Mount Everest and Mount Taranaki might be many miles and oceans apart, but the two maunga were brought closer last week.

Norbu Tenzing and Dhamey Tenzing Norgay, sons of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, spent three days in Taranaki as the guests of Ngāti Ruanui last week.

Their father led Sir Edmund Hillary to the summit of Chomolungma (the Tibetan name for Mount Everest) in 1953, becoming part of New Zealand history.

Norbu Tenzing says his father visited Taranaki in his lifetime, and it was "very spiritual" for him and his brother to be able to visit the region and mountain.


Norbu Tenzing is the Vice President of the American Himalayan Foundation which supports vital education, healthcare and cultural and environmental preservation throughout the Himalayas.

His brother Dhamey operates adventure travel company, The Noble Traveller, in Bhutan with his wife. The company's ethos is described as 'value over volume'.

The brothers were welcomed with a pōwhiri at the Stratford Mountain House on Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, the brothers, along with Norbu's daughter, Olivia Tenzing Norgay, and Dhamey's wife, Sonam Dorji, visited Taiporohēnui Marae where they met with iwi and school students from Pātea Area School, Kura Kaupapa o Ngāti Ruanui and Hāwera High School.

Norbu told the group he was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to speak with the young people present.

"Everest might be the highest mountain in the world, but every mountain is high to a child."

Dhamey said he and his brother already felt connected to Mount Taranaki.

Dhamey's wife Sonam, who was wearing traditional Bhutanese dress, said she was enjoying visiting "your beautiful country".


Norbu said he saw many parallels between the two cultures and their relationships with their mountains.

"Mountains are sacred places to us, and they are to you here. It is a connection and it is very special."

He said his message was "take care of your own narrative".

"You are free to do as you choose, but you are not free from the choices you make."

The group watched the sun set from the mountain on Thursday evening and spent Friday morning discovering the natural maunga environment

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Ngāti Ruanui Holdings Limited chairwoman, says the visit was a great learning experience for all, regardless of background.

"By sharing and showing what our value base is and why this respect is critical to the preservation of our tupuna, not just for us as Māori but for us as Aotearoa. Respecting of our tāonga and understanding what can be offensive is not much different to what our Sherpa whānau have had to endure as well."

Encouraging people to understand the significance of the mountain is important, says Debbie.

"The more we talk, the more we share our special narrative, the more the rest of our community will also see themselves as descendants of the maunga, and will understand why this is important."

The connection to the mountain was strong with Ngāti Ruanui, says Debbie, who points out they were the first iwi to invest in Maunga tourism infrastructure and are the only iwi to have a Department of Conservation Walking Concession on the mountain.

The brothers were in New Zealand at the invitation of New Zealand Māori Tourism.

"We are honoured to have Norbu and Dhamey and their whānau here in Aotearoa. It is such an incredible opportunity for us to share experiences about how we might engage in tourism ventures that uphold the mana of our mountains.

"It is also an opportunity to highlight the importance of the Tiaki Promise in encouraging all travellers of our country to act as guardians," New Zealand Māori Tourism Chief Executive Pania Tyson-Nathan said.