This Sunday is Everest Day.
29 May marks the date Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary reached mountaineering's highest peak, sixty nine years ago. First in a race to the top of Mount Everest - the two climbers from remote, relatively small countries teamed up and "knocked the bastard off," to quote the duo.
It's a date that's been observed by mountaineers for years.
Last week the Himalayan Trust and Nepalese community in New Zealand called for Everest Day to be officially recognised by parliament.
Now representatives from the Nepal Tourism Board have lent their support for a day to acknowledge the "special relationship" between New Zealand and Nepal - as the country rebuilds its tourism network after the biggest slump in decades.
Dr Ramil Adhikari, tourism ambassador to New Zealand, says there's a lot more than Everest that unites the two countries.
"We share a lot of values - we share alpine climates - and when it comes to mountaineering many Kiwis want to visit. Nepal is the first choice for that."
However as a small country reliant on international travellers, Nepal suffered greatly.
"Due to this Covid pandemic, tourist travel has been the worst in the past 34 years," he says.
From a record high of 1.17 million tourists in 2018, that dropped to just over 150,000 visitors in 2021. A fifth of the country's economy and a million jobs were affected by the crash.
Apart from a hardcore that continued to visit the Khumbu and Everest regions - to some criticism - other visitors almost stopped. Last year there were several cases of climbers testing positive for Covid after returning from Everest base camp.
"The stories have impacted the region, definitely," says Dr Adhikari. At the time the region "lacked the knowledge or the preparedness", which was difficult to organise in a population six times that of New Zealand and far more remote.
Adhikari, who works as an advisor for the Ministry of Health in Wellington, specialises in public health. He spent the pandemic managing the Covid response and testing for the capital's multi-ethic communities.
He was elected as an honorary ambassador for the Nepal Tourism Board in 2021, due to his central position in the Nepalese community.
"I always said Queenstown is like a miniature copy of Nepal," he says. "Particularly Pokhara, which is where I'm from."
The city by Lake Phewa is an adventure sports centre and stepping-off point for trips into the Annapurna region. Less so recently.
Just 192 visas were have been issued to New Zealanders since the Covid outbreak, according to the Nepalese Culture and Tourism Promotion Forum, mostly as part of mountaineering expeditions.
This is in spite of Nepal opening its borders, visa-free and quarantine free to vaccinated visitors from New Zealand.
Other kinds of tourism virtually halted.
"Nepal has lots of things to see. Beyond the mountains there are Safaris," he says. "From the high mountains to the rivers we have rafting, paragliding, great access to nature."
Nepal's biggest source of tourism, other than tramping and expeditions is religious travel.
Lumbini, thought to be the birthplace of Buddha, attracts visitors from India and as far away as Korea and Japan.
"New Zealanders mostly come for the mountaineering, but there are people who come to know the culture as well." This travel was also affected by the pandemic, and is rebuilding.
The Tourism Board and Tourism Promotion Forum are in favour of an Everest Day as a way to raise the profile of Nepal as a destination. They have been trying to push for a date to mark New Zealand - Nepalese friendship for some time.
The date they had originally selected was May 1. This marked not the conquering of Everest, but the date Hillary and a team of New Zealanders returned to Sol Khumbu and the Everest region in 1961, to help build schools. For many this was the real beginning of New Zealand - Nepalese friendship. It proved that Hillary wasn't just another fly-by-night mountaineer, who disappears with the climbing season.
"We're always keen to welcome more New Zealanders in the country because of that special relationship. It's not just mountaineering."
The Nepal Tourism Promotion Forum will be taking part in the Everest Day events this weekend. Adhikari will be in the New Zealand Parliament later this year discussing a possible date for marking New Zealand - Nepalese Friendship.
A Return to Everest
Among the New Zealanders eager to return to Everest is Guy Cotter.
Manager of Adventure Consultants in Wanaka, they put their business into Hibernation last year cancelling expeditions.
"In 2021 we saw Covid spread through the Sol Khumbu with expeditions. We took the decision not to return."
The mountain guide, who has been up Mt Everest five times, says they will be taking on expeditions again for next year. With the climbing season nearing its end 2022 is soon.
"With the border settings the difficulty was getting back into the country," he says " We need months of preparation."
However next year with the 70th anniversary of the Tenzing- Hillary summit, there has been plenty of interest from clients and prospective climbers.
Seven decades on the story still has the power to inspire climbers. Not just in the mountaineering expeditions but the continued presence in Nepal of Hillary and the Himalayan Trust.
"When you're over there you realise what a significant effect it has had on their lives. Not just health and education but in their parks and forestry."
On a normal year Adventure Consultants works between 60 to 80 Nepalese contractors and Sherpa guides. Some of their them have not been able to find work with other expeditions since the Covid Pandemic.
While in hibernation Cotter says they have continue to support the Sherpa Future Fund, putting the 15 children through education.
Everest Day 2022 commemorations around New Zealand:
• Auckland: Sunday, May 29, 3 to 6pm, Fickling Convention Centre, 546 Mt Albert Rd. RSVP: email@example.com
• Hamilton: Sunday, May 29, 2 to 5pm, FMG Stadium Waikato, 128 Seddon Rd, Frankton, 2 PM – 5 PM. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Bay Of Plenty: Sunday, May 29, 4 to 7pm, Papamoa Sports and Recreation Centre
Papamoa Beach, Tauranga. RSVP: email@example.com
• Wellington: Tuesday, May 31, 5.45 to 7.30pm, Banquet Hall, Executive Wing, Parliament Building. An invitation is essential for entry, RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Christchurch: Sunday, May 29, 2 to 4pm, Riccarton High School Hall, 31 Vicki St, Sockburn, Christchurch 8042. RSVP: email@example.com
• Invercargill: Saturday, May 28, 4.30 to 6pm, 22 Lindisfarne St Georgetown. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org