Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Stonehenge Aotearoa

Our weekend visit to the Wairarapa involved more than just alpacas. I also persuaded everyone to check out Stonehenge Aotearoa (right above). Our hosts Brian and Colleen had watched it being built on the neighbouring hilltop and have enjoyed its dramatic addition to the skyline but they had never been there! I've wanted to go since I first heard about it, while it was still being built. Unfortunately, by the time it opened to the public last February I was living far away in Northland. When I saw the Stonehenge sign as we drove towards our friend's place, I began to lobby for it to replace the Pinnacles on our weekend itinerary.

The tour party we were in consisted of the Wellington Triumph motorcycle club, ten men and ten women in leather who roared up on their ten bikes, a young, attractive, stylish gay couple, and us. But there really wasn't a chance to chat with the other punters because the show was so intensive. Our guide, Jennifer, conveyed her passion for astronomy, past and present, with lyricism and clarity, speaking for an hour and a half almost without pause. It was one of the most educational experiences I've had in years in terms of the sheer volume of information that I managed to pay attention to.

The Stonehenge itself is a bit of a letdown in the daytime, the only time that the public can access it. Like the original on Salisbury (and all the other astronomical stone circles around the world) it is designed for night use, to follow the movements of the rising and setting sun and stars accurately predict seasonal changes and astronomical events like eclipses. But it is a special place to be, with amazing acoustics and an awesome 360 vista of the Wairarapa.

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