The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Pulau Betong
This is part of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang. Click here for the index. This is a Grade 2 walk with (unintentional) elements of Grade 3. 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.
For a change, we had company, fellow Brits Nathan and Tom who like to hike while on holiday in Penang and fancied learning about a new area. For our part they had the use of a car which made it possible to get to Pulau Betong at a sensible hour now the morning 501 bus has been retimed and no longer makes a good connection with the 403 bus. And on the way down, we showed them the starts of some other walks and were able to investigate a couple of lanes (Jalan Kampung) between Balik Pulau and Pulau Betong, one of which will need serious investigation as time allows. They are definitely younger and fitter than us so we let them charge ahead up the hill behind the Hai Ching coffee shop and they waited for us at the top. (For details of how to access the starting point, please see the Third Time Lucky report.)
The route up had been subjected to a recent and continuing assault by a digger which rendered parts of it significantly wider. Just why, we shall have to wait until next year:
We walked on past the view of Pulau Kendi until we came to the point where the track broadens just before descending to Gertak Sanggul so Nathan and Tom could find there way back should they ever come in the opposite direction. At this point we turned around and Yuehong went directly back. My intention was to return over the top as Yuehong and I had done once before (Gertak Sanggul Quickie), I knew we had to take the fork just before the dog house (x on the diagram above). I also knew we had to take the next minor fork as the concreted path on the left was a dead end.
As I have said on other numerous occasions 'for a while all went as planned'. However, when we came to what had last time been a fairly open cleared area, the grasses, ferns and vines had just about reclaimed it. I was wearing jeans but it was no fun for my companions in shorts. It didn't get any better because the hill ahead which had been subject to regular rubber tapping the previous year was now considerably more overgrown. Indeed, whereas before we had found a clear trail, this time we had to dodge hither and thither as we climbed and at the top walked right into a wasps' nest! And then I couldn't find my previous trail down which was further embarrassment for yours truly. Fortunately, it's not that big a hill and very soon we crossed into a young rubber estate which spared my blushes. Of course, I had no real idea of where we were but we quickly established that we were actually just above our outward trail which we rejoined about half way along. With the benefit of hindsight I think we may have climbed into the overgrown rubber too early, perhaps understandably so given the fact that last year's main path was so overgrown.
Having promised 'no jungle bashing' my pride was severely dented but in fact Yuehong had beaten us to the Hai Ching by only about five minutes so the actual time spent blundering around was shorter than appeared at the time. If they are brave enough to join us again, then I shall have to be more careful in choosing my route for the day.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson