We had a slow, relaxing start for our first day of exploring El Questro Wilderness Park, which is one million acres of gorge country offerring fishing, thermal pools, cruises, horseback riding, hiking and helicopter flights (sort of resort/outback station). We are in a large, private bush camp on the Pentecost River about 5 k’s from the main camping area. Our site features a very large, lovely boab tree. A sign warns us against swimming here! We drove to El Questro Gorge as it was recommended as a good shady afternoon walk and not too long or too hard. Took 3 or 4 river crossings to get there. This is definately a 4 WD ONLY place. Things to do seem to involve difficult gorge walks or rough 4 WD tracks to lookouts. The gorge walk was only 2.6 k return but it took an hour each way as there was lots of scrambling over rocks and boulders and multiple creek crossings on stepping stones. It was a deep, narrow and lush gorge. We were glad we had our boots and poles but others were doing it in sandals and thongs. I had a nice swim in the pool at the end and Dick even soaked in the pool and got partly wet.
An early start so we could get to Zebedee Springs early – they open at 7am and close to the public at 12PM. We were there just before 8:30, which worked out well as lots were leaving then. This is a series of rocky thermal pools in an area dense with Livistona Palms (only found here and in the Bungles). It was a lovely natural oasis and we found our own private little pool at the top section. As we were enjoying a lovely soak, our Swiss neighbors from the Bungles appeared so we had a good catch up with them sitting in our own pool in the middle of a beautiful area of palms, nice rocks and sheer red cliffs. We spent nearly two hours sitting in the warm thermal pools, before heading to the main station township for a nice lunch. For afternoon excitement we drove the 4 WD track to Branco’s lookout. The track started with a long & extremely rocky river crossing (took 8 minutes as I videoed it) followed by narrow, steep and rocky tracks to the lookout. Extensive views of the property and the Pentecost River awaited us, and at about 100 meters up we could still see a 3 meter croc in the river below. We finished the afternoon having drinks with our Swiss friends who were impressed with our private camp and large boab.
For our third day at El Questro we spent the morning on chores and did the Moonshine Gorge walk in the afternoon. Luckily the weather had cooled down to 29 degrees C and we had a slight breeze. The walk was 5 k’s, reasonably difficult as we walked on rocks or boulders 80% of the time and it took us 3 hours. The gorge was lush and beautiful with lots of palms, places to swim, multiple river crossings and more lovely red cliffs. There was a beautiful pool at the end so I had a swim and Dick had a sit in the water. We were both tired after the walk. The walking here and the 4 wheel driving share a lot – scrambling over rocks, always needing to watch where you put your feet or your wheels, which means both are quite difficult and take lots of concentration.
Emma Gorge is a separate part of El Questro and we did the 3.2k return walk to Emma Gorge after leaving our lovely private camp at El Questro. The walk was challenging with lots of rock scrambling and large boulders to navigate, but the pool and waterfall at the end were worth it. Dick had his first swim of the trip in Emma Gorge and for me the swim marked seven days of swimming in a row. We had a long chat with a couple from the central coast at the gorge so it ended up being a long walk. Then we treated ourselves to lunch (again) before heading down the Gibb River Road. El Questro marks the start or end of the Gibb River Road. We are spending the night at a free roadside camp with amazing views, lovely sunset on the ranges and Telstra/internet coverage (so I could talk to Amy and Helen and do emails) – what more could we want!