Saturday, 7 April 2012

Sore Feet and Blisters Penang April 5th 2012

Sore feet and blisters..on Penang Hill

Up unusually early today at 7am. I'm going to hike all the way to the hill station on Penang Hill. An average time for the hike is around 2 1/2 hours according to others who have written about their experience, but worth the effort. So, I'm going to make that effort too and hope the experience will be a rewarding one.

I have to get a bus to the Botanical Gardens and from there follow the jeep track to Penang Hill.  Bus 10 from lane 1 of the KOMTAR station, and it's 2 RM, 41p. A relatively short distance but it's taking a rather long time to get there, as with most bus journeys around here. Eventually arrive at 9.30, everybody off the bus. I don't have much of an interest in looking at manicured gardens with nicely kept plants so it's straight off to find the jeep track up into the jungle.

9.40 am and it's 5 kilometres to Penang Hill Station says the sign, at least the track is Tarmac  and in good condition! So, with plenty of water and minimum baggage the trek begins. Quite a steep incline initially, levels off a bit after the first 1 km. Plenty of shade from the thick jungle vegetation but still, it's hot and sticky, just the slightest hint of a breeze. A rest area here, a couple of old timers resting! They know exactly where I'm going and advise me find a good stick -  bad monkey deterrent.

Going up..
Continuing the ascent then, at the 2 km marker and it's noticeably cooler, less humid and more of a breeze as the track winds it's way up towards the hill station - could have done with some hiking boots! Becoming more of an effort but the ultimate goal spurs me on. I spy a few monkeys swinging from tree to tree. According to the old timers earlier, the monkeys make their way down to the botanical gardens each morning, to greet the tourists! Colourful butterflies fluttering, impossible to photograph. Lots of noise from crickets and frogs, but all seemingly invisible.The track is well used by jeeps and bikes, presumably since this is the access road for residents who have properties dotted around the place, and of course workers at the hill station.

The halfway point and in need of some rest. There is a cabin here, could a cafe of sorts, but it's closed up and looks like it hasn't been in use for a while either. Good idea to rest here for a bit. The view back, looking towards the town is quite awesome, even from halfway up. Onwards and upwards then, looking forward to the next marker. 3, 3.3, 3.7 then 4 km and it's all becoming extremely hard work. Look, there's a snake, long and thin. Not very active and doesn't look like the type that would chase any potential threat. All the same, a photo from few yards, not too close.

Monkeys in there somewhere..
At last the 5 km sign and signs of tourist life as I approach the end goal. I already know about the stunning views from my last visit, so priority right now is to get some food, drink and rest up a while. It's been a mammoth effort, but I've made it to  Penang Hill at 12.05pm. A plateful of mamma's noodles for 5 RM, coffee for 2.5 RM and an abundance of fresh air for 0 RM. I shall be spending about 4 hours just chilling out a bit, taking in the views and exploring some local tracks made with the less active tourist mind.

4 pm, time I was heading back. I could take another route - a small track that ends up somewhere near the Botanical Gardens. It cuts right through the jungle according to an official. Downside of course, is the potential for problems like snake bites and aggressive monkeys, and who would ever know about it? So it's back down the jeep track, keeping a good look out for snakes, although a bit too early for the rush - dusk is the time they like to search for dinner. It's actually a struggle to keep the brakes on and prevent gravity from taking over.

Another stick might be a good idea since I can hear rustling and screeching nearby. Quite a few people heading up the hill, maybe for the sunset, maybe for snakes! Locals trying to ride up on mountain bikes, struggling and straining, profusely perspiring. Others out for a run, up the hill - I don't mind a challenge but that's just a challenge to far! And the mountain bikers taking a fast route down. I didn't see any at the hill station though, so maybe they know some tracks and shortcuts.

Monkeys, lots of them milling around on the track. I have a stick, a strong sturdy cane actually, and proceed with caution. I'm watching them as they watch me, perhaps they can detect my slight apprehension. They let me pass though, no trouble from any of them, thankfully. No snakes, no wild animals just more monkeys. distance to go markers counting down. The last 1.5 km seemed to just drag on and on. Legs are aching, feet are sore and I have a blister - and who's idea was it to hike 5 KM up the hill?

At last, the finish line. Through the gate at 6.30pm, knackered, but pleased to have completed the challenge and actually experience nature outside of any tourist inspired manipulation. Bus back to KOMTAR, but this time getting off along Jalan Penang, so not quite so far to walk to Jaya.

WARNING: Alcoholics and heavy smokers probably wont make it all the way up on foot!

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