The glow worms of Te Anau

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are in Te Anau on the South Island of New Zealand, and this worm has just had a rare treat. We went to visit a colony of worms! In fact, a whole boatload of people crossed a lake and clambered through narrow caves and over rushing torrents, just to visit a colony of worms. I was tempted to set up shop and boast my own prowess as a fellow worm. The TC persuaded me that she could not do without me, so here I am, back in a small motel room, writing up my glowing (ahem) praise of the Te Anau glow worms.

My impressions? Lots of eye candy and a very professionally presented tour. Go Real Journeys tour operators.

Travel tip

Not much happens in Te Anau. It’s just a place to go to other places from.

Recommended accommodation

Amber Court Motel, on Quintin Street in Te Anau. Friendly service, clean and close to the action.

The book I’m in

Bad Luck and Trouble, by Lee Child. Jack Reacher gets together with some old buddies from his army unit. It’s like having a number of Reachers all in one book.

The photos

Me glowing bright on the floor of a New Zealand Beech forest. Some mushrooms and berries were there too:

The glow worms of Te Anau

The glowing travelling worm

On the way into Te Anau, this road sign tickled the TC’s sense of humour (she’s a technical writer, you know):

The glowworms of Te Anau

Signpost in Te Anau

Heading off on the boat across Lake Te Anau:

The glowworms of Te Anau

Touches of Tolkien, heading off across Te Anau lake

Reaching the shores where the glow worms have set up camp:

The glowworms of Te Anau

Native Beech forest meets lake

The glow worms are deep inside a series of caves carved by a rushing stream. The word “Te Anau” means something like “cave with swirling water” in ancient Maori. When Europeans first came to New Zealand, in the late nineteenth century, they had no idea these caves existed. Evidently they only found them in 1948. This is the entrance to the caves:

The glowworms of Te Anau

Entrance to the glow worm caves

We did not take any photos inside the caves. That would disturb the worms and spoil the experience for the other people on the tour too. Instead, the TC snapped some pictures of the explanatory video that the tour company, Real Journeys, showed us. This is an infrared image of a glow worm setting up its fishing lines to catch insects for food:

The glow worms of Te Anau

Infrared image of glow worm and its fishing lines, by Real Journeys

Here’s another glow worm:

The glow worms of Te Anau

A glow worm, by Real Journeys

Travelling through the caves and grotto is eery and beautiful. You sit in a small boat (twelve passengers only) and the guide pulls you along via guide ropes. It’s pitch black, except for the patterns, swirls and patches of bright dots above your head. The water roars all round you. Every now and then you sense another boat passing close by, or a lighter patch of rock just above your head. The boat bumps into the rock. The water roars. Worms glow. Drips drop.

At one stage, I happen to know, the TC grabbed a nearby hand to pull herself back into reality.

Back outside, the Beech forest is velvety:

The glow worms of Te Anau

A velvety cover of moss

It’s weird too. Look at the fungus on this fallen tree:

The glow worms of Te Anau

Fungus on a fallen tree in the Beech forest outside the glow worm cave

A closer look:

The glow worms of Te Anau

A closer look at the fungus

Back in Te Anau after a fast boat ride across the lake, the TC spotted a huge tree stump that had an interesting shape. I don’t think she had quite succeeded in pulling herself back to reality yet, because she decided that if she lay down on the stump, she and the stump would look just like a butterfly. So she did it:

The glow worms of Te Anau

The TC and a tree stump combining to form a butterfly

Silly TC. Only worms like me and the glow worms can grow wings.

That’s all for today dudes.


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