The International Steam Pages
Penang Hills and Trails - Balik Pulau
Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.
This walk is readily combined with a second walk which starts where this one ends making for an excellent experience - a link is given in mid-walk. Overall it would be about 50% longer and through similar countryside.
A long time ago, or so it seems, we misguidedly followed a hash trail out of Balik Pulau towards the central hills (Challenging Time Part 1a). While the ascent was an unmitigated disaster, the easy descent turned out to be very useful on the Road to Nowhere.
There are references elsewhere on this site to the 501 buses out of Teluk Bahang for Balik Pulau, anyway since the October 2013 timetable revision the 10.30 has been the service of choice, the 07.50 being uncivilised and the 13.10 too late. Our favourite Roti Chani breakfast is no more, the small restaurants are closed, depending on who you listen to pending redevelopment or because they had no permission to be there in the first place (some 50 years ago). Still the Chinese breakfast stalls next door are still operating behind the barricades (and the Belimbing round the corner serves an excellent Roti Chanai).
Some things, however, had not changed, the Chinese Higer was almost empty and the Indian barber still got his paper delivered albeit a bit later than before.
PHH 4505 seemed to have a top speed on the flat of about 40 kph and no top gear but it landed us in Balik Pulau on time. We headed straight for the Air Itam road and turned left for the cemetery.
The graves were much as before...
Our guardian angel was watching over us as we found a durian which had 'fallen off the back of a truck', unusually the late season fruits still on the tree were overlapping the young fruits for the next season.
Most of the mangosteens were as sour as the idiots who were erecting a mansion where a modest kampung house would do.
It's an easy route to follow as the power lines are all you need. For the most part it's shady, but when the steep climb comes it's open and HOT. Someone was out of practice even with her super new 'go faster' hi-tech adjustable walking stick. The lunch break at the col was very welcome.
Being a complete cad, I hadn't told that it was the end of climbing for the day, but we were high enough for a view down to Pulau Betong
As we had followed the power lines up, we followed them down, we passed a few houses which they served, the first being a most desirable residence as far as location was concerned.
Ignoring two steep paths down, finally we came to a 4 way junction with a house ahead. I checked the path up to the right but it eventually died at the top of the rubber and durians. We went left and down which put a spring into someone's step.
In this area, there were paths everywhere, but most seemed to lead further up the valley - an area ripe for further exploration. Leaving the few remaining power lines to go on ahead, we turned left at the next junction and came out at a bridge by another junction below. (If you would like to extend the walk instead of going downhill back to Balik Pulau, please follow this link and turn back uphill here.)
It was time to test out the 'cool bag', I had the bottle and Yuehong the iced head scarf.
We now passed through an area of old rubber then back into durians, the path here seeing less use than the newer paths above, it made for very pleasant walking indeed.
The path got wider and we came to a bridge, the only evidence for the Aquatic Farm was the sign, the project seemed to have been stillborn.
No walk of ours would be complete without a temple and round the corner was what appeared to be the remains of a rubber processing area.
We were clearly following the main 'jalan kampung', passing what might be termed an intensive pig rearing facility and then what must be the island's largest oil palm smallholding.
Round one final corner we found ourselves at Titi (Keras) Heights which in my eye are less desirable residences than most of those we had seen earlier in the hills. Journey's end was effectively at the main road shortly after.
By now, even I accepted a cold towel and we were happy to rest up for a couple of hours having an early dinner which I washed down with a couple of Tigers before taking the 17.30 501 bus. The Higer had died and the replacement Scania was driven by Michael Schumacher's brother over the hill in barely 45 minutes.
Overall it's a great little walk, ideal material for getting us up to speed for greater challenges to come. It's a little known trail which deserves to be better known - I found just a single mention of it on EveryTrail when I was doing the research beforehand.
If you are doing this walk in reverse, then you should walk out of Balik Pulau and turn right into Jalan Chai after 1km (see signs above). Go straight ahead below the development into the kampung area and follow the obvious main jalan kampung over the bridge and into the hills. Take care to turn right at the bridge shown above and right again when you meet the power lines shortly after. Follow these to the col with the electricity substation and then on down again until you reach Balik Pulau entering the town on the Air Itam road.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson