El Questro

Leaving Katherine, in the Northern Territory, we headed 617km south/west to El Questro in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

A ‘roll over’ on the Victoria Hwy from Katherine to Kununurra blocked the road. No one was hurt thankfully. Only one of his three trailers full of gravel rolled. We were able get around on the side of the road.

Having forgotten about the Western Australia border restrictions on fresh produce we foolishly stocked up in Katherine, then had to hand them all over at the Northern Territory/Western Australia border.. The border check point officers go through your car and van leaving no space unturned.

Staying overnight at ‘Lakeside / Lily Lagoon Resort’’ Kununurra, we restocked with fresh produce the next morning before heading to El Questro Station.

The Cockburn Range came into view as we headed west out of Kunurra toward El Questro Station (700,000 acres of wilderness). The Cockburn Range is shaped like a vast round fortress and rises more than 600 metres above the plains. So majestic.

From the Great Northern Hwy, we turned onto Gibb River Road. Most of Gibb River Road is unsealed, but this section is sealed as far as the Pentecost River.

Not all roads are open yet after the very wet, wet season.

Road open signs Gibb River Road (eastern end)

The 16 km unsealed driveway into El Questro Station comes off the sealed part of Gibb River Road.

El Questro turn off

Although we have had our van raised, we dont usually go off road with it as it is a ‘road van’, not an ‘off road van’. Having contacted El Questro prior, and being reassured we would be fine as the deepest water crossing was less than 40cm, we decided it would be OK. In 2019 when we came into El Questro (with out our van) the road was excellent, and only one water crossing, (See 2019 blog here)

Road into El Questro

Recent monsoonal flooding had caused significant damage to the road. Twenty water crossings where the water was still flowing, in some cases quite rapidly and multiple other large puddles concealing deep potholes.

Half way along we got a flat tyre on the car. Having to unhitch the van and change a tyre in 40oC heat, no breeze, just searing dry heat, was a challenge, especially as Tim had a shoulder and elbow injury already. We were grateful for the couple that stopped to help us. The next day we made our way back to Kununurra (210 km return trip) to have it fixed.

Flat tyre on Road into El Questro

The final water crossing was the Pentecost River. This is before it meets the Chamberlain River and becomes very wide, as it is on Gibb River Road further west.

However it was quite deep and flowing very fast. We got halfway across when we got stuck. After radioing for help with no luck, Tim finally got us out. But not before the inside of the car and van flooded, mostly from the rocking and swaying of the van as we skidded our way out.

Everything in the boot of van was saturated as well as the floor of the van, every bottom shelf in the van and everything stored under the bed. As well as the floor of the car.

Thankfully temperatures remained around 40oC for several days so everything dried out quickly.

We crossed the Pentecost River every day while staying at El Questro; without the van it required concentration but was OK.

Pentecost River El Questro

When the time came to leave with the van, we arranged for an escort across the river. Even having attached the tow rope prior to entering the river we still skidded sidewise, as did the tractor. So grateful for the help, we may not have made it across otherwise.

Around El Questro Station

Our camp site.

‘Jill’ the station donkey.

Around El Questro Station

Catching a Golden Tree Snake outside the Steak House.

Places we visited

Telecomm Hill

A short walk from our camp site to the top of Telecomm Hill. Great views. There were signs of a recent fire and the antennae on the mast at the top of the hill were no longer connected to anything.

Champagne Springs

Again a short walk from our camp site. The track had not been cleared of overgrowth so we didn’t get to the springs.

Amalia Gorge

In 2019 we reached the end of the gorge, but this time we only went half way. Such a beautiful place.

This chain has been added since our last visit to Amalia Gorge.

Emma Gorge is another beautiful gorge but was still closed after the wet season when we first arrived.

Zebedee Thermal Springs

The spring is fed via fault line from a permanent supply of water deep within the earth. The water temperature Is 28 – 32 degrees Celsius all year. The surrounding cliff faces and scree slopes are up to 1800 million years old and are known as ‘King Leopold Sandstone’. (signboard)

To reduce environmental impacts on this area it is only open to the public from 7am – midday.

Zebedee Spring

Pentecost River on Gibb River Road

After flowing through El Questro Station, the Pentecost River doubles in size when its joined by the Chamberlain River making the Pentecost River crossing on Gibb River Road an iconic Australian land mark with the back drop of the majestic Cockburn Ranges. That is, when it is viewed from the other side, which we did not attempt to reach this time.

You have probably seen a photo of it on magazine covers, websites or in movies like “Australia’ which was filmed in the area.

When we drove the Gibb RIver road in 2019, we were half way across before realising it was a river crossing. This was due to the very dry ‘wet season’ they had that year.

Pentecost River Crossing, Gibb River Road 2019

Farewell El Questro

Escort across the Pentecost River on the road out of El Questro

cheers til next time, Helen & Tim