Well it’s a been a whirlwind few days since leaving Lake Argyle. We made our way back to Kunnanurra to do quite a list of jobs including future bookings for places further on, shopping for food, gas and other repairs etc. All in all took us till after lunch before we left to kick off our Gibb River Road (GRR) adventure.
A quick stop off at the Ivanhoe Crossing (cause you got to see it) and we thought it was too high to safely cross with the trailers. It was between 0.2 and 0.4 but moving quite fast.
So after a few pics we moved on past the Sandlewood plantations that are irrigated by Lake Argyle.
The start of the GRR was a little underwhelming with the first kms all tar now and not bone jarring corrugations. No complaints and we made our way to El Questro Wilderness Park
Now although El Questro is on most travellers must do list the owners know this and charge accordingly. We were hearing some pretty horrid things about dust in the main campground and so opted for a private river bush camp. Take the word private out and it looses its gloss somewhat. The downside is that cost $30 per person over the age of 12. Our private site saw us somewhat away from the facilities (3.3km) and 1km from a loo. We were however in our own spot and couldn’t see or hear anyone around. This arrangement however suited some of us more than others. Will let your mind wonder as to who. We did have river frontage but unfortunately you couldn’t swim in it. Overall, a very expensive camp with minimal services. Provision of water or firewood supply would have helped justify the high price. The cost limited us to two nights there.
Note in the picture above the no swimming sign. Another downside. But it was a very picturesque location.
But we move on and the next morning we got organised to hit the Zebedee Hot Springs first before doing the El Questro gorge after that.
The springs were fantastic, reminded us of the ones in Mataranka. However had a few more rocks that made for some private little spots to just chill and relax.
We had a lovely hour and a half soaking in the water pools. It was time to use the relaxed muscles on a walk up the Elquestro gorge after a quick lunch.
The gorge was pretty easy going with a series of stream crossings by car and on foot to negotiate before reaching the tall plant lined walls of the gorge. We only went to mid point this time but with a lovely swim there before returning. It was the perfect length for all participants.
After the walk back out of the gorge we thought we would pop round to Moonshine Gorge as the swimming hole was a short walk from the car park.
It was a lovely spot but it seemed memory of the water temperature of the springs remained strong and we couldn’t tempt many into the water. The threat of fresh water crocs didn’t offer much encouragement. Lovely spot though.
However on return from Moonshine Gorge we were met with near disaster for our holiday as we received news, somewhat casually from staff, that a bushfire has broken out around our camp whilst we were out enjoying the surrounding gorges and swimming holes. She told us everything was safe, that the shower tent was nearly burnt and the fire fighters removed the gas and fuel bottles from the trailer etc.
So even though driving back into the site we were everything was fine, it was still a shock to see the landscape around the site - literally everything apart from the dirt track in and a small buffer around the site was black, with trees still either alight or smouldering. Fire got within centimetres in some cases. We think though that some of that was due to the firefighters taking the initiative and back burning etc as there was evidence of raking. Arriving at the site we were greeted by two firefighters, Louie and Kev. They looked buggered but pretty pleased with themselves that they managed to save the campers - the impression we got from the colourful language used that there were moments that they might of been a bit worried!
Louie seemed to think the fire started at the next camp along from us from an unattended fire left to burn. It was also not in the designated fire pit. The fire was spotted by one of the helicopter tour pilots.
On the upside we enjoyed a dinner at the station house as moving and setting up within the space of a hour, meant very tired, hungry and some what worried children. The boys were fantastic - they were a little taken back by the devastation and weren’t big fans of the smell but they buckled down and got Ernie packed up very quickly. It wasn’t until we arrived at the main campground that the adrenaline had worn off and shock crept in, with the what if discussions started. Teddies were hugged extra tight that night! (Although it did take a while to get them actually into bed as Ernie was full of critters! Lots of spiders and bugs had taken refuge inside Ernie during the fire. The smoke smell was also a constant reminder for them.
We left Elquestro at 7:45am the next day morning making a quick stop at the previous camp to pick up some pegs we had left behind. Just amazing how close it got to us. The predators were out and about collecting all the frizzled little creatures with brown kites and even a borolga around the site picking up some toasty bugs.
We headed off to Emma Gorge which is back out on the highway. While we kicked off around 8:30am, it already felt like a hot day.
The walk was tricky with lots of boulder climbing required but the pools along the way and at the end were just stunning, cool but stunning. The kids found a spot in the pool where a warm spring came into the pool and hovered there for most of their swim.
We returned back to cars around 11:30amband with only 100 kms to go till our next overnight stop we thought that we get a few kilometres of dirt under our belt before lunch.
We didn’t get far down the road maybe 10 or 15 minutes before we got a radio call from the Philpots that they had a puncture. It was the understatement of the century, as you can see in the picture below.
On a hot dusty afternoon it was a bit of a challenge getting the tyre changed but we were heading to a place that did tyre repair or replacement in this case.
On the way we passed some fantastic views of the Cockburn ranges and crossed the iconic Pentacost River.
Katie drove us across the Pentacost whilst I videoed the event.
We gingerly headed in that direction with minimal issues till the the water pipe on Jamie’s trailer
coped a random stone to knock off a connection leaving a dark line on the road. Lucky this was at the entrance to the station so a quick repair with gaffa tape and all was good.
The staff at the station were just fantastic, with a lovely warm welcome to their place with green lawns and shaded areas. It was a classic country outback homestead. It was great to get off the corrugations for a while too.
Griff was immediately attracted to the chooks roaming around and had a few cuddles before we headed off to our camp for the night.
The donkey showers and loos were the highlight, with only three groups using this campsite we had the place pretty much to ourselves. They lit the fire at 3pm and then restocked it at 5pm. Perfect for the end of the day relax.