Several people we have spoken with who live in the area suggested that we visit the Kawiti Caves to see glow worms. They told us we would get closer to the glow worms there than in the large cave down south that is a popular destination. We say goodbye to our hosts at Allegra House, sadly take one last look at the beautiful view we have enjoyed for three days and set off toward our next destination with a planned stop at Kawiti Caves.
It is early Sunday morning but the sign says the caves are open every day. In a small white booth, we find the tour guide who sells us our tickets and asks us to wait at the entrance. I ask if I can take some pictures and he tells me I can take them outside the cave only even if I turn the flash off on my camera. We find this so often. I think it is because people don’t know how to turn their camera flash off or they take advantage and flash anyway.
The stalactites are huge hanging at the entrance to the cave. We wait there a few minutes and are joined by a dad with his two kids. There is a school holiday going on for another week. The kids go to school year round in four quarters with breaks in between. Our guide joins us, lights the lanterns and we begin. He carefully explains how stalactites and stalagmites are formed and then a few yards further into the cave, he turns out the lights.
Above our heads it is as if the roof of the cave has opened and we can see into a night sky. Hundreds of pinpoint bluish lights dot the roof of the cave. Our guide says they have called the section the Milky Way. I can see why.
The glow worms, our guide explains, hatch from eggs and become larvae. In this worm stage, they find a spot up high to attach to and spin a cocoon like tube that is like a hammock. This is the worm’s home for its transformation time. The worm then spins several long threads that hand down from the tube. Each thread has drops of sticky saliva along it. When the lantern is turned on, we are close enough to several glow worms to be able to see this. The threads resemble a strand of silvery beads.
As we walk on, the guide talks of how little flying insects enter the cave and are caught in the sticky threads when they are attracted to the light in the worm’s tail. The light is a bioluminescent chemical that is created in the worm’s body much the same as the fire flies we have at home in the summer except that the glow worms don’t flash off and on. The lights will get brighter the hungrier the glow worm according to our guide. Once the insect is stuck, the thread is sucked up by the glow worm “like sucking up spaghetti.”
We stop several more times to wonder at this amazing creation. Once the glow worm has changed into a small flying insect resembling a mosquito, it can no longer take nourishment as it has no digestive system. It has about three days to mate and lay eggs before it dies.
At the exit to the cave, we are directed to the “bush walk” that will take us back to the car park. Along the way the dad strikes up a conversation with us and begins to point out the different kinds of trees and bushes native to the area. He grew up on the North Island in this region and was an outdoor person. He and his kids are added to the growing list of wonderful friendly Kiwis we have met in just this short time here.
We find our next stop, Whangarei Falls, to be a park like setting. The walkways surrounding the falls are easy to navigate and we enjoy the bit of exercise after our drive. Back in the car, we decide to ignore Lady Garmon and take a side trip on a road that looks like it will take us along some coastline. It doesn’t really get close to the water but we enjoy some more beautiful countryside.
At Snells Beach, our stop for the night, we check into our motel. It is much nicer than we expected. We walk down to the beach area and find that the tide is low. Some people are out we suspect finding mussels or oysters. And way in the distance, we can see a tractor with a boat trailer behind it. When you can’t bring the boat to shore, I guess you take the tractor to get it.
Dinner is take away from a place across the street from us. The restaurants are all closed but the takeaway place is doing a great business. Our hamburgers are paper thin and not very tasty. We’ll have to try again somewhere else but I suspect there will be a definite difference in taste from our beef back home. It appears that the cattle here are all grass fed.
After dinner we walk back down to the beach to see what it looks like with high tide. The change is striking and the change in the temperature is significant as the sun begins to set. Time to snuggle into bed and rest. Tomorrow is another day to explore.