Kimberley Capers...El Questro

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 15, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, October 3, 2011

Before leaving Kununurra for Lake Argyle, we took the opportunity to visit the El Questro Wilderness Park. Whilst the road was not suitable for caravans, we would have loved to take the tent and camp out there overnight, however it was just too hot with temperatures hovering close to forty degrees.  And so we made an early start and spent what ended up being an amazing day out there.

Once again we were setting out along the 'Gibb' (Gibb River Road), only this time it was from the east traveling west to El Questro.   We had heard mixed reports about the destination and the access roads, however the only way to know is to experience it for ourselves.  With the weather getting hotter and the days more humid by the minute we had debated whether we would bother visiting however we are so very glad that we did for it was yet another highlight of our trip.

Emma Gorge was our first stop, knowing we had a decent walk into the gorge ahead of us we wanted to commence it as early as we could, before the heat of the day made it unbearable.

It was only a few days prior that the gorge had been closed due to fire and the smell was still thick in the air.  The early stages of the walk were through burnt savanna woodlands with logs still smoldering and scorched earth surrounding us.  Whilst their trunks were blackened, the hardy ferns still had green foliage sprouting from their tops, a testament to their resilience.

The water of Emma Creek was crystal clear and we could see the smooth pebbles that lined the creek bed, a delightful combination of colours including, creams, yellows, oranges, charcoals and browns of all varying shapes and sizes.

It wasn’t long before the track deteriorated into a scramble over rocks, up and over, in between, across the creek, back again, it was a really interesting walk which challenged our fitness (well mine anyway!).

Whilst Rod can handle this level of heat, I was melting.  We were glad when the gorge walls started to close in and we were shaded from the sun by the tropical rainforest.  We came across a lovely plunge pool and as we climbed up the steep side of the creek bank and around yet more boulders our eyes bulged with excitement when we saw the magnificent waterfall and generous sized waterhole of Emma Gorge.

The waterhole was breathtaking, surrounded by cliffs on three sides which extended sixty five metres to the top of the gorge.  We were thrilled to see there was still ample water flowing from the waterfall.  Rod was straight in for a swim, whilst I removed my hiking boots and dangled my feet in the water trying to bring my body temperature down.  It wasn’t long before I decided what the heck and being totally unprepared for a swim, just jumped in fully clothed (a rather spontaneous act for me)! The water was cool at first but so very refreshing.  Within the waterhole there were warm pockets where the thermal waters to the right of the gorge trickled down.

To the left the water was cascading over the gorge wall with such velocity that swimming underneath it gave a rigorous massage.  Being the end of the dry we just hadn’t expected to have a flowing waterfall and such a nice waterhole.  We had gone in there thinking we were going to another stagnant waterhole.

We had so much fun, it was just brilliant and neither of us wanted to get out.  Gently floating around looking up the massive rock faces, soft sprays of thermal water bouncing off the water surface and back up onto my face, this was simply amazing.  (Who needs to pay hundreds of dollars for a day spa?!)

After spending quite some time frolicking around the waterfall we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the water, dripping wet (we had no towel) and feeling reinvigorated.  After such a refreshing swim it didn’t take nearly as long to walk back out of the gorge as it had to walk in.

We would have loved to have lingered longer in Emma Gorge, however we were on a time frame with Zebedee Springs closing to the public at midday we had no time to lose.  It wasn’t long before we had covered the twenty two kilometers and were at the springs.  From the car park it was a short stroll through Livistona and Pandanus palms to the thermal pools.  The springs consisted of a rather small area made up of lots of little pools between tree trunks and waterfalls.  We were glad we were visiting off peak as it wouldn’t take many people to fill it up.

Shrouded in palms it was well shaded and a relaxing place to chill out (maybe not the right choice of words being that they are thermal pools!) after our strenuous hiking.  It really was a little oasis in what can be such a rugged and harsh part of the Kimberley.

With our muscles now soothed and relaxed, we continued on to the El Questro Township, this involved driving through the Pentecost River.  We still find it strange that many of these wet crossings do not have an indicator to show the water depth, however, as luck would have it a vehicle was crossing as we arrived so we could see what to expect.

Once across the river we were in the ‘township’.  A poddy calf was tethered to a shady tree and a couple of donkeys were grazing by the helicopter; it was a sight to be seen.  We found some shade on the lawn and had our lunch before continuing on through the station to their jetty.

The gravel jetty juts out into the Pentecost River and from there we were able to admire the walls of the Chamberlain Gorge.  We just wished that the waterway was not infested with crocodiles as it would have been so nice to just drop the kayaks in and go for a paddle.

Rod decided to take the opportunity to have a few casts.  Knowing that Barramundi like to hide under the mangrove roots along the riverbank he was casting toward them and got snagged.  He asked me to hold the rod whilst he walked along the river bank to retrieve the lure.

When Rod released the snag the line went limp and I decided to reel it in… As quickly as I could yell I had a fish, the lure was gone and the line severed.  The Barra had been a decent size, I saw it as it took the lure and just like that it was all over!  This will forever be known as the one that got away…  Oh how I wish I had been able to pull off the catch of the trip!

Back on the ‘Gibb’ we continued west a little further as we wanted to see the large Pentecost river crossing we had heard so much about.  With the river full of Saltwater Crocodiles, it is not a crossing you would like to come to grief in.  An old farm truck fully laden with hay pulled up and after surveying the river took the plunge.  We watched as it chugged its way across bouncing dramatically from side to side as it rolled over large rocks.  Once they were high and dry on the other side of the river they got out and high fived each other!

With the sun getting lower in the sky it was time for us to head back to camp, the drive taking us back through the stunning Cockburn Range, the light reflecting beautifully off the massive escarpments which rise six hundred metres above the surrounding plains.  Fires having recently engulfed the area we could admire the true naked beauty of these amazing sandstone formations.  A gorgeous Bustard crossed our path blending beautifully into his surroundings.  Oh what a day we have had, we love the Kimberley!

Highlights of El Questro:

-          The Emma Gorge Walk

-          Swimming at Emma Gorge

-          The one that got away…

-          The scenic splendor of the area
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Jimmy D on

A good fishing Story - the one that got away....

Linda Morgan (Shephard) on

I don't know why we travel overseas - you have really opened my eyes again to the unbelievably stunning views & sites we are so lucky to have here. Thank you guys for sharing this wonderful journey - I am enjoying every blog whilst the other half is - guess!!!!

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