ArticleSurgery of the Soul
Stalactite caves are impressive but, at least, they can be found in quite a few countries. In comparison, glowworm caves are not only completely unique but they are also endemic: 5 out of the world’s 10 most famous glowworm caves are located in New Zealand (4 of the remaining 5 are in Australia – so, glowworms are clearly quite partial to this particular area!), and Waitomo caves are at the very top of the list. Among other things, they owe that spot to their very special boat ride…
...suddenly there is no artificial light, and the blackness is finally complete… but for the dancing light pouring from above. Mundane words are totally helpless to describe the effect, poetry might give it a try – and here is a line by an 18th-century poet Mikhail Lomonosov:
“A chasm opened, full of stars. An endless chasm, and the stars uncountable…”.
No wonder those words were written by a classical poet – long gone are those who were able to see what he saw and wrote about. Ever since, electric light has irreparably corrupted the experience, and the true meaning of “starlit” has essentially been lost.
Of course, glowworms are no stars but they are still natural beings (as opposed to artificial ones), and the light they produce might be the closest imitation of what was guiding primeval people through the night. That is why one had an eerie feeling that the boat had somehow turned into a time-machine, hence the awed silence punctuated only by rhythmic splashes of the water pierced by the oars. The daylight, when it finally reappeared, was greeted by a collective sigh of…regret? Or was it relief? There might have been both because the experience, short as it was, was also extremely powerful. I would even define it as a “surgery of the soul”, one that leaves almost tangible memories instead of scars.