A short break from a monotony of my Bestiary posts, a different take on the art.
There is a large cave up in the Gulf, in the sandstone country down the Boroloola way, about 25 km from the nearest road. Until now more of a rumour than a destination, the two guys I met who have actually been there were both raving about it. Last year I tried to reach it on my bicycle, but too much sand on the trail and deep muddy creek crossings turned me back. This year I simply walked in. For the first time on my travels I carried a camera with me – I borrowed Nat’s spare point-and-shoot toy, and some of the pictures were definitely worth taking.
This will be a long post as I have no heart to break it up into shorter sections.
Rainbow Serpent is represented at least a dozen times in the cave, often overlaying the older paintings. The biggest Serpent, about 14 feet long, was impossible to photograph, as it was twisting on a very low ceiling in the dark stretch of the cave.
Opposite him perched a life-sized emu in red ochre.
White dots surrounding this Serpent are not paint, they are blobs of beeswax attached to the stone of the wall.
The whole cave is a fantastic piece of real estate, cyclone proof, ventilated and air conditioned. This is a cattle country, so flies are abominable, swilling around you in their hundreds. Tight wrap-around sunglasses keep them out of your eyes, mostly, but there is no way of driving them away. The moment you enter the cave, though, flies disappear. They do not follow you in.
The cave has been inhabited for millennia, until the day that a ball of lightning flew in and killed the entire clan that was living there. Their bones are still heaped up in one corner of the cave.
Josh have seen the cave in the 80ies, and he said that a narrow shelf above the ossuary held a number of human skulls. Skulls are gone today, as are all other more interesting parts and all the stone tools. What’s left are broken and heavily weathered bones that suggest they were lying here exposed for a very long time.
Midday break on the way back. Besides wild cattle, both buffaloes and wild pigs are common, so all the water holes are muddy. Water is all right to cook with, even drink if you are running short. This must’ve been a God’s own country before the introduced stock ruined all the water courses.
Lily covered billabong at the foot of the stone city. I saw fresh water crocodiles in it, usually a sign that larger salties are not around. Yet, you’d have to pay me a lot before I dipped a toe in this water.
Photos by Kris Larsen