THURSDAY 16 AUGUST – AFTERNOON EL QUESTRO
After a rather late lunch and a bit of pottering about, we drove off to go to the jetty from where the Chamberlain Gorge boat trip would depart at 3pm.
El Questro is a working cattle station of some three quarters of a million acres. Back in the early 90’s it was bought, as a very run down and uneconomic cattle operation, by a young couple from Melbourne. They began to develop tourist facilities – initially the Village and campground and a very up-market house. This was built beside the Chamberlain River, a branch of the Pentecost, and partly cantilevered out over it. The cost to stay there – with all services – was an eye watering amount, and some very prominent people have availed themselves of its privacy and uniqueness.
ElQ was sold to a large scale tourism operator – GPT – in 2005. It had come a long way in just the 16 years since inception to now. Some visitors make the criticism that it is too “commercial”, but my own view is that there is a place in the Kimberley – and similar environments – for a range of visitor offerings.
The drive to the boat jetty took us near the big house, but it was tucked away in its privacy down its No Access track.
The boat was quite large, flat bottomed, with a canopy roof for shade. We only puttered along, with the driver doing a commentary most of the way. We were, as the name indicated, on the Chamberlain River, which joined the Pentecost just downstream from the jetty, past the big house.
At one point a group of archer fish came to the boat – obviously used to doing so, and there were some large catfish amongst them too.
The waterhole in the river into the Chamberlain Gorge, is only about 3kms long.
Close to the Gorge end, where the river clearly was becoming more shallow, the boat pulled into the side and we were able to disembark onto a large rock platform at the cliff base.
Here, the ripple rock formations were evidence of the sedimentary nature of the rock and its origins under lakes or shallow seas.
I really liked that we had been able to get out and do a walk around for about 15 minutes here.
On the return journey, we were provided with a glass of bubbly and platters of fresh fruits were passed around. Very nice.
The trip took about two and a half hours, It was well worth doing and value for the $40 each that it cost. The commentary was excellent and the scenery wonderful. It was evident that the Gorge continued much further than was navigable. According to the property map, it was possible to access places further up, via the 4WD Explosion Track.
Although it was getting late and the light was fading a bit, we drove up to Branco’s Lookout.
This involved crossing the Pentecost – or one of its channels – then quite a steep little climb up a 4WD track to the lookout point. I went with M, so son could travel with John, who thought he might be able to impart some 4WD techniques to the lad.
The views from the top were worth the effort to get up there.
We could, in the distance, see the big house, on a bend in the river.
After we got back to camp, son went off to the Village, to make phone calls.
It was our last night here. Son had to leave tomorrow, to do the drive back to Darwin, then the flight to Melbourne, to be back at work on Monday. I would not have minded staying on here for another couple of days, to see a few more of the sights of the place, and do more walking, but John really wanted the comforts of the van again – proper bed, and his ever-present TV! M decided she would stay here longer, though.
It was our last night’s campfire. Just before tea I discovered, to my horror, that the old basket that had travelled with us since 1997, on the back seat of Truck, usually holding our thermos and lunch making needs, was borer or bug infested. It was absolutely riddled with little holes in the cane. It was some little piles of sawdust that alerted me to it, when I’d moved the basket, so the bugs were obviously active. It had a ceremonial cremation on the campfire.