Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Magical Glow Worms

I had a Glow Worm toy when I was a kid. It kept me company at night. It lit up and everything. I had no idea these things were real!
They Embassy organized a private tour for us through the wilds of New Zealand to see these mythical creatures. There were about 20 of us with a few scattered children thrown in for good measure. I brought an extra child with me since Ewan was having his first Kiwi friend sleep over. I was looking forward to some adult conversation but instead I spent most of the hike trying to keep the kids from falling over the edge of the trail and into the Abyss. There was a 15 foot drop to a raging stream below the trail. One false step and you'd be a gonner. Since we were travelling at night, I was over protective.
Anyway, we started cheerfully walking down the very steep trail. The whole time I was thinking "I'm going to have to get back up this thing". The boys were so excited. I had my two and another teenager and another 11 year old. Truth be told, we were having a really good time. We told stories, joked and giggled along the way. It was quite a long walk to the Glow Worms so we had to amuse ourselves somehow. We couldn't see anything because it was so dark. Just then someone yelled at us for making too much noise. He said this was a once in a lifetime experience-implying that we should shut up and pay attention. Duh, we can't see anything and we aren't anywhere near the worms and these are CHILDREN ...... And, did he seriously just yell at me? Just then one of the boys said "well, we're coming back again tomorrow". That was funny.
When we finally arrived at where the Glow Worms lived, we were awe struck. The Glow worms are not actually worms at all but insect larvae that cling together in little strands. The glow is actually bioluminescence which is a very scientific way in which the chemicals in their tiny bodies interacting with oxygen.  There are dozens of tour companies that will take you on a "Glow Worm Tour", usually through dark caves but this one was free and kid friendly. They are most prevalent in dark, moist areas where insects breed such as creek beds and dense, damp foliage. These little creatures were amazing. Crabby Guy kept telling us to turn our flash lights off or they wouldn't glow for us (did he see the 15 foot drop inches away from my kid's feet?) when our Kiwi friend (11 year old Thomas) corrected him and told us that Glow Worms did not have the capability to turn themselves on and off and are actually attracted to sound so if you make noise, they glow brighter because they are expelling more oxygen or something. Hey, he may be 11 but he's all we had for information. He did win the Scots College Science award 3 years in a row so I was ok with giving him the benefit of the doubt. Take that smarty pants. He wasn't our tour guide and didn't know squat about glow worms.
I'm not a total ignoramous. I realize that even though I am not a diplomat and not on any official diplomatic mission, it is still my responsibility to show the rest of the world that Americans, as well as their children, are courteous, well mannered and charming. Plus, the Ambassador's spouse was with us and I didn't want to be put on the "naughty" list and left out of state dinners and stuff. So, I swallowed by instinct to act all smug and apologized to the French guy for the children's over excitement and hoped that it didn't spoil the experience for him. As it turns out, he wans't even French. His spouse is French and works in the French Embassy. He is American!!
Then we had the long slog back up the hill. We walked down for @ 45 minutes so I was dreading how long it would take us to get back up. The kids left me in the dust. It was so dark and everyone went past me as I was trying to get Ewan and Thomas to a wider path. I could hear them but I couldn't see them. I shimmied past a few people on a bridge and started hauling butt up the path to catch the boys. I was convinced that they were going to lose me and I would be stuck in the Glow Worm forest forever. I was really trying very hard to go as fast as I could but I'm not exactly in shape anymore. My running days are long behind me. I was alone for most of the journey upwards, the only sound I heard now was my heart trying to come out of my chest. When I finally made it to the parking lot, Morgan and Josh were sitting on a park bench playing a game and I didn't see anybody else there. Oh well, they left me, I thought. I asked Morgan where everyone was and he said that they were still on the trail, I was the first one up. What? I guess I'm not as unfit as I thought.
So if you'd like to see Glow Worms and don't want to be in a boat or spend humdreds of dollars for a family of four, take a walk along the creek in Wilton Bush (public nature area & trails near Wellington) or a similar nature area and do it with friends-for free. There is also a shorter less difficult trail to the Glow Worms that you can take at teh bottom of the park which we discover months later.


  1. That's pretty cool, Amy! I didn't think Glow Worms really existed either...

  2. How exciting! Glow worm was a character in James and the Giant Peach, but I never thought of them beyond that or think that you could go and watch a bunch of them glowing! How cool!