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Page 71





Kununurra - We Can't Get Enough Of It.

A Few More Lake Argyle Pictures.

What a place this Kimberley Region is; all the years we've lived in this state and never known the beauty to our north. Well, we're certainly making up for it now. And it's not just the terrain; the weather at this time of the year is perfect if you don't mind the heat. That's why so many people flock here in the winter. We have found the local people both friendly and helpful except for a certain woman in the Post Office. She insisted on seeing identification before handing us our mail (fair enough) but then handed us somebody else's! There's always one.

I didn't have enough room on the last page to show you all the pictures we wanted to show you. Here's some more.

Rock Wallaby

This Short Eared Rock Wallaby peeped at us through a forked branch. She was on a cliff ledge above Lake Argyle - we were on the lake. The tour guides had trained her to come out of her hole when they called her and offered food.

Fish

They had also trained these Lake Argyle fish to come when they ran the boat aground in a certain spot. The fish kept squirting jets of water into our faces so we'd feed them. Only afterwards did the guide tell us it was their urine.

Most of the fish were a variety of catfish - shovel mouthed catfish, perhaps? - and they grow much larger than those in the picture. They are good to eat but the name 'catfish' put a lot of people off so the wily fishermen marketed them as 'silver cobblers' and in no time sales had doubled . . . and so had the price!

Shapes in Rock

Shaun, our guide on the boat down the Lower Ord, made us use our imaginations.
Who can see a horse drinking? Who can see a person's head?

A Place Called El Questro

You can't visit Kununurra without visiting El Questro. Everybody said so. Sounds Spanish. Dancing horses or something? There was one way to find out.

El Questro, in a nutshell, was a one million acre cattle station which realised it could make more money as a one million acre tourist destination. It's rather like Kakadu National Park in that it has a multitude of spectacular features but they are spread over a vast area. The cattle were sold off but there are still a lot scattered around.

Where is El Questro? Head fifty kilometres out of Kununurra on the Victoria Highway as if you were going to Wyndham. Ignore the Halls Creek turn-off and carry on a little further. Turn left onto the Gibb River Road. Tighten your seat belt, close your windows and hang on. The Gibb River Road is a dirt road, quite corrugated in places and extremely dusty. Periodically there are dips through creeks and rivers. Most were dry, some were still flowing. We encountered cattle, donkeys, a wallaby and a snake. There are five camels somewhere but they have not been seen for a while. El Questro is only fifty kilometres down the Gibb River Road which carries on a further six hundred bone-jarring kilometres to Derby. That part of the road is still closed after the wet season and not due to open for several weeks. As far as we're concerned, driving the length of the Gibb River Road would be a great experience as long as it was in somebody else's vehicle. Did I mention we went to El Questro in a tour bus?

Where did the name of El Questro originate? Our guide told us that a previous owner of the property had dreamed up a good name for his cattle station so he saddled up and set off for Wyndham to register it. He was a little too fond of the bottle and when he arrived in Wyndham he was both the worse for wear and too late to catch the registry office open. So, naturally, he spent the night in the pub. Next morning he was feeling none too good when he went to register the name of his property and he couldn't remember it. He sat down to think and all he could come up with was El Questro - he was a keen fan of old cowboy films and comics and El Questro had a good sound - so he registered the name. What does El Questro mean in Spanish? Well, actually . . . nothing at all.

Once on El Questro property our first stop was at the Emma Gorge Resort which is situated at the entrance to Emma Gorge. We were invited to don swimming apparel under our clothes, ensure our water bottles were full and then follow our leader on what was described as a 'difficult' walk. We had heard enough about this short walk to worry us and Pam stated her intention of setting off with us and turning back when the going got too rough for her. Using an automobile analogy, Pam was not designed for high speed or rough terrain. She was made for smooth, gentle roads. Her tyres and suspension were intended for comfort rather than performance.

Emma Gorge

A view of one wall of Emma Gorge on the walk up.

The gorge walk was only 1.6 kilometres each way and on the face of it, should have been a doddle. Pam, in due course, began falling behind and decided to retrace her steps to the resort. I was told later that Pete, our guide, radioed the resort to expect Pam and take appropriate measures if she didn't return.

Meanwhile the going was getting tough. We were walking up a creek bed consisting of jumbled, tumbled, assorted rocks. Sometimes the creek occupied the bed and we walked alongside it, other times the creek took a different course. I checked out my walking partners; most looked fit but two were children, one was a man who didn't look very strong and another was the children's mother who was carrying a fair amount of surplus ballast. I felt reassured and pressed on. The first problem I encountered was my balance. Hopping from rock to rock, sometimes with a drop onto more rocks below and sometimes crossing the flowing creek, I was already in difficulty. Time after time I nearly fell or needed a rock or tree to steady myself.

Next I discovered that I was wearing 'trainers' that would not grip a sloping stone surface. One foot slipped and down I went, turning the ankle on the other leg. Everybody stopped to pick me up; it was so embarrassing. The gorge was on a slight incline and soon my heart was pounding and my legs were protesting. I couldn't believe it, everyone else was fine.

We finally reached the source of the creek, a pool of very cold water fed by a waterfall. The two walls of the gorge came together in a deep, circular chamber. Water cascaded from the top into a pool below. It was really beautiful but I was a wreck. I kept wondering why the roar of the falling water was pulsing, it didn't make sense. Then it dawned that the pulsing was caused by the blood surging in my ears, it wasn't caused by the water at all.

Emma Pool

The very cold pool at Emma Gorge. Several of the party swam. Note the rocks in the foreground.
That's the sort of surface we'd been scrambling over

I sat on a rock, a little away from the others, some of whom were swimming. I was feeling very sorry for myself. This short walk had nearly killed me yet eighteen months ago I could have done it in my sleep. Was this a wake-up call, I wondered. Was I being warned that if I wanted to live another fifty years I'd better get my act together? I think, perhaps, I was.

After a while my heart slowed. I heard Pete give the swimmers a two-minute call and I decided to set off back ahead of the others to avoid holding them up. I told Pete and he said okay but be careful. My legs were like jelly and I had to keep resting. I was drenched in sweat and though the temperature was in the mid thirties, I felt cold and nauseous. The track was marked with blue ribbons tied to bushes and blue squares glued to rocks. Even so, after losing my balance crossing the creek and filling a shoe with water, I couldn't find any markers on the other side. There were two possible routes so I selected the third option and sat down on a rock. Soon the others caught up and I tagged on behind. The rest of the return trip was a nightmare made worse by the two children dropping behind and then running past the group, as fresh as daisies. I didn't even have the strength to wring their scrawny little necks.

Prior to that day I had believed that my only physical problems due to age were:- Sorry, delete that last one, it's not a problem, it makes me forget all the others.

Now I find I can't walk up a bit of a hill! Life is altogether too hard.

But back to the story. Once safely ensconced around tables at the the Emma Gorge Resort we all had morning tea and I started to feel just a tad human again. We were next going to bathe in the Zebedee Hot Springs.

Hot Spring

Zebedee Hot Springs. There were three pools, the one at the source the hottest, the next cooler, the third just right.
Pam and I hopped into the nearest. Perfect! The others in the party were more ambitious and sought out 'better'
ones, only to find the nearest were the best. Returning, they found the best already occupied. By us. Them's the breaks. Sorry folks.

The Zebedee Hot Springs were named, according to our guide, after that coiled spring character on the children's TV show, 'The Magic Roundabout'.

That warm healing water was exactly the panacea that my aching bones needed. It was wonderful. All too soon it was time to get back to the bus and go for lunch at El Questro Station (station as in cattle, not railway). And, as well as delicious food they served ice cold beer. We sat under some shade near a waterfall and ate tender steak and tasty barramundi.

After lunch we returned to the bus for a trip to the Chamberlain River where a boat was waiting to take us on a slow two hour cruise up yet another gorge. However this one involved no climbing over rocks, just sitting, listening, and sipping chilled champagne. It got my vote. The water was very deep and while it was a river in the 'wet', the flow was rapidly drying up. Soon it would become a water hole until the rain returned at the end of the year.

Chamberlain Gorge

The water hole which was part of the Chamberlain River. It was still being fed by the river. Soon the flow would dry up but not the water hole; it was too deep for that. The sign (lower right) bans fishing beyond this point as the tour guides have trained the fish to surface for food in that final section where the river flows in.

Reflections

Once again the wind dropped as evening approached and the reflections were spectacular.

El Questro also has a five-star homestead where people can stay for between $1,500 and $2,000 per night. And, no, I'm not kidding. (That does include bed linen, towels and food.) Were we, the great unwashed, allowed to look at this 'retreat'? Not on your life; we were kept well away.

El Questro has many other walks and attractions, and you can camp there if you wish. I would not advise taking a caravan down the Gibb River Road unless it is of an off-road design.
Another Day In Wyndham.

We still had not covered a few attractions along the road to Wyndham, nor visited the museum there. The Tour Director instructed me to take a left down the King River Road which was in much the same condition as the Gibb River Road. Our first destination was to be some Aboriginal Rock Art near the Moochalabra Dam which supplies water to Wyndham. However, on the way we came across a most beautiful billabong covered in lilies.

Lilies and Ducks

Not just lilies, there are at least sixteen ducks and ducklings in this picture.

We hoped that the presence of the ducks indicated that there was nothing unpleasant beneath the surface. This is an area that 'salties' are known to inhabit. Having taken the photograph we continued up to the dam which, disappointingly, was nothing spectacular. On the way up, however, we'd passed a sign pointing to the rock art on the right hand side. Our literature clearly said it was on the left. Since the sign had been bent we tried believing the tourist leaflet first. Wrong. We then set off into the trees on the other side, leaving the car unattended with some trepidation - we were a long way from anywhere. We soon came out at the foot of a huge cliff face, riddled with ledges and caves. Not seeing any rock painting I left Pam below and climbed up to the lowest ledge where I found a sign from the Western Australian Museum asking me to respect the unique and irreplaceable art.

Aboriginal Art

The art was on the underside of an overhanging rock. It depicts the Wandjina spirit ancestors and animals.
Of course, this isn't all there was but the rest was faded and hard to distinguish.

Climbing down I rejoined the Tour Director and we headed back to the car. Next on the agenda was the Prison Boab Tree. To get there we had to cross the King River which was only a fast disappearing trickle at this time of year (early May).

The Prison Boab was fascinating but there was no plaque to give visitors any information. Picnic tables had been provided but they were in need of some T.L.C. and were overgrown with vegetation. The tree was defaced by many previous visitors carving their names into its bark which, I imagine, would be very soft.

Prison Tree

The 'Prison Boab'. Does it remind you of anything? Think Harry Potter. The whole of the interior of the tree is hollow. Prisoners being transported could be secured in the tree overnight.

On the way back to the highway a large kite flew across in front of us, a long snake dangling from its claws. If only I could have photographed that.

The Wyndham Museum was interesting but contained more literature and pictures than old artifacts. We stayed about an hour and then slid across the road to visit the Wyndham Hotel for some liquid refreshment before heading for home, only stopping to top up with diesel at Wyndham prices.

And that's that for Page 71. See you on Page 72.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 71 was completed on 20th June 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.