Week15 – Limestone Creek Glow Worm Caves

9-15 April ’11

I would like to apologise in advance for the poor processing on some the of following photos.  I’m learning how to drive some new software.  Bear with me, hopefully there will be an improvement by next week.

The Pohangina Valley

This weekend we decided to take the kidlets up to the glow worm caves at Aptiti.  Saturday had dawned blue-sky perfect.  We packed up picnic supplies, torches and gumboots and set off mid-morning.   The valley formed by the Pohangina River runs south from its headwaters high in the  Ruahine Ranges to Ashhurst, were the river empties in to the Manawatu .  It’s a beautiful, and I think under-appreciated, part of our country.  The views from the road as we wind north from home are spectacular.  At this time of year the the valley is changing to

The Pohangina River Valley - dressed in Autumns splendor

golds and reds as Autumn works her magic on the foliage.  The low morning sun glistens off the ribbon of river in the valley floor. The recent rains have created an almost obscene over-abundence of lush green grass on the farmland.

Tree Ferns, ponga

Tree Ferns, dinosaur fodder

The pocket of native bush that is Totara Reserve reminds us of what the whole region used to look like – one can easily imagine dinosaurs munching on the tree ferns and grazing on the jewel green mosses.


We stopped for a brief snack break on our journey.  There is a drive way and a grassed area that used to be the camp ground and picnic spot of choice at the Reserve.  This area was wiped  out in the floods of Feb 2004, it could have been repaired, replanted and rebuilt.  However, in Dec 2006  tragedy occured.  Three  children,  Keryn and Callum Langley and their cousin Michael Liengme were swimming with their families.  The bank above the river collapsed, trapping and killing the children.  This part of the river is now closed,  so says the sign erected by the council.  I don’t think the sign is necessary.  There is a feeling of sadness and neglect that has settled over that stretch of river, no one wants to swim there now.  So we stopped to snack.  We stood on the bank and contemplated the huge pile of soil and rock that still lies in the river where the children were swimming.  We enjoyed the sunshine and the birds singing from the totara tree tops, because life goes on.  And I thanked my lucky stars that it wasn’t my kids swimming in that river that day.

Limestone Creek and the Glow Worm Caves

Both the lovely man and I visited these caves as kids.  On separate occasions we stayed at the near-by Sixtus Lodge, an outdoor education center used by schools in the area.   We have vague memories of a scramble down the hillside, splashing through the creek at the bottom, and the dark mystery of the cave twinkling with the  little glow worms’ lights.

Kidlets at the start of the track down to Limestone Creek

A sign at the top of the track warns us to be careful, that this is a remote experience area.  And it reminds us to respect that we are entering private property.  It’s refreshing to just have a sensible warning sign, and then the freedom to use our own common sense.  No fences barring the way, no cotton- wool-wrapping to save the unwary from themselves.  We don our gumboots, arm ourselves with torches and head down. The track is steep, the overhanging vegetation wet, glistening and dripping from the recent rain. But there are steps cut in to the worst places, some formed by the roots of the trees themselves.  A heavy rope has been strung between the trunks to hold on to.  We all make the climb  down safely.  It really is another world down there.    We’re in the creek-bed,  a slit in the earth 10m deep and about 4m wide.  The water meanders crystal clear over the rocky bottom of the chasm.  The walls drip.  And all around is verdant, greens of every shade.  The sun has risen high enough that it falls  in beams through the over hanging ferns and trees.  The mosses that cling to rocky  walls and fallen logs glitter with sun sparkled droplets.

Mosses and ferns, bejewel-led

Although it’s not cold, we can see our breath in plumes.  The humidity trapped in the still air soaks everything.  There’s no signage at the bottom of the track, so we take a moment to get our bearings, and decide we need to go right, up stream.  It’s a scramble, for sure.   There is no real track to follow.  In places you can see where previous visitors have passed, worn spots around the trees and paths woven through the ferns.  Mostly we criss-cross through the stream, clamber over boulders and dark,  mossy trunks.  Mysterious mushrooms push up from under the rotting fallen logs, their  caps gleaming wet.

Mysterious mushrooms - wet and gleaming

Exposure         0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture           f/2.8
Focal Length   50 mm
ISO Speed         320

Eventually we make it to the entrance of the limestone ‘cave’.   We warn the children to silence, mustn’t frighten the glow worms.    It is not a real cave, as such.  There is a gap at the top, through which we can see trees and sky.  But the water has eaten away the limestone, hollowing out a cavern.  Nothing grows in here, nothing living at least.  Down the walls and hanging from the ceiling sprout columns and ridges of creamy limestone.  We could be on the set of a sci-fi movie, inside the alien’s exo skeleton.   The drip-drop of water is constant.  Fat drips slowly swell at the end of hollow stone tubes, the suspense builds unbearably – surely it can’t hang on any longer…

But where are the glow worms?  We scan the overhang above us – nothing.  Maybe we’re not in the right cave.   There is an opening further on, over more logs and boulders.

Up-stream, out of the cavern

The going gets rougher, but we’re tough!  Scrambling while laden with camera, bag and tripod is challenging, but I get by with a little help from my friends.  We press on, the walls close in, now there are no plants.  Just the creek bed, rocky and sandy by turns.  And the steep limestone walls – I can reach out and touch both sides at once.  It occurs to me that this would not be a good place to be in a flash flood.  The water is getting deeper, my gumboots are in danger of being inundated.  The lovely man, with his lovely-man-sized gumboots goes on ahead to see if it’s worth risking wet feet to persist further.  Minutes later he returns to report that there are no glow worms up there either, so it’s not worth the discomfort.  (We’re not that tough).

So, we turn back.  We take our time, examining the surroundings and marveling at Mother Nature’s handy work.  The limestone creations are both fascinating and creepy.  The long-leggedy spiders lurking on the walls are just creepy. As we near the down-stream end of the cavern, the lovely man notices something.  That faint twinkle up there… glow worms!  Only about six, but still we’ve found them.   The water is still dripping, splashing and pouring from above, so I’m not willing to risk drowning my camera to attempt a photograph.  We will just have to remember them, their tiny blue lights dangling high above us.

Limestone Creek glow worm caves

Exiting the cave - back in to the light

Exposure           0.008 sec (1/125)
Aperture            f/2.0
Focal Length   50 mm
ISO Speed        640



3 responses to “Week15 – Limestone Creek Glow Worm Caves

  1. Pingback: Glow worms - Page 2

  2. Lisa, I’ve enjoyed following your blog since it started but this is the best one yet. You have a real talent for the writing, I just loved reading it! Made me wish I was along for the walk as well.

    • Wow, thanks Lisa. I’m glad your enjoying it. I love writing, but I was a bit worried that this one was a little over the top wordy!
      It’s nice to know there’s someone other than my mother and husband reading it too. 😀