The International Steam Pages

Selected Penang Walks - The Cross Island Challenge
Titi Kerawang to the Relau Pass ('Yes!')

This is part of a series of pages on walking the hills of Penang.

This is a Grade 3 walk owing to its length, the climbing is not excessive as it starts and finished about 200 metres above sea level and the highest point is just under 600 metres above sea level. There is a sketch map at the bottom showing the route followed, it looks a bit strange as the walk is so long I've had to patch two of my normal maps together...

Please visit my Penang buses page for information on accessing the starting point.

The kicking off point is a small path some 500 metres after the Titi Kerawang waterfall on the round-the-island road. The blue sign opposite reads FT/0006/041/396/EL. It's got the GPS co-ordinates too but if you need a GPS to find this path, then you're not safe to be let loose on this trail.

There are detailed instructions for the early part of the walk under 'The Voodoo Lilly', there's no space to repeat them here and without them almost certainly you'll get lost or at least seriously delayed. For Yuehong, part of the challenge was to identify the trails we needed to use as the walk unfolded, something which is normally my job. For the first four hours she did very well with just one misidentification. Of course, in the morning most of the climb is well shaded.

This is Yuehong just after she got it wrong, followed by gloriously getting the most difficult 'spot' of the day right first time.

Sadly the trail had been blighted by the 'plastic hash' otherwise known as the Penang Rain Forest Hash Challenge. In my days with the hash 40 years ago, a run was as ephemeral as the May Fly. Always here today and gone tomorrow with at worst some muddy footprints and paper that would rot to nothing within a few weeks. It was now 2 months since the event and judging from the mess they left in 2012 which was still visible a year later, this time will be similar. I know that parts of the cultivated areas of the hill are full of rubbish but that is largely down to impoverished and ignorant guest workers who know no better, but the hash is populated by middle class Malaysians who presumably have had the benefit of a proper education. On the other hand since I got not the courtesy of a single reply from the points of contact on their website when I complained by email at the state of the Sungai Air Puteh valley, perhaps my assumptions are wrong and they are no better.

Anyway, we soon went our separate ways and it was good news that the excavator which had been abandoned some two years ago was being repaired and would hopefully vanish. After a pleasant hour and a half's climbing it was time for refreshment at the Da Ba Gong Temple, which we noted will have a festival on 1st March 2015. Just before the temple we had a special treat, a pair of very large woodpeckers with bright red heads, dark wings and cream chest, a fabulous sighting.

I don't think it would be fair to blame the hash for this heap of rubbish although obviously their hares share some of the same ideals as its owner. We marched up through the ginger arches and soon got to the major crossroads beneath Bukit Elvira.

This was our highest point and from here it was downhill more or less all the way. The junction is unmistakable although the trail we took is the least of the several options available.

The path has seen better days, once it had a concrete surface but this has totally disintegrated. Bridges which would have safely carried a motorcycle are barely safe for hikers. On the other hand the lack of traffic has meant that these beautiful flowers can flourish along it.

Of course there are now trees down all along the path, you'd be blind not to notice them but someone had been using plastic from 'Macau Trailhikers', a group whose 'leftovers' we had run across a year ago. These are the kind of shits who probably don't bother to use paper or water after they visit the toilet, they certainly don't remove their plastic. This is a path with absolutely no junctions and hence zero possibility for people to get lost but it was littered with non-biodegradable plastic. Since I can't name and shame the anonymous local perpetrators, we quietly removed just about all of it on their behalf.

God knows how much there was. it must have run to several hundred metres as by the time we finished one whole bag was full of the rubbish and not just the side pockets. Again, it would be nice to think that the Forestry Department were taking their responsibilities seriously but the only two signs we saw were within 50 metres of the road where the path ended at the electricity pole HT NH 2 21.No doubt they were installed by contractors, I really can't see the officers breaking sweat to put them in place.

Even a year ago, Yuehong would have been giving me an earful at this stage, but now she was raring to go after the second major pit stop. Our next target was the lowest point on the range behind her and that meant following the concrete trail off to the left.

The distant views had they been available through the haze would have been more attractive than the near ones as this area hasn't got a great deal going for it. The path passes quite close to the Bukit Penara masts and at times it is clear that the Forest Reserve has been encroached on...

There's just one major junction, down leads to a lady with dogs who seems to have told the guest workers that they are not welcome on her path. Very soon just as we crossed over into the Nanshan Wastelands, Yuehong couldn't resist reminding me that the path indicated might have been more useful in getting to Bukit Penara than the ones I inflicted on her here a few hikes before.

With five hours on the clock, we were both tiring and it seemed unlikely we'd make it to Balik Pulau for the 17.30 bus. Welcome to Nanshan! Be sure to take the path to the left to avoid spending too long here, the shot on the right is as about as good as it gets... 

Yuehong was still smiling but she was using an autopilot which sometimes need prompting. So let's take the flat right hand path at the six way junction and then enter left and exit right at the triangular junction soon after. How about that backdrop?

When I said we were going down into that gap into the old rubber, it was barely a smile that greeted me. She well knew it would be an uneven 'down' with plenty of mosquitoes waiting to feast on her. Having said that, it wasn't really so bad after all.

In this case the camera didn't lie, she was still going like a train and once we entered the concrete trail out, the camera went away and we concentrated on getting home.

Unfortunately, we were too late for the Balik Pulau route by around half an hour, so we had to go via George Town which entailed a 35 minute wait for a 502 bus, the traffic seemingly being nearly gridlocked in town which severely affected all bus services - Chinese New Year was just a couple of days away. Fortunately, by the time we got to the centre it had eased considerably and we had dinner en route and returned home by 20.30. I can safely say that we both passed the challenge with flying colours, Yuehong especially so. This hike will be a hard act to follow, but first we'll have a couple of rest days..

Cross Island Challenge


 ____ = Concrete Road

 ____ = Path

____ = Easy 'Off piste'

 ____ = Seriously 'Off piste'

(Not all paths are shown, there are many more
which are seasonal or just go to houses.

Click here for information on the maps.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson