Monday, June 7, 2010

What’s in a name? Part 1: El Questro

Maybe it’s because Australia is so vast, and there are so many things to name, that sometimes the names themselves become a curiosity. First we had Mt Nameless above the town of Tom Price (Tom Price was an American mining engineer), now we have come across El Questro and the Bungle Bungles.

El Questro is a big, privately owned wilderness park, at the eastern end of the Gibb River Road. We had a great 3 days there, taking in several of the walks and 4WD tracks on the property, and a bit of the guided stuff that you pay more for. The name El Questro has no literal meaning, even in Spanish which would seem the logical source. It was bestowed by a guy called Thomas McMicking who first took up the pastoral lease on the property in 1958 and apparently had a penchant for the rum. The wilderness park idea came later, via a young couple who must have taken over the lease around 1991 and started from there, building it up into a major tourist attraction. Until quite recently it was owned by a company called Voyagers, and now has been taken over by an American company called Delaware North, or something like that – they run resorts at places like Niagara Falls and Yosemite, so it is big business. But, still offers a great opportunity to see some spectacular sights in an environment that has only been known to non-indigenous people for 100 years, and accessible to the great masses for about the last 30 years. El Questro is a funny name, but it suits rather nicely.

While we were at ELQ we:

- walked the Amalia and El Questro Gorges – both terrific and very different from each other, even though only a few km apart. El Questro Gorge is narrow and long, and has lovely livistona palms growing from the gorge floor trying to reach the light. Most people go only ½ the distance up the length of the gorge where there is a huge boulder that blocks the way, but being nimble 50-somethings we clambered past this and made it to the delightful top pool and waterfall where we had the mandatory swim in crystal clear and cool water. Lovely.
- Did some “oh shit, I’m not sure this is such a good idea” 4 wheel driving, notably across the Chamberlain River which was flowing pretty strong and deep (so we discovered, when we were too far in to reconsider the idea) and took us nearly three minutes to ford. Jen was ready to end the marriage about right then, but we got some great views from Branco’s lookout over the Pentecost River as a reward
- Took a cruise on the Chamberlain River, and learned about some of the flora and fauna of the region, plus the geology. Stars of the show were the archer fish which can spit with deadly accuracy 2-3 m in the air – their purpose being top knock down insects flying just above the water. In our case, their target was our hands holding fish food, or the camera lens poking over the side of the boat …
- After leaving ELQ camp site, we called in at Emma Gorge on the Gibb Road, probably the most well-known of the gorges at the eastern end of the Gibb. It is on ELQ property, but anyone travelling down the GRR can visit. It was nice, and swimmable of course ... but think we have seen enough gorges for the time being.

From ELQ, we headed to Kununarra en route to the Bungle Bungles (more on this weird and wonderful place in the following blog) – our plan being to take a flight from Kununarra, over Lake Argyle, the BBs, and the Argyle diamond mine before driving down to the Purnululu National Park (where the BB Range sits) to explore by wheel and foot. Check out the next blog to see what we found.


The Chappies

7000 km after we left Lake Argyle this morning

Amalia Gorge

El Questro Gorge

Chamberlain River crossing. Note, that is not the far bank in the distance - landfall cannot be seen for quite a while ...

Chamberlain River cruise view

Emma Gorge with Jen modelling the new season style in Aussie swimming cossies

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