Mt Wellington dominates Hobart (the capital of Tasmania, Australia’s island state) just as Table Mountain does to Cape Town and the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mt Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro. Cape Town’s peak is more shapely than Hobart’s, and Rio’s sugarloaf and 30 m statue are more dramatic. Hobart is the smallest city of the three cities and of less historical significance, yet all three backdrops are unforgettably iconic.
Because I spent five very formative years in the shadow of Hobart’s Mt Wellington, it has come to have a special place in my life. A quick drive or sweaty climb to the summit is always a good way of bedding down the feeling that “this is my home ground” – even though I now call another city “home”.
Since arriving back in Tasmania early April I have “done the climb” twice already: once from half-way up with Helen, and last week from street to summit with a church friend, someone almost my age but who has recently walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, famous for its significance in the Pacific War, when Aussie soldiers battled its mud and malaria to turn back the Japanese advance across the PNG highlands.
Mountains can be a grandstand, and the view from 1271 m (4170 ft) Mt Wellington’s summit over the city of Hobart and the Derwent River’s drowned estuary never disappoints – when cloud doesn’t blot it out. As one who loves maps and geography, Mt Wellington’s pinnacle in fine weather is paradise, with much of the island’s south-east, including Maria Island in the north, Bruny Island in the south and the Derwent Valley to the west, all laid out like a map (well, almost).
As part of my senior high school Biology class, we did a full-day guided excursion on the mountain to identify and collect samples of its botany. This has taught me to recognize and appreciate the distinctive trees and shrubs that populate each level of a mountain.
A June student conference weekend at the old “Springs” guesthouse (which was destroyed in Hobart’s catastrophic 1967 bushfires) was one of several wintry “nights in the bush” experiences of my student years.
Family walks up the mountain brought home the number of snakes one could count on also the tracks – to bask in the sun – and how to avoid being bitten.
Mt Wellington’s “Organ Pipes” are the mountain’s own icon: huge dolerite columns surrounding the area under the summit like a barricade. My friend Barry also took me past caves, waterfalls, and fields of bare boulders from ancient landslips.
My brother’s and my bedroom when we lived in Tasmania for those 5 important years looked across open fields towards Mt Wellington, as did our family’s lounge-room. That view certainly helped shape our family’s love of “our island home” – even though all but one of us five brothers and sisters left the state after just a few years.
Three months of church “locum” work have now brought Helen and me back “home”, and we’re enjoying every day to the max! Appropriately perhaps we’re once again living in a house that looks towards “the Mountain” and we rejoice together in the photogenic quality of its ever-changing moods and appearance.