Worms and Caves

February 19, 2016

Torrential rain greeted us this morning. So far on the trip rain has not affected us. It appeared that the winning streak was over. We packed the car when the rain briefly tapered off. The motel cat kept jumping into our room to avoid getting drenched. We started out anyway. To add to the challenge was that it is Friday rush hour in the large town of New Plymouth that we were going through.

After managing to get on track, we drove the 100 miles to the Waitomo Worm Caves. The rain was extraordinary at times and we needed to slow way down. Big trucks coming our way almost washed us off the road a few times. We figured that this would be a good day be in a cave with worms. We managed to reach the cave ticket office before noon and were put on the next tour. People, a million strong each year, visit these caves. The caves themselves were pretty typical stalactites and mites. The cave tours are highly organized and packed. No one volunteered to sing to demonstrate the wonderful acoustics in the cave. I decided that it must be Bobbie’s birthday once more. Happy birthday sung in a variety of accents echoed through the cave.

We finally descended to where the worms, or more accurately maggots, hand from the ceiling and practice bioluminescence. There the tiny little lights try to appear like stars to fool flying insects into their lair. The attracted sand flies and mosquitos get stuck in the gooey strings that the “worms” dangle below them. The strings are actually maggot mucous and saliva. Glow Worms are a better marketing concept. This was all explained to us before we dropped down to the level where a subterranean river flows through the cave. We boarded our boat to be guided slowly through the caves. There were thousands upon thousands of these little bug lanterns a few feet above your head. We tried not to think too much about what was dropping in our hair. I am sure everyone will use shampoo tonight. We exited the cave while on the boat and returned to the sun. The cave experience was so so, however the “Glow Worms” we’re one of the more unusual sights that I have seen. We have no pictures as they were forbidden but just imagine being on a space ship cruising through the Galaxy. It was pretty much like that.

We finally had a picnic and decided to do the Ruakuri Bush Walk. Unlike the private worm tour, the walk was free. In many ways it was more extraordinary than the worm tour. You follow trails and climb stairs never sure exactly where you are or where you are going. It seems that the river that flows through the caves along the trail are not sure either. We went up and down and squeezed through short caves and hung over cascading waters. We finally reached a natural tunnel with a river running through it. The cavern was huge and our camera was not up to the job but we tried. You could not pay a landscape designer to come close to what we walked through. The rocks are water carved in endless varieties and enveloped with ferns and greenery of all sorts.

We finally returned to the car park and I decided to find out if the other “tour cave” was open to the public. Peggy and Bobbie said they would consider bailing me out if I became incarcerated. I saw no signs that said I couldn’t so I went past the entrance. I reached the gated opening to the cave and it was open, I wandered until there were no artificial lights and my tiny flashlight or “torch” in NZ was pretty useless. I returned to the girls who were ready to call the Mounties.

We are recouping at our motel and will be using the restaurant tonight. We have a long drive through Hamilton and Auckland tomorrow. It will be Saturday so we may miss the commuter traffic that has been snarled because of a public transport strike. I need to also mention that after reaching the worm caves that we have had only a few drops of non-worm precipitation fall on us. The sun is shining with broken cloud cover. Hopefully a dry drive for tomorrow.

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