With the end of the Gibb River Road adventure in sight (100km to Kununurra) we had one last planned stop at El Questro station. We were all excited about crossing the Pentecost river too so we packed up camp early and jumped in the car …… the engine wouldn’t even turn.
Our neighbours obliged and after a long charge on the battery finally got us going.
The river crossing was easier than expected, actually being quite shallow. We secured a private camp down by the river, one of the nicest campsites we’ve had with not a soul in sight.
The station, like Home Valley has much to offer the visitor, with the usual helicopter and plane rides, horse riding, 4WD tracks, hot springs, fishing, gorge cruises, exclusive accommodation and quite a few bush walks in stunning gorges.
Our first morning saw us up early to enjoy the hot springs before the hordes arrived. Even at 7am there were a handful of others already there at Zebedee Springs. Basically you pick a pool, the warmest being at the top of the cascades, getting cooler as the water descends. We hit the top two pools where a comfortable 32 degrees meant we could relax for what turned out to be three hours.
Moonshine creek gorge was a little bit harder, but there was a fun deep water crossing getting there, water coming over the bonnet for the first time! Maybe I should have slowed down just a little. Our enthusiasm to conquer gorges was tempered by ill preparation in the footwear department and Amanda had to turn back halfway with a broken thong (flip flop to those reading in the UK) and took Hannah with her. The boys trudged on very carefully finally negotiating the rocky gorge.
Emma Gorge was just off the bitumen road on the other side of the station entrance. Another resort lies at the entrance to the gorge. A boab tree near to the carpark had a water tap poking out of the trunk, with an out of order sign hanging above it. I couldn’t resist, turned it on and there was water! Gimmick or maybe the trunk had engulfed an old water pipe?
El Questro gorge was a challenging walk, requiring climbing up rockfaces, across waterfalls and wading up to waist deep water. Many people turn around at the half way mark but the reward for continuing is a secluded deep pool and falls at the head of the gorge. In the last 100m we encountered half a dozen golden tree snakes. Hannah nearly trod on one giving her quite a scare.
With the kids exhausted after a number of walks it was time to test the 4WD tracks out on the station. The first involved very rocky crossing of the Chamberlain river to access Explosion gorge, and Brancos lookout. The lookout commands spectacular views from a precipitous cliff-edge along the river. It does require a steep climb to get to, making the drive more interesting. With a pair of binoculars we spotted a large saltwater crocodile downstream sunning itself with jaws wide open on a rock ledge by the river’s edge. On the opposite side upstream, a much smaller freshwater crocodile doing the same. Explosion gorge was another beautiful gorge, supposedly a good barramundi fishing spot where you can hire small boats.
Another 4WD track takes you out to another fishing spot called Pigeon Hole. We only went as far as the lookout, as by all reports it was a very rough track beyond this. A warning sign by the lookout confirmed what we had been told so we left this for next time. Finally we switch-backed our way up to Saddleback lookout which gives the visitor excellent views over the station and down the river beyond the river camps. Whilst not hugely demanding, the three tracks we drove allowed you to escape the crowds for a while and enjoy the outback expanse in peace.
One evening we teamed up with the “Grismacks”, Marty and Crystal, and “JKSJ”, a family from Newcastle that we had met at Emma gorge, in the Trivia night, coming in a close second place behind, believe or not, to two couples from the Northern Beaches in Sydney. One drives my local bus to the city, while his wife works at the kid’s school. Small world!
Oscar and I tried a little fishing, hooking several barramundi, but only landing a small one that was swiftly returned after a photo. Oscar nearly landed a legal size one but it snapped his line only two metres from the bank, then proceeded to jump clear of the water several times trying to shake the lure.
Having found out that we had lost a number plate I was concerned as to how we were going to replace it as the prospect of getting a single replacement plate sent to WA was highly unlikely. After a bit of driving around I deduced we must have lost it in the deep river crossing and decided to go in search. I drove out early to get there before any cars had gone through, when the water would be clearer but at 7.30am a single car track on the far bank meant I would be “bog snorkelling” in the murky waist-deep water. Running my hands through the sandy river bed with only swimmers on I was hoping no-one would witness the event. I felt a flat metallic object and quickly retrieved it with excitement. A South Australian plate! My heart sank a little. A few steps further and another plate emerged from the murky depths. Victorian this time. Another step and a Northern Territory plate emerged. The sixth plate retrieved was ours and this was from the first wheel rut. Had I checked the other rut I probably would have found more but I decided to get out before I needed to explain what I was doing to anyone. Chuckling in elation I headed back to camp, dropping off the spare plates at reception to the lady whose eyes nearly popped out when presented with five number plates from four different states.
El Questro left a very good impression with us, particularly as we came with high expectations and left with those expectations having been exceeded. This is a place we would happily return to, but with school holidays commencing we needed to move on to roads less travelled again.