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Apr 6, 2011

Rowan Garel, 12, intelligent and blind, on his way to Victoria Peak

Tonight we premiere the first in a two part series on a young boy who embarked on a mission to raise funds for a charity. Rowan Garel’s face can be seen in many superstores across the country, on tip jars, that are labeled for the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired.  Garel, not even in his teens, decided that he would go to the Cockscomb Basin and have his voice heard from the majestic Maya mountain range. News Five’s Cameraman Alex Ellis accompanied the youth and his father, Joe, as they spent two days climbing Belize’s most famous mountain top.

Alex Ellis, Reporting

Standard five student, Rowan Garel, stands out because he’s blind. But Garel, only twelve, is about to do what few adults have accomplished; that is climb to the second highest summit in Belize-Victoria Peak.

Rowan Garel

Rowan garel

“Well the B.C.V.I. lost some major sponsors so we were just trying to think of something to do to raise funds and we thought of climbing Victoria Peak to raise funds for this summer camp. I didn’t really have to think about it. I just thought you know if it is going to raise funds for B.C.V.I. and for all the other children that need the equipment. You know, why not? Let’s do it.”

Alex Ellis

Alex Ellis

“This is day one of our attempt up Victoria Peak. I, myself, Alex Ellis, will be climbing along with Joe Garel and his son, Rowan, who is the youngest and only person with any form of disability to attempt Victoria Peak. The hope today is that we make it to kilometers nineteen which is generally the first rest point on any expedition to Victoria Peak.”

Although goodbyes were shared, mother and sister are not yet ready for the cub to leave the fold. They follow a short distance for one more goodbye. So while crossing the Sittee River, Rowan’s journey begins.

Joe Garel, Father

Joe Garel

“We’re at 12K right now; we’re just across the Sittee Branch and it’s just starting to get some of the hills. The road’s been very good. This is where we normally end up for lunch the first day hike. So he is keeping up with just about anybody else who has done this trip—the usual pace that people keep. So that’s pretty impressive. We’ll see what happens when we hit the hills after this because from here it starts getting hillier.

I’m feeling it. I mean the pack is a little bit heavier than I’m used to. My pack is just under sixty pounds. I try keep it around forty, but I’m packing for me and him and you know a few extra things. So it’s taxing.”

Because the trek is arduous, the team briefly rests at kilometer thirteen, while grabbing a Spartan snack, the team reboots. The journey from that location to kilometer nineteen, the first campsite, means leaving established trails. This is where forest, god’s earth and flora reign without human cultivation. The journey now is predominantly off-trail.

Alex Ellis

“It’s currently ten past five on the first day of climbing. Behind me if you look—it’s kinda covered in clouds at the moment—you can see the third tip, the highest peak. It’s been a tedious day of climbing—much more than I expected. My leg cramped up a couple times, but still here, still going. Joe and his son are somewhere behind us; they should be coming up this mountain shortly. We are almost about 18K, about one more to go then we will rest for the night and hopefully leave early in the morning and make summit sometimes around ten a.m.”

The morning after the first leg of the journey, Rowan sleeps in his hammock while his father, Joe, prepares a meal of sausage and bread. The guides also prepare white rice which contains all the carbs that they will burn throughout the day.

Rowan Garel

“I got lots of rest.”

Alex Ellis

“How was the sleeping in the hammock? What was that experience like?”

Rowan Garel

“It was comfortable. I didn’t find it much different from sleeping in an ordinary bed.”

Alex Ellis

“It’s just after seven on day two on our climb to Victoria Peak which is kilometer nineteen. It was a bit of a rough night. Unlike everyone else who were smart to bring hammocks, I brought a sleeping bag and had to kind of rough it on the floor. Spent most of the nights picking ticks off my body—fun!”

Rowan Garel

“I don’t feel cramped or soared or stiff or anything. I actually feel like I could continue.”

The boy’s senses of hearing and touch are his eyes on the journey.

Joe Garel

“What’s the best thing so far?”

Rowan Garel

“Probably the birds that I hear.”

Joe Garel

“That’s one thing that he can appreciate—he can’t see the birds, but he can hear them and appreciate the calls. And I listen to tapes; he listens to some as well over the years. And I’ll forget half of them and he still remembers them so he probably remembers more of them than I do.”

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

Part two of the series will be aired on Thursday.

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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5 Responses for “Rowan Garel, 12, intelligent and blind, on his way to Victoria Peak”

  1. Earl Grey says:


    AND………….Don’t call it Doyle’s Peak……….CALL IT THE MAYAN NAME!!!!!!!!!

  2. Chance says:

    Dear Mr. Earl Grey,

    You criticize too much without making any sort of contribution. Did you contributed yet?

    If not, then keep your mouth or cease your fingers from typing.

    Why do you care who is funding the expedition. It is for a good cause..Fool.

  3. edyatearlgrey says:

    the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired is helping. his dad is sponsoring. the blind boy is fundraising for blind kids.

  4. DEANandKIM says:

    I can’t tell a lie but it’s almost fictional that no one is blaming me for this mountain expedition.

  5. Earl Grey says:



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