There are advantages and disadvantages to travelling a month or two behind the main stream of people heading around the block. On the ‘plus’ side, it’s easier to get a site in a park without booking ahead, and there are often end-of-season bargains. On the ‘negative’ side (if you’re travelling north) the weather can start to get a bit too hot for comfort… and that was our experience. We stayed at Kununurra, and found that most people either retreated to their caravans (with the air conditioning pumping or fans circulating) or headed for the pool, and conducted long conversations while neck-deep in water!
We actually left the caravan at the park at Kununurra for a few days and headed out along the Gibb River Road to see the attractions around El Questro, such as the Pentecost River crossing, Zebedee Springs and Emma Gorge. While Zebedee Springs was a pretty spot, and has an easy access track, there’s not a lot of room in the springs themselves, and getting in and out requires a certain amount of care over slippery rocks.
We actually liked Emma Gorge far more… Emma Gorge is delightful, and the swimming hole at the end of the walking trail is absolutely beautiful, with its unique ‘droplet waterfall’ and the hot spring feeding into the pool (no need for anyone to feel chilly!) But after walking along the trail – including some serious bouldering towards the end – we decided we liked our swimming hole water COLD. Although some of these Gorge walks are beautiful (and, as exhausted people coming back the other way kept assuring us “…well worth the effort…”) there’s no denying that they can present a challenge for those with dicky knees or any infirmity. When in doubt, check with Information Centres or resort Reception desks to ensure that the walk is suitable for you.
We stayed at Home Valley Station, not far from El Questro, because HVS had air-conditioned motel-style rooms available; otherwise it would have been an eco-tent at HVS or El Questro – fine at the right time of the year, but not in these temperatures! One morning we decided to do the short walk to Bindoola Gorge (walking along a bush track from HVS, with a bit of light bouldering near the water) and we set out at first light, around 5.30 am, in an effort to beat the heat. We had breakfast at the Gorge, rested for a while and got back to HVS at around 8 am… already dripping with sweat and ready for a rest in our nice cool room (followed by a dip in the pool!)
And what did we think of the Gibb River Road?
Well, according to several people we encountered, the Gibb was thought to be in reasonable condition when we crossed it. However, we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re just not dirt road people! We don’t really enjoy bouncing up and down and having our teeth rattle for kilometres on end: yep, wimpy though it may seem, we prefer to stick to the blacktop whenever possible. (Having said that, we don’t mind 10-20 k’s of dirt road to get to a nice beach campground or a park like the one at 80 Mile Beach. BUT… it’s wise to keep in mind that there might be warranty issues with caravan manufacturers if vans designed for blacktop are taken along dirt roads and something shakes loose!)
From HVS we returned to Kununurra until it was time to head off to meet the C&M film crew at Fitzroy Crossing. By this time, we were really feeling the effects of days of near-40 degree heat (I know, I know… some of you have endured the high 40s or even 50 degrees. Told you we were wimps!) and we were glad to be finally heading across towards Broome and some sea breezes.
I mustn’t forget the boabs. Like thousands of people before me, I was fascinated by these trees. For so much of the way across the top, we saw boabs and more boabs… lovely to view and photograph. No wonder that these trees feature in so many brochures and in art work everywhere.
Next week: A bit more about some of the people we’ve encountered… including Al, Trish and Holly: intrepid adventurers!