I Was Right All Along

Sun. 16th June 2019

The road out of the Bungle Bungles - we are sad to be leavingFor some time now, when we’ve been asked where we are going to after the Bungle Bungles, I have answered quite confidently “El Questro”. The usual response is for people to nod their heads and make some sort of positive comment. Aussies know El Questro as being a (former?) cattle station in the Kimberley region in North West Australia with beautiful scenery and a good setup for tourists. Unfortunately, that has always been the wrong answer – we are actually planning to go to Home Valley which is close to El Questro but is a completely different station. Even then, we were planning to split the journey and have a night half-way between BB and HV. Facts, schmacts!

It transpires, however, that there are several truths that we didn’t understand when we were planning out the itinerary. Primarily a) that it takes 1.5hrs not 2.5hrs to get out of the National Park and on to sealed road; and b) getting up at 6:30 is a lie-in when you are camping so you might just as well get off and start travelling. Our original travel plans had us putting an overnight stop camping at Warmun Roadhouse which is only about 60km north once we get back on to the main Highway 1. Even though the plan was to camp rather than take a room at the roadhouse, our ‘Cell Block H’ experience back in Nanuturra was a reminder that these roadhouses are functional at best.

The only bit of scenery worth a picture all day!Sure enough, we were at Warmun by around 10:30am. Far too early to stop for the day and far too depressing a location to want to spend any more time than we needed to. We couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to take a single photo of the place. Similarly, Doon Doon, the next roadhouse about 100km further up the road. (Though I could then have used Doon Doon Deeper and Doon as my blog title.) A re-evaluation of options is required and the nearest campground that is also vaguely on the way to Home Valley is – El Questro Station!! Never one to pass up the opportunity to be right after all, this quickly becomes the plan. We don’t know that they have space on their campsite – but we don’t need a powered site and we’re not yet peak season so there is almost certainly going to be space.

Our first taste of a river crossingThis gives us another 200km or so to do today though all but 20 or 30km of that comes out of the drive we were planning for tomorrow. Another reminder of the flexibility that camping gives us. Our route takes us north on Highway 1 up towards Wyndham but turning west on the Gibb River Road – this is the other end of the road that we started back in Derby nearly a week ago now. Like the section by Derby, this end too is sealed (tarmac) so the driving is easy until we get to the turnoff for El Questro station. This is an unsealed (gravel) road, but it can’t be worse than the entry into the Bungle Bungles can it? Well no, at least not until we get to our first river crossing – and of the famed Pentecost River to boot.

Looking up at the restaurant in El QuestroThe Pentecost is one of the major rivers in this area of the Kimberley and it is not uncommon for the roads here to include a ford. In “the wet” the crossing would be somewhere between a challenge and impossible but we’re now in “the dry” and this didn’t really need me to engage 4WD. Still, it was good to get the tyres wet – all part of the Aussie outback experience. The El Questro campsite turns out to be both enormous and busy – still plenty of space for us to find a nice little spot down by the river in the shade of some trees. There is still time for us to have a pre-sunset walk – too little river in sight and too many vans & tents of all shapes and sizes, but still nice to stretch our legs.

The Beast settled in for the nightWe now understand why people say El Questro is a very commercialised operation. The downside is that the place is busy but the upside is that there are a fairly full set of facilities – including a much needed laundromat. Whilst the internet is limited to a bit of 3G phone signal, I am able to find a bench by the bar with a power socket tucked away so we are able to sort photos and draft words in an effort not to fall too far behind with the blog. Over dinner in what turns out to be quite a swish restaurant, the conversation inevitably comes round to how different our surroundings and our evening would be if we’d stuck with our original plan and camped in one of the roadhouses. While it is good to have a plan, it’s better to have the flexibility to change the plan – and nice to have been right all along!

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