First by car, then by plane, then by car, then by boat. It was night. Arriving at the dock felt like stepping into a scene from LOST’s Dharma Initiative, eerily lit, the sound of water lapping against the boat, some unknown location isolated in the rain forest.
Then by foot, bending and wriggling through the cave entrance, walking precariously on a metal bridge. Glacier water rushing beneath us, hungrily escaping the depths of this great earthen cave.
The interior cathedral of the cave is so high and dark, I can only see the layers of rock that used to be the ocean floor halfway up.
I think about how small and how young we are, us humans, and how unlikely it even is that I would set foot inside this place all the way on the other side of the world just for a blip in all that is this earth.
We arrive at a dammed waterfall where a tiny eight-seater boat awaits. We shuffle in, sitting. The lights are extinguished and the guide pulls the boat further inside the cave. It is absolutely dark. Thundering water pours over rock. I feel blind and claustrophobic.
We are told to sit still, lest we lose an appendage to a rock wall. The boat moves slowly and methodically, and the sound of rushing water begins to fade in the distance. We humans are silent. We’ve come here from all corners of the earth, drawn by the sticky fluorescent tendrils of the glowworms.
After what seems like too long—for my mind has been distracted thinking of all the ways we could become permanently trapped here in the depths of the earth—we see tiny white glowing dots.
Patches of light signify the glowworms are hungry. They are scattered here and there, and then, at what must be the end of the cave, there is a very large cluster of glow. Drifting ever closer like a disoriented bug in the dark, it is easy to see how these tiny shimmers of light must be confused with stars.
How impossible it feels to set eyes on such creatures hidden away in this place. Their slimy tentacles glowing, waiting patiently for food. For a quiet moment I am staring in wonder, seeing nothing but these dots—micro stars—and absolute blackness.
And then, gently, the boat shifts, and the lights begin to fade. We must leave them hungry.