This is one of those places that you don't really want to tell anybody about because it is that special that you don't want the secret to get out. My husband competed in his first half-marathon in Martinborough last Sunday, and I thought instead of getting up at a stupid hour to drive a couple of hours to get there on the race day, the far more sensible option would be to book some accommodation and make a weekend of it. Just two hours' drive from Wellington, Martinborough is very popular for weekend city escapes and even though I started looking three weeks before the race day, I could not find any accommodation for a family of five anywhere in the township. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it meant that I stumbled upon the cutest bach near the shores of Lake Wairarapa, just a half hour's drive away from Martinborough.
Waiorongomai Station is a sheep and beef farm owned by the Matthews family who are direct descendants of one of New Zealand's pioneering farming families. Seven generations have lived on the land which borders the lake and stretches to the Rimutaka Ranges in the west. There are several accommodation options available year-round from the expansive original homestead to two beautifully renovated farm cottages. Burlings Bach is one of them. After staying in the bach and reading about the family's farming origins, the connection the Matthews have to the land and sharing the pride of its history with complete strangers is really quite palpable. Burlings Bach was named after owners of the neighbouring property who leased their land to the Matthews before they eventually bought it. The bach accommodates eight people with plenty of room for everyone. It is fully equipped with everything needed for a restful stay out of the rat race. Home baking and freshly picked flowers greeted us on arrival and it quickly made me forget that we had spent four hours driving to get there after an accident on the Rimutaka Hill closed the road temporarily.
Just down the road from the bach is a lovely little ecumenical church, built by the Matthews family in 1927 to serve the whole community and as a way to honour all the families who have worked at Waiorongomai. The headstones of family members including the first pioneers, Charles and Elizabeth Matthews, stand in the grounds of the church.
With an already-full itinerary planned for our Wairarapa escape, we had very limited time to explore the farm itself but Bert and Ernie, the resident kunekune pigs, were a must-see. They greeted us like old friends when we walked down the track armed with our food scraps.
Waiorongomai means "waters of repute", a special name for a truly unique place. We left here feeling so well-rested and with a need to return one day with family and friends. Thank you Charlie, Karla and family for a very memorable weekend.