You may have noticed that I skipped over a few days between Franz Josef and Skydiving. That’s only because they weren’t that thrilling. But we did spend time in Wellington, and I did get to go back and finish off exploring Te Papa AND see the wedding dress exhibition that I wanted to. It was pretty interesting - bridal styles from the last 300 years. There was such a variety of styles, and it mixed in information about weddings and wedding traditions and trends in the Western world. It was quite interesting. Some dresses (or coats, pantsuits, etc.) were breathtakingly pretty, and others were crimes against fashion, in my humble opinion. Nevertheless, it made me want to go to a wedding!
The day after skydiving, we drove to Waitomo, 2 hours away, to go “blackwater rafting” in a “glowworm cave”. Although I had been told that it was the most fun thing to do in New Zealand by a few people, I would have to say that it fell a little short of what I was expecting. Despite the relative lack of thrills and general natural beauty, it was still very cool. This is both literal and figurative. The water was FREEZING! We got all decked out in wetsuits, helmets, and rubber boots, and selected black inner tubes, which we tested by seeing if they would fit on our bums. Fun times. Then we had to practice a few “skills” such as backward jumping and landing in water, in the tubes, and making a long chain of people in tubes, called “The Eel.” Once these were mastered, it was under the ground that we went.
Parts of the experience were like Sarah’s and my tunnel experience in Franz Josef, but multiplied by about 1,000,000. The water was thigh-deep, the cave ceiling was much higher, and there were WAYYY more glowworms. The rest of the time, we drifted along the underground river, chilling out. At a few points, we all turned off the headlamps to observe the glowworms. It was quite stunning. Even though they didn’t seem to be emitting THAT much light, it was enough to illuminate things ever so slightly. We could see reflections in the water and other shiny things, and vague outlines of other people and the cave walls. I’ve said it before, but nature is so cool.
Like many things in New Zealand (fur “seals”, Milford “sound”), glowworm is actually a misnomer. As one of the guides put it (please excuse me), what we actually call glowworms are “cannibalistic, cave-dwelling maggots with shiny shit that fish, eat, and shag themselves to death.” This is because glowworms are the larvae of a type of fly (hence maggots); when the first one hatches, they eat all the other eggs around them, then secrete sticky “fishing lines” that suspend from the roof of the cave; in processing waste, they produce a phosphorescence (the glowing) that attracts other insects, which they then eat; after doing this for about 9 months, they coccoon, then hatch with no working mouth or digestive system; so they find another fly and mate for 2 days, lay their eggs and die. And that is the life cycle of the glowworm/fly thing.
After warming up with a hot shower, free soup and bagels, we set off for Auckland. Along the way, we decided to go to Hobbitton, only a slight detour, but when we arrived, they were done tours for the day, and you can’t see it any other way. Sad day. So we continued to Auckland, which is where we are now, and where my trip will end. Sarah, lucky girl, still has 10 days and will probably get to hit up the most northern parts of the country, and maybe get some diving in! A tiny bit envious, but I am already planning a return trip…