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Kiwi Christmas: A Walk Along the Waikato River, Hamilton, New Zealand

I love the outdoors, especially doing things like hiking and camping. This series is about walks in the native 'bush' here in New Zealand.

Really? A White Christmas would ruin this. Or would it? Taken on Christmas day, less than a mile from where we live.

Really? A White Christmas would ruin this. Or would it? Taken on Christmas day, less than a mile from where we live.

Our Christmas Day Walk in Hamilton, New Zealand

The sun was so spectacular that after we'd had lunch I just had to take the dog for a walk, down our favourite walking path, down by the river.

We live 'in town' but only have to walk about three hundred yards, down a set of steps and we lose all sight of civilisation, except for a path that is! It's a magical place in many ways as in that space you're transported back to a time when humans hadn't arrived in New Zealand, and you get to see the country as she once was.

See any houses?

See any houses?

Not Far, But Awesome!

Map showing trail along the Waikato River

Map showing trail along the Waikato River

A Mile Along the Waikato River

This year, when everything was done, and all the presents shared it was time to take Barney out so we headed for the river to enjoy a rare treat, a walk.

We didn't really go that far, on the map above, if you look closely you'll see a little 'man' at the bottom of the picture saying 'you are here'. That was our starting point, and we walked just as far as where you can see the words 'Matakanohi reserve' probably just over a mile, but it was like stepping back in time as we walked through the forest.

I've just been checking on the local government website and Hamilton is the largest inland city in the country with a population of around 120,000 but about 750 hectares of the city is taken up with natural gullies giving an incredibly diverse ecosystem within the city!

The walk was less than a mile, but what did I see?

1. The 'Ponga Tree', or Is it a 'Wheki'?

Yes, that is a real tree, and it's an emblem of New Zealand! It's actually pronounced 'Punga' but Maori write it as the 'Ponga'.

Better known as the 'Silver fern' the tree can grow up to ten metres tall (that's thirty feet, and yes the fern leaves are about fifteen feet across when they unfurl)

Actually, as I write this, I realise that what I saw was probably more likely the Ponga's cousin the Wheki, which is also an indigenous tree, just a bit more common.

What makes these special?

Well, as they grow the leaves don't sprout like normal leaves, they form curled up in a ball. Then, when they're fully grown, they unwrap themselves and on the underside, instead of being green, they're a silver colour, hence the name 'silver fern'.

Ponga or Wheki?

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See the massive ferns?

growing over the path

growing over the path

2. Kauri

This wouldn't be an article about New Zealand without mentioning the massive Kauri trees, once endemic to all of the country, but during the days of colonization their trunks were so straight, and the wood so hard they made perfect ships masts!

The Kauri are amazing to see, the stand tall and strong, but the ones I saw were young and only planted a few years ago.

It's a reminder that man has realised how badly he stuffed things up in logging these magnificent trees, and he's doing all he can to put it right.

I'm writing this with my laptop on a table that's made from recycled 'Rimu' that were probably once 'sleepers' for the railway tracks.

Buy an old house in New Zealand and I can almost guarantee your floorboards are Kauri or Rimu, two amazingly strong pieces of wood, but both milled almost to the point of extinction, thankfully both are making a comeback through active planting, and we have our own little patch of Kauri saplings.

'Tane Mahuta,'  a Kauri tree of record size, is named after the Maori god of the forest.

'Tane Mahuta,' a Kauri tree of record size, is named after the Maori god of the forest.

Our very own little Kauri trees

Our very own little Kauri trees

Birds That Amaze Visitors

"Big deal" I can almost hear some say, "so what with the trees, what about other stuff?"

it was only a short walk, but the birds were out singing as well. We've got the 'usual' species you can find anywhere, but a few months ago we had a friend from the US of A visiting with two of his sons, one of whom was an avid bird watcher.

What we thought was an average walk by any old river had him amazed at so many species you just don't see anywhere else on the planet!

There are going to be more articles about the walks we'll be doing, and we'll meet some of New Zealand's unique species then, but for now, here's a couple we see every day and don't think too much of it.

1. 'Parson bird' or Tui

Walk anywhere in the upper part of the North Island and you'll hear the call of the Tui, you might even get the chance to see one.

They're about twice the size of a sparrow and very 'boisterous'.

Walk outside pretty much anywhere in New Zealand and you'll hear the Tui's call.

Their nickname is the 'Parson bird' due to the two white tufts under their beaks. They're common enough that I just played the video below and my beloved thought it was a Tui calling outside, we often hear them.


2. 'Waxeye' or 'Silver eye'

The Waxeye, or 'Silvereye' are amazing little birds that arrived from Australia with the first colonists, and they've been welcome ever since!

They're tiny, and only weigh a total of 12 grams (I think that's less than an ounce!) but are gorgeous.

They're olive green for the most part with a white ring around the eyes that make them stand out, but they are fast and dart about the tree canopy all the time, any sighting you get will only be a fleeting glimpse as they dart from tree to tree.

Apparently, they don't live in the forest, so we're especially privileged to see them in our little 'reserve', and like the Tui, we often get them around our house.

Tuis and Waxeyes

Hope You Enjoyed the Walk

That was the walk I took on Christmas Day. Thanks for joining me on it, and I hope you enjoyed seeing a piece of New Zealand that even the tourists don't normally get to see.

This little walk is part of the Te Araroa Trail, which starts in the far north of the country and goes to the far south, some 3,000 km or 2,000 miles away.

I'm hoping to do more articles like this one as we walk various parts of the trail. I hope you enjoyed this little segment.

Leave a note

Happy New Year


By the way, all the photos I took in this article were taken on Christmas Day.


Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 09, 2020:


Thank you for the visit. New Zealand has its own type of 'Christmas tree' the Pohutukawa.

The Pohutukawa is a native NZ tree that has red spikey flowers at the end of its branches. Its leaves are similar to the pine or douglas fir so when flowering (in our summer, around Christmas time) it looks like a Christmas tree with lights already fitted!

I think there are Pohutukawa in Australia too but its regarded as being native to NZ and the biggest forest of them is on Rangitoto a Volcanic island in Auckland harbour.

I agree, the Parson bird song is amazing, hearing it as you walk among the trees is wonderful.

Glad you enjoyed this hub.

Happy new year


Denise McGill from Fresno CA on January 09, 2020:

That Parson bird's song is amazing and unique. I've never heard anything quite like it outside of a Spike Jones recording. He seems to be making up sounds. I think I really like the fern tree Ponga. Did you have a Christmas tree or use a fern for one? I have a cousin in Australia who uses a gardenia for a Christmas tree. Thanks for the walk.



Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 17, 2019:


When I first arrived it really was weird to have Christmas in the middle of summer. Now I don't think I'd have it any other way!

We still have a lot of the traditions at Christmas, but have them in summer, and the Barbeques are awesome.

Glad I was able to help give you a taste of what things are like here.


Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 17, 2019:

What a pleasant walk. We forget in this hemisphere that you have pleasant summer weather for Christmas. I for one, can't imagine what that would be like. I love the photo of the unusual trees and the Tui. For someone like me who may never be financially able to travel there, your little walk has given me a mini-vacation trip. Thanks for sharing.



Ann Carr from SW England on May 19, 2019:

I was lucky enough to have Christmas in New Zealand with family from Christchurch, but with Christmas itself in the north of the South Island, near Mapua. It was wonderful and very strange for an English girl to be swimming on Christmas Day! (or at all for that matter - too cold here)

I saw tuis and waxeyes; I love the song of the tui. We had many walks; probably one of the best was over on the West Coast at Karamea which I've written a hub about.

Love NZ with its beautiful colours, plants and scenery - incomparable!

Thanks for taking us on this lovely, interesting walk. The Silver Ferns are great too, aren't they?


Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 03, 2019:


Thank you. We have the California Redwoods here in NZ. About a hundred years ago the government tried growing them for housing and the like. Then they realised just how special they are and decided to preserve them.

I'm hoping to do more of these kind of walks, but we'll see how things go.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on May 03, 2019:

I really enjoyed this hike, and hope you do more. What beautiful flora and fauna you have. In the northern part of our California we have our magnificent Redwoods, which were almost logged to extinction. Only 10 percent remain. Unfortunately, they take 2000 years to grow to full height, so the recovery is a slow one. People are termites, I have concluded. I hope you do more of these walks.

Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 17, 2019:


It is.

Robert Sacchi on March 17, 2019:

Seems a great place for a stroll.

Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 12, 2019:


Sorry I didn't spot this earlier, I was enjoying another part of New Zealand at the time. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub and I intend to write a few more like it over the next year or so. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 05, 2019:

Fantastic. Glad I caught up to it. So wonderful. Our walk is more desert like but of course my boy and I went for it. I wonder why nature looks even better on Christmas. But I can guess.

My boy and I will read this again to learn about you and your ecosystem. Thanks.

Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 04, 2019:


There are a few more 'in the works' at the moment as one of the goals my wife and I have set ourselves is 'more hiking' (we want to work towards completing the Te Araroa trail) so keep an eye out for them!

Happy new year.


Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on January 04, 2019:

Lawrence, this was a very enjoyable hub. I don't know if I'll ever get to visit New Zealand, but articles like this go a long way toward giving me an authentic idea of what it is like there. I look forward to seeing more of your country. Thank you.

Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 30, 2018:


Glad you enjoyed the hub, the Tui and the Silver fern.

A couple of years ago there was a serious debate here on whether we should change our flag (we're fed up with our flag and the Australian one getting mixed up, there's one extra star on the Aussie one) and the Black flag with a simple Silver fern was a strong contender for it.

The Silver Fern is more a symbol of New Zealand than the 'Kiwi' is in many ways.

Thank you for your visit and happy new year.


Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 29, 2018:


It is a long flight, and the best ones aren't necessarily the most expensive!

From the UK it's 24 hours in the air, so its best to break it into two twelve hour flights, and even plan for a couple of days in places like Singapore (My mother does this when she flies out)

I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, and yes it's a very intriguing place.

Happy new year.


Nell Rose from England on December 29, 2018:

Hi, I loved the tui with his little white toggles under his chin! and those trees with the curling leaves, amazing! I have always wanted to go to New Zealand, never Australia. Lovely Photos Lawrence. Have a great New Year!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on December 29, 2018:

Wow, this was fabulous. Your country is intriguing. I wouldn't mind visiting but I don't have the patience to deal with air travel anymore.

Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 27, 2018:


The family were here the week before, so that was fine, and a lot less stress.

For me, I seem to 'recharge' better when I get a balance of people time and alone time, so this was awesome.

Hope you had an enjoyable Holiday.

Blessings for the New Year.


Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 27, 2018:


Seeing how different cultures celebrate the holidays is fascinating, and I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

For most Kiwis, it would be either a trip to the beach and a week or more there or spending time camping in the 'bush'. We try to spend time doing the latter.

Have a good holiday, and enjoy the important stuff.



Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 27, 2018:

Thanks for sharing your beautiful Christmas surroundings. So much to make the season "bright" even if relatives were not present. May the New Year meet and keep you just as happy.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 27, 2018:

I always love learning about different cultures and areas, so thanks for the info and great pics. Happy New Year to you!

Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 27, 2018:


It was pretty special, but what made it so was we did something that we don't normally do, we just took time out to relax and reflect.

The Tui are amazing in that their 'song' is so cheerful sounding.

At one part of the walk I could hear the birds singing, and it sounded wonderful, but in the distance, I could hear people, and it just sounded like a cacophony of sound that 'assaulted' the eardrums, we actually took a detour so as to enjoy the walk that few minutes more.

Glad you enjoyed it and enjoyed the birds.

Happy New Year


Lawrence Hebb (author) from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 27, 2018:


Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. The birds are pretty special.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on December 27, 2018:

It sounds like you had a lovely Christmas, and the walk looks beautiful. I love the videos of the birds. The Tui is, indeed, a gorgeous looking bird. So cute.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 27, 2018:

What an engaging hub, Lawrence. Thank you so much for sharing this little piece of New Zealand on your Christmas Day walk. I totally enjoyed it and the videos of the birds were great. I look forward to the rest of your trek.

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