Monday, December 13, 2010

Maggots with glowing bums

Hello from Tuesday! Today we're going to learn some more weird stuff about New Zealand -- shocker, right?? A few weeks ago, we took it upon ourselves to have a 3-day weekend in honor of Thanksgiving and we headed south a few hours into the Waikato region to see what all the hubbub was about with these so-called glow worms. I had never heard of glow worms until we arrived here and the Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand became my constant companion.

Our story begins long ago, and oh so far away...when some farmers found a bunch of big ass caves on their land. When they walked into them, even though they were inside there seemed to be thousands of twinkling stars above. And that's where they were wrong. Not stars. Maggots with shining bottoms. Glow worms! The scheming little larvae of fungus gnats. These evil little worms position themselves deep inside caves, spit out a long string of mucous, and hang there with their bums shining attracting small insects which get stuck in their slimy traps.

Of course the journey to the caves was almost as interesting as the caves themselves. To get there, we piled into a small rickety old 4-speed van with 8 other people and drove 20 km on a narrow gravel road through the mountains. Then we were dropped off and walked the rest of the way down a path into the depths of some guy's huge farm. As usual in Kiwi-land, no handrails, fences. Funny :o) The caves are underneath us in the following photos.

After we fed the eels, we headed in to see the famous worms. To let our eyes fully adjust to the dark (it takes about 20 minutes) before boarding the boat to go deep into the cave, the guide had us hang out for a bit where we could see a few of the little wiggly guys up close.

I must apologize for the quality of these photos. It's a cave. It's pitch dark in there. We weren't allowed a flash (which wouldn't have worked very well in this situation anyway) and so I'll include a  shot that the tour provided us via email. Once our eyes adjusted, we boarded a little boat and floated further in.

This was another occasion where I had to reconcile in my American brain that the things I was seeing were real. In a natural environment. Not a Disney ride or a recreated environment in a zoo or museum. Fo real! No joke. The zillions of little glowing butts were gorgeous!! Quite a sight.

Here's their photo, with the benefit of a tripod and a stable surface. As we floated along the underground river, this is what we saw endlessly above our heads. Another little bit of New Zealand magic...

And then it was time for morning tea, of course, before we headed into another (dry, worm-free) cave.

And after a few hours underground, I was ready for some fresh air and sunshine for sure, but those glow worms really were worth the trip. Way better than even Small World or Mr Toad's Wild Ride. Even better than Space Mountain!

Cheers everyone! Hope you all have power and water and working furnaces. I'm hearing brutal winter stories from home. Hang in there! xo, K.


  1. So cool!! But even better than Peter Pan's Flight?????
    Jack thought the pic with the person in the Tevas and a Rolex at first (before I scrolled farther down) looked like a butt. Much to his surprise but not was a knee and a forearm hanging out together attached to a regular body....

  2. Funny, I was going to comment on the same pic Sam did, I thought the creature being fed was a baby alligator. An eel, huh?

    The worms sound interesting. Don't know that i'd have made it in caves for hours. Glad you found more magic!