GIBB RIVER ROAD TO EL QUESTRO WILDERNESS
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: Lake Argyle to Kununurra
Kununurra to El Questro
MILEAGE: 22643 KMS
WEATHER: 20* @ 8AM
OVERNIGHT: Kimberleyland CP $26pn no power.
It was a cool morning and a pleasant contrast to the heat of the last weeks. We located a great campsite with an uninterrupted view of the Kununurra Lake and set off to explore the town. We enjoyed the art galleries and the aboriginal paintings; the seeds of the boab tree are dried and elaborately decorated. We visited the Argyle diamond shop and learned a great deal about the operation of the mine, about 100km south of Kununurra from the really helpful shop attendant. The mine produces the extremely valuable pink diamond and we admired the gorgeous stones- very pricy at US$1million per carat. We liked one the size of a match head valued at $125,000 but it stayed in the shop.
She also told us how it was to live in Kununurra after a life in Sydney- she missed the restaurants and doesn't cook so she was struggling here and her partner was a pilot with Stringair with a two year contract. Accommodation is scarce and very expensive as well.
We visited the Sandalwood plantation and retail section Mt Romance and learned all about the company which had planted this huge enterprise with endless water supply, perfect growing conditions and a guaranteed high income. The tree needs two host plants to attach to- a starter and then a permanent host so rearing these trees is a complicated science.
The town is surrounded by lakes and quite pretty. We decided to take a day tour into El Questro Wilderness Park, a million acre property and tourist operation. Kath had heard a lot about this place and was keen to take a look.
It is a requirement that the property run cattle which is a separate operation to the tourist one; the property has steep gorges, thermal springs, tidal rivers and other gorgeous landscapes.
Our guide collected us at 7am and we reached the famous eastern end of the Gibb River Road, constructed initially as a beef road transporting cattle to Derby and Wyndham. It is now a busy 4 wheel drive Mecca and stretches 700kms across the Kimberley. We turned off into Emma Gorge and completed the rocky 2 hour return walk to the gorge and waterhole, lovely but too cool to swim today. The Livistona palms and spiral pandani were special but you needed to avoid touching the tiny spikes on the fronds of the pandanus palm which give you a little dose of poison! The distinctive boab trees were everywhere around and we saw the beautiful sticky Kurrajong with its large red flowers.
Then it was back to the Emma Gorge Resort for morning coffee and jaffa slice very delicious both of them. Our next stop was the fabulous Zebedee Thermal Springs, just a 500 meter walk into lush tropical palm forest. The water was gently flowing, nicely warm on this cool morning and you could choose your own private pool. Just wonderful and our 20 minutes there passed too quickly!
We bumped along up the 17 km driveway into the El Questro Township, which is the hub of the Wilderness Park, where you can shop, camp, stay in bungalows or head for the exclusive homestead at $2000 per night!! We opted for a beef and barramundi lunch at The Steakhouse and it was delicious and part of our package!
Finally we were transported to Chamberlain Gorge for a short boat trip up the Chamberlain River and Gorge. The afternoon sun enhanced the reds of the huge surrounding cliffs, it was quiet except for the voice of the guide reeling off statistics and information about the area. At the waterhole and end of the passage way we stopped for champagne and fruit and the story of the "food chain" here: the barramundi eat the bream, the bream eat the archer fish and the archers have a remarkable way of catching insects. When they spy an insect they release a high and strong stream of river water that catches the insect and drops it onto the surface of the water where the archer gobbles it up. We were given fish pellets to hold over the water and these remarkable little creatures accurately squirted the pellet with a strong surge of water. We all shrieked with joy at this event. The champagne and fruit was definitely not as special as this!
And then it was back along some very rough roads where we jumped around in our seats to Kununurra. We immediately started packing for our tour to the Bungle Bungles National Park camping trip tomorrow.
It was a fabulous day and the $230 pp. was good value!! Highly recommended way to catch this end of the Gibb River Road and its highlights!