Take a look at Christmas day here.
Well, it's the day after the big event, and things are starting to get back to normal after the big festivities of the season, I hope that this hub finds everyone still feeling good about the holidays and not stressing too much about how big the credit card bills are going to be this year.
You're probably so far over the music and the 'ditty jingles' that the stores have been playing to try and get you to buy more that if I was to put one here the computer would get a 'flying lesson' straight out of the nearest window (please, even if you don't like your computer anymore, at least make sure the window is open, I'd hate to be blamed for broken windows!).
This hub is 'sort of' about Christmas, well, maybe not, but I hope it leaves you in a 'better place' than when you start.
Merry Christmas to all.
Christmas Day, with a difference.
Most of the folks reading this hub celebrate Christmas day (Okay, some of you say "endure") in the middle of winter, with snow and reindeer and all the like, but here in New Zealand Christmas comes at the beginning of summer, though if you'd been here last week you wouldn't be so sure!
Right up until the day we were having heavy rain and storms, just the kind of stuff we get in winter, there was even snow in some parts that only see snow in the winter (our winter is in June/July) but sure enough, come Christmas morning the sun was out and the one thing we weren't getting was a White one, not that we mind!
This year we didn't have any family visiting, they came the week before as it was my Daughter's 18th birthday, we had a good time, but that meant Christmas would be quiet, with just the three of us, and boy did we look forward to it.
I've always been one who enjoyed hiking. I enjoy getting out into the wilds and living off just what I can carry on my back, I just don't like carrying everything including the kitchen sink on my back.
Give me a web belt and a 30lb pack and I can pack everything I'll need for a week, and that includes food! Not everyone sees things the same way though, so it was a major surprise to hear my beloved say that she wants to take up hiking more seriously and wants to work on completing the 'Te Araroa Trail'.
That's a goal we're going to 'work towards' for the next few years.
Starts in the far North of the country and goes to the far South, some 3,000km or 2,000 miles away. All the information I can find out about it says it takes about three months to walk, and only the experienced hiker should even attempt to do it all, in other words, we've got work to do!
That's part of our 'present' to each other, we're going to enjoy working towards that goal, and with that, let's get on with this hub.
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?
A rare treat
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.
"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.
'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 it.
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.
We will get back to our series with Scorpion Team in the next few days, but I thought that this would be a good hub to write, and I hope you enjoyed the little tour we took.
I'm hoping to do more hubs like this one as we walk various parts of the trail, but it's two thousand miles long, and we don't have the three months it takes to walk the whole length (or the experience they recommend). Still, I hope you enjoyed this little segment.
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Happy New Year
By the way, all the photos I took on this hub were taken on Christmas day, two days ago.