Wednesday, November 7, 2012

El Questro...and a baby!

We left Kununurra and started our way on the infamous Gibb River Road - carved through the Kimberley's to be able to move cattle to port at Derby and Wyndam, 'The Gibb' is one of Australia's last frontiers and winds it's way through some of the country's most remote regions. These days however it is frequented by tourists (like us) traveling the countryside, and is graded and maintained regularly, making it not so much 'the last frontier' for four wheel drivers. We were expecting the road to be a lot worse, being the very end of the season we weren't sure when the last grader had gone through, but were pleasantly surprised to find some graders still out there! 

First stop on The Gibb is the equally famous El Questro Station. Formally run as just a run-of-the-mill cattle station, in 1990 an Australian girl and her cashed up British husband bought the million acres, decided to build a very lovely homestead hanging over the Chamberlain Gorge and call it a day. Legend has it that lying in bed one night in the little shack they lived in whilst the homestead was being built, they had the bright idea to not live in the dream house but set it up as luxury world class five star accommodation. The rest is history and now you can stay in The Homestead at El Questro for the bargain price of $2800 per night...

...aaaaaand that's about as close as I was getting! Apparently for that amount of money you get whatever the heck you want (naturally) - open cocktail bar, all the tours around the property you want, a private butler and cook. You know, all the usuals. 

We *ahem* chose to stay at The Station, the campgrounds on the Pentecost River. As expected El Questro was fairly commercialised, although I'm so glad we didn't see it in the peak of the tourist season. We'd been warned of 300 people in the main campground but the first night we were camped there were a grand total of...five vehicles! We did a few walks whilst at El Questro - the longest (7km) and probably the best walk we have even done so far was into El Questro Gorge. The first third is relatively easy, then you get to a small swimming hole with only one way of going on further up the gorge - wade in and boost each other up the rocks, passing backpacks, shoes and camera up. The water came up to my chest! The rest of the walk was fairly challenging in parts, a lot of rock jumping and scrambling, some more getting wet and some more boosting each other up rocks. At the end we were rewarded with a waterfall into a plunge pool and a well deserved swim.

Whilst at El Questro we splurged a bit and did a boat cruise up the Chamberlain Gorge - the last one of the season! We really were there right at the end of things, we ended up staying three nights because there was an end of season barbecue and live music on the Saturday night, we left on the Sunday and they locked the gates behind us. The Chamberlain Gorge cruise was lovely - gliding along under towering orange cliffs, tasting some native passionfruit on the way, spotting some rock wallabies. We parked the boat up the end of the gorge for awhile, popped some champagne and told the interested four other people on the cruise 'our story'. Still love peoples reactions when we tell them what we're doing - homeless, jobless, no idea what we're doing really, just cruising along trying to figure it all out...

Whilst we were at El Questro something exciting happened...we became Aunty Em and Uncle Matt again! Matt's brother Geoff and his partner Chelsea welcomed a little girl, Madeline, and we were eagerly on the satellite phone getting updates. One night we went up to a lookout to watch the sunset, Matt called Geoff to see how things were going and Chelsea had gone into labour! We were pretty excited.

We also ventured across to Emma Gorge (appropriate, I know) and walked into the high falls, had a swim and sat in the thermal pool overlooking it all. Zebedee Springs is another nice spot, lots of palms and little pools of warm water. Like I said, on the Saturday night we stayed on to enjoy to buffet barbecue on offer and live music at the bar, had some drinks with a group of guys and girls about our age who worked in the Argyle diamond mine. Great to meet locals (well sort of) who live and work in the area - and learnt a bit about how they mine diamonds!

Bidding El Questro farewell we drove west, always west, to really start The Gibb. Destination: the Indian Ocean at Broome - bring on that seabreeze!

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