The Glowworms caves was one of the top things on McKayla’s list of things to see in New Zealand. She’d made us a reservation with the best of guide companies to tube through the Waitomo caves and enjoy some glowworms in the darkness of those caves. Black Water Rafting Co. had been around for 40 years and had the best reviews so that’s where we went. By 1:00 in the afternoon we were in wet suits, given a black inner tube and went to take our jumping lesson. In all the tubing that we’ve done, I’ve never put my ass in the tube and jumped backwards into moving water, but that’s why there’s a practice round. Part of our tubing adventure today included 2 similar jumps from waterfalls inside the caves. There were 3 guides for our group of 12. After an intro and some jokes, they needed a volunteer to go first and start us into the cave. I’m always down for this duty and got to start us into the mouth and my first look at a glowworm. The first backwards tube jump waterfall was only about 3 feet high and was more awkward than exciting but all 12 made it without incident.
We made our way into a long tunnel and turned off our headlamps. This is where we got our first really good look at the glowworms and where we got our biology lesson for the day. As it turns out the name ‘glowworm’ is somewhat misleading. There is a maggot that, while still in its larvae stage, sets down a thin line to trap its prey, at the top of which it illuminates with its excrement (to make it look like the night sky so the hatched flies will try to fly toward it). Upon catching its prey, it climbs down the line, which also has a neurotoxin to paralize its prey, then drills into its body to inject its saliva which turns the organs into a fluid that it sucks out. Oh, and if it doesn’t find food this way it will cannibalize its fellow ‘glowworms’. I have to agree with the tour guide – ‘cannabilizing, succubus maggots with glowing shit’ doesn’t have the same appeal as glowworms.
This time our waterfall jump was about 5 feet, then we formed our anaconda. The anaconda was a single file row of all our tubes, feet on the tube in front of you, arms over the feet of the person behind you. Then it was simple, lay back, kill the lights and float effortlessly through the false starlight sky of glowing maggot shit. It was seriously incredible.
Our tour ended with a thank you for not peeing in your wetsuits, followed by a hot shower, toasted bagels and hot tomato soup.
One of our guides told us about a short walk in the same area where we’d see glowworms at night without having to go into the cave. We spent the better part of our late afternoon sitting in our car, avoiding the rain, in anticipation of sunset. Just before sunset, we went to a small covered area in the park to make some quick pork tacos before embarking on our night walk.
It was a nice walk complete with rock faces, bridges overlooking waterfalls, walking through huge keyholes and finding a platform that looks down into a cave all while going through patches of glowworms. It’s a land you would read about in a storybook, but it’s real and it’s in New Zealand.
The rain and the late night adventure didn’t have us feeling like spending money on a campsite (overpriced piece of lawn) so this time we slept in the car. One of the marvelous features of our little Punta is that the driver seat doesn’t recline much further than 90*. Yep, no big pimping in the Punta, just a straight upright seat that is nearly impossible to sleep in. But last night we found the free campsite and tonight we made do – so two nights in a row with no lodging fees felt good. Sadly, saving on budget cost my back. I think that was the first and last time we sleep in the car.