Sunday hike: Kawiti Glow Worm Caves

Imagine standing inside a roomy limestone cavern. You can faintly hear water flowing deep within, and a cool, slight breeze brushes past. The guide turns off his lantern, as do the two other lantern-holders in the group, and as your eyes adjust to the darkness you begin to see pinpoints and then constellations of blue-green lights on the ceiling.

The array of light is stunning and surprisingly bright, and you can play tricks with your sense of distance, fooling yourself into half-believing you’re looking up at the distant night sky.

The guide tells you about what you’re seeing, which is really the very ends of long, thin caterpillars in their larval stage. The glowworms glow brighter if they’re hungrier (the better to attract bugs passing by).

This particular cave
has been in the Kawiti family for 14 generations. The guide said Darwin went through the cave, although Darwin’s journals (later used to write The Voyage of the Beagle) indicate that he saw the outside of them but the inside was tapu, forbidden.

Here’s a rock formation just outside the cave, one of those Darwin must have seen on his brief trip through this very spot in New Zealand. If I were an architect, I’d be inspired to design a building with lines and roof-top gardens like this.

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