Legend of the Glow Worm

Buried amongst the bad music and embarrassing leg warmers of the early 80′s was a brand of animated, glow in the dark plastic insect toy, some which included an internal squeeze light for kids scared of the dark. The brand was called Glow Worms, if I’m not mistaken. In my little kid memory they were a huge brand for a short term of time, and large enough that they must have been national and not just on toy store shelves in sunny California. I remember them well. And I remember understanding that the Glow Worm was a fictional thing, and thinking how unfortunate that was.

A glowing worm is certainly something that should belong in a story book. But a trip around the world wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t a few experiences that felt like a good dream, a kid’s story.. a fantasy. The good gods of evolution made this story even better by putting the glowing bugs into caves complete with underwater rapids. Then man came in and capitalized off this natural wonder, which is precisely where this story begins…

Even before leaving on our trip, I had been begging Dave to go see the legendary (and terribly overpriced) Waitamo Glow Worm Caves. Conveniently, the flexibility of having a rental car, mixed with Dave’s need to see the north island’s best surf spots made for the perfect opportunity to pass through the little town with a glowing subculture. So after a night camping on the grass behind a gas station (hey, it was free) we set off to see the caves. The kind woman at the information center presented us with a three ring binder filled with myriad of different tours. Perplexed by the variety, we decided upon our tour first by price, and second by whichever had the shortest wait. $120 dented into our credit card and, Presto! We were off to the underground.

Our two cave tour took about three hours and involved a singing tour guide, some annoying kids with clueless parents, and a very short boat trip. But the caves were a spectacular vision, and the silence that swept over the group when we entered the worm dens was pure bliss.
It was, despite the other annoyances, what I had hoped for- a starry ceiling deep below ground with a green glow unlike anything we’d seen before. We could hear the underground rapids rushing by us below and the cold but humid air rising up around us. The tour felt short, but somewhat addictive, and we understand why people return back here to sample the different caves. Should we ever venture back through, we will likely be returning again to come see the underground night sky.


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