It must have been about five years ago that I heard or read for the first time about the Bahau Penarikan. Bahau is a small town in Negeri Sembilan and a penarikan is the Malay word for a portage. A portage is the process where a boat is “carried” overland from one waterway to another. In my native country, with its many separate canals and rivers it was a common procedure.
In Bahau it is a portage over a distance of less than 1 km between the Serting river and the Jempol river. Or better, it was, because we are talking about the past, many centuries ago!
The Bahau penarikan is unique in that it basically connects the West Coast of Malaysia (the Straits of Melaka) with the East Coast (the South China Sea)!
Because the Serting river flows into the Bera river, which flows into the Pahang river, which reaches the South China Sea at Pekan.
And the Jempol river connects, close to Bahau, with the Muar river, which reaches the Straits of Melaka at Muar.
In the 14th century merchants discovered this connection as an alternative to the long and dangerous route around the Malay peninsula.
When I read about this, I wanted of course to have a look myself, so we went to Bahau. We found a road sign in the form of a boat and a rundown small memorial park. The Bahau penarikan predates the Malay sultanate of Melaka, so unfortunately there is not much official interest in it. We also had a look at the Serting and Jempol rivers, both small streams. Of course no trace anymore of the portage.
That was five years ago. I more or less forgot about the Bahau penarikan, until Chadel, a friend of mine, told me recently that he was planning to paddle by canoe or kayak from Muar to Pekan, using the Bahau portage! For this ambitious project he wanted to do a recce first, checking the portage region, finding a suitable “put in” location in Muar, and a “take out” location in Pekan. Of course I was eager to join him in this recce..:-)
Chadel decided that we would first do a recce from Bahau to Muar, then later a second one from Bahau to Pekan.
It was a very pleasant trip. In Bahau I showed him the memorial park, but I could not find the sign board anymore, maybe it has been removed. Near the confluence of the Jempol and Muar rivers they were doing construction work for the nearby water treatment plant, but according to Chadel that would be no problem. We checked the rivers at several places to find a place where taking out a canoe would not be too difficult. Have a look at the Google Map.
The green markers are where we had a look at the rivers. Clicking on a marker gives a picture of the river. The two red ones are probably the most suitable ones for the actual portage. When you zoom out, you will find a few more green markers, on our way too Muar we crossed the Muar river a few times. You will also see a number of blue markers, where the Serting and Bera rivers are accessible from the road. That is something for our next recce.
Here is a series of pictures taken during the trip
After lunch in Bahau we drove to Muar, choosing our route so that we would cross the Muar river a few times. When you zoom out in the Google map, you will see the extensive meandering of the rivers. Chadel estimates that he has to paddle about 540 (!) km and is planning to do that in about three weeks. In Muar we found two suitable start locations.
I had been in Muar only once before, quite long ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the town. Characteristic Chinese shop lots, a beautiful mosque, I must come back here soon. A few more pictures.
It was a long day, but very rewarding as we met all our objectives.
Looking forward to part two!