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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Mt. Gower

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 20 September 2016 | Views [578]

Mist forest at Mt. Gower summit

Mist forest at Mt. Gower summit

I’m 32 today! And I don’t really know if I feel it or not. Unlike last year, my birthday wouldn’t consist of sitting warm and cozy by a fire whilst being shouted drinks at every turn. Today I’d get my hands and legs dirty and finish the day stinky and smelly by climbing Mt. Gower, the highest point on Lord Howe Island. Whilst it’s no Inca Trail or Mt. Fuji, Mt. Gower isn’t a walk in the park and requires a reasonable level of fitness. Up at 6 AM I was with my usual cup of coffee, I packed two sandwiches, a bottle of water, a jumper, and my camera. Hopefully the views would be fantastic today. It’s not only my birthday, but Darcelle’s birthday too. In fact, there are six of us on island with the same birthday! Darcelle would be having lunch with three of them at Capella today. Dean, our guide, would be leading 15 of us today including two children. Since I’m writing about my adventure, he didn’t charge me for the climb (normally it costs $100). All set to go I climbed in the back of Dean’s ute and we’d meet the group at 7 AM where we’d receive helmets for the first stretch of the track (to protect against falling rock). Although the highest point is only 875 metres, Mt. Gower isn’t a trek for the faint of heart. Regarded as one of the best one-day walks in Australia, it requires a lot walking over rocks, along sheer cliff faces, and pulling yourself up with ropes. We’d be pulling ourselves up directly to more than 100 metres in height during the first stretch and then we’d walk along mostly flat, but rocky, ground until we reached a stream where we could refill our water bottles. From there it was almost straight up; some stretches had ropes and others didn’t.

Dean is very informative and pointed out the various native plants. More than half of Lord Howe’s plant species are endemic to the island and two species of palm are found on the summit of Mt. Gower and nowhere else. The only native mammal on the island is a species of bat, and Dean noted how the flora and fauna are more like that of New Zealand than of the mainland. Some stretches of the track are really difficult and I nearly fell a few times. At the saddle of Mt. Lidgbird and Mt. Gower, we sat and had a break for lunch with some gorgeous views.

It’s now difficult to say which island I like better, Norfolk Island or Lord Howe Island. It’s not really fair to compare because I’ve been to Norfolk five times and Lord Howe only once and I’ve done different things on each island. The other day I said “Lord Howe is where I want to get married and Norfolk is where I want my ashes spread.” In that case I’d have the best of both worlds. The saddle is about 480 metres high, but from there up it was an extremely steep ascent: one that required us to go one at a time up ropes. We had only 900 lineal metres to go but another 360 metres to gain in elevation. I didn’t need all the sheer will I had; this time I had pure energy, and I pulled myself up the ropes with courage and into the mist forest.

Sweaty and dirty I was, I made it to the summit four hours after starting the trek. As we stood in the middle of the mist forest, it felt magical. Amongst us is plant life you won’t see anywhere else in the world! We didn’t make it to the true summit of Mt. Gower but about 30 metres short. The clouds rolled in so there wasn’t much of a view, and the woodhens (they look like the weka) tried to have a nibble of our lunches and snacks.

These woodhens are tagged with metal bands around their legs so they could be tracked. Rats have decimated the populations of native birds, and Lord Howe is aiming to be the first human-populated island to be cleared of rats. Currently, the largest island to be cleared of rats is Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean (though nobody lives there). After lunch we began our descent. Going down is much, much harder than going up and a number of the climbers, including the two children, took some hard falls. The youngest person Dean has ever taken up is six and the eldest is 85. Back at the saddle we rested again before it was a long, slow descent back to sea level. What an exhilarating climb it was today! And a perfect one for my big 32. At the carpark, Dean gave us our climbing certificates and I stopped at the store for a celebratory Red Bull; I needed one after the climb today! As with previous years I’m celebrating my birthday in style. Last night I splashed out at the fish fry and today I climbed Mt. Gower. At home I made some pizza, and Darcelle, Deb, Wes, and I watched the sunset at the boat shed. Darcelle and I, as we share a birthday, got a photo with Lidgbird and Gower in the background.

There wasn’t much of a sunset as I poured a glass of NZ sauvignon blanc, but Wes and Deb really enjoyed my pizza. Though it was my birthday I wasn’t really up for a glass of wine tonight; I don’t know why but I just wasn’t in the mood. I think I’ve been enjoying Lord Howe too much to be inebriated. Jill, Darcelle’s aunt, would bring me some chocolate tonight and Nobbs and Willow would invite me over for a homemade chocolate cake. I’ve been invited to come over on Friday night for tea. Since I’m staying with Darcelle, a number of people think I’m from Norfolk Island as it turns out Darcelle and her family are the only Norfolk Islanders on Lord Howe. Tonight I struggled to have two glasses of wine to go along with some pizza and cake but I can say it was a great birthday here on Lord Howe. I’m 32 today, and now I have to plan for the exotic locale I’ll visit for when I’m 33. On this quiet birthday evening I shall reflect a bit on what has been another incredible journey. Lord Howe Island has treated me incredibly well during the six days I’ve been here so far. I’ve been snorkelling, night walking, trekking, mountain climbing, and feasting. Darcelle has treated me exceptionally well even with her busy schedule and has arranged various activities for me. Darcelle’s family has treated me very well too. Without a doubt this is another journey that has exceeded my expectations. After getting all dirty, sticky, and sweaty on Mt. Gower today, I’ve had my shower and now I wonder…Lord, how did I make it to 32?

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