This is a tale of two dogs.
Saturday morning, eleven of us arrived with our van at the trailhead of Herepai. Upon arrival we were greeted by a dog – lets call him Rocky.
Rocky ran alongside our car for the final 200 meters of our drive. His impressive sprint proved he could easily fill the position of the absent leopard species here in New Zealand. After this show of strength, Rocky changed into an all-out barking machine. He loudly cheered for us while we hoisted our backpacks and prepared for a potentially wet and certainly muddy trail.
15 minutes later Rocky finally got distracted by the arrival of the second WTMC tramping group. And when our canine Usain Bolt took off for his second sprint, we quietly disappeared onto the track.
Our path followed the river with a very slight rise in elevation. About ten minutes after the start, we crossed the first hanging bridge (which can only hold one hiker at a time, so do factor in some extra time if you hike with large groups). An hour later we had to cross the river again over a similar hanging bridge.
It was here that we learned about the unfortunate fate of a second dog, Maisy. We met a slightly distressed tramper who asked us if we had seen his white and brown pet. Earlier that day, Maisy had taken off, supposedly chasing a deer, and she hadn’t returned yet.
Unable to help the man, we continued our path, which left the river behind and changed into a very steep ascent of about two hours until the intersection. We regrouped for a lunch break and met the same man again who was crossing the forest in his quest to find Maisy.
At the intersection, the signpost indicated to the right for the Herepai hut. So off we went for another hour of up and down tramping over a very muddy path until we arrived at our hut.
With two other hikers there,13 of us had to cram into the 10p Herepai hut. This was crowded, but could still fit. We had an excellent dinner and an early night in the warm hut.
At 1am, some of us were woken up by the distant barking of a lonely dog. Was it Maisy, who was frantically looking for her boss? Or maybe Rocky, all the way at the edge of the forest down the track, who had spotted another car? We will never know.
The next day, we tracked leisurely back over the same route. Half way, we met a significantly more distressed hiker who was still looking for poor Maisy. Both hiker and dog had spent the night unsuccessfully looking for each other’s company.
With only a few short breaks and the obligatory queues at the bridges, the way back to the car park took us about 3 hours.
There we saw that every car had a note on its windscreen: “Have you seen Maisy? Please call….”
Rocky’s tireless enthusiasm during his goodbye sprint stood in strong contrast to our group of hikers who immediately fell asleep in the van while David drove us safely back to Wellington.