Monro Beach Track, South Island, New Zealand
Often I use this blog to tell you about the hikes that I do in countries all across the world.
I try to put into words what it’s like the feel the breathlessness of racing up a mountain or the thrill of a winding downhill track; the numb toes of trekking through the snow and the burn of incessant sun for hours; the serenity of a deserted forest or the fun of experiencing the wilderness with friends.
Through all of the experiences, there’s always the wonder of emerging on new landscapes.
I try to describe these. I put up some photos as well. But I think it’s almost impossible to really give you a perfect sense of what it is like to walk these tracks for yourself.
One of the things that is always missing are the little details and the variances with each step of the light, the colours, the wind, the smells – even the slope and the obstacles.
Perhaps one day I’ll come up with an innovative way to guide you through a hike. Today, though, I’m going to at least do something a little different.
I’ll take you through some of the different stages of a walk through rainforest to Monro Beach on New Zealand’s South Island.
It’s not a long hike and only takes about 30 or 40 minutes in each direction. That’s one of the great things about the walks in New Zealand – you can do a few different ones in the same day, if you want.
Or just stop and do one on your way somewhere else. I did the Monro Beach track on the way up the coast from Haast.
The Monro Beach track starts at a small carpark off the main road and immediately you’re thrown into a dense rainforest, full of ferns. As you can see, there is some light coming through but it’s quite cool because of all the shade.
Within a few minutes of a curving track, you reach a river with trees running right down to the banks on both sides.
Getting across the river is quite fun. There is a suspension bridge with wooden planks to walk across. Although it shakes a little bit as you go across, it feels steady enough.
It’s not too busy today but I did see a small group of walkers set out before me. Obviously the route is relatively popular and so some effort has gone into maintaining the track. Often you’re walking along gravel but there are stretches, like this one, where wooden paths have been constructed to get over ditches or other difficult terrain.
Most of the time, though, this is what the view looks like. It’s fairly thick rainforest and the narrow track lets some of the ferns brush you as you pass them.
Only dappled light comes through. By this stage, about 20 minutes after starting, it’s all downhill as you head towards the coast.
Even though the path is maintained, sometimes nature gets its own way. A constant battle against time and fate can never be truly won.
Here, a tree has fallen across the track and you need to climb underneath it to get through.
I spend quite a lot of the time, as I walk, looking at individual plants along the side of the track.
The wide vista is beautiful but there’s something quite pretty about all these small details as well. The way this fern stretches out to the sky to collect the rain, like a telescope waiting for news from another galaxy.
At this point, about 30 minutes after starting, you can tell you’re getting close to the coast.
Firstly, you can begin to hear the sounds of waves crashing. But also the stream that’s been alongside for a while is getting wider and the water is slowing down.
And here it is, Monro Beach. It happens very suddenly. One second you’re in rainforest and then suddenly you’re on the low dunes.
The quick pace along the gravel track instantly slows as you trudge through the soft sand. My shoes come off quite quickly.
There are outcrops of rocks at both ends of the beach. I choose to turn right and walk up to where the rocks start.
The waves come in quickly and unexpectedly and I have to jump up at one point so I don’t get wet.
One of the reasons that Monro Beach has become quite popular is that it’s a breeding ground for the tawaki penguin. They are quite a rare penguin and one of only three species that breed on land in New Zealand.
The breeding season is from July to November and unfortunately I’m just slightly too late to see them. Otherwise, they would be around rocks like this.
And, so, I turn around and start to make my back back to the path into the rainforest. You can see here that the sand is quite fine near the treeline but down by the water it is coarse and rocky.
This is the point where you say goodbye to the beach and head back into the bush, trading blue and yellow for dappled green.
And then it’s the same path back to the carpark. Interestingly, it all looks slightly different.
Facing the other direction gives you a slight variance of perspective and heading uphill also makes a difference. I look at the trees anew, refreshed in many ways.
There are so many walks in New Zealand and the Monro Beach track is quite a short one. But you can hopefully see why I enjoyed it so much.
There is plenty to see and I love the combination of crossing over where the trees meet the sea.
Next week will be my last post in this short series about New Zealand. And I’ll be sharing some thoughts I’ve had about how to explore the country next time.
For accommodation, I suggest Heartland World Heritage Hotel in Haast.