Over­seas Adventure: Kiwi trekkers fol­low in Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary’s foot­steps

Walking New Zealand - - Contents -

Last May, 65 years af­ter Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary and Ten­z­ing Nor­gay reached the sum­mit of Mt Ever­est, a group of New Zealan­ders trekked through the Hi­malayas to cel­e­brate this special an­niver­sary.

All 26 Kiwis on the Hi­malayan Trust and Kath­mandu Sum­mit Club trek were there for adventure, to ex­pe­ri­ence the awe-in­spir­ing scenery, and for a chance to meet the lo­cals and soak up the his­tory of the Hil­lary legacy in the re­gion.

On their 19-day jour­ney to Ever­est Base Camp, the trekkers vol­un­teered with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and at schools set up by Hil­lary fol­low­ing his fa­mous as­cent.

“The high­light of the trip was ar­riv­ing at Ever­est Base Camp on May 29, the 65th an­niver­sary of Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary’s as­cent. To think we trekked through the same val­leys, stared up at the same snowy peaks as such an iconic pi­o­neer, a true New Zealand icon. It re­ally was a dream come true,” said trekker He­len Chalmers, a teacher from Auck­land.

“But it was a jit­tery start to our adventure,” added Anita Perkins from Welling­ton. “The weather re­ally wasn’t co-op­er­at­ing and the short flight from Kath­mandu to Lukla air­port was can­celled for sev­eral days due to bad weather.”

The tiny Lukla air­port, with its run­way perched on a steep cliff, is of­ten billed as the most dan­ger­ous air­port in the world. It was built by Hil­lary in the 1960s to trans­port into the re­gion the con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als he needed for the schools and hos­pi­tals he was build­ing. Now, the pre­car­i­ous air­port serves as the gate­way for vis­i­tors to the Ever­est re­gion.

“In the end we had to book a fleet of he­li­copters to taxi us up to Lukla. Now that flight cer­tainly did not dis­ap­point!”

From Lukla, the trekkers set off for the school in the vil­lage of Chau­rikharka, where they were met by the head mas­ter.

“As a school teacher I was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in this as­pect of the trek – a chance to meet and talk with lo­cal teach­ers,” said He­len.

“The head mas­ter ex­plained how the vil­lage and the school had been dev­as­tated by the earth­quakes in 2015 but, with sup­port from Hi­malayan Trust and dona­tions from the New Zealand pub­lic, the school was re­cov­er­ing well.

“We also had a chance to spend time in the class­rooms with the stu­dents. It was such a priv­i­leged to teach a read­ing and writ­ing les­son based around the old kiwi clas­sic Hairy Maclary. The kids loved it!”

The next day, the trekkers joined lo­cals in the re­mote vil­lage of Musey to help build a new wa­ter sys­tem to re­place the tanks and wa­ter pipes that were de­stroyed beyond re­pair in the 2015 earth­quakes.

As they climbed higher through the ma­jes­tic moun­tain re­gion, the trekkers vis­ited Khumjung school, the first school built by Hil­lary. It was af­ter com­plet­ing this school in 1961 that Hil­lary found a new vo­ca­tion that oc­cu­pied much of the rest of his life – his aid work with the peo­ple of the Ever­est re­gion. In Khumjung, the trekkers were treated to a special cul­tural show or­gan­ised by the school chil­dren.

Be­fore em­bark­ing on the fi­nal hike up to Ever­est Base Camp, the trekkers made one last stop for din­ner with the med­i­cal staff from Kunde hos­pi­tal – the first hos­pi­tal built by Sir Ed in 1966. For many years the hos­pi­tal was staffed by vol­un­teer doc­tors from New Zealand and Canada.

Now, it’s run en­tirely by Nepali med­i­cal staff, many of whom started their ed­u­ca­tion at schools built by Hil­lary. The hos­pi­tal ser­vices up to 8,000 lo­cal peo­ple, plus the thou­sands of trekkers that pass through the re­gion dur­ing the climb­ing sea­sons.

“We re­ally got a strong sense of just how much Sir Ed has im­pacted gen­er­a­tions of the lives of peo­ple in this re­gion,” said Anita. “We learned about the long-last­ing friend­ship be­tween New Zealan­ders and the Nepali peo­ple, a friend­ship in­spired by Sir Ed, but that lives on to­day.

“On the fi­nal days of climb­ing to Ever­est Base Camp at 5360m, it felt like a never-end­ing up hill. But the views of the in­cred­i­ble 8000m peaks such as Lhotse and Makalu, and of course that un­for­get­table glimpse of Ever­est, will be a sight I hold dear for a very long time in­deed.

“At our evening brief­ing on the next day’s hike, our guide Pras­ant would al­ways re­mind us: “…just go slowly and re­mem­ber to look back so you can see your achieve­ment” – sounds like good ad­vice for life to me!

Credit: Blair Mil­lar

Above: The colour­ful vil­lage of Nam­che.

Credit: Blair Mil­lar

Be­low left: On the trek from Lukla to Chau­rikharka.

Credit: Blair Mil­lar

Above: Trekkers on their way down.

Credit: Blair Mil­lar

Left: Cross­ing the swing bridge over the Dudh Kosi river on the way to Nam­che Bazaar.

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