Such was the plan, until a transport mishap scuttled those plans and a well overdue to return to Te Puia was shit-canned.
The natural alternative was - of course - none other than Ol' Faithful, Herepai Hut.
As someone quite astutely pointed out "why Herepai? Roaring stag is way nicer." Not wrong, but Herepai is somewhat of a tradition, so Herepai it was.
Unusually for this time of year, there was not even the slightest hint of rain. Of course that made absolutely no difference to the perma-bog at the start of the track, which seemingly goes from strength to strength.
I never tire of the scenery on this track, and the golden dappled sunlight made it even better (and was also a nice change from the varying degrees of rain we usually encounter). We made fairly good time on the first section of walk, and as custom dictates, stopped at the 2nd swing bridge for a quick break before the hill awaiting us on the other side.
Being the unfit office chair potato that I am, this part of the track wasn't exactly a walk in the park (despite technically being exactly that), but again we made good time to the Roaring Stage-Herepai track junction. It was around this point that we encountered a few people heading down to Roaring Stag (ol' faithful comes through again).
Our initial plan once at the hut was to go up to Herepai peak and back for the views, but the peak was shrouded in a thick fug of cloud by the time we got to hut so this plan was abandoned in favour of an afternoon of cards. Unfortunately, I'd left the cards behind.
Once again there was piss all dry wood around, so we attempted to scrounge up some additional branches and such. Despite our minor success at wood gathering (innuendo? Maybe at a stretch), the fire itself turned out to be a bit of a failure, and never got hot enough to make the hut cosy. Not even the two hunters that turned up later had much luck with it.
On the plus side, the hut was home to a hunting magazine from 2012 which contained an article - and I kid you not - about "boning birds." The article featured such gems as "I will try to teach you the fine art of boning..." "...using your fingers to slide the meat down the bone..." "...flip the bird over onto it's front..." and it gets better: "Don't be put off boning birds as it's not that daunting once you have started" ... "...never be in a hurry and you will achieve a far better job." But perhaps the best part was the sign-off at the end, which simply read "Happy boning!"
We reached the road-end after 3 hours.