Where are we now?
We have arrived at the end of the Gibb River Road
Crocodiles are a major issue here and as travellers, we are both in awe of them and rather worried by them. We will never forget a scene which played itself out right in front of us a few years ago when we were in Kakadu when a crocodile caught a snake in the Yellow River just in front of us and then proceeded to show us how it intended to first kill the snake and then eat it. That the snake was a bit too large for the crocodile was not going to put it off.
In our pre-trip research, we came across the following in a Parks Authority website.
"When you are entering the Kimberley or Pilbara regions, you are entering crocodile country. Two species of crocodile occur in Western Australia: the estuarine (or saltwater) crocodile and the freshwater crocodile. The estuarine crocodile is the largest living reptile and is considered to be a dangerous predator. Freshwater crocodiles are smaller and not as aggressive. Be CROCWISE in Western Australia's north and download our Crocodile safety and myth-busting factsheet and Crocodile brochure. For more information on Be CROCWISE see www.nt.gov.au/becrocwise"
This latter link contains songs about being Crocodile Aware, a database of Crocodile Captures and more.
Of particular interest / concern to us is that of the management of River Crossings. When we were trained in the art of river crossings many years ago, amongst the things we were told was that we should walk most crossings first so we could decide the best route across the crossing and check the bed of the river where we intended to drive.
Walk a river crossing where there is a risk of Estuarine Crocodiles? (aka Salties) At least one of the river crossings routinely has Salties and we are supposed to look out for signs like this whenever we are near water:
In our youth, the closest we ever came to a crocodile was that when we went to watch Peter Pan and there the crocodile always came off worse. That is not the case here and “being eaten by a crocodile” seems to be a fate which befalls a number of people in this region.
The most worrying bit of advice we have read is: "If camping at a site don’t form a pattern with your near-the-water activities. If you fish or take water from the river, don’t always do it at the same place. A crocodile can learn your pattern and arrange to “meet you” after figuring out where and when to next find you near the water’s edge”.
One website I read advised that if you are being chased (on land) by a crocodile, try to stand behind a tree keeping the crocodile on the other side of the tree. The theory behind this was that crocodiles have trouble biting around corners because their jaw is not very flexible and therefore you might be safe !
When we were in Perth (which seems a very long time ago), this headline caught our eye:
I am not sure that I would wish that to be said about me in similar circumstances !
You will have gathered from the previous post that we were quite impressed with Ellenbrae despite its camp appearances and somewhat basic nature and can recommend it to others.
It is however the case that some people like to try out only the very eastern end of the Gibb and are not prepared to really rough it and hence two more upmarket caravan parks / resorts have developed there - Home Valley and El Questro.
These are caravan parks in the traditional sense of the word rather than the remote places we have been used to staying at.
Home Valley seems to style itself as a cowboy sort of place in that Country and Western is always playing wherever there is musak and many of the staff are trying to look like cowboys and cowgirls.
As we arrive, we immediately like its gate which is that of a Boab Tree
and there are two large Boabs in the grounds which they mark with lights at night, presumably people have driven into them even though they are enormous.
There are two campgrounds with reception for both at the main camp.
There also is a restaurant where you can hear mournful Country and Western signing at night.
The central camp has lots of facilities
and the riverside one (besides the Pentecost) has fewer facilities including no power.
We initially decided to go to the river ground because we wanted to be besides the river at sunset despite the warning not to camp to close to the river because of Salties (crocodiles willing to eat people) and also because we felt we could not cope with the noise of lots of people.
A quick inspection however drove us away - or rather the flies did. We have had enough flies for the moment and if we can avoid them we will.
Also there was a very happy looking Green Frog in one of the toilets - Mrs Harvey will not sit on a toilet with a frog looking up at her!
The main campground is standard in layout and space
and the toilets and washing machines are quite good.
At sunset it is customary to go to the riverbank and watch the sun set on the Cockburn Range and the photograph below is a poor attempt to show most of the range on the other side of the river.
At sunset it is absolutely wonderful as the range changes colour
as the sun goes down
and the sky also goes through wonderful colour contortions.
Overall, Home Valley is a good standard RV camp for those who do not wish to rough it to much (and who would perhaps like to pretend to be cowboys and cowgirls).
The Pentecost River
The Pentecost is the major river crossing along the Gibb which has to be conquered (and survived) by all travellers. It is a tidal river and hence Salties are said to live in it. The other tidal river to be crossed is the Durack and we did that yesterday and it really was not an issue.
When we actually got to the river, it was obvious that apart from its width, crossing it was not going to be an issue. We stopped to allow a car coming from the other side to cross before us - actually this was deliberate because it allowed us to see the line he followed. Normally you can walk through a river to check this out but with crocodiles possibly in it?
El Questro Station
About 30 kms on the other side of the Pentecost is the El Questro complex.
El Questro is more of a resort than a campsite. It has rooms whose cost ranges from very expensive to standard plus powered and unpowered campsites. We heard very mixed report from people about it, the hardened GIbb people hated it and said it was too commercial, those who did not like to give up any luxury but still pretend they were rough camping seemed to love it. It is on the eastern side of the Pentecost and hence those who are intimidated by it need not try crossing it. We decided to try it out and we quite liked it.
Just as the Gibb changes from 4WD track to tarmac for its last (or first) few kilometres, you have to turn off down a long 4WD track to get to El Questro.
I had not realised that one has to cross the Pentecost yet again to get into El Questro
and it seemed to me that it was a harder and deeper crossing here than on the main road so again we waited for someone coming in the other direction to cross so that we could see the line and the depth
and then did it ourselves. Actually it was quite easy provided you kept up enough speed in second gear and kept your foot away from the clutch.
El Questro is very green
and very efficient in booking you in
and extracting money for not only the camp fee but also a permit to use the park. Later we saw them checking that vehicles were displaying their permits and issuing tickets to those which were not.
You will be glad to read that the toilets and showers were very good.
The pitches were the standard sort of camp site ones with power and water and quite close together - all perfectly acceptable.
Scattered around the complex are various gorges, walks and springs. Taking into account the very hot and humid weather - 35C currently and quite humid, we decided to ease our aches at a thermal pool within the park.
This is about 12 km away from the main area and has a small carpark with a sign saying that if the carpark is full, then the springs are likely to be as well.
Getting there then requires a short walk through the forrest which has grown up around the water.
The springs are closed to normal people from 12 noon because they say they want to reserve them for tour groups and for more expensive guests from that time.
The walk is quite easy and does give you a good feel for the plants in the area
including the 18 metre Livingstone Palms which are found only here and in the Bungle Bungles some 200 kms south.
The pool is nice, not too large and when we were there, not too full.
My diving watch told me that Mrs Harvey was enjoying water at 31C
and it was indeed very nice.
It is a very good way to get rid of the aches gained from the Gibb road.
El Questro offers many other things including horse riding, helicopter flights, bush drives and more but we decided to move on the next day but not before we had a meal in the restaurant to celebrate having nearly got to the end of the Gibb.
As a postscript, I had wondered why it was called El Questro, a Spanish name being a little unlikely here. One account of its origin is that the man who registered the land in 1958, Torrance McMicking, liked American Spaghetti Westerns and the word “cuesta” meaning ridge or hill with a steep escarpment on one side and a gentle slope on the other, was often used in the novels he read. This landscape shape is common here and hence he named the place after this feature. Believe it or not.
We decided to try to make Emma Gorge our last Gibb gorge because it was said to be very beautiful. This rock escarpment is typical of those which form the gorge.
It is accessed by driving to a different part of the El Questro property and parking near the rubbish bins (El Questro - take note, you could do this a bit better)
then notifying the office that you are about to do the Gorge Walk.
It is in fact very well laid out and you get an accurate and informative walk map to use.
The walk path varies from easy to very rugged
and along the way was this stone which shows evidence of the sea which formed the stones of the gorge some 1800 million years earlier. The ripples left by the tide at that time are obvious.
There are a number of pools along the way and all are reasonably pretty
as are the rocks towering above you. We were defeated however by the temperature
which we recorded at 40C - far too hot for us. We were surprised however at the number of seemingly ill equipped people attempting the gorge in this heat. We cannot believe that a walk along a rocky track requiring climbing over rocks is best done wearing thongs (as flip flops are known here). Another walker took with them as their life sustenance, a bottle of beer and a pack of cigarettes. They probably had no problems at all but if they do get into trouble, someone else has to risk their life to rescue them. When we were in Karijini we came across a memorial to a rescue worker who had died saving someone.
So it was back to the van to complete the last few kms of the Gibb and we had to acknowledge that occasionally the Gibb defeats us but it still offers beautiful landscapes right to the very end.
In fact in our opinion, the landscapes along this end of the Gibb , in other words the Eastern Kimberley, are the best we have seen anywhere in Australia.
At the end of the GIbb is a repeat of the cattle warning sign we had seen at the other end
and now a road sign giving us a choice of destinations (we are going north to Wyndham),
the Gibb condition report
and two travellers, proud to have driven the Gibb but still failing to take a reasonable selfie.