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South Island train and coach trip gives passengers the opportunity to follow in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps

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The son of mountaineering icon Sir Edmund Hillary hopes a classic train expedition along the South Island will help local businesses survive the wait for international tourists to return.

With New Zealand’s borders still firmly closed, operators are relying on domestic tourism to try to bridge the gap – but the industry is struggling to bridge the gap. $ 6 billion hole international tourists do enter the country during the summer months.

A tourism campaign has encouraged people to ‘do something new in New Zealand’ to support the tourism sector, and while New Zealanders have flocked to beaches and lakes, other regions still do. hard this summer.

The Ab608 Passchendaele, built in 1915, will carry the first part of the Hillary Explorer.

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The Ab608 Passchendaele, built in 1915, will carry the first part of the Hillary Explorer.

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But just after a trip to Antarctica to show tourists the coldest place on earth, Peter Hillary said there was still a huge demand to see the frozen continent.

The tour includes a roundtrip aboard the iconic Kingston Flyer steam train.

Provided

The tour includes a roundtrip aboard the iconic Kingston Flyer steam train.

“It was just as wonderful as it was before the pandemic,” he said.

Covid-19 protocols, such as repeated antigen testing and the use of masks, were in effect, he said.

“But once on land you don’t need to have a mask. The biggest change, I think, is that you are obviously not allowed to go and visit the Antarctic stations where there are people because you don’t want to mix people up.

Peter Hillary (file photo) will join the tour in Aoraki / Mt Cook to talk about his father's climbs.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Peter Hillary (file photo) will join the tour in Aoraki / Mt Cook to talk about his father’s climbs.

“So effectively the ship becomes a kind of bubble in its own right, with multiple tests, the use of masks and that sort of thing.

“We saw emperor penguins, we saw incredible groups of Antarctic killer whales. It was an incredible experience.”

But there isn’t the same demand for exploring the world’s tallest peak, Peter’s father Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first climbed in 1953.

The pandemic has largely crippled the mountaineering industry in Nepal and brought the country’s tourism providers – who generate around 1.3 million jobs a year – to their knees.

Tourist arrivals in the country fell to their lowest level since 1977.

Hillary said people living in mountain communities, especially near Mount Everest, were suffering.

“In fact, they had to go out and distribute food,” he said.

“These are people who work in tourism, they don’t have their small subsistence farms anymore, and they don’t make any money, they are in fact in a really terrible situation of not being able to feed themselves.”

The 13-day tours depart from Wellington and Christchurch in March.

Provided

The 13-day tours depart from Wellington and Christchurch in March.

He said governments – in Nepal and New Zealand – should not turn their backs on the economic engines that keep economies afloat.

And he said the Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer train adventure – a 13-day trip along the South Island – would be a welcome business boost for struggling businesses.

“It’s a wonderful way to not only see the South Island in an Ed Hillary footsteps way, but also to support all of the communities the train goes to,” he said.

“Te Anau is a great example of where much of tourism has dried up, and we’re going there. And obviously we’re bringing a little commercial activity to the area.

“So, this is a great way to help our fellow citizens in these areas and to spread good humor around.”

The explorer will travel the distance from Picton to Invercargill and back to Christchurch, stopping at Marlborough, Kaikōura, Christchurch, Dunedin and Mt Cook / Aoraki – where Hillary will join passengers as a guest speaker.

The 13-day tours depart from Wellington and Christchurch in March.

He said the Southern Alps was where the Hillarys had always gone for adventure and mountaineering challenges.

“When I think of the Mount Cook area, it kind of increases my pulse because it’s a very demanding alpine area,” Hillary said.

“It is, in many ways, a sort of Himalayan scale, even though there is no elevation, and that is one of the great advantages, it is a very mountaineering area. difficult.

“This is the perfect place to learn to be a true mountaineer and prepare for challenges such as the Himalayas, and there is no doubt that what my father achieved on Mount Cook, Mount Elie de Beaumont and many other great peaks in the region, this is what allowed him to succeed on Mount Everest in 1953. “

You can find more information about the Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer here.


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