March 18, 2008

Waitomo Caves

A few weeks ago we woke up early on a Sunday morning and traveled about three hours south of Auckland to Waitomo where we had made reservations for a trip through the Waitomo Caves to see the glowworms. We met up with our guide just before 10, piled into a van, and drove along a narrow mountain road until we came around this bend and found a tree had fallen into the road.

The guys managed to push it out of the way with a bit of teamwork.
A flock of sheep grazing in the pasture below us made a quick exit when the tree crashed over the fence. (By the way, did you know there are more sheep in New Zealand than there are people?)
A few miles along our guide dropped up off so we could enjoy the five minute walk down to the first cave.
We walked past hills dotted with limestone formations like this
and this.Once we got to the cave we donned helmets with attached flashlights.
This is what we saw once we got well into the cave. These are the sticky threads the glowworm creates to catch its prey. (I didn't take these next three photos.)
The blue glow is actually the, uh, poo of the glowworm. Nice, huh? It lures it's food over with glowing poo. The long worm-like thing you see there is the sac that the worm lives in. It moves along inside this sac, which is strung like a hammock on the rock. When a bug gets caught in the thread the worm pulls it up and feasts.
After looking at the glowworms up close we boarded a small boat and floated down a stream inside the cave (kinda like Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland but real!). This is what we saw overhead. It looked like the stars were just above our heads and we could reach out and touch them. We were in the boat in complete darkness and utter silence for about thirty minutes--it was just mesmerizing. I think my jaw must have been on the floor the whole time. It was one of the most magical things I've ever seen.
We reluctantly left the glowworms behind and went to another cavethat had a lot of stalactites and stalagmites.
Here we are in the second cave.
When the tour was over we went to check out another cave on our own. We didn't go in too far because it was dark and scary and at a certain point along the trail Jerry refused to walk any farther. Warren and I gave it a cursory look then headed back to the car.We hiked to this natural bridge before heading back to Auckland. The bridge was nice but it's what was just beyond the bridge that made it special. We spent a long time here just marveling at the scenery, climbing the rocks, enjoying the beautiful blue sky,

oh, and playing the DS, of course.

No comments: