Kiwi Christmas: A Walk Along the Waikato River, Hamilton, New Zealand
Take a Look at Christmas Day Here
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.
Not Far, But Awesome!
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?
See the massive ferns?
This wouldn't be a hub 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.
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 hubs 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.
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Happy New Year
By the way, all the photos I took in this article were taken on Christmas Day.