"" Writer's Wanderings: New Zealand Diary - Monro Beach, The Fox Glacier

Monday, December 16, 2013

New Zealand Diary - Monro Beach, The Fox Glacier

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sunshine greets us as we start out this morning. We head north for our glacier adventure. A ways up the highway, we stop to look out at the Knights Point Lookout. We can’t get out on the deck that is there due to some problems with it cracking but we manage to walk back and forth along the fenced area and take a few pictures. Bob spots what he thinks are penguins and when he asks a maintenance worker the young man says if we want to see penguins, we should go to Monro Beach.  We ask Lady Garmon if she knows where Monro Beach is but she doesn’t come up with it so we just drive on.

Suddenly Bob slows the car and prepares to turn. I see it too. A park sign that says Monro Beach Track. We park, grab our gear and head off for a one hour return walk. Return is the word used for roundtrip. It is a great morning for a walk. The sun filters through the trees highlighting mossy tree trunks and all sorts of ferns and leafy plants. We can hear several different birds singing. I love the melodies of the New Zealand birds.

We finally get to a wonderful sandy beach and find an interpretive sign that tells all about the penguins that are in this beach area. They have feathery yellow horns above their eyes. A little fancier than the yellow eyed penguins we have seen.

The beach is empty. We search the grassy area where the sand meets the plant growth to see if we can spot a penguin on a nest. This is nesting season and at least one of the mating pair sits on the nest while the other gathers food in the sea. Try as we may, we can’t see anything. We do find a seal further down the beach in a rocky area. The rest of his colony must be out fishing. It is hard to be entirely disappointed. It is a nice walk and the beach is pristine.

Lady Garmon shows that it will be lunchtime when we get to Fox Glacier which is a little town that takes its name from the glacier nearby. We pass up the turn to the glacier in order to find a restaurant or café for lunch. We find a café and enjoy a light lunch before we set out for our glacier walk.

The walk to the glacier is a bit treacherous and mostly uphill which at times is very steep. The rocky path crunches and slips beneath our feet. I worry what it will be like going back down. We finally get to the top and have a terrific view of the face of the glacier. There is a large cave at the bottom from which water is pouring out. Some of the water is being fed from waterfalls on the side of the glacier. It must travel underneath but as it does, it collects gray silt and stone so the water coming our looks like a watery cement color.

There are lots of blue crevices where the snow and ice have packed so tightly that the only color that gets refracted by the sun is a deep blue. We’ve seen it in the glaciers in Alaska. It is an awesome sight. Pictures taken and enough of a rest for the return, we head back. As we do, a misty rain begins. The sun has hidden behind clouds that have moved in and it looks like we are in for a damp trip back.

By the time we reach the car, it is raining steadily. Our motel is in the next glacial area called Franz Josef and the rain comes and goes over the thirty minutes it takes us to get there.  We check in and find we’ve been upgraded to a king-size suite. It’s very nice and we plan to enjoy it since it is our last two-night stop.
The rain lets up long enough for us to check out the Information Center but unfortunately it is too late and the center is closed. We wander around a bit looking at options for dinner and settle on one that is nice and toasty inside.

There is a short walk nearby that is supposed to have glow worms along it so we scope it out right after dinner. If it’s not raining we plan to go back after dark to see the glow worms. We walk the track to the end and back and the only places we see where there might be glow worms are in several huge trees that have been uprooted and the roots are so huge they are like small caves. We look around for the telltale strings that the worms put out but don’t see any. Still, we decide to return after dark weather permitting.

After our coffee and dark chocolate Tim Tams (we are officially addicted to these cookies now) we watch a bit of TV until the sun sets. Flashlight in hand, we start down the track again. It’s a bit ominous as the trees are black and look like any movie set for a horror picture. Plus it’s only a few days to Halloween. Should we really be during this?

Thankfully the largest tree-cave is not that far along the trail and we study the roots. Suddenly we begin to see them. Little blue pin pricks of light. We fiddle with iPhones and my camera trying to get pictures but it isn’t easy. Bob ends up with a blue dot on a picture on his iPhone and we are satisfied with that. Our step is a little quicker as we return. It’s getting darker and the rain is starting again. I think this night qualifies as our Halloween fright night as we finally leave behind the black forest and make our way to our room to turn on the electric blankets and slip into a warm bed.

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