From Reeves Plains to the top of the world, Robert plans to… Climb every mountain

Robert does eventually elaborate on his achievements, to set a goal and then attain it is a “huge accomplishment” he offers.

Inspiration for this incredible resume of conquering iconic landmarks came whilst on a European river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest.

The travel guide was organising a trek in Kokoda to mark the 70th anniversary since the Australian campaign against the Japanese in 1942.

Eight weeks later he had swapped the luxurious holiday experience for Papua New Guinea and followed the same path that Australian soldiers trod seven decades earlier.

Before leaving for PNG he put himself through his own intensive training program, climbing Mt Lofty three times a week, with a backpack full of Coke cans, which one day unfortunately leaked all over him.

Robert admits that good weather for the duration of his time on the Kokoda Track saw him complete the trek without any problems and feeling great after he had achieved this goal “I would have hated to go if it was raining”, he adds.

“It is heart wrenching thinking about the history of the diggers and what they went through for us”, he says, “unimaginable and mind boggling”.

The scenery and terrain of tree branches, rocks, slippery muddy paths, bank climbs and narrow ridge tracks facilitate an emotion and immense amount of respect for those young soldiers.

The 11-day trek saw him crossing water with bridges virtually made out of nothing, and at one point using a rope handrail that was thrown across from one side of the creek to the other.

There were huts to camp in on regular stops, some had showers, but if they didn’t, washing had to be done in the freezing water of the creeks.

He was able to meet and chat to an original Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, local Papua New Guinean natives who helped the Australia troops during the campaign, and took part in a memorial service to mark the 70th anniversary.

One would think that such an accomplishment would satiate a man of 68 years of age. But Robert was on a roll.

The following year was the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary reaching the summit of Mount Everest, and he decided that he would like to mark that anniversary as well.

So on the 29May, 2013 at age 69, Robert made it to the Base Camp of Mt Everest in the Himalayas. 

He was the instigator of this particular trip, who contacted the same travel agent he trusted in Euchuca, who organized a group of five people to complete the trek with him.

Hiking iconic landmarks doesn’t come without dangers, and Rob’s own laid back attitude saw his complacency as his biggest problem.

“We missed two acclimatization days due to bad weather”, he said.

But the group decided to push on anyway to make sure they reached base camp on the actual anniversary.

“Because of this I suffered slight altitude sickness at night when I was resting,” he added.

Flying into Nepal also means landing at the most dangerous airport in the world, Tenzig-Hillary airport in Lukla, a notorious single, narrow, short and sloped runway with no control tower, radar or navigation for the pilot to use.

“The trek wasn’t too bad,” he admits, but there were no ambitions to go any higher than the 5300 metres of base camp. “It is dangerous and I wasn’t fit enough”.

The scenery, however, he describes as magnificent, “ a photo could not justify it”.

And the Sherpas, inhabitants of the areas surrounding Everest and who act as porters or guides to those who climb Mt Everest, were a sight to be seen in itself.

“You would see them carrying heavy gear like logs and fridges, building materials, and supplies, just trudging along, it was amazing,” Robert recalls.

When they arrived back at Lukla, there were numerous people trying to leave via the airport and they would have had to wait two or three days, however, their travel agent was able to organize a helicopter to fly them back to Kathmandu.

This was an advantage of going through a reputable travel agent, which Robert would always advise to do.

Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania was ticked off his list less that 12 month later.

He describes it in three simple words, free from embellishment, “Best trek. Hardest”.

Higher than Mt Everest Base Camp, at 5985 meters above sea level, he says that when he reached the breathtaking summit it was “the most justifying to myself”.

He didn’t go with anyone that he knew, just like his previous two adventures.  Although two of his mates from home always promised that they would meet him half way and have a beer with him, sharing these incredible experiences with relative strangers was no deterrent to achieving his goal.

Mt Kilimanjaro was a nine-day trek, with a five-day safari in Tanzania, which “is not the safest country” he states.

Climbing so close to the mountain on one side of your body and having a drop on the other side, was “very intimidating”, and trekking through rain and snow made it a “magnificent trek”.

The last camp before reaching the summit was Barafu, where they woke at 11pm, ate, rugged up and set off at midnight, so as to reach Stella Point at sunrise to witness a spectacular view, which is about one hour from the peak.

“It was a perfect morning,” Robert said.

“But only one guy took a photo because it was too cold to get the camera out.”

The summit was Uhuru Peak where they stopped for half an hour and then began their descent down the mountain, the hardest part of the trek was the loose shale, which made it hard on the legs.

Although Robert does describe the climb of the mountain as hard, you get the sense that it is the pinnacle of his trekking experiences, and the sense of accomplishment and breathtaking scenery will make it a hard one to ‘top’.

Until this seasoned traveller (Robert and his wife Dawn have travelled much of the world with their friends) and experienced hiker takes off for South America later this year, Robert will continue to enjoy his little patch of South Australia in Reeves Plains where he and Dawn grow chickens for Baiada, better known as the Steggles and Lilydale brands.

He also runs a trucking company, which catches and carts the birds for the same company.

They have achieved much success in the chicken industry, which they owe to hard work and the opportunities and foresight provided to them by Jake Centenera who helped grow the local chicken industry to its height today. 

The Blotts are thankful for this and do not take their good fortune for granted, attributing success also to the Australian way of life and the possibilities it creates for those who are willing to give it a go.

Robert and Dawn love the area, which offers peace and tranquility, family and friends, and although they have a strong penchant for travel, they emphasize that there is no place like home.

So what does this father of four and grandfather of six do for downtime when he isn’t hiking, preparing for a hike or working?

Robert hasn’t missed a football game of grandson Zach, who plays for Mallala 17s and under, for the past 11 years.

He still climbs Mt Lofty with Dawn, they both love their road bikes and enjoy time with friends and family, although you get the sense that there are many more experiences and stories to retell that haven’t yet been written.

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