Tunnel Creek

by Chris

Into the cave, the way of the creator snake spirit. Down inside the earth following his track. He rests in the sky now – above, watching, guarding, sheltering all the creatures of this land. We have been smoked, we are safe here.

Dillion sings his greeting, telling the spirits he has strangers with him. Down down into darkness. Sandy gritty peddles fill my sandals. Crunching sand. Cool cool water. Deep black, squelching mud.

We walk single file, watching our way step by step. Water trickles out through the  rocks in places, flowing over glistening crystals.

Brightness at the rock fall, where the creator snake spirit lifted his head. Giant roots snake down into the cave from above. Butterflies and green leaves fracture the sunlight into shafts.

Even before Dillion tells us the Jandamarra story, I know this is his place. A world of secret, labyrinthine caves, hollows and passages. A Bunaba place to know. Not a place for unguided strangers.

At the rock shelter, Dillion sings. His father was a great composer of songs across this area. I feel the privilege of being here, listening to this man and knowing that the Jandamarra story is his story too. I don’t mean in the sense that he owns it – and of course he does as custodian – but that the consequences of white occupation have shaped his life and that of his family, just as they did for Jandamarra.

As we gently brush the twin leaves of the bloodwood down the painting of the rain spirit – I see the ochre strokes on its body and wonder if this the traditional way Bunaba men would have honoured this spirit, with stroke after stroke after stroke.