Day 18 to day 22
Tuesday To Friday 22 To 25 August
I am writing this on Friday afternoon after arriving at Drysdale River Station which in on the road to Kulumbaru. So much has happened since Tuesday morning when we left Kununarra.
We were up early Tuesday morning packed up and on the road early. We filled up with diesel as well as filling up our jerries as it was $1.42 a litre less a 14 cent discount as I had a flybuys card. Up the road we went on the way to El Questro with L at the wheel.
We dropped in at Emma Gorge ( which is part of the El Questro Group and had a look at the walk. It was extremely hot and the walk to the Gorge and the Gorge itself are in full sun since a cyclone a few years ago wiped out all the palms that gave it shade and also its beauty. Plus it was a grade 4 walk and so we decided discretion was the better part of valour. We took off up the road and headed for El Questro. We got to the turn off where the bitumen on the Gibb River Road ends and had a 16 kilometre drive in with several water crossings. We arrived at the Homestead/township at just about lunch time. This is a working cattle station and also a tourist resort. The property is about 1million acres. The resort caters for all comers with the dearest rooms overlooking the river at $3,700 pn or down to small cabins near the caravan park for $300 pn. We decided to take a bush camping site near the river which was $28.00 pp pn. It had a pit toilet and privacy and peace. No other camp site within about 200 metres. The river was nice but you couldn't swim in it because of crocodiles. We set up camp and did a bit of exploring. We decided to do two things while we were there. One was to walk El Questro Gorge early in the morning and also to visit Zebedee Hot Springs (see cover photo).
We decided to only spend 2 nights here. Everything is commercial and money making, I don't mean that as a criticism but rather an observation and not the experience we want.
The walk up El Questro Gorge was stunning and very enjoyable. We got to what they call the half way pool and had a swim. We were there very early starting the walk at 7.30am and it was an incredibly refreshing swim. You can walk or climb is a better word, further up the Gorge to another water hole. (This part was rated a difficulty of 5 out of 5 so we gave it a miss and headed back to the car park and then the camp for a vegging out afternoon. On the walk up the gorge we came across what appeared to be a brown frog ( there is one native to the area.) on closer inspection it looked to me to be a cane toad. We have now discovered for sure it was a cane toad after we found a information notice showing how to tell the difference. This is sad as it will decimate the local wildlife.
Next morning we were again up early and arrived at Zebedee Springs a little after 7 am. The Springs are only open to the public between 7 and 12 noon as the afternoon is reserved for the more affluent. The Springs are fed by a naturAl spring and the water temp is a constant 23 to 28 degrees. It was fantastic and very relaxing especially sitting under the waterfall and getting a free back massage. At about 9.00 an influx of people off tourist coaches flagged that it was time to leave so we packed off and headed back to Connie and Clive who were waiting patiently for us in the car park.
We headed back to the GRR ( Gibb River Road) and turned west. About 80 klms down the road we came to the Pentecost River crossing, which is the most photographed part of the GRR. The crossing is quite long and when you get to the other side the backdrop is the stunning Cockburn Ranges. We waited while another car in front crossed and then did it ourselves. Once over the car in front went back over so we could all get the ‘money shot’ of the crossing. 20 Klms further on we came to Home Valley Station. This property of about 800,000 acres again is a working cattle station but is owned by the local indigenous development corporation. It is also a TAFE college and trains young aboriginals in the cattle and hospitality industries. It is extremely well set up with beautiful swimming pool, camp grounds, huts and a huge bar and entertainment area. We stopped and had morning tea there and then headed off to the next stop, Ellenbrae.
Ellenbrae Again is a working cattle station but has become famous for its tea and scones. We arrived there at about 2pm and decide to have a lunch of tea and scones complete with fresh whipped cream. I'll quote from Birgit Bradtke’s book The Kimberley: “There are no gorges or walks on Ellenbrae, and no sightseeing other than seeing the place itself, which is definitely worth a look!
Every building and every structure here is built by hand from bush materials, with ingenuity and creativity. The facilities are basic and unusual, like the boab bathroom an outdoor bathroom attached to a massive boab tree (oh no, the boab fell over in May 2016 and is no more!), or the donkey water heater at the campground (stick in 2 or 3 bits of the provided fire wood and voila, hot shower water in 15 minutes).
The gardens are lovely and so is the veranda with the well visited bird feeders where you enjoy your scones. “
We were so impressed we decided to stay a night at the camp ground near the river for $15 pp. it had running water, flush toilets and hot shower and a water hole 100 metres away for swimming. As well there was a short drive and walk to another swimming spot that had a sandy beach which we checked out and it was fantastic. We ran into a couple there who had just come from Mitchell Falls with horror stories about the state of the road in. Evidently 5 4WD recoveries at $5000 a pop in one day. Does not sound promising.
The night at Ellenbrae was very relaxing and we both agreed it was the best camp yet.
Next morning we headed of up the GRR for our next stop Drysdale River Station.
One of the things we had heard from other travellers was just how bad the western end of the GRR is. Driving along at 80 Klms an hour we wondered what all the fuss was about. About 50 Klms on we came to a grader, grading the road. A little later on we found out first hand what the fuss was about. We had been driving on the newly grade road, now we were driving on the road that hadn't been graded for 12 months and had seen a very wet season in between. The corrugations were so big in parts that we were reduced to a crawl, below 5 Klms and hour and they were bone shaking. Occasionally the ruts would be reduced and I would speed up only to be caught again at the next corner. It continued like this for the next 20 kilometres until we arrived at the turn off to Kulumbaru and a shady rest area where we stopped for morning tea.
Some vehicles shot past us at 80klms an hour, but the hundreds of shredded tyres on the road side is testament to where speed gets you. Slow and easy is the way to do it.
The road for the first part into Drysdale River Station had also been recently graded and was in excellent condition until we again met the graders and then deteriorated badly. Again down to 5 Klms at times. Louise thinks we should stay here until the graders catch up to where we are. We arrived at Drysdale River Station and checked in for two nights. We had read about their legendary burgers so decided to have one each for lunch. And they were everything they were cracked up to be.
We are going to veg out this afternoon and then do a bit of exploring in the morning, depending on the road situation. With over 15000 Klms to go on this trek I don't want to break anything just yet and certainly don't want a recovery bill.
I just ran into some one who has come back from Mitchell Falls. It took him just over 7 hours without a stop to do the 150ks one way. I think that has made our decision for us. It's a pity but that is the way it is. As a constellation we have decided that once we get to Derby we will shout ourselves an overnight visit to the Horizontal Falls that involves a seaplane from Derby an overnight on their luxury boat and a jet boat ride through the falls on the tidal turn and back to Derby next morning on the seaplane.
So we will veg out for a day and move on on Sunday for the eastern end of the GRR.
Postscript to Argyle River.
One of the things I forgot to mention was that the hills you see around the Argyle dam and the Ord River are remnants of mountains that were as tall as Mount Everest, however the Kimberly rock is a lot more brittle, so the towering mountains are no more.
I don't know when this will be posted as there is no internet out here. Also I haven't up loaded any photos to my gallery as when you get internet coverage it is $4.95 for 100 mbits and that is just two hi res photos, so you may see none until we get to Broome and we get A Telstra hotspot connection.