all over the lower parts of the island are graves; fatalities not being too surprising given its use as a quarantine camp and isolation 'hospital'. This cemetery is near the New Quarantine Station and dates from the 1950s. While these are for Christians there are Buddhist and Muslim gaces in the area too. The building on the right was probably a senior officer's quarters..
The large building with '1911' on it was once used for receiving new arrivals but the inside obviously postdates it. I had used the jetty here on my first visit, it has the remains of a 600mm gauge push tramway.
We went inland a short way to the three remaining buildings which were built originally to quarantine arriving passengers - 120 per building. There were some small wards for those who were actually ill. Later the buildings were used to host political detainees. As often happened, the newly independent Malaysia found it 'useful' to follow the example of their former colonial masters and passed the Internal Security Act in 1960 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Security_Act_1960) which was only repealed in 2012 by which time it was more used against the government's political opponents than its original targets.
We returned to the coast and continued north, there were several strangler figs in evidence, this one had a small Chinese shrine incorporated. The road left the coast and started to climb gently.
It finished at this fence and gate. There was no readable sign that prohibited entry and we climbed onto the large concrete structure which is a relatively recently constructed reservoir which is intended to provide a back up supply should the public water supply to the Free Trade Zone on the main island fail. The blue box seemed to house a device to check the depth of the water inside.
Now I had intended to continue on around the island if possible and we checked the perimeter for any sign of a path, but without success. However we did get a nice view of what I assume are fish or prawn farms.
We next tried at sea level but the path expired at what must have been more or less the north tip of the island. Returning south we passed the remains of one of the ancient trucks used in the reservoir's construction. Mike has told me there are plans to remove the large lumps of granite which dot the area at long last, what will happen to them is unclear.
We returned to the resort again passing some of the buildings we had seen earlier.
John demanded a lunch break, something we have long given up on and while he enjoyed his Nasi Ayam, I checked out the afternoon's route. The gate has a notice prohibiting unauthorised passage - a resort guide was needed. I asked at the office why this was the case and was told it was 'private property'. This being Malaysia it was not difficult to get around it and we walked up the hill on what was probably the most attractive section of the day's walk (I wouldn't call it a hike).
We continued down the other side as far as the Russian Graves. This section is described in the first part of my original report. Noticeable welcome additions were these modest signs because it is very easy to miss key features in this area, there were others for a war bunker, a prison and a dam although the 'war bunker' was actually a water storage tank according to Mike. It was now getting quite warm and Yuehong decided to skip the visit to the church which we had done previously.
It took rather longer than John was prepared for but he survived the experience. Afterwards Yuehong and I ambled up the road while he raced ahead, we found out why later because he was busy breaking up his mammoth bag of ice which he had lugged all the way round today's walk.
At the jetty, we found that business had been so good that two boats were in use but most visitors were not ready to leave yet. From observation, they appeared to be almost exclusively middle class Malays and apart from a group of four students, we saw none that had wandered outside the resort area. Instead they seemed to spend their time working up their enormous appetites by playing with their mobile phones. Back on the mainland there was a queue which would probably have easily filled either boat twice over, it seems that this time either social media or marketing has brought the resort a degree of success. I have no idea whether it has spilled over from the eating stalls to the resort's accommodation and restaurant but necessarily people looking for a relaxing weekend aren't going to find it if the lawns are crawling with picnicers! Certainly, there was not a single other European visitor in sight throughout.
The ferry was a fraction of the price of a chartered fishing boat but still offered flexibility. I'm not sure whether we shall return, I would like to try to complete the circumnavigation of the island but I have seen no reports that suggest this can be readily achieved. There are several kilometres of indeterminate 'bush' which would need crossing and while there is a path continuing north from the church I know of no one who has followed it.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson