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Apr 7, 2011

Blind boy climbs Victoria Peak and learns he can do anything

On Wednesday night we premiered the first part of twelve year old Rowan Garel’s trek to Victoria Peak. Climbing to Victoria Peak is a difficult feat for any healthy adult, but Rowan it appeared might have been hindered by the fact that he can’t see. Blindness, as you will see in the second part of his journey, played no role in his ascent to the second highest peak in the land. News Five’s Cameraman Alex Ellis joined Rowan on the journey and here’s his report.

Alex Ellis, Reporting

A short water break is required on the journey. Though physically tired, sheer determination takes over and the ascent continues.

Joe Garel, Father

Joe Garel

“Right now we are about roughly 21K. We started at 19K this morning. We got off to a late start at probably around seven. We wanted to start six, but we started an hour late, seven o’clock. It’s been steep all day, no flat anymore and each ravine just keeps getting steeper and steeper. It’s kinda stuff starting because the muscles aren’t warmed up yet and they are a little sore from yesterday—not too bad. This is where it breaks you down because most people get up this morning and it is the toughest morning to deal with and you could easily give up. Once you get through the first hour of this, your muscles warm up and you feel like you can go all day again. And that is Rowan.”

Alex Ellis

“How you feel Ro?”

Rowan Garel

Rowan Garel

“I feel ok and I can do this I think. I just fall down a lot, but I can do it. This morning when we started, I felt a little stiff—my legs felt a little stiff—but they became relaxed after a while and I felt like I could go for six years.”

{Shots of the climb}

Rowan Garel

“It’s getting very steep now. We are at 25K. We only have two more left but it is getting really steep and slippery. I drop almost every time I try to find a foot hold. I slip for quite a ways, so that was very easy.”

Alex Ellis

“How you feel physically?”

Rowan Garel

“Kind of tired.”

Alex Ellis

“You have enough for the next two?”

Rowan Garel

“Umm, I think so.”

Joe Garel

“It’s very treacherous because a lot of time you are on ledges and it is very slippery and muddy going across the rocky ravine bottoms and that kind of stuff. So I am more concerned with him than with everything else around me. You know I normally watch the trees and the birds, but if you turn around and look right up here, you can see the edge of Victoria Peak.”

Alex Ellis

Alex Ellis

“It’s now ten to twelve. We have been walking since about seven this morning and this is actually the base of Victoria Peak. This is where we start the actual ascent.”

Rocks, boulders, danger, even for Joe. Going up means falling down. It’s a simple illustration of life’s lessons learned about moving forward, even if the obstacle before your face is a mountain. No giving up; what one man can do another can do.

Joe Garel

“We’re probably about half-way from the base where we start hiking up to the top of the peak. We stopped to have lunch where it is about one-ten right now. And we are just trying to get some shade because from here on up it’s all in the sun. I think another forty-five minutes or so we should be on top. This is the toughest part.”

Alex Ellis

“How are you feeling?”

Rowan Garel

“I’m feeling ok. I think I can do it, but my pants is wet and I don’t really like that, but I’ll survive.”

Alex Ellis

“It was a bit tough coming up those last rocks.”

Rowan Garel

“Yes it was tough because it was slippery and some of the rocks were shifting so that was difficult.”

Emerging from a canopy gives a feeling of accomplishment. The cliff edges are a constant reminder of the risks below. Now near the end, father and son are one; Joe takes Rowan on his back as they tackle the steep and climb.

Three thousand six hundred and seventy five feet high looks out to one hundred and twenty-eight acres of the Cockscomb Basin wildlife Sanctuary. Walt Whitman once said “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars.” And so after 2 days of walking and sleeping amongst hundreds of species of plants, listening to tropical birds and wildlife; looking into the horizon, I believe that this view spawned from the growth of this mountain is no less than the evolution of our Milky Way. The inspiration, however, bows to the personal story of father and son.

Rowan Garel

“I’m glad I made it. Before—this is strange—I was exhausted when I was coming up but right now I feel like I can fly. I just feel—there is not words to explain how I fell right now.”

Joe Garel

“To start with, being visually impaired doesn’t mean you have a major handicap. That’s what B.C.V.I. actually taught us. I have no clue how to raise a blind child and B.C.V.I. taught us and one thing that they really showed us and really impressed us with is that they have pushed all these years to integrate blind children into regular school settings from day one. So Rowan has gone through the entire school system so far from his first day of ABC right up until he is in standard five right now in a regular school and excels. He does really well.  I’m gonna take away more from this than he will to be honest with you and he is the one constantly teaching us. He has overcome so many obstacles that we never dreamt he would have. We’ve learned more from him than him from us all these years. I mean the first time I asked him about this, it was no doubt—he said he wants to do it. No question; if I think he’d make it or if…no, no! it was definitely yeah, let’s go.”

Rowan Garel

“If I can do it, they could definitely do it. And I want people to know that I didn’t just do this for fun, I did this as a fund raiser for the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, B.C.V.I., because they lost some major donors last year and we really want to help raise funds for their summer camp because people come from all over Belize: Corozal, P.G., Cayo. So they don’t really get a chance to travel outside their little village. So we just want to let them continue having this summer camp.”

After four days of being in the wild, Rowan is greeted by his family. The boy who thought he might be able to climb a mountain, returned knowing that he can accomplish anything. Alex Ellis for News Five.

Ellis will be discussing the climb on Friday morning’s Open Your Eyes.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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15 Responses for “Blind boy climbs Victoria Peak and learns he can do anything”

  1. Earl Grey says:


    Is this to encourage all children of Belize or…….SOME P.R. STUNT???????????

    JUST ASKING………….

  2. c says:

    maybe you are the one in need of publicity. A blind child does what most of us can do even with 2 good eyes and that is all you have to say??
    people like you make the world a worse place.
    shame on you!

  3. JAH BLESS says:

    What a stupid comment from your side Earl Grey !!!!!!!!!!! keep your silly comments

  4. Skywalker says:

    @Earl Grey… Could you be any more cynical? Geeze.

  5. lynne says:

    shut the f***** up earl grey!!!!!

  6. Swamp Dragon says:

    Alright Jah Bless! That’s so true. Earl Grey you are usually on target, what happened. I don’t think anyone has lied to this boy. They have listened to him. Now he has accomplished something great in his life. Probably one of many accomplishments for this young man. Much more to come from such a genuine spirit as he! Come on Earl!

  7. chabelli says:

    This guy is a heroe in his own right

  8. Earl Grey is a man 13itch says:

    You are a shallow person… be careful God doesnt take away ur sight… #Rowan

  9. LMMPM says:

    @ Earl Grey…What a Senseless, Heartless,Stupid Individual You Are!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ..very well written comment C!! seems like Earl Grey needs some prayers{psychological help} for writing such negative comment of such a remarkable accomplishment of a innocent,legally blind 12 year old boy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!”Pity for people like you Earl Grey”!!! So Proud of You, Rowan for making a difference and being an inspiration in so many lives!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Mellow Belizean says:

    Any praise Rowan gets is well deserved and hardly enough. To put it in perspective, how many of us with able bodies and perfect eyesight have ever braved that wild bush and climbed anything as intense as Victoria Peak? This child did it to raise money to help others. Rowan’s family should be VERY proud, they have raised an absolutely wonderful child with great values.

    I agree with “C” and “LMMPM” and after reading Earl Grey’s comment, I start to understand what children in Belize are dealing with and why they may feel hopeless enough to kill themselves. I mean, what a hateful place is it where even a kind, selfless act gets no encouragement and is met with a negative response!? After reading that, I’d advise Joe to get his child out of Belize so he can thrive because apparently Rowan is a pearl cast among swine.

  11. Earl Grey says:

    AS I SAID……….JUST ASKING…………….

    I’M NOT DRINKING THE KOOL AID all the time.

    So………What is this event………….REALLY????????????

  12. westernmermaid says:

    I am amazed at this little boy’s courage, I pray that God will cont to bless him all his life, This just show that a disable person can reach high, can you imagine that!! Shame on those big men with two eyes killing one another in Belize city, shame on those big person with two eyes and two hand who rob other for their belonging, shame,shame,shame on them.
    God bless you Rowan for being a light in this world,

  13. westernmermaid says:

    Earl Grey is a EMO poor thing, he has a very low self esteem, don’t pay him mine people, he was just released from Rockview hospital and is still on medication.

  14. Rica says:

    Rowan is my cousin and one of my absolute best friends so anyone who said anything bad about him should shutup. He is an amazing person and all of what this article said was absolutly true. He did climb to the top and is blind. But he sees more than people with eyes see. I miss you Rowan!!!!

  15. Rica says:

    Rowan is my cousin and one of my absolute best friends so anyone who said anything bad about him should shutup. He is an amazing person and all of what this article said was absolutly true. He did climb to the top and is blind. But he sees more than people with eyes see. I miss you Rowan!!!! And earl grey is stupid it was NOT a p.r. Stunt. Rowan God loves you and i do too!!!

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