Penang island in Malaysia has plenty of hiking trails, from the most challenging to one which is considered an easy walk. Since Penang is relatively a small island, the risk of getting dangerously lost is rather low. Hence, hiking has become one of the popular activities here.
Thaipusam is observed as public holiday for Penangites and being so lucky to be off, we decided to organize a hiking trip among our friends. As I was calling the ‘usual’ hiking friends, the response seemed pathetic. We have been loosing quorum since some time ago due to relocation and travelling activities among the common ‘kaki’. Finally, we only had 4 confirmed to go on the list for a Gertak Sanggul to Pasir Panjang walk. However, a couple of days before the walk, MK managed to pull a crowd of 16 folks (8 gals and 8 guys, what a lucky number!) to join and the adventure begins.
As early as 8:15 am, we arrived at Gertak Sanggul fishing village by cars. Gertak Sanggul is located at the south of Penang Island. If you are driving from Bayan Lepas town, keep going straight after seeing the Permatang Damar Laut sign board on your left. It may take about 10-15 minutes if you are on motorized vehicles. Keep driving along the road, and it will take you to Teluk Kumbar town with old wooden town houses on both sides of the main road. Upon seeing the ‘Gertak Sanggul’ sign board, take the turn left. Keep going until passing through a stretch of winding road with sea view on your left. After ending the twist and turn, it will bring you to a quiet fishing village called Gertak Sanggul. The local Chinese called it ‘Bee Oh’ which literally means ‘Beautiful Lake’ in Hokkien dialect. Then you will pass by a police station on your left and Jumbo Seafood Restaurant slightly on the opposite side. It is a peaceful village with plenty of coconuts trees along the beach welcoming us with the sea breeze. We kept going straight until seeing an approximately 2 m in diameter’s roundabout. At the 12 o’clock of this roundabout, there is a cemented path accessible by two-wheel vehicles. This spot is where our exciting journey begins. Equipped with a GPS and some material gathered last minutes from online website (our special thanks to Forest Ang for the trail guidance accessible via http://trails.forestexplorers.com/trail18gertaksanggultopasirpanjang.shtml), we started exploring the Gertak Sanggul farmer’s trail.
For the first 30 minutes walk, there was not much decision making required as the path is pretty clear. If we were to take the left turn after approximately 15 minutes walk, it will lead us to the Japanese tunnel and the beach of Pasir Bulan. It is very popular spot among anglers. Durian trees are commonly found along the trail, thanks God that we went on the wrong season and all we saw are the durian tree and its flowers. Otherwise, we need to put on the crash helmets as it seems rather unsafe to walk under the durian trees. We were coping well with the slight gradient perhaps about 10-15 degree. Along the trail, there are trees nailed with red arrow signboard which helped a lot to lead our way. The wood is the habitat of many plants including nutmeg, banana, cocoa and rubber. Seeing these beautiful floras is the motivation that kept us moving. There were also rows of ants that we were trying to avoid along the path.
We also passed by a few abandon houses or huts along the trail. We kept walking and walking until we reached an area whereby it was very shady and that’s when we realized we were deeper in the woods. The trail was getting tougher as we were going on the uphill track. Despite being exhausted, we never missed taking pictures of a few scenic spots on our left, especially the spots overlooking Pasir Panjang beach.
After one and the half hours of non-stop walk, we had to make a major decision whether to take a claimed ‘short-cut’ route through an overgrown bush towards Balik Pulau Kem Bina Negara or keep walking on a well-routed trail to Pulau Betong Chinese village. The beautiful white long sandy beaches of Pasir Panjang was so hard to resist, so we decided to take the left turn into the overgrown trail.
It started well with the guidance of a narrow cemented path until about 300 meters, then we encountered the first road block of thick bushes. Opsh!!! Seeing the situation, our troop leader asked us to back track about 100 meters and then detoured using another path towards the uncertain trail. We were fortunate that have the right folks were in our group. WH and BH took the lead to slash the bushes in order to make a better path for all of us to walk on through. We were also very careful with our steps as there were plenty of thorny roots on the ground that could make us slipped easily. As we walked into the bushes of ankle high, we saw there are many shrubs with red berries that seemed like the highlight of this area. The trail is getting narrower and we had to walk in a line for about 25 minutes until we reached at a spot whereby there was no decent trail to explore anymore. We stopped for quite some time and brain-stormed to overcome the obstacle. As we were about to give-in, FS came to rescue. With his brave heart, FS stepped on the blocking tree branch, and made a huge leap across where he found there is a trail of knee high ahead. I had concluded we had recruited the right people in a high-spirited team and this road block seemed effortless to overcome. Within minutes, all of us managed to beat the obstacle which was caused by the erosion. MK called it the toughest trail in Penang as there was no turning back. Only one way out, keep moving forward and the folks were motivating each other by repeating ‘We are almost there’ easily more than 6 times! The journey continued with each step on the soft uneven grassy bushes. We might not know what were stepping on.
Until we reached a significant dirt path without grass anymore, what a relief! We were overjoyed to see the fence of Kem Bina Negara. After circulating the fence, we eventually reached Pasir Panjang beach.
It is about 1 to 2 km length of white sandy beaches, with many avid anglers preparing to fish. We were back to civilization! After resting for 30 minutes along the beach, we carried on towards north and reaching the official main entrance of Balik Pulau Kem Bina Negara. There were a few picnickers with the barbeque utensils, preparing for lunch I guessed. Then, we continue our stroll along a 2 km tarred road to Batu Kapur Chinese village and stopped at Hai Ching coffee shop which is located at a fork junction for lunch at 12:15 pm.
The journey continued along the road P237 heading to a right junction at the road corner, which passed by Chinese village houses and a Chinese temple in front of a banana hill farm. Climbing the hilly banana farmland was rather tiring but the view from the top was rewarding. We could see the junction we turned in, fish ponds, and aerial view of the Balik Pulau.
After about 30 minutes on the paved path, we took a left turn into the jungle trail which took us back to meet the junction of the overgrown adventurous trail and then Gertak Sanggul fishing village.
At 2:48 pm, we finally arrived safely at the spot where we begun! From the faces, these folks were proud to circle the tip of south west Penang. We had so much fun. Though I was very exhausted without a single drop of H2O left in my tumbler in the end of the journey, this is a walk to remember for a long time!!!