A place we had talked about visiting for ages, and finally got around to it this weekend, is Stonehenge Aotearoa. It is a fascinating place, designed to be an open-air observatory, and inspired by Stonehenge in England. Although built on a similar scale to its inspiration, it is not a replica, but a modern interpretation of the concept, specifically designed for its location in the Wairarapa region (not far from Martinborough). It took two years to build by a group of volunteers and was opened in February 2005.
Stonehenge Aotearoa consists of 24 upright pillars, connected by lintels to form a circular structure 30 metres in diameter and approximately 4 metres high. Before going up to the stones, we watched a short video which described the history and ideas behind the project. This turned out to be very well worth while, as it explained quite a bit about why it was built. You enter the stone circle via a causeway with stones on either side, and there are two carved pillars at the entrance, forming what is called the Sun Gate as the sun can be seen rising through this gateway at the spring equinox.
Some of the stones
One of the fun things about Stonehenge Aoteorea, is the acoustic properties of the circle. Karl got to the centre first, and I could hear his voice amplified and booming. There was a distinct change to the timbre of our voices, with a sort of echo as well. If nothing else, it is worth going to for this experience!
In the middle of the henge is a 5 metre tall obelisk with a hole at the top. There is also a ‘celestial clock’ (my words) that identifies the current date and the times of the solstices and equinoxes. Just outside the large circle of stones, are the Seven Sisters or Pleiades. These are seven stones, sculptured to represent seven female figures. In Maori these are known Matariki which mark the beginning of the new year.
Me and the Seven Sisters
Inside looking out
Verdict: Recommended for something a bit different. Not huge amounts to see, but if you are interested in the idea, then worth it. The entrance is $8 entrance or $16 for a guided tour. Stonehenge Aotearoa can be found just south of Carterton in the Waiarapa.