Free Spirits Around the World in 99 Days travel blog

On the way to the glow worms

Also on the way to the glow worms

The day before our Doubtful Sound journey, we bought passage across Lake Te Anau to check out a glow worm cave.

Glow worms are endemic to Australia and New Zealand. Odd little creatures worth looking into.

We had a beautiful boat ride across the lake, with views of the Murchison Mountains.

We were again with Real Journeys. Real owns the dock and gangway from the lake to the National Park visitor center. It also has the contract to lead visits into the National Park glow worm cave.

The caves were formed by running water. A massive stream leads from the entry to a stair step waterfall that would be impressive outside the cave. A steel walkway leads around the waterfall.

We were asked to be silent and to take no photos of any kind.

Darkness enfolded us as we went further into the cave. Lighting was kept to a minimum to not disturb the glow worms and to help human eyes get adjusted to the dark. The roar of the waterfall became muffled.

After a short walk, we found ourselves at an underground lake that disappeared into the dark.

About a dozen at a time were loaded into a small boat. We sat six across and back to back. Already overhead, small green lights shined like tiny untwinkling stars. Glow worms.

The guide moved the boat silently in the dark by pulling on unseen chains hung off the dark cave walls. A Chinese tourist kept insisting on chatter: the guide and finally half of us kept shushing him until he got the message.

The glow worms on the black ceiling set random patterns of green dots that could have been constellations. The effect was nearly hypnotic.

After 15 minutes, we got back to the dock, climbed out of the boat, and made our way out.

In all, it was well worth the time, as odd as glow worms may seem.

New Zealanders are an informal bunch. Sometimes too informal. Clothing can be casual to slovenly, with guys showing off tanned beer guts outside unbuttoned shirts, men and women in flip flops or bare feet (on beaches, in shops, in restaurants, on the ferry).

A classic New Zealand figure of speech is to indicate agreement or understanding by saying, "Yeh, yeh, Yeh," (or is it yeah, yeah, yeah with an accent?), as rapidly as possible. Sometimes it's "Yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, Yeh." Also as rapidly as possible.

In Queenstown, we paid a special visit to the police station to ask about road safety. Turns out Jim's lecture on motorcycle passing was a matter of opinion, not law or even typical behavior. Still, Jim will take no chances.

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