Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Matariki - it was written in the stars

We’d been on the road for over a month when we all got a bit sick of staying somewhere new every second night, so we decided that a one week stop was on the cards. Mr T found a farm stay in the Nelson area. The family who own the farm were away on holiday themselves, but said that as long as we were willing to look after ourselves the place was ours, and we got a great rate too.
The littlest hobo loved the garden at the farm

We were wowed by the remoteness as soon as we arrived, based on lush farmland, with sheep roaming in the foreground and mountains looming in the distance. The garden was phenomenal - huge, completely fenced in with a swing a little bike and toy tractor which left the Littlest Hobo desperate to get out and play all day. There were adult bikes too and a basketball hoop, and a vegetable and herb garden and fruit trees to help ourselves from. I mustn’t forget the longest washing line ever - perfect timing given the huge bag of dirty washing we were carting around, and better yet I could satisfy my inner cavewoman watching our smalls flapping in the wind as the sheep grazed nearby.

Our cottage was in keeping with the ‘grandma’s house’ charm that we have come to expect from many of the older bach’s we stay in, along with plenty of kids toys, and a welcome basket with all manner of goodies along with information about the local area. My only disappointment was discovering that the internet access that had been advertised was actually only available in the farmhouse, and as they were away we couldn’t access it. On top of that, but much more anticipated, we had no phone reception, so we were completely cut off from the outside world. Although this wasn’t in our original plan, it ended up being quite refreshing, very relaxing, and in honesty probably about as close as we will really get to that technology free month that Mr T was hankering after when we first planned our trip!

There were sheep everywhere!

The Nelson region is renowned for it’s good weather, and our week here was no exception; although we made a few trips (Golden Bay/Farewell Spit and Nelson on market day) we also had plenty of time to just kick back and relax. We had freedom to roam around the farm, so we explored the hills and rivers, walked through the stream, chatted with the cows (much to their disgust) and watched the sun, and the rainbows, come and go. The old Matariki school house sits in the grounds; it’s been disused since 1942, but the door was open so we went in to explore, with plenty of it’s history recorded and preserved inside, and we took pleasure in finding our hosts family listed amongst the students.

Matariki school house

I read some of the entries in the cottage guest book, and it made me feel sad that we hadn’t visited when the owners were home, everyone who signed the book sounded like they’d had an amazing time really experiencing the farm and really being welcomed like family. I was keen to see the dogs working to move the sheep and  Mr T was absolutely itching for a turn on the quad bike. I’m hoping we’ll be able to find an opportunity to do these things on the North Island before we leave New Zealand.

What're you looking at?!

Stepping outside after dark was the biggest treat of all; a veritable cornucopia of astrological delight enveloped me and captured my immediate and unwavering attention. Had it not been for the incessant attack of viscous sandflies I could have stayed there all night, every night, gazing up in awestruck wonder. As it was, it became a nightly ritual, after putting the littlest hobo to bed we would head out into the inky darkness and stand in front of the house looking up for a few minutes, the void of silence echoing on the mountains that surrounded us. I have never seen so many stars filling the sky - if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would have struggled to believe it.

The farm was called Matariki. I didn’t know what it meant, so when we were in the children’s section of the Wellington library the following week, and I spotted a book by the same name I snapped it up and started to read. I discovered that Matariki is the name for the Maori New Year. The word has two literal translations - Tiny Eyes (stars) and Eyes of God. The celebration takes place in June, based around a cluster of seven stars, and focuses on the unique place in which we live and giving respect to the land we live on. With this new understanding I couldn’t think of a more fitting name for the cottage in the stars.

Staying on the farm was the antithesis of our life in Sydney  - from living on a busy road with a shop opposite, a pub five doors down and a constant flow of passers by, with every form of public transport known to man on our doorstep and one of the most iconic views in the world from our lounge window, to a little farm nestled amongst the mountains on a dirt track that sees only a few vehicles pass by every day, a fifteen minute drive to the nearest shop, and almost an hours drive to the nearest sizeable town, and all of nature’s bounty right outside your front door. While this life isn’t what I’d chose personally for the long run, I thoroughly enjoyed my immersion into it.


  1. Sounds just great - a nice change from being totally connected all the time.

  2. O M G....I was there again..especially the stars bit as the only time I have seen this was when we first came to Oz and stayed with Tony and Helen in Honybee...Lyd was with us and we laid on the deck and looked at the stars so close you could almost touch them.
    ...Mataricki what a wonderful name for a wonderful place
    Happy Easter xxxxx

    1. You're right along for the ride with us :) The stars were amazing - I know exactly what you mean about reaching out and touching them. Happy Easter to you too! xxx