I woke up early this morning to check the progress of the two young Australians kayaking across the Tasman to see the headline 'Sir Edmund Hillary dies.'
My first thoughts were 'the mighty Kauri has fallen.' What an amazing role model he was for my generation. I remember my dear Mother reading me the story of Tenzing and his ascent of Everest out of a National Geographic and I was thrilled by it. At 15 I bought his book High Adventure and met him for the first time in 1975 in Kathmandu, shortly after the tragic death of his wife and daughter. I met him a number of times after that. He was always direct, humble and strong in his opinions. He was generous of his time and spirit. I remember him agreeing to be patron of our 1986 North Pole expedition and again in 2003, agreeing to write a Foreword to my book on Ebenezet Teichelmann. A truly generous man.
The last time I met him was on a street corner in Delhi on a sweltering May day, 44 oC, in 2003. There he was in a suit and tie to inaugurate Tenzing Norgay Marg (street) and Sir Edmund Hillary Marg as part of the 50th celebrations of the first ascent of Everest. The New Zealand High Commission is aptly situated in Sir Edmund Hillary Marg. That was the High Commission that Robert Muldoon closed down much to the disgust of so many Indians and New Zealanders. I was so inspired to see Ed that afternoon, that I wrote a poem that night.
A sad day for New Zealand. The big Kauri's memory lives on and will continue to inspire future generations. My aroha and sympathy go out to his family.