Leaving Home Valley Station and heading towards El Questro, our last stop, and the roads hadn’t improved. Just out from Home Valley was the widest, and probably deepest of all our river crossings – the Pentecost. The tourist Bureau had told us when crossing this river, that no matter what happens, do not get out of your car, and she repeated this to us several times. We were told that if we broke down in the middle of the crossing that we were to wait for help to arrive, but under no circumstances should we get out of our car. However we didn’t see any evidence of big Salties, or in fact any Salties at all, and fortunately the drive across was without mishap. So we didn’t need to worry about waiting for help to arrive in the middle of the supposedly croc infested Pentecost – thank goodness.
Arriving at El Questro we booked a powered site for two nights – the smallest site I think we’ve ever had anywhere at the highest cost – $170 for the two nights. The tailgate on our ute had been serving us as a bench for our small gas stove, but we couldn’t fit our ute onto this site. Not only was the site small, but it also sloped, so it didn’t make for overly comfortable air mattress positioning.
My overseas readers most likely won’t have heard of El Questro, so I’ll tell you a bit about it. Located in the East Kimberley, El Questro is 700,000 acres of vast and stunningly beautiful terrain. The diverse landscape extends 80kms north to south, and 60kms east to west, and is mostly unexplored. From rugged sandstone ranges and broad tidal flats, to rainforest pockets, thermal springs, gorges and permanent waterfalls, El Questro is known to be a unique place, and supposedly perfect for those with a sense of adventure.
Nestled within the landscape and hidden amongst the burnt-orange cliffs and lush, green lawns sits El Questro Homestead, a pocket of luxurious exclusivity. The rooms in the Homestead start at around $2000 per night. Every luxury is afforded guests at the homestead, making it sought after accommodation by the rich and famous from all over the world. There’s various levels accommodation between the Homestead and camping, at varying prices, but it is the Homestead that has earned El Questro it’s illustrious reputation. Because of it’s reputation, it’s a place high up on peoples accommodation wish list – albeit even if it’s only to camp there.
And there in lies the problem. I’ve never experienced a place anywhere in Australia that shows such scant regard to it’s camping patrons. Honestly, we’ve never paid so much for so little. The mind boggles at the size of our camping site amidst 700,000 acres. It’s clear from the minute you enter the reservation area that if you’re not one of their elite patrons, you’re pretty much considered a pleb or serf – definitely second class. The staff, the facilities, the camp sites and the prices all clearly indicate campers aren’t considered with much, if any regard at all.
Anyway we set up camp and then looked at the things to do there. There’s a water hole for swimming near the camp ground, and there’s Zebedee Springs, which are quite delightful, or would be if they weren’t so busy. Zebedee is only open for the camping plebs from 7am to mid-day. After that they’re open for their exclusive patrons only, so very crowded. Apart from Zebedee all the other gorges, or 4 wheel drive tracks are listed as either grade 4 or grade 5, so long, hard walks, or very difficult 4 wheel drive tracks. I’m sure El Questro has the resources to enable them to improve access to one or two of their gorges, or drive tracks, thereby enabling them to be downgraded to an easier level. To do so, would encourage patrons to spread their time between Zebedee and the other attractions, but with the degree of difficulty involved it leaves little for the majority of their patrons to do.
If we were fortunate enough to be cashed up enough to be one of the Homestead guests, complimentary guides would take us to all the attractions, either with a driver experienced for the difficult vehicle tracks, or by complimentary helicopter rides. I hope I’m not sounding bitter at not being sufficiently cashed up to afford these luxuries – I’m absolutely not bitter. I just wish El Questro would either keep itself exclusively for those who are cashed up, or, if it’s going to provide camping sites for those with smaller budgets, that they should offer more for the money they’re charging. What they’re charging for whats available there, is just morally wrong on so many levels.
We did get up early to ensure we arrived at Zebedee at the opening time of 7am. It was already jam packed.
After that, although we hadn’t officially finished the Gibb River Road as we were still returning there that night, we did hit the bitumen and went in to have a bit of a look at Wyndham, stopping first at Marlgu Billabong Bird Hide. More on those though later.
El Questro finished our Gibb River Road Trip. Apart from Mount Elizabeth Station, and El Questro, we loved every bone shaking minute of the trip. The colours, the gorges, the waterfalls, and those ranges – even thinking about them almost takes my breath away.
It’s been over a week since we finished the trip, and you know what – I’m ready to do it all again. Only next time I’d include Mornington Wilderness Park and Manning Gorge, and I’d leave out Mount Elizabeth and El Questro. Even with the worst of the trip, it was all absolutely worth doing – one of life’s highlights, an absolute pleasure!