28 Feb 2016

Over The Mtn's & Thru The Woods - NZL by valeriepeltier


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Booked for the 2pm tour we climbed onto the real journeys cruise, excitedly flashing our boarding passes before finding a seat inside the cabin of the catamaran. We cruised along the Western shore of Lake Te Ana'au, originally named by the Maori meaning "cave with a current of swirling water", passing the Kepler mountain range along with various others in all directions. The captain of the catamaran took us through the dome islands where the land created a natural wind break, allowing us to wander up onto the upper deck for photos. When he continued along I stayed up there for a little but eventually the wind became to much and I went back to my seat in the cabin.
We docked at the end of the wharf, and followed a series of linked metal walkways toward the Cavern House where we were offered a refreshment service. Shortly after everyone was seated in the small auditorium one of the guides began an informative talk regarding the four life stages of the glowworm and the geological features and history of the cave.
The life cycle of the glowworm being relatively short in comparison to ours, it is first introduced into this world as an egg for only 1-5 days, then a larva for 20-25 days, next a Pupa for about 9 months, and into its final stage as an adult fungus gnat (fly). During the presentation they played time lapse photography of the glowworms on the screen, showing the sped up version of the creation of fishing lines. These lines range from 20-150 mm in length and covered with thick sticky droplets of mucus, which traps and paralyses insects using the chemicals in the lines. Once the glowworm feels the vibration it pulls up the line and consumes its victim.
Right once their info session was completed they began separating us into groups of 12. Lauren and I were a part of the second group, so instead of heading straight to the cave, we first walked over to the beach hut, where they had poster sized signage of the birds and other creatures that lived in the area. Once it was our turn we followed the path back to where the stream crossed underneath a bridge, and grouped together for a brief message from our guide. Since I had walked onto the platform last I was then the first to enter the cave. Before entering the photographer took our photo which brought Lauren up to the front of the line with me. I was super excited to walk in first and have nothing obstructing my view of the cave ahead of me.
The entrance to the cave was quite low sitting at about 3ft from the metal walkway that took you across the rushing water below. In the beginning of the cave there were several lights illuminating the path, but as we walked further into the cave, there were less and less lights.
Our first stop was on a platform underneath a Tomo, which is a circular shaped hole in the ceiling of the cave where a small waterfall falls through. After that the cave opens up into a cathedral where the path winds up and around where you can view the large rushing waterfall from either below or above. As we made our way past the waterfall, walking above it the section right before the waterfall is, there is also a whirlpool of gushing water fighting to make its way to the end of the cave. Our last portion of he cave where we had light was in the corridor towards the boat landing.
The next part of the cave tour was the special part and the main reason why the majority of people were there. We all climbed into a small wooden boat sitting on the blue padded seats with our backs to one another facing the sides of the boat, as our guide unhooked us and grabbed ahold of a chain. At this point the only light in the cave was that from the glowworms. Our guide silently pulled us through the darkness towards the glowworm grotto, where the cave disappeared under water and for us it was our furthest point in the cave.
With the glowworms being inches from my face I got an up close and personal look at them as they stuck to the walls of the cave emanating light from their tiny bodies. Looking up I felt like I was getting a close up view of the night sky, and individually looking at each star. The light from the glowworms appeared to have a blue tinge making the whole experience seem magical. She pivoted the boat around so each person was able to see them close up before leading back in the same direction we came in. The entire time drifting in silence in awe of these little creatures.
Once we were back on the platform, we followed our guide the entire way out and back into the daylight, this time I was the last in line. We gathered once more back at the building where she concluded the tour and we were free to mull about for 5 minutes or so before getting back on the boat to Te Anau.