Wednesday, August 27, 2014

El Questro

On our last trip to the Kimberley, we did not call into El Questro. It was on fire and that was when the cross country marathon runners got very badly burned.

Because of the smoke at that time we were not even aware of the magnificence of the Cockburn Ranges. Having just toured right around this range on the Karanji track, we now knew what an awe inspiring place this is. It meant going back east along the Gibb River Road to be able to visit some of the places of interest.

At El Questro Station, we purchased a Wilderness Park Permit, which all visitors must do, if the want to see any of the gorges or do any of the walks. As Zebedee Thermal Springs closes at noon to allow their "exclusive" guests to lounge in the water, we decided to go there first.

The walk into Zebedee Springs takes you through a Livingstonia Palm forest as well as dry scleraphyl savannah. You wander alongside the creek with its almost blue water, its so pure, until you reach the springs.




To begin with it was very crowded with a Wilderness Tour group ensconsed in the spring. Soon they left and then the springs had very few people. It was heavenly to soak in the 32C water, especially where there was a small waterfall to give you a natural massage.

We had asked at the reception at the station which walks would be the most siitable for Peter, whose knees are really painful and not working properly. She recommended Zebedee Springs and Emma Gorge. So off we headed to the Emma Gorge Resort and nearby gorge.

A couple in a deluxe motorhome asked us if we had done the walk before and warned us of how difficult it was. We headed off, thinking that they had exaggerated somewhat. We had walked about a third of the way, when the track started to become very stony and rocky, with unstable boulders and loose, slippery stones. Peter reluctantly decided to head back.

This proved to be very wise because not much further along, meant scrambling over huge boulders, slippery rock ledges and deep water crossings. The further I progressed, the more difficult became the track. The final leg was very steep up the rocky sides of the ravine. All along the last sections of the track, you got tantilising glimpses of what might be to come. Ferns and mosses grew beside the clear stream.

The last scramble over a massive boulder revealed Emma Gorge in all her glory! A magnificent cathedral like dome with deep clear water pool below, eighty foot waterfall dropping from red cliffs, showers dripping from the carvern roof above, lone cormorant sunning on the rocks and ferns and mosses with small ficus clinging to the walls of the gorge. The water was very cold, but just behind a massive boulder on the eastern edge of the pool and underneath the overhang was a thermal spring. Unfortunately I had left my bathers at the car.


We stayed the night again at Home Valley. There was a group of people on an escorted fishing safari, on the banks of the Pentecost River, when we arrived at the campsite. Whilst we watched, one of the rods bent in half and started to be dragged into the river. The chap, whose rod it was, had gone back to his campsite to get his esky. So the fishing guide grabbed the rod, called for "Bazza to come quick" and manouvered the fish away from any potential snags. We saw this enormous fish jump twice, right out of the water. By the time Bazza arrived it was in the shallows by the shore, so that he could take the credit of catching it, even though a net was held there by the fishing escorts. It turned out to be an 80cm barramundi. It was right on the maximum size that you are allowed to take.



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