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Mirragan, the Fisherman

A Tale of the Wollandilly River, Whambeyan and Jenolan Caves.

NOTE.--The Jenolan are wonderful subterranean caves of limestone formation, situated in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. They are set in the midst of wild and rugged mountain scenery, where rivers wind away like silver ribbons to the distant sea, and the mountain kings are crowned with snow. In these deep, mysterious caves of crystalline wonder Nature has surpassed herself in artistry.

Ages ago, in the dream-time, many of the animals now on earth were men. They were much bigger than the blackfellows of the present time, and were possessed of wonderful magic power, which allowed them to move mountains, make rivers, and perform many other feats of extraordinary strength and daring. At this time, Gurangatch lived in a very deep waterhole at the junction of what we now know as the Wollondilly and Wingeecaribee Rivers, in New South Wales. Gurangatch was half fish and half reptile, with shimmering scales of green, purple and gold. His eyes shone like two bright stars through the clear green water of his camping ground. At mid-day, when the sun was high, he basked in the shallow water of the lagoon, and at nightfall retired to the dark depths of the pool.

Mirragan, the tiger-cat, was a famous fisherman. He would never trouble to trap or spear small fish, but would wait for the largest and most dangerous. One day he was passing by the waterhole, when he caught a glimpse of the gleaming eyes of Gurangatch. Instantly he threw a spear at him, but Gurangatch swam to the bottom of the waterhole, which was very deep. Mirragan sat on the bank for some time, and wondered how he could catch such a splendid fish. At last he hit upon a plan. He went into the bush and cut a lot of bark, carried it to the waterhole, and placed it under the water at several positions around the bank. He intended to poison the water with the bark, and thus cause Gurangatch to rise to the surface. The water made Gurangatch very sick, but it was not sufficiently poisonous to cause him to rise to the surface. After waiting for a considerable time, Mirragan realised that his plan had failed. He was sorely disappointed, but again went in search of more bark.

When Gurangatch saw his enemy depart, he suspected some other trick. In order to escape, he commenced to tear up the ground for many miles, and the water of the lagoon flowed after him. In this manner he formed the present valley of the Wollondilly River. He then burrowed underground for several miles, and came out on the side of the valley by a high rocky ridge, which is now known as the Rocky Waterhole. When Gurangatch reached this lagoon, he raised his head and put out his tongue, which flashed like summer lightning across a stormy sky. From this vantage place he saw Mirragan following swiftly in his trail. Gurangatch then re turned along his burrow to the Wollondilly, and continued to make a channel for himself. When he arrived at the junction of the Guineacor River, he turned to the left and continued its course for a few miles. At last he arrived at a very rocky place, which was hard to burrow through. He therefore turned on his track and continued his former course, which is the long bend in the Wollondilly at this point. He then made Jock's Creek-which flows into the Wollondilly-and, on reaching its source, he again burrowed deep beneath the mountain ranges, and came up inside the Whambeyan Caves.

Let us now return to the adventures of Mirragan. When he arrived at the waterhole with the second load of bark, he saw that Gurangatch had escaped. He then following him many miles down the river, until he overtook him at the Whambeyan Caves. Mirragan was afraid to follow Gurangatch along the dark underground passages of the caves. He now climbed on top of the rocks and dug a very deep hole, and then poked a pole down as far as it would reach in order to frighten Gurangatch out of his safe retreat. However, he did not succeed with the first, hole, and so he made many of them. These holes still remain on the top of Whambeyan Caves.

One morning, at daybreak, Gurangatch escaped through his tunnel to the Wollondilly again. Now, Mirragan's family lived a few miles down the river and, when they saw Gurangatch coming, with the water roaring and seething after him like a great river in flood, they were terrified, and ran up the side of the mountain for safety. At this time Mirragan appeared on the scene of trouble, and his wife upbraided him for disturbing Gurangatch, and begged him to leave his enemy in peace. Mirragan listened very patiently, but would not be dissuaded. He again took up the relentless chase, and overtook Gurangatch at a place called Slippery Rock. Here they fought a desperate fight, until they made the rock quite smooth with their struggles-hence its name. After fighting for some time, Gurangatch escaped and continued his course. The water flowed after him in a roaring torrent. Mirragan followed, and, every time he overtook his enemy, he struck him with a heavy club, while Gurangatch retaliated by striking him with his tail.

This battle continued down the course of Cox's River to the junction of Katoomba Creek. He then doubled on his course, and again travelled up the Cox. Mirragan was close on his trail, and, in order to escape, he again burrowed underground, and came out on Mouin Mountain. Here he made a very deep waterhole, which, even to the present day, is a danger to cattle, on account of its depth. After much travelling he at last arrived at Jenolan Caves, where he met many of his relations. Gurangatch was tired and weary from his long journey, and very sore from the blows he had received. Turning to his relations, he said: "I am weary and very sore; many days have I travelled, and many nights have I watched the moon rise over the mountains and again sink beneath the earth. My enemy continues to hunt me, and will surely kill me. Take me, O my brothers, to a dark, deep waterhole that lies beyond the mountains, and I will rest." They then took him from the eaves to a waterhole beyond the mountain ranges.

Mirragan was very tired when he arrived at Binnoomur, so he rested himself on a hill. When he had regained his strength, he searched about the caves and saw the tracks of Gurangatch and his relations, and the direction they had taken to the waterhole. Being very tired, he decided that the best thing to do was to seek his own friends and ask their help. Mirragan then travelled far to the west, where the camping ground of his friends was set. On reaching their camp he found them eating roasted eels. They offered him a portion, but he said: "I do not want such little things. I have been hunting a great fish for many days and nights. His eyes shine like stars when the night is cold, and his body shimmers like the noonday sun. His friends have taken him over the mountains to the Joolundoo waterhole. Will you send the best divers in the camp with me so that we may kill him?" After much consideration they decided to send Billagoola the Shag, Goolagwangwan the Diver, Gundhareen the Black Duck, and Goonarring the Wood Duck.

When Mirragan and his comrades arrived at the waterhole in which Gurangatch was hiding, Gundhareen the Black Duck preened his feathers and dived into the waterhole. He quickly returned and said, "There is no bottom to the hole." The others laughed, and Goolagwangwan the Diver said: "I will teach you how to dive; there is no waterhole in the land I cannot fathom." After a while he returned with a small fish and said, "Is this the enemy you were seeking?" Mirragan grew very angry, and replied, "No! It is too small." Billagoola the Shag made the next attempt, and when he had descended a long way he saw a shoal of small fish trying to hide Gurangatch by covering him over with mud. Billagoola made a desperate effort to seize Gurangatch, but it was impossible, as he was fast in the crevice of a rock. Billagoola returned to the surface and again dived. This time he tore a great piece of flesh out of the back of Gurangatch. When Mirragan saw the flesh, he was delighted, and exclaimed, "This is a piece of the fish I have hunted many days and nights."

A camp fire was started and the meat cooked. After they had eaten it, Mirragan and his friends returned to their camps across the mountains.

And this is how the Wollondilly, Cox and Guineacor Rivers, the Whambeyan and Jenolan Caves were formed. Whenever you visit those wonderful caves, you will remember the resting-place of Gurangatch, the star-eyed, and when you see the "pot-holes" on the top of Whambeyan Caves, you will be reminded of the work of Mirragan, the Relentless.

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