Sunday Hill – Hakatere Conservation Park

‘Hakatere Conservation Park! Abandoned ski field! Sunny Day! I’m in!’ was the response I excitedly gave Ian when he asked if I was up for another adventure. And so Ian (our chauffeur), Rusty (my adopted canine brother) and me (your plucky young protagonist) piled into the truck to embark upon yet another 2 hour drive. Not that I want to start bitching so early on in a story, but these trips would be made a little more bearable if Rusty didn’t insist on taking up three quarters of the back seat. I’ve literally been forced to sleeping on all fours in the past, as a result of Rusty nonchalantly draping his body across all available space.

Anyway, now that’s off my furry chest, as we drove towards Hakatere, Ian seemed more excited than usual, grinning and yapping away about his love of abandoned places. He was reminiscing about his time in Cyprus, when he discovered a half built hotel which was incredibly eerie and spooky. What didn’t help matters was that when he was exploring the basement he came across an old ice cream van, got scared, and had to leave. To be honest, I had no idea what he was on about and wasn’t really listening. I was more concerned about trying to salvage more than an envelope sized seating area on the back seat from Rusty, as he sprawled himself out, staring forward, pretending not to notice my passive aggressive nudges to reclaim some seating space.

I conceded to standing and staring out the window, attempting to keep my eyes open as the scenery gradually turned from green flatness to grey steepness, as we drove deeper and deeper into mountain country. We were aiming for Mt. Potts, which is home to the now abandoned Erewhon ski field, to do some exploring and take some interesting photos for my Instagram account. Ian explained that the 70 acre ski field was opened in 1964 and used a number of converted farming buildings for accommodation and restaurant lodges. He went on to say that access to the terrain was via snow cats, as opposed to rope tows or chairlifts, making it unique to New Zealand at the time, but had now been shut for a number of years. My interest peaked at the mention of ‘Snow Cats’, which sounded like an interesting challenge, but then quickly dipped again at the following mention of ‘rope tows’ and ‘chair lifts’… which don’t sound particularly feline.

Arriving at the start of the 4×4 access track, the intention was for Ian to travel on his pedal powered, triangle-and-circle shaped machine. Rusty and I would follow close by, providing suitable protection from orcs, goblins and questionable accents, as after all this was King of the Jewellery territory (it’ll probably take a second read to get that joke. Some may argue the reference is too soon, but… meh).

On patrol. Mt. Potts in the background

Just as Ian was opening the truck door to let us loose on patrol, he spotted a nearby beast and quickly slammed it shut. After some fumbling and replacing the triangle-and-circle machine on the back of the truck, Rusty and I were released, but this time on leads. Putting aside the indignity of being on a lead, it also rendered us useless as protectors in this hostile land. We set off, with me and Rusty lurching forward in an attempt to scout out any potential threats. And scout out we did, immediately discovering some wild, presumably threatening beasts that would have made quick work of Ian. We fired off some warning barks and the mastodons casually, although no doubt fearfully, moved away, letting out a wounded ‘moooing’ sound. Evidently this encounter was enough to spook Ian and we returned to the car, less than 4 minutes after leaving it. I was starting to get an idea of Ian’s sensitive disposition, and can only assume that these were the same monsters he encountered in the hotel basement – so they’re called ‘Ice Cream Vans’. I made a mental note for future reference.

Entrance to Sunday Hill

The truck was turned around, and driven back along the rocky road we had come in on. After several minutes we came to an abrupt halt. Ian jumped out and inspected a green rectangle with yellow markings on it, clicked his heels together, like the cheeky Victorian rapscallion that he is, walked back to the car and released us – without leads! We were ushered through a gate and into a huge open expanse. Mountains lined the horizon in all directions, and the flat area contained within was full of tussock and shrub, providing plenty of ambush spots for me and Rusty to investigate. Ian’s eyes were drawn to the large mound at the centre of this expanse, its steep sides lined with fragmented rock. With a distant, faraway look in his eyes, he announced, almost dramatically: ‘So this is Edoras, home… to the RIDERS OF ROHAN!’. He spun round with outstretched arms, wide eyes and an open mouth to face Rusty and I, expecting some sort of acknowledgement. We both just shrugged our shoulders and sprinted off into the tussock to flush out more Ice Cream Vans.

Surveying the territory

With the warmth of the sun beating down on us, we followed the orange tipped trail markers that led us towards the central mound, with a now sulking Ian bringing up the rear. Helpful bridges provided access across the narrow, fast flowing rivers – which I will confirm, flow a lot faster than expected when you are in it – and it wasn’t long before we were at the base of the mound. A short grassy climb to the top put us at possibly the finest uninterrupted 360 degree view I’ve experienced. Don’t get me wrong, Helicopter Hill was good, but at least here I didn’t have to concern myself with unexpected hot air balloon landings (again, slightly random reference unless you just clicked the Helicopter Hill link). Let’s just say it was really, really good. And from a strategic point of view, which I imagine ranks highly on the requirements of most visitors, it was second to none. There was no chance that any ice cream vans would be taking us by surprise up here. Once the perimeter was secure, the three of us settled down upon the warm rocks for lunch. Ian handed out some homemade dog biscuits – known as Bitchin Beer Treats. Rusty joked that they had been named after me and all the bitching I do. I laughed nervously and looked over to Ian, who just silently nodded in agreement, and continued to stare out at the all-encompassing panorama.

The slightly awkward silence was soon broken with people breaching the perimeter, signalling that our solitude on this modest peak was over. Our early start on the day had meant that up to this point, we were the only visitors here; however that was evidently coming to an end. We retreated to the safety of the truck, protecting us from the possibility of attack from orcs, tourists or ice cream vans, allowing us to fight another day.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 3km round trip

Height Gain: 100m

Time: 1.5hrs


Map courtesy of

Mr. Barrosa – Hakatere Conservation Park

I stood amongst the scattered, moss covered rocks on what was presumably the summit, and looked down into the Hakatere Conservation Park, reflecting on how many attempts it had taken us to get here; four, to be precise.

The first was cancelled owing to a large flock of sheep that had congregated at the beginning of the track. I had begged Ian to let me out of the car so I could chase and bark and herd and bark some more, but he was having none of it. The truck was promptly turned around and back to Christchurch we went.

The second was cancelled due to the humans dealing with a hangover, whatever that is. I bounded into their bedroom at the crack of dawn, as we had arranged, with my bags packed and eager to explore; only to be greeted with an ushering out of the bedroom and the door remaining closed until midday.

The third was cancelled due to bad weather, which seemed reasonable.

On the fourth attempt, we had succeeded in making it past the trail head car park, which if nothing else, was an improvement on all the previous efforts. However, all those failed attempts had slowly increased the sense of expectation which now, standing at the summit, may have slightly exceeded reality.

For those of you who haven’t worked it out yet, I’m obviously talking about Mt. Barrosa, located within the Hakatere Conservation Park, in Canterbury, New Zealand. When Ian and I first decided to embark on more adventurous walks, Mt. Barrosa was one of the first tracks that we had come across while trying to find interesting, dog friendly locations; though the idea of walking it essentially remained an idea until this fourth attempt, which was how we found ourselves early one Monday morning. Standing at the trail head, with a pale, cloudy sky hanging over us, we looked up into the surrounding green mountains, and our eyes followed the ridge line that would usher us to the top. A sense of anticipation hung in the air, as we gingerly opened the gate and began the walk. I half expected a crack of lightning to shatter overhead, as the weather suddenly darkened, scaring Ian back into the truck. Or a flock of angry, baaa-ing sheep to come scuttling over the horizon, once again scaring Ian back into the truck – seeing as Ian is Welsh and sheep can be quite vengeful.

The only thing that actually happened was that I had to suffer the indecency of a lead, as the first kilometre of the walk crossed private land, in spite of there being absolutely no sheep in the vicinity. I attempted to explain that my sense of smell was far better at detecting any sheep than Ian’s gradually diminishing eye sight, but he was adamant, and I remained on the lead until we crossed the boundary into the conservation park. Once out of the private area, the track took on a steeper grade, while covering a variety of different terrains. At times we were traversing through low lying alien flowers, then scrambling up rocky ascents, and then strolling through scrub, all within the distance of a kilometre.

As we slowly elevated ourselves, following the orange tipped waratahs that led us along a rough spur to the first plateau, the views into the Hakatere Conservation Park began to reveal themselves. The brown expansive plains extended like a stretched fabric towards the mountainous horizon, interspersed with isolated hills, resembling air pockets attempting to burst free. The Hakatere River and Hakatere Potts Road were like rips, cutting through the material landscape. We sat for a short while, discussing various textile based metaphors and enjoying the view, before it dawned on us that we weren’t actually at the top yet, and should probably press on. We had made it this far without incident, and the reward for finally being able to complete the walk lay atop the final climb behind us. My mind drifted to thoughts of a large, disorderly flock of sheep milling about at the summit, accompanied by a stricken shepherd, unable to herd them and at a loss. He’d greet me with open arms saying ‘thank god you’ve arrived! I’ve been here weeks, waiting for a competent, able bodied herder, such as you, to help me regain control of my flock’. I would bound into action and get his sheep into the most regimented, military themed formation in the history of herding…

Maybe it was my lack of attention to where we were going, as I daydreamed of other such rewards that possibly lay at the summit, but I started to notice that the final section of track was starting to take on a slightly different kind of feel. As in, a slightly non-existent kind of feel. Although waratahs were scattered about the place, it seemed quite a common occurrence to lose the path and end up scrambling over rocks and through spikey vegetation, to then, without much fuss, subtly re-join it again.

As we neared the summit, directions were made slightly easier by the appearance of a decrepit wire fence, which ran parallel to the fictional path, all the way to the top. Although useful, it did slightly undermine the sense of adventure and exploration, knowing that at some point, someone had taken the time to divide one bit of remote land from another.

We eventually reached what could, at best, be referred to as the highest plateau of the walk, thus indicating that we had reached the top. Looking around for some sort of trig point to use in the foreground for the obligatory summit photos, the best we could find was a random selection of rocks, amongst other randomly scattered rocks, which was presumably the trig point.

There were no sheep. No shepherd. No greeting party. Not even a ‘Congratulations’ banner slung between the strewn boulders. After all the failed attempts we had endured to make it to the top, I had to admit that I was expecting something slightly more elaborate than what was on offer. We kept looking round, thinking that we had mistaken the highest point as some sort of fake summit, and had somehow ignored a looming land mass behind us, but to no avail.

With the slightly underwhelming acceptance of finally conquering the mountain, we sat back and enjoyed the view. Which was nice, until we casually looked behind us to witness what appeared to be the start of a nuclear war. With a number of fires burning across the Canterbury Plains, and little to no wind, the resultant smoke resembled the launching of several atomic weapons. Which I will be the first to admit, is an odd metaphor for describing the view from the top of Mt. Barrosa.

As we began our retreat off the mountain, conversation turned to the pros and cons of returning to a post-apocalyptic Christchurch. Yes, the zombies would be an issue, but getting a whole Adventure Park to yourself would be pretty cool. I nodded in agreement, not really listening to Ian waffle on, as I tried to think of a more suitable way of ending this story…

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 7km

Height Gain: 800m

Time: 3.5hrs

Map courtesy of

Helicopter Hill – Craigieburn

We moved as one. In synchronicity. Together. As a pack. The team we were meant to be. Up ahead were the two humans, Ian and Kat, leading the way. To my rear was Rusty, another canine, and although new to these types of adventures, keen as mustard and eager to explore. I turned to Rusty to get some clarification on the ‘keen as mustard’ idiom, seeing as he’s an older and wiser dog than myself and… god damn it! He’s wandered off again. Is it going to be like this all day?

For today’s adventure, there would be no hunting, no chasing after bicycle machines, or being the centre of attention. For today, we were taking Rusty on his first outing. Rusty moved in with the humans and me several weeks ago. I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t overly thrilled with a strange dog suddenly appearing in my territory, especially one with a penchant for humping. But we talked things over, worked through our differences, and once his balls were removed, we got along much better.

His first taste of the great outdoors would be Craigieburn, more specifically Helicopter Hill, and before you ask, I have no idea why it is called ‘Helicopter Hill’. Presumably it’s the go to place for landing and launching hot air balloons, but one can only guess.

An hour and a half’s drive from Christchurch, we arrived at the Craigieburn Recreation Ground. The sun was shining, spirits were high, and I was excited to finally have all of us out together on a walk. Too often it’s just Ian and I, and don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy, but his company can be a little trying. I explained all this to Rusty, while we waited in the car for the humans to finish faffing about. He nodded in agreement, as most do, but seemed more interested in exploring rather than being out together as a team. I was happy to sacrifice the usual hunting, chasing and general fun stuff for the opportunity to be a pack for a few hours. I just hoped Rusty wouldn’t become too impulsive.
We left the recreation ground and immersed ourselves in the surrounding forest, following the Mistletoe track that would take us to the summit of Helicopter Hill. The root covered, loamy track climbed at a gradual incline through skinny, pale trees and over small streams. Being the social type, I was enjoying the time the four of us were spending together; which typically lasted several minutes before Rusty once again detected something in the air, several hundred meters away, which absolutely had to be investigated. As he bolted off into the undergrowth, to the sounds of ‘Rusty’ and ‘RUSTY! COME HERE!’ echoing around the forest as the humans shouted after him, it was only a matter of time before I was required to step in.

The humans looked at me. I looked back at the humans. I looked at the newly formed path that Rusty had just made, that disappeared into the greenery. I looked back at the humans. They continued to look at me. I rolled my eyes and darted off in an attempt to locate Rusty. Inevitably I would find him scrutinising a patch of moss, or inspecting a small pile of leaves. Escorting him back to the path, he would apologise for breaking from the pack and running off into the forest. I responded with a deep breath and reminded myself that this was all new to him. Together once more, we continued up the footpath for another good three minutes before the process was repeated again.

After an hour of this, we arrived at the base of the final climb to the summit, and also the limit of my tolerance. Taking a few moments to refuel on water and snacks, we left the shade of the trees and moved out into the heat of the day. The track became noticeably rockier and steeper, with several sections requiring the humans to go onto all fours. Rusty and I looked on inquisitively, as they scrambled over loose stones and small boulders, before the path settled down into a more solid, less steep ascent to the top.

After another 200 meters we had reached the hot air balloon landing pad, and were greeted with a 360 degree, panoramic view. Mountains surrounded us in all directions, painted in pale colours. Grey scree slopes blurred into fields of tussock. Patches of dark green littered the landscape, indicating where the forests had been able to get a foothold. I sat myself down and savoured the moment, reflecting on how we had conquered the hill as a team. Moving as one. Never leaving a man be… Where’s he gone now?

What was meant to be a lovely time spent at the top of the hill, admiring the view and looking out for fast approaching hot air balloons, was instead spent hunting for Rusty, as he aimlessly wandered off again and again. As I reached the end of my patience, it suddenly occurred to me that this was probably the closest thing I was going to get to hunting. True, it may have been a slightly watered down, tame version of what I’d seen in the movies, but it was still technically a hunt. With renewed enthusiasm, I darted through the scrub, attempting to locate the excitable one and herd him back to the summit.

It continued this way back to the car park, where we had begun 2.5 hours earlier. The path off the summit was a little tricky to descend in places, owing to the rocks, but once we were back within the trees, it was plain sailing to the recreation ground. Rusty and I came to an agreement that he could go off and explore until the humans called out his name, which would then be my cue to go hunt him down and bring him back to the pack; meaning Rusty would get a chance to explore and I’d get a chance to hunt. Everyone would be a winner.

Well, I have no idea what the humans wanted to do, probably have a nice relaxing walk through the forest, which if that was the case, they now know not to bring two dogs with them.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 6km

Height Gain: 500m

Time: 2.5hrs

Map courtesy of

Foggy Peak and (almost) Castle Hill Peak – Craigieburn

His silence said it all. He eyed me up for a few moments via the reflective glass thing, and then returned to staring at the endless grey strip with the intermittent white lines down the centre. The car we were travelling in had been gradually increasing in speed as the morning moved further away from the brunching hour. Although futile, I once again attempted to give my perspective of the morning’s events, via enthusiastic barking and tail wagging, but the human didn’t seem interested.

‘Yes, I will concede that we might be ever so slightly behind schedule because I wanted to do some shopping before we left Christchurch. And yes, I also accept that we may now not have enough time to summit Castle Hill Peak. But you have to admit, I do look awesome wearing my new dog bag. I mean seriously. Look at me!’

No response. Just a ruffling of his forehead and another slight increase in speed. It was like this all the way to Porters Pass, the gateway to the Craigieburn area, and our starting point for the day’s adventure. When the human (who goes by the name of Ian), was in a more agreeable mood earlier that morning, I overheard him explain the plan to the other human who lives with me (who goes by the name of Kat), that we were going to walk up Foggy Peak, and then onto Castle Hill Peak. Both mountains are located in the Torlesse Range, and are the first significant geographical features to be seen as you enter alpine territory. He went on to say that the walk would take a few hours and would provide some excellent views over the Canterbury Plains on one side, and the mountains of Craigieburn on the other.

Foggy Peak directly ahead, with Castle Hill Peak on the far right

The car pulled into the lay by and skidded to a halt. I sat and watched patiently from the back seat, as Ian  began a series of fumbling manoeuvres that included packing, unpacking, sighing, then unpacking some more, and finally packing, before I was released, the car was locked, and we were on our way. I was currently sporting a smashing new rucksack that I had treated myself to that morning. Insisting that we called into an outdoor shop called ‘Further Faster’, which was on the way I might add, I wanted to kit myself out with a bag to carry my essentials in; snacks, chew toys, sanitary bags and the like. Being the more independent type, I like the idea of being a little more self-reliant on these little adventures the human and I partake in. So you can understand my resentfulness when I discovered that Ian had, spitefully no doubt, taken the opportunity to fill any empty rucksack space with his stuff. Suddenly I was laden with a First Aid kit, baseball hat and hip flask. We walked in silence as we ascended Foggy Peak.

To avoid the unpleasantness and unprofessionalism of bitching about Ian for the rest of this account, I shall instead take the opportunity to provide some useful information and adjectives about our experience getting to the top of the first peak. The less said about the second peak the better.

The minimalist walking track that took us to the top of Foggy Peak, which essentially just consisted of a few cairns scattered here and there, began above the tree line and after a few hundred meters, essentially just turned into a hike up a scree field, with a few false summits thrown in for good measure. The grey, rocky expanse of the mountain side became all encompassing, as we trudged towards the blue sky up ahead. We routinely lost the path as we headed skywards, to shortly re-join it and then watch it split into two or three options further ahead. All possibilities seemed to consist of loose rocks and headed upwards, so it didn’t make a great deal of difference which one we selected.

The route to the top of Foggy Peak

The air was filled with the sound of clicking, courtesy of the numerous alpine grasshoppers that littered the ground. This gave the impression of hiking through a radioactive wasteland, with the Geiger counter warning us of our impending infertility… which would have been funnier had the humans not taken my balls several months ago. The clicking was occasionally interrupted by the sound of Ian slipping on the loose stones and uttering words that my professionalism prevents me from repeating here. However, what is worth noting was the poles he was using for balance. Not one for using them myself, and the mental image of a canine using poles while walking on their hind legs is, frankly, terrifying, they did seem to be of use.  I was going to point out that the extra stability provided by the poles would enable him to carry his own goddamn stuff, but I decided to pick my battles.

After about an hour and a half of steep, loose terrain, we conquered the fake summits and reached the top of Foggy Peak. Each point of the compass provided a unique view; West extended out over the green, flat plains towards Christchurch and the sea. South provided views over Lake Lyndon and the Ashburton Lakes area in the distance. East consisted of a jagged, grey, mountainous horizon, dotted with patches of greenery. North was Castle Hill Peak, yet another rocky summit, that loomed over us. Ian checked the circular thing on his wrist, huffed, looked down at me as I was happily admiring my new bag, and then stormed off towards Castle Hill Peak. I made a mental note to post a cute as hell image of myself on Instagram when we got back to Christchurch, and then hurried after Ian.

Looking West

Looking South

Looking East

Looking North

We descended down to the saddle and then began the steady climb towards the summit. The incline was much more manageable this time, with the majority of the hard work done getting to the top of Foggy Peak. An hour later, we had covered about two thirds of the distance required to make it to the top, when the human decided to call it a day and have lunch. Reading between the lines of a death stare and a head shake, I took this to mean that we had made it as far as we would for today.

Heading out towards Castle Hill Peak

We stared out over the mountain scenery and ate our lunch, in silence. Ian was evidently adamant on making this the theme for the day. Finally reaching my breaking point, I snapped and pointed out that if he hadn’t decided to indulge in a dog based photo shoot next to some inconspicuous rock earlier in the day, we could have made more ground and been within striking distance of the peak. To back up my argument, I snatched his phone, unlocked the code, opened up the gallery app, and proceeded to swipe through the many, many photos he had insisted on taking. With the same dexterity and technology savvy ability, I’ve copied them into this article in the form of a collage, to prove my point.

Confronted with this evidence, Ian appeared to mellow. A shake of paws and the smallest of nods to each other, we began our return to the car. The previous tension in the air was replaced with conversation, as we discussed the best photo of today to add to Instagram. Strolling back to Foggy Peak was easy enough, however the final descent to the car proved a little trickier, as the banter was regularly interrupted by the losing of traction underfoot and frantic pole waving… by Ian. I sauntered close behind, shaking my head.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 10km (approx. 13km to Castle Hill Peak return)

Height Gain: 1,000m (approx. 1,300m to Castle Hill Peak)

Time: 4hrs (at least another hour return to Caste Hill Peak from where we stopped)

Map courtesy of

Mystery Lake – Hakatere Conservation Park

This may not be common knowledge to most, but I love to hunt. Being a Huntaway cross bred, the clue is in the name. Although it could be argued that based on that theory, I should also love Whisky, seeing as I was named after one (Oshy is short for Auchentoshan). In reality, I’m more of a Strawberry Daiquiri kind of guy, but I digress.

Every day, without fail, the human who lives with me, who goes by the name of ‘E’, takes me out for a hunt. Whether its to the local dog park, beach, forest or just around the suburbs, the pack will head out in search of prey. E may refer to it as ‘walkies’, but what he’s really saying is ‘lets find us some dinner’.

Admittedly, pickings have been a little slim, with predominately wing-assisted prey to stalk. They seem to enjoy taunting me, flying just out of striking range. Undeterred, I still give them the chase of their life, sprinting uncontrollably after them, as they cower in fear a good 20 meters above me, pretending not to care.  After a good fifteen minutes of this, I have to resign myself to dog biscuits, again. So you can imagine my excitement when I was taken to a new hunting ground, with an additional human hunting buddy, going by the name of Adam, on a sunny Friday morning.

Eager to get into those fertile hunting grounds

After a two hour drive from Christchurch, we arrived at the Hakatere Conservation Park. Our destination was Mystery Lake, which presumably was named after the mysteriously large amounts of potential prey that can be found in the area. We pulled over onto a 4×4 track, and began to unload the truck. Eager to assess the new hunting grounds, I bounded out the truck to be met with… emptiness. Not a rabbit, sheep or even a bird to chase. What was more puzzling was that E and Adam somehow seemed pleased with this dire situation.

As the humans pottered about, I instead focused on the surrounding landscape, seeing as there was nothing else to stalk or chase. Huge, open, low lying scrub land extended away in all directions, eventually meeting mountains on the horizon, that seemingly sprang up out of nowhere. The scenery consisted of various shades of brown, giving the area a desert-like feel, which suited the blue skies that hung above us. ‘Maybe they’ll have zebra’ I pondered.

(It’s worth pointing out at this stage that, unlike all other dogs who see in black and white, I’m fortunate enough to be able to distinguish different colours. Just before you ask)

I turned back to the humans, who began unloading some bizarre, metal machines. They each clambered onto their device made of circles and triangles, and began to glide forward, their legs rotating rhythmically. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on, but frankly I didn’t care. We were in new territory, with new beasts to stalk. The hunt was on…

After traveling several kilometers, on a gradual incline I might add, I had to admit that my enthusiasm was starting wane a little. We had seen approximately zero game, as we continued to follow the 4×4 track towards the mountains. The only highlights were several streams we crossed, giving me the opportunity to freshen up. I had to remind myself that when you go on safari, you can’t expect to see an antelope waiting for you at the door. ‘Good things come to those who wait’ I thought… as I waited for the humans to catch up.

The track passed between Dog Hill (nice) and Mt. Guly, as we neared the head of the valley, and the humans were provided with their first view of the day. I know this because they dismounted their triangle and circle apparatus, and began to wave about these small, rectangular objects. Occasionally I was asked to sit and lay in various locations, which was fine, but I was mindful that all this commotion would reveal our position to all the edible wildlife on offer. Don’t get me wrong, the view was lovely, with the Big Hill Range on the left and the tail end of the Wild Man Brothers Range on the right, the edges of the ranges sliding down to the braided river below. But a view doesn’t put dinner on the table, and it was time to relocate.

We headed down into the valley, along a rocky trail, for what seemed like only a few hundred meters, before turning onto the Potts Hut Track. This caused some large, audible groans from the humans. It appears their fancy machines are of no use when you have to travel uphill, and they were reduced to walking, like I had been, for the past hour and a half. So for the next 30 minutes, we all walked onwards and upwards. Although you would have thought it was hours based on the amount of bitching the humans did.

The Potts Hut Track went over the back of the far hill… it really wasn’t that bad 🙂

As the track steepened, the pack began to split apart, with Adam falling behind slightly. I did my best to run between the two humans, attempting to boost morale with my tireless energy, but to no avail. Instead, I opted to wait at the top, slightly impatiently, while we regrouped.

Some were faster than others 🙂

Evidently the pushing and profanities all seemed worth it, as the rectangular objects were once again waved about. The grey, scree topped Mt. Red was now in full view, and the surrounding mountain ranges had begun to reveal themselves. Lake Mystery, our destination, was now visible below us, with a jagged horizon line made up of the Cloudy Peak Range, which seemed apt as the weather was starting to turn. But more importantly, there was a complete lack of  four legged mammals in the general vicinity. I was beginning to get anxious for what Mystery Lake had in store.

Mt. Red in the background

Mystery Lake in the foreground. Cloudy Peak Range in the back ground. Note the lack of wildebeest

Next stop Mystery Lake, onwards and downwards, via the Mystery Lake Link Track. Now, you would have thought after all that pushing uphill, the humans would be pleased for a bit of descent. Well apparently not, as the path was a little ‘non-existent’, to quote E. I looked on in pity as the humans skidded down the loose, rocky slope, trying their best to avoid spikey shrubs and injury inducing rocks. Some proved better at it than others, judging by Adams scream as he fell from his shape contraption. I quickly and selflessly hurried to his aid, lightly skipping between obstacles he had been unable to avoid, to be politely told by Adam to go away. I was starting to feel as if this may not be the best hunting partnership.

As the humans fumbled their way down the hill side, I took the hint, and not being hindered by a lack of a path, ran ahead to inspect the lake’s pickings. On closer inspection, it appeared that the mystery was why anyone would ever want to hunt here. The only significant items to note, were slightly random lake, the Dogs Range (also nice) towering above in the back ground, and zero huntable game. Or to put another way, disappointment epitomised.

The humans, evidently picking up on my frustration, attempted to cheer me up with dog treats, as they once again waved their rectangles about, presumably to prove to any future hunters that Mystery Lake is a lost cause. They also used the opportunity to contrive endless photos of themselves, the lake, the mountains and me.

Contrived photo No. 1 – don’t let that face deceive you, this is actually my disappointed face


Contrived photo No. 2 – me questioning E as to why we bothered coming here?

With the wind beginning to pick up, we set off on the last leg of the trip, finally bringing this pointless endeavour to an end. The wind was behind us, and with all the climbing we had done earlier in the day, it was a speedy descent back to the car. Considering the path is technically a walking trail, there was plenty of fun, flowy single track sections, with little need for pedalling, which as a dog, I’m sure you can appreciate how much I enjoyed. Judging by the smiles and lack of profanity, it appeared the humans had perked up too. Good for them I thought, as I manically sprinted to keep up with their freewheeling wheeled wheelie things. The landscape became more dramatic as we cruised down the Mystery Lake Track, which runs parallel to the Rangitata River, allowing for multiple, last ditch attempts to spot wild game at Lake Clearwater, Lake Camp and the glaciated valley below. Alas…

Contrived photo No. 3 – I mean seriously E, why did we bother?

The loop ended on a short section of the famous Te Aratoa Trail, which allowed us to join back up with the 4×4 track we had originally come in on earlier that day. Similar to the walking trails, riding the 4×4 track back to the truck, with its now subtle downward gradient, was actually a lot more fun than expected, and provided an enjoyable, final section of the trip – if you hadn’t already spent the entire day on your feet.

Smashing it down the Mystery Lake Trail

I slept well that night – more out of tiredness, as opposed to dining on a satisfying, freshly caught, free range bit of wild game. I’ve also made it quite clear that I could really do with some booties for my paws. Its been agony using the keyboard these last few days.

Approximate Track Stats 

Distance: 30km

Height Gain: 600m

Time: 5hrs (although could easily be done in 4hr without all the photo stops)

Map courtesy of