First of all I would like to apologize to you for not having been able to shrink you down and take you with me in my pocket when I went to New Zealand. Because had I done so I would not be wailing and gnashing my teeth at the crudity of my pictures. (No, that top picture is not mine. If you’d like to see more gorgeous glow worm pictures, look no further and get thee to google images). I wish so badly I had the technology and the know how to have taken pictures of the three seperate glow worm experiences we had. But I will say that there is something special about an experience tucked away secretly in my own memory. And with that, here is an account of the starry earthen beauty I was enveloped into one month ago…
Our first glow worm adventure began on the banks of this river. We were to kayak to a slot canyon filled with glow worms, and until it got dark our guide gave us fruit, cheese and wine. Amazingly there were no oranges or bananas (Jamie and I are allergic to one and the other) but the ducks did bite my feet! These ducks were so tame they would beg for food and then wag their tails when you fed them. I did not feed them. But Jamie loved it.
After it got dark we got in the kayaks and paddled out down the river. There was a flock of big black swans swimming all around us. It was so eerie, but our guide was friendly and chatty and kept me from feeling nervous as he told us all about the lore of the indigenous peoples. One of my favorite things was the silver fern. It is New Zealand’s emblem, and was used by the natives for painting their warrior symbols, and used for reflecting moonlight against their prey. Our guide picked us both a frond and we had them in our laps, glowing in the pitch black as we paddled into the canyon.
The glow worms in the canyon reflected in the water and it was as if we were rowing through a star field. Way up high we could see the outline of tree ferns against the sky. It was a perfect introduction to the little creatures. It was the most informative tour we had, and I felt like the most drastic composition to see them in. Frightening, isolated dark meets comforting pricks of light.
Our guide told us that the Mauri People believe their souls go into the glow worms when they die, so many of their grave yards are in the sacred caves where they are.
I loved knowing this a few days later when we went to a cave owned and operated by a Mauri family, called Waitomo Cave. (You cannot take pictures on this tour, but you can see pics online).
It was half cave tour and half boat ride. The cave itself is incredible. The history of the family having celebrations, weddings, and tours in the cave, the beauty of the “cathedral” and the limestone formations was really wonderful.
We were with a group of people, and I honestly thought the tour guide wasn’t all that great, but there were far more glow worms on this tour and if you leaned back in the boat and looked up at the glow worms you couldn’t even compare them to stars…there were far more of them than stars in the sky.
It felt safe and fun and predictable….Unlike the last glow worm experience we had.
The final adventure was a barely marked cave a few miles away from the main road out in the middle of nowhere. This was just after Jamie and I listened to a pod cast about how people think they know what they’re doing when they go into caves when really they don’t and a lot of people die.
I was FREAKED out.
This is the cave: This is just inside the entrance of the cave and about where I started to panic:I like to think of myself as a brave person. You know, I think I could totally traverse this whole cave if, say, I had a stronger light than my cell phone and a proper pair of boots, and oh I don’t know…a guide of some sort.
I think Jamie would live in a cave.
But I will say that this was by far and away the very best glow worm experience. Unadulterated by tourists and glittering up through every crevice. I even got a fair shot of the first few: Here’s their little webby strings they drop to catch moths: Jamie really is amazing. We probably went in about a quarter of a mile, wading through muck and a river and over stepping stones. And then finally until there was a part where I was pretty sure it would feel like a birthing canal to get through, and we could hear a waterfall.
I thought of all the flash flood stories I’d ever heard and my children wondering what happened to their mother…why oh why did she care more about glow worms than about us?
And I told Jamie we had to turn back. And then, I kid you not, I got lost! I got so turned around if Jamie hadn’t been with me I would still be there. Well maybe not that bad, but it really made my heart race. I was in pre panic attack mode by the time we got out and we decided to go on a walk to see if we could find the other entrance to the cave (it was a walk through).
We didn’t find the entrance.
But as we were walking a little inch worm strung down on his silk and landed on me just like the one in my book. Then at the top of the hill we found these amazing tent caterpillar webs. Whole bushes covered in them. And when I looked out into the canopy I could see a little tent strung about every few feet all across the valley. I have a part in my book where the moths do just this. I could barely breathe I was so emotional about it. I told the Kindreds before I left that I knew there was something imperative about me going to New Zealand pertaining to my book. I have glow worms in my book, and I knew I needed to see them with my own eyes. The springs, the cave, the waterfall, the tent caterpillars, the inchworm, the moths who are called the children of the stars by the Mauri people…it was all a part of me, and I a part of it. I can’t really explain it, but I feel as though I am whole now that I have been. It was an answer to a creative question burning inside of me. I felt like I did when I was surrounded by black swans in the pitch dark water and this adventure was my silver fern.
Do I sound crazy? Good. White hot and passionate is the only way to be.
Here’s a tree we went inside shortly thereafter. The moths in my book live in trees so you can imagine how delighted and almost numb I felt after the aforementioned. It’s all just too surreal to even describe, but like I said, if I could shrink you down and keep you in my pocket I would. But I can’t.