As an 81 year old the ascent of Mt. Wonder, 1,380m, in the West McDonnell Ranges was always going to be hard. As an 81 years old asthmatic it would be doubly hard; and as an 81 year old male on hormone therapy to suppress prostate cancer it was ridiculous to try. But, then, I was with a Life’s and Adventure tour encouraged by the tour guides and my tour companions who expected me to give it a go.
The first steep section came a kilometre into the walk with seven kilometres ahead on the daunting climb. I was ready to go back, could not get enough oxygen into my lungs, my breathing shot, and my coughing only controlled by ventolin intake. Chelsea, the female guide, didn’t want me to go back alone. She had a duty of care for me as well as all the party up ahead, so I pressed on slowly. I endured the strain by stopping every 15 metres on the steeper sections till we reached the main ridge and the walking became easier.
At one break we sat on a high point admiring the view — admiring the majesty of it. I talked about landscape aesthetics and how scenic quality could be rated and valued and Chelsea told me about the lectures in her first year at Latrobe University delivered by Genny Blades about the differing environmental viewpoints arising from different cultures, both indigenous and modern — where our values come from. Genny Blades had been a member of the staff at Maroon Outdoor Education Centre when I was Principal, and it was pleasing to hear how Genny had impressed Chelsea and helped to mould her environmental attitudes.
We then tramped on, and Chelsea and I were welcomed at morning tea where the fifteen others were about ready to press on. I would have been happy to call it a day having achieved more than I expected of my self, and one lady in the party, Michelle, was thinking the same. However with more encouragement we went on.
A kilometre later Chelsea had radio contact from Daniel, the lead guide, that Michelle had become scared about the prospect of exposure on the very steep final climb. As I was convinced I shouldn’t go on, Chelsea went up and retrieved Michelle and we took on the long seven kilometre toddle back down the mountain together.
That was my Sonder Wander coming to a close and so I felt I had kicked another dent in the bucket. There were three more days to go with Life’s an Adventure and also quite a few other adventures in spectacular landscapes remain on the list still to be experienced. That bucket is in for a few more dents before I flatten it.