16.06.2017 - 19.06.2017 32 °C
We didn’t have far to travel from Home Valley to El Questro but it did involve crossing the widest of the crossings on the Gibb, the Pentacost River. We were looking forward to a challenging crossing after being disappointed in the ankle deep Durack River crossing but it wasn’t to be, the water level was quite low and we could have made it across in 2wd easily. Anyway the scenery was beautiful and the drive through the ranges to El Questro was nice. The 16km road from the Gibb to El Questro central was in great condition with a few shallow water crossings but it was very dusty.
We decided to stay at the Black Cockatoo campground in the unpowered section rather than the private sites due to its proximity to top class amenities and access to the great facilities provided here. The campground is down by the river with lots of shade and good size sites which you choose yourself. There are fire pits close to all sites which we made use of and we found the campground quiet at night and good for a swim in the river. On the Friday and Saturday nights they had live music at the Swingin Arm Bar which is outdoors with a firepit in the middle and a great atmosphere. Chris Matthews was playing both nights and he put on a great show which we really enjoyed and so did the crowd. We hadn’t heard of him before but he was a fantastic guitarist with a great voice and played a mixture of his own songs along with some great covers.
The four days we stayed here were very busy as there is so much to do and see at El Questro. The first afternoon we decided to walk the El Questro Gorge as it is shaded so the afternoon heat isn’t a factor. There is a fairly deep water crossing on the track into the gorge and when we got to it there were quite a few 4wds pulled over waiting to see someone else go through first. The bottom was rocky so no trouble getting through as the crowd looked on. The walk up the gorge to the halfway pool is over rocks and crosses the creek many times. The rainforest on the sides and overhead make the walk very scenic and the creek is crystal clear. At the halfway pool there is a large boulder blocking the narrow gorge and creating a small waterfall with a deep pool to swim in. The water was beautifully refreshing and we took some time to have a swim and take in the beautiful surroundings.
To continue the walk to the falls at the end of the gorge you have to climb up and over the boulder. Deb decided not to continue on to the falls as the next section involves lots of climbing and traversing cliff faces so I held my backpack containing cameras, clothes and boots over my head and waded into the pool up to my neck and then had to push the pack up onto a ledge and wedge myself between the boulder and the gorge wall to climb up the slippery wall. The walk from then on was more like a climb over large boulders and around ledges to eventually arrive at a very dark narrow gorge with a beautiful waterfall plunging down into a deep pool. At this stage I was hot and was going in for a swim expecting the water to be freezing as no sunlight could reach the pool, but found the water quite nice. The walk back was all downhill so not as hard as coming up and it was back to camp for a rest.
Next day we left camp early to tackle Zebedee Springs and Amalia Gorge before the tourist buses arrive and ruin any peace and quiet at these places. Arriving at Zebedee Springs at 7:15am (they are open from 7am to noon) we were surprised to find a tourist group already there and taking most of the pools so we climbed up the pools to the top and found an empty pool to climb into. The pools higher up are the warmest so we did well to snag that one and enjoyed lying in the clear warm flowing water under a canopy of rainforest. About 10 minutes later a completely naked young German female backpacker and girlfriend decide to jump into the pool with us making Deb more than a little annoyed.
The walk in to Amalia Gorge was over rocks most of the way and involved some climbing around cliffs and up and down vertical walls with natural rock steps. The gorge was fairly large and a high waterfall was falling into a deep wide pool which looked great for a swim after a hot walk even though it wasn’t 9.00am yet. The water felt cold when testing with the feet but after diving in head first the shock from the freezing water took the breath away and resulted in a quick exit before hypothermia set in. This was a beautiful spot and we had it to ourselves for about 20 minutes before another couple arrived and who managed to get lost on the way in. In the afternoon we drove out to Saddleback Ridge lookout and Branko’s lookout. Both gave spectacular views of the surrounding ranges, valleys and rivers and involved steep climbs up winding 4wd tracks with hairpin bends that required low range. To get to Branko’s Lookout you have to negotiate a very long rocky shallow river crossing which needs good clearance under your vehicle to avoid damage.
On our third day we left camp early to drive out to Emma Gorge to try to beat the crowd. The walk was again over rocky ground following the creek, but not overly strenuous. The reward at the end was a magnificent gorge with a very high waterfall falling into a large pool. There was greenery clinging to the gorge walls making the overall view stunningly beautiful. Doing these gorge walks early really pays off in more than one way. First of all the walk is in the cooler part of the day and secondly you avoid the crowds and get these places to yourself for a while. As we got to the falls another couple was just leaving and we had it all to ourselves for 15 minutes or so which is very special in beautiful places like this.
We had read that there was a hot spring here in the main pool to the right of the falls so venturing into the water on the very right you could feel warmer water on top of very cold water, so further exploring revealed a hot spring coming out of the rock wall in behind a large boulder where if you climbed up a little you could sit in a pool of lovely warm water. After the hot spa some more visitors arrived and we headed back to the car to find I had left the headlights on and the main battery was flat. Luckily we have a dual battery setup so I could run some jumper leads between them and start the car. We then spent the afternoon back at camp down by the river on the nice green grass reading and swimming in the waterhole.
On our last day we took a drive out to Explosion Gorge and walked down to the gorge where there was a boat moored that can he hired. There is no swimming here as this is croc country but the gorge is worth seeing and again we had it all to ourselves. We then checked out Chamberlain Gorge and the jetty where you can see the homestead, where the rich and famous stay, from a distance. Pigeon Hole lookout was our next stop and this was our favourite lookout. The views from here were amazing with views of the rivers either side of the ridge and an easier drive than the either Saddleback Ridge or Branko’s.
El Questro was a great finale to the Gibb River Road and with so much to see and do you need at least 4 days here to make the most of it. We loved the walks, the 4wd tracks, the lookouts, the swimming, the campground and the live music and highly recommend it if traveling the Gibb. After nearly 4 weeks on the Gibb this ends our Gibb River Road journey and what a journey it has been. The scenery, the 4wding, the beautiful gorges and great swimming, and the great people we have met along the way all make it an experience we will never forget. The Kimberley has a way of drawing you into its magic and leaving you wanting more. The Gibb may be finished but we still have some more of the Kimberley to see and one thing is for sure, we will back to this remote, special part of Australia to revisit our favourite places and to explore the many more places we didn’t see.