The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - The Hidden Valley
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 unsuitable for those without experience of off-piste hiking. I would strongly recommend doing the walk in the direction indicated, it would be very difficult to find the way down to the durian estate from the ridge. 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.
Note that the path shown on the map with alternate green and orange squares had several trees down in December 2016 and was passable only with some care.
Two days earlier I had climbed from near Teluk Kumbar village. For today's walk I had long been fascinated by the valley running inland from the sea which maps showed as having a road along it, another one of Penang's many 'hidden valleys' which few local people let alone tourists ever get to see.
It was a Sunday, my last day free to be as reckless as I wanted before Yuehong came back from Langkawi. That suggested that the alternative approach to the far south-west via Komtar might produce an acceptable journey time. However, when I got to Komtar there was no sign of a 401 / 401E for the foreseeable future so I jumped on a 502 which got stuck in the Air Itam traffic and got me to Balik Pulau later than the 501 from Teluk Bahang. Fortunately there was a 401E about to go and in Teluk Kumbar I connected immediately with a 308 which meant I was ready to start hiking by 11.45.
The kicking off spot is impossible to miss, it's on a U bend and there's a small Chinese shrine. It's a shady walk up the flat road, this building, largely disused, looks to have been quarters for rubber tappers at some stage.
I was dithering at the next junction when a motorcyclist turned up - "Which way to the hill?" and right it was. Very soon I came to the house below and tried to continue on the road beyond but was soon sent back to take the path to the right.
The path was flat for a very short while and then immediately after a culvert started to climb - this was exactly what I had hoped for. At the first hut I turned left up the hill as the alterative washing line route was heading away from where I wanted. Once round another bend I could see a durian estate opening up in front of me and beyond it the ridge between Teluk Kumbar and Pulau Betong.
There were trails everywhere once I went past what would be a barrier in the season. I declined the opportunity to turn left for the ridge as the jungle came quite close to where I was.
Instead I aimed for the small ridge that ran up through the middle of the estate as it seemed to go quite high up. I turned left at this point but it was quickly joined by another path from the other side of the ridge so there were obviously more than one route up, in fact it was so manicured that I could have walked on the grass.
I had a quick look to the side of the estate to find nothing but jungle and a view down to Teluk Kumbar as expected. Very soon the path ended but the main ridge was not that far away.
As always, it was a case of heading roughly in the right direction and looking for a point where it was easy to cross into the jungle, in my experience the first five metres is always the toughest. It may look awful but apart from dodging a few spiky 'wait-a-while' vines it was a steady walk upwards. In just fifteen minutes I could see some rubber ahead of me:
Now this was not yet the main ridge and walking through untapped rubber is worse than walking through jungle so I ducked back and continued up, it was getting clearer and clearer and in another 10 minutes I had completed my climb and was on the boundary between two rubber estates on either side of the hill.
I didn't know exactly where I was but I was certain that if I followed the ridge east I would find somewhere I would recognise. There was just one awkward moment when my foot went into a hole where a tree stump had been which left me limping with a sore knee for the next hour or so, but almost immediately I came out in a cultivated area where I could recuperate over a liquid lunch. Indeed it was a spot where I had been two days before above the Hakka Centre. So 'game over', that was Pulau Betong below and all I now had to do was to time my saunter down to catch the 15.00 403 from Balik Pulau on its way back to town.
I elected to take the shady winding route down rather than go straight to the Hakka Centre, I wanted to do a little more exploring. When I got to the junction below, I went straight on whereas I had turned left previously. It was a gentle downhill walk although the path was not well used, I resisted the temptation to explore to the right and eventually came down to another small house which was locked up being out of the durian season. From here it was a short distance down to the concrete road, the electricity pole was KC 40 (Kampung Cha).
Along the road there were reminders that if you invite all and
sundry into your home on a business basis, then some of them will abuse your
hospitality. These are signs for the Hakka Centre (
It was a very pleasant experience, filling another piece into the jigsaw that is Penang island. It's a shame to think that not so long ago it was readily possible to follow the ridge from Bukit Genting to the sea, now it would just be a largely an unpleasant bash through overgrown scrub with, as far as I know only the area described above clear. Given that there is a road some distance from Bukit Genting to the masts, I think it would not be too difficult to do the first section at the east end and maintain sanity. (We have now done it but the ridge path has some bad patches.)
As it is this will be the first walk I take Yuehong on now she is back from being bored to tears on one of Langkawi's beaches.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson