Sep 23, 2021 • 6M

Couchfish Day 264: A stroll

There was supposed to be a trail

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Stuart McDonald
The Couchfish podcast. Following a day by day itinerary through Southeast Asia—for all those people stranded on their couch.
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I am a beach person, but I am also a walking person. I can laze on the beach with the best of them, but I’m also one to climb over the headland. You know, to see if there is another beach, a better beach, out of sight.

Sprawling Senja Bay. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

As I mentioned the other day, on both the Perhentian islands you can walk to almost all the beaches and so today I walk. Starting at Coral Bay, I plan to loop around the entire south of the island, finishing at Long Beach. That’s the plan anyway—it looks like there is a trail—at least most of the way.

From Coral Bay, things start easy. Sprawling Senja Bay takes over much of the southern part of the bay and crawls up the slope behind it. Stairs and verandas, like a bad Escher painting, are an eyesore, but at least the views are good.

Butterfly’s reception is much like the rooms. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Just a hop, skip and a jump further brings me to Butterfly. It is an old school place, with wooden bungalows scattered randomly. They look rundown and the shelter that doubles as reception has a sign telling people to “Yell to me to book a room”. I yell, but nobody comes. Onwards I go.

When you’re laying on the beach or diving, it can be easy to forget that Perhentian Kecil is mostly jungle. A few minutes south of Butterfly, there’s no ignoring it. The air thickens and the disturbed mozzies rise to greet me. Despite the water being metres away, I work up a sweat in no time. A couple of hundred metres brings me to Warna Warni, a container set-up that looks woefully out of place. I keep walking.

Blending in at Crocodile Rock. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Further south the trail goes. Hilly in spots, by the water in others, all the time humid. I reach Crocodile Rock. Set overlooking a rocky beach, the handful of well-appointed bungalows are spaced out off the beach. One, in particular, looks ideal, but as they’re full I can’t see inside. They have glamping out back, but it doesn’t appeal. The restaurant gets rave reviews but doesn’t open till the afternoon. Another day perhaps.

Not much farther I see a sign reading “Rainforest camp” I follow the trail a bit, but the mosquitos beat me back. Further down along the coast I reach their reception. It is more a beach bar than a reception, with a great platform by the sea, but there’s nobody about. It sits at the northern end of Rainforest Beach, a pretty stretch dominated by another eyesore of a resort.

And mosquitoes. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Just keep on walking I tell myself.

Next south is far more my scene, the laid back Keranji Beach Resort. The accommodation is wooden and spaced well apart, blending into the surroundings and overlooking a well nice beach. It is everything the previous place wasn’t. The staff are welcoming and I grab a drink at their cute little cafe. They tell me it is about a half-hour walk down to the next bay.

They’re pretty on the money time-wise, but they don’t mention it is easily the hilliest part of the walk so far. I stupidly don’t refill my water before leaving, and when I realise, I figure I’ll just get water at the next beach.

Keranji is my kind of place, Photo: Stuart McDonald.

The trail empties out at south-facing Petani Beach and there’s a layabout place down the sand. It is closed. Further down, a far larger—and uglier—resort is also closed. No water for me. There is a boat pulled up on the sand and I briefly consider finding the boatman to get whisked around to the main village for water but decide to walk it. It doesn’t look far—as the crow flies it is barely 500 metres.

Two hours later, I stumble into the village. I don’t know where I went wrong, but I went wrong.

Few spend much time in the village. There are homestays with a “staying with a fishing family” style focus, but most seem not to bother. Once hydrated and fed, I keep walking, north now, past the mosque, onto the final leg.

One beach shack. Closed. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

This is the longest part of the whole walk, around two and a half kilometres, and it starts off simple. The track is almost a road, and super easy to follow. Some way along it splits into two and I take what I think looks like the better worn of the two.

Three hours later, I’m perched on some rocks, by the water’s edge. I can see Long Beach but I’ve been stumbling along the rocks for an hour after losing the trail. I should have turned back long ago, but, fool that I am, I kept walking, climbing, jumping, hoping against hope that the trail would re-appear.

It didn’t.

Made it. At Long Beach. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

I wave like a lunatic at a speedboat going past. I’ve been doing this for the last thirty minutes without luck. This one, finally, sees me. They pull up close and ask me if I’m ok. I ask for a ride to the beach and they say sure, laughing.

Five minutes later I’m back at the beach bar. Back with the crew from the first night—feet back in the sand. All good.


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