I know - it's been two weeks - sorry!
From being very quiet a couple of weeks ago, the social life has now bounced back after the summer break, and everything is busy again!
We took a trip last weekend to Stonehenge Aotearoa with the Sci-Fi group.
This isn't just a replica of the Salisbury Plain Stonehenge, but is of itself a working henge, aligned to its position in the Southern Hemisphere.
There is a beautiful central tile to align yourself with everything:
From there, you can look through the hole in the central obelisk, which is aligned to the South Pole:
Next to the Obelisk is the Analemma - the white tiles mark the north-south meridian, and at 12.18pm (or 1.18 in the summer) the shadow falls on the yellow line which gives the day and the current zodiacal sign.
Just outside the main circle is the Moon Stone (which marks the maximum extent of the shadow that the obelisk casts in a full moon) and behind it is the Seven Sisters, which mark (when standing on the marked spot next to it) the point where the Pleiades rise - also known as Matariki, they mark the beginning of Maori New Year in June.
Outside the circle are six heel stones - when standing in the centre of the circle, they are in line with the horizon, and they mark the rising and setting of the sun during the equinox and solstices.
The countryside around the henge was beautiful - there were only a couple of farmhouses in sight. I can't wait to go back at night (at some point, I'll try to see if any of the astronomical societies who use it are having open evenings) - the amount of stars visible when there is so little light pollution must be stunning.
Then, on the Sunday, I went out with a colleague and her husband around the Waiuniomata Water Reserve. This is normally closed to visitors, due to the need to avoid contaminants in the water supply, but for eight days a year, you can take guided tours of the reserve. The forest was stunning - rimu and rata trees towering overhead (there were others, but my memory isn't good enough to remember what they were called!)
We learnt of the history of the reserve as well about the trees and plants - the huge amount of work that went into providing drinkable water for the Wellington region.
To dig this 3.2km tunnel, which links the Orongorongo Valley to the Wainuiomata Valley (and their respective water supplies), huge efforts were made - they had to transport the materials 45 km around the valley to the mouth of the Orongorongo river, and then a further 22km up the river bed. There were two teams, one working on the Wainuiomata side, and the other on the Orongorongo side, meeting in the middle; the skills of the engineers were such that they met exactly - not bad for something finished in 1924!
We had the Ongaonga, or New Zealand Stinging Nettle pointed out to us:
If you fall into this, then it's not just a case of a mildly painful rash - the Ongaonga is very poisonous, and has killed at least one person. One of the volunteer rangers, the one who pointed the nettle out to us, said that he had been on a tramp (NZ hike...) with his group, when one of them had fallen into the nettle. Despite wearing trousers and overtrousers (it was raining), he was badly stung and had to be helped home where he was ill for a week. Not a plant you want to tangle with!
On our way back to the car park, we spotted a beautiful dragonfly on the ground - it was huge!
Speaking of insects, my fig tree has got a guest...
I'm going to be keeping a close eye on that for the next few weeks - I'm looking forward to seeing what emerges!
(EDIT - a quick Google search tells me that it is the chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly...)