On late May 1953, at the age of 33, Edmund Percival Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest.
These days, Sir Edmund would have trouble bringing back boots to New Zealand dirty with some foreign soil.
When traveling to New Zealand, please leave your aquatic pests at home. New Zealand doesn't want them. When coming through customs, we had to declare the fact that we were both carrying hiking boots in our luggage. Upon inspection by a customs agent, it was determined that:
1) Doug's boot were clean, but, of course,
2) my boots, which had some spots of U.S. mud on their soles from the last time I walked Walt, could cause a national incident if they were not shined up, straight away.
Seems the NZ government is serious about biosecurity, as they want to keep their waterways clean. All hiking boots, called "tramping shoes," are checked for clumps of algae and other debris, then cleaned with a decontamination solution. After treatment, items are rinsed with water that comes from the local town's water supply.
So, at 5:30 a.m., we were directed to our very own Agriculture/Quarantine officer, a cheerful lady who was gloved as if ready for a plunge through plutonium. She took my boots and disappeared behind a screen for a few minutes. Heard lots of splashing water, and I suspect a few zaps from some special ray gun. She returned with my trampers, cleaned and wrapped in plastic.
On to Auckland City, Hillary's hometown.
We checked into our hotel, took a nap, then ventured out to get a glimpse of the city.
Found a public phone set for philosophy...
and a wonderful Auckland Ambassador named Jason Greenwood, an accomplished writer and actor, who will also answer any questions you have about the city, and direct you to the best steakhouse in town.
And we took the bus across town ($1.60 NZD one way) to see Hillary's Axe, the one he used on Everest, the same tool his widow donated to the Auckland Museum.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Hillary's Axe -- Photo Gallery, Hillary's Axe, Auckland Museum
Hillary's Axe made by Claudius Simond from Chamonix in France and purchased before the 1951 New Zealand Himalayan expedition. Hillary’s ice axe has a European Ash wood handle and a forged steel head and spike.
All other photos: Mary Gillen