Thursday, December 21, 2006

Down and Up in Ngilgi Cave

We descended 38 meters down into Ngilgi Cave at Yallingup which became the first tourist destination in the Geographe Bay region of WA following discovery by Edward Dawson in 1899.

Aborigines have a lot longer association with the site. Aboriginal Elder George Webb retells the story like this:

'Whenever there was a fierce storm at Yallingup and mighty waves crashed up the beach with reaching arms of white foam looking as if they were trying to make their way up the valley, our old people would look out across the ocean and memories would return to them of the past and what was told to them many, many years ago and told to the Elders before them. They would retell the story of Ngilgi, the spirits of thunder, lightning, rain, waves and wind and Wolgoine.

The story goes like this - a long time ago the entrance to the big cave at Yallingup was near the ocean where the little brook comes out. Food was plenty and the Aboriginal people used to collect the water from the entrance to the cave.

Then an evil spirit called Wolgoine began lurking in the cave. Wolgoine caused the water hole to dry up, food to become scarce and drew many unwary people into the great hole of darkness - never to be seen again.

Ngilgi was a good spirit who lived in the ocean and always kept a watchful eye on the tribes of Aboriginal people in the area. Feeling how sad his people were by the loss of their loved ones and seeing the suffering of his people, Ngligi decided to do something about Wolgoine. He spoke with the other good spirits of the ocean and together they planned to rid the district of the evil spirit Wolgoine.

So the spirits of the waves, the wind, the rain, thunder and lightning joined together and made the most terrifying storm. Thunder and lightening went rolling and flashing across the sky and the fierce wind and rain went racing across the sea. The ocean formed itself into the biggest and highest king waves ever. The wind pushed the huge waves along and the sea rose up and up into the entrance of the cave. Never before or since had there been such a storm.

A fierce battle followed - Wolgine was frightened. He was driven further and further into the cave with the sea following him. Finally, driven to the end of the cave he knew he was beaten and begged for mercy. The spirits, being good and kind, agreed and stopped the storm. Ngilgi told Wolgoine he could go providing he never came back to the area again. So Wolgoine burst out of the cave (creating the entrance as we know it today) and ran away as fast as he could - never to be seen again.

Ngilgi decided to make his home there and it became known as Ngilgi's nurilem mia or cave house. Food once again became plentiful and in thanks the Aboriginal people would come into the cave in the morning and leave bardies, yams and choice foods at the entrance and leave in silence.

But the storm had done damage, the old people would say the deep valley where the creek now runs was part of the cave. This part of the cave that once went from the sea and up the hillside to where Wolgoine came out had collapsed - leaving only the cave we know today.'

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