The dog gazes at the women with infinite patience.

‘Remember how you lift a sheep?’ says Kep.

‘No,’ says Anne.

‘Me either,’ Rose says. ‘Not every young dyke was a New Zealand shearer.’

Kiwi style

Kep grins and offers instruction. ‘Okay. Bend the knees. One arm around the front of your sheep below chest level, and the other around the back. Now straighten the knees.’

Rose stands up with Horatio in her arms. ‘Stand aside. I’m coming through.’

She staggers along the path for a way, then deposits the dog on the ground and leans against a tree, panting. ‘He weighs a ton. We’ll have to take it in turns.’ 

Julia takes her place, gathers Horatio into her arms and totters fifty metres.

Julia style

Kep takes over and manages another fifty. ‘Enough,’ she gasps. ‘That svelte-collie look is deceptive. Anyone else?’

Anne squares her shoulders. Never let it be said that she doesn’t pull her weight. She eases ahead of Rose, turns, takes Horatio in her arms.

‘Bloody hell,’ she grunts. ‘I was expecting a toddler. This is more like carrying a teenager.’

‘Oh Anne,’ says Rose. ‘I’m sorry. Let me have a go.’

Anne has no breath for talking. She shakes her head and manages ten steps before handing Horatio on to Kep. Kep makes it to the third waterfall and there they all pause.

‘I can’t understand it,’ says Rose. ‘He was fine last time we did it.’

‘Oh well,’ says Julia. ‘It’s strengthening our biceps. Or is it our deltoids?’

Anne doesn’t think it’s strengthening anything except her desire for a nice lie down, but for Rose’s sake she refrains from saying so.

At the sign for the fourth waterfall there is no need for words. By mutual unspoken agreement they ignore it and continue their bizarre relay, ten steps, swap dog, ten steps, swap dog …

‘I don’t think it’s far,’ says Rose hopefully. ‘I reckon we’ll be able to see the carpark from around this bend. More or less. It’s only about half a k.’

She is right. They can see where the carpark might be, but only by looking up, a long way up. Between them and their goal stretches a long and very steep flight of stairs.

Until now they have seen no one else on the track, but now they hear the sound of carefree voices. A young man and woman come into view.

Rose does not waste a moment. She smiles winningly at the young man.

‘You look strong,’ she says. ‘How would you like to carry our dog up the stairs?’

The young man glances at his companion. ‘Okay,’ he says, and without more ado he seizes Horatio and heads upwards.

‘Hope you don’t mind,’ says Rose to the young woman.

‘Nah,’ she says grinning. ‘Gives him a chance to show off.’ She bounds after him.

‘Have we given in to gender role stereotypes?’ Rose asks, as they drag themselves up this last stretch.

‘Yes,’ says Anne firmly.

‘Muscles,’ says Julia. ‘Can’t go past them.’

Gangnam style