After leaving Middle Earth, we traveled down to Waitomo where we had a really special sleeping arrangement. Dan, who is the ES director, and his family kindly welcomed us onto their family marae for a few nights. It was a wonderful, real, and rare cultural experience that makes this program really special. With the students sleeping in the meeting house, they really were able to examine where they were. An evening hike introduced us to glowworms in forests.
The next morning, we got a tour of the Waitomo Cave to see the glowworms in caves. Only the glow worm larvae glow and are attached to the ceiling for around 6 months. They create long strands that sort of look like single spider threads hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately, caves aren’t a great place for photos (especially taking photos of bioluminescence from a moving boat), so click on the link at the bottom to see some pictures. (The link will take you to the Caves’ website which has a few promotional photos.) During our tour we not only saw glow worms but also a limestone formation that is ubiquitous around New Zealand. After, we went back through the forest where we hiked the night before to see what the forest looks like in the day. There are sacred Maori sites in the area that we also were able to discuss with guides from the Caves.
The students were then given some time to work on their assignments before Dan’s aunt arrived. Dan’s aunt is one of the iwi elders and spoke to the students about just about anything they wanted. It was a really special evening.
We’ll be leaving for Auckland tomorrow with detour for the Te Waihou River Walkway. It’s going to be another great day!