El Questro – The Heart of the Kimberley
Our next destination was El Questro. The place is located at the beginning of Gibb River Road. As I predicted, there were big crowds at least at the beginning of Gibb River Rd.
On the way to El Questro, we stopped to see Emma Gorge, one of the most beautiful gorges in Kimberley. The trail was only 1.6 km but quite difficult.
In the final phase, it became challenging due to large rocks climbing. At the end of the walk we were rewarded with a picturesque waterfall with an 80 meter water drop and a waterhole at the bottom.
El Questro where we stayed is a private property that combines a homestead, Emma Gorge and station. The camping prices are quite high and it is crowded with people. The helicopter takes off every 15 minutes to take tourists for a scenic flight.
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The reason it is so busy is that El Questro is located just before Pentecost River Crossing that is impassable by standard vehicles. The road from Kununurra is mostly bitumen so everybody can come without a problem.
We decided to stay in El Questro only for 2 nights. The plan was to see as much as possible the next day and be on our way the day after.
We wanted to be at Zebedee Hot Springs at 6.45 am to enjoy the warm water in a cozy atmosphere. The springs are available only until noon. I got up at 6 am and I was ready soon after, but unfortunately not the rest of the gang.
Before Marius and Nell were ready it was already 7.10, and when we got there the parking was full of cars. That was too much for me. Nell and Marius went to check the hot springs, and I stayed in the car.
The springs are situated between rocks with small holes and you can sit in the small pools and enjoy the warm water. It took us a while to soak in this beautiful place. We were surrounded by big Livistona and pandanus palms and we really did not want to leave.
The water was the warmest of all the thermal springs we have visited so far.
El Questro Gorge
Fully relaxed from the Zebedee Hot Springs plunge, we went to see El Questro Gorge. The trail was picturesque and the trail was meandering along a swiftly flowing stream.
Then we entered the palm valley on foot. The spring water formed small waterfalls along the way. It was quiet and beautiful. Only the sound of the water gently echoed our steps.
When we reached the end of the blue trail, we saw a huge boulder blocking our way. This was where the red trail started. It was extremely difficult according to the guide. Nell may be a good walker, but this was beyond her abilities, so we decided we leave it for the next time.
While we were resting there, a group of people passed us and went on the red trail. The stream water was crystal clear and looked to be below the waist, so people also stripped to the waist.
In fact, it was much deeper, for some women the water was shoulder length. The taller people carried shoes and backpacks for others to the other side.
We also witnessed one of the women falling down. Fortunately, she bypassed the rocks and fell into the water. That red trial looks spectacular, but a bit scary at the same time. It is definitely for fit people only
At sunset, we went to the pier, from where there was a beautiful view of the private property. The wet season really took its toll on the surrounding trees, because many were scattered around like matches. Even huge baobabs laid uprooted.
Saddleback Ridge Lookout
We ended the day with the sunset on Saddleback Ridge Lookout. To get to the lookout we had to use a low range gear as the trail was going up and was very windy. The condition of it was very good so we were able to climb it without a problem.
On the top, we were rewarded with a 360 degrees view of the surrounding valleys. I had to celebrate it!
Leaving El Questro – but we will be back
In the morning we had a lazy pack up, but I was leaving without regrets.
In just one full day we have seen a lot. There were more places we wanted to go but Nell was still very young and the place was very crowded so we decided to move on.
We decided that next time we book camping outside of the homestead, at the Pentecost River.
Going from El Questro to Home Valley Station
Our next stop was Home Valley and it was located only 50 km away from El Questro. We were really lucky because the grader had been working on Gibb River Rd for a week and the road, apart from being incredibly dusty, was flat as a table.
Speaking about the dust. I read that an effective method of keeping dust out of the car’s cabin is to turn on the air conditioning. However, we don’t like the aircon and we have not used it so far.
Today, however, I decided it would be a good idea to turn it on in order to keep this dust away. I pressed the air-con button, and nothing happened.
Now we know what made hissing noises two days ago from the back of the car. We probably punctured the air condition pipes. I really hope the warranty covers it.
Pentecost River Crossing
Shortly after leaving El Questro, we encountered our first, long waiting challenge – the Pentecost River crossing. The river at this point is around 100 meters wide and about 40-50 cm deep.
When crossing the river, the rule is to keep momentum and do not stop until we reach the other side of the river. Pentecost River is full of snapping handbags (salties), and we didn’t want to become their diner.
Luckily the crossing was hassle-free because the bottom was paved with river stones.
Green Oasis in Home Valley Station
Home Valley Station looked like an oasis in the middle of the desert. It was neat, with green lawns, a swimming pool, and a paddock with horses.
In the evening we went to see another campground located by the river. We decided not to spend the night there because the water is too close and the young one goes crazy.
Then we went to the lookout that was located on a small hill. The view was wonderful. We could see water, cows, green trees, and the magnificent, majestic Pentecost mountain range in the distance.
We could even see the Pentecost River crossing far away and it was just spectacular! The red colours of the mountains were almost unreal.
Down to earth issues
We were also forced to do some washing. It is not an easy matter if you do not have electricity. I don’t even want to describe what happened at public washing machines. I went there and retired right after as the queues were enormous.
As a result, we started to plan an ecological washing. That is our washing machine + battery + solar power. The first wash was done with no issues. The second wasn’t very successful. In fact, it didn’t happen at all. We blew the fuse but for a moment we thought that we had broken the washing machine completely. Unfortunately, solar power wasn’t enough, we had to run the generator.
Later on, we went fishing. Horses were grazing quietly next to us. We didn’t catch anything but, the views were gratifying. So far driving on Gibb River Rd is a great adventure!
Next Stop – Ellenbrae Station
The next day we were back on the road. On the 100 km road to Ellenbrae Station, we encountered 3 kangaroos, a dingo, 2 brolgas, and 2 bulldozers. Obviously, we took some photos to create a new album.
We stayed for the night in a tiny but atmospheric Ellenbrae Station. I really liked the washing setup that they had there. Huge wood stove (donkey hot water system) that heats the water and people can take a bath in the stone-lined tub!
We were the first there and that gave us some time to run around the camp and collect the wood. Then we went for scones with whipped cream and jam. They were amazing – freshly made, just for us!
Nell noticed that the light indicator was unscrewed again and it hung on the cables. We went back to the camp and started to mess with the wire trying to do some bush fixing.
We strongly believe that almost everything can be fixed with a wire or duct type. While we struggled with the wire, the people camping next to us came to our aid and gave us longer screws.
Apparently, this is a common problem with Nissan Patrol, and it’s a shame no one has mentioned it before.
Later in the evening, we took a short walk to a small, natural water hole where people can swim. We were told ‘only’ freshwater crocodiles live there, but somehow we didn’t dare to jump in. The water was not clean and there were a lot of overgrown bushes around.
Later on, Nell arranged the firewood for the evening campfire. What was interesting, she cut smaller pieces of wood with scissors. The fire was great, there were no mosquitoes and we spent a few hours watching it burn slowly.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are there any other walks in El Questro?
Indeed there are few more walks we missed.
Amalia Gorge Trail – it is a walk on a dry, rocky riverbed. It is moderately difficult and it ends with a mass waterfall that can be best seen just after the wet season.
Moonshine Gorge Circuit Walk – it is a walk around Moonshine Creek. The first part goes through Livistona palms that give you a good shade. The second part is more open and the walk ends at the car park.
Champagne Springs – first 4.8 km of the walk goes through a broken terrain and the second part goes to the top of the gorge. It can be a bit challenging so it is recommended for really fit walkers. At the top, you will be rewarded with a shady pool and lush scenery.
Is there free camping around El Questro?
Unfortunately, this is not an option. El Questro is private property and the only place to camp is there, either at Black Cockatoo General Campground, Private Riverside Campaign, or Camping Tents at El Questro Station.
Maybe it is a bit expensive but it’s worth it as you have direct access to walks and 4WD tracks.
Check out El Questro website for details.
Is it possible to drive to Saddleback Ridge Lookout in a 2WD?
I would not recommend doing that. The trail is pretty steep and sometimes rocky. Driving in a proper 4WD in a low range would be required.
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Enjoy outdoors with Tentworld equipment
4WD Equipment Checklist
GPS Navigator or compass
Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction
Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD
Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places
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