Palms and ferns adorn the thermal pools at Zebedee Springs, which is a great place to relax and soak away the dust from the Gibb River Road. Zebedee felt like a day spa in the middle of the desert, even with the kids crawling over us in the tight pools as they made their way up and down the little waterfalls. Refreshed and totally clean for the first time in weeks, we walked back to the car only to have our feet covered in orange dust yet again. It didn’t matter as we had another gorge on our radar but this time it was going to be a more strenuous grade 5 hike to the end of El Questro Gorge.
I packed sandwiches because I don’t go anywhere without food as the boys are always hungry but I should have known better than to put them in their backpacks. As soon as they hit the middle pool, there was no time to take off the packs as they kept wading until the water was so deep, they had to swim to get to the next part of the trail. Giggling as they made their way across the clear and deep spring fed stream, I managed to salvage a couple of soggy sandwiches which they devoured before the more challenging stage of the hike.
El Questro Gorge is a beautiful scramble through the high cliffs and fern covered walls, which are well shaded and cool during the hot 37-degree day. Even though it was rocky, with lots of steep climbs including traversing up a waterfall, we could hardly keep up with the kids as they clambered over boulders. When we made it to the end of the red narrow gorge, it was bliss to swim in such a deep, cool and clean pool. A snake slithered between the rocks in the water so we gave it space and settled at the other side of the gorge. Although a difficult walk, I was happy the kids took on the challenge and we were able to enjoy this unique place as a family.
Remote campsites that you have all to yourself is one of the joys of camping but sometimes the busiest of camps can also be winners. If you asked the kids what camps they liked best, El Questro (ELQ) is right up there for a few reasons. The toilets and showers were the cleanest they had seen in weeks and it has a lovely swimming hole at camp, despite the fish that attack you if you stand still. There were plenty of roads, speed humps ad even some mud to keep them happy on their bikes, they could watch the scenic helicopter take off and land but most of all, there were other kids around to play with.
Ashley and I were happy to camp out of the dust and we were pleased with the clean facilities and it was a real treat to eat out and enjoy pizzas at the outdoor restaurant next to the grass, without an insect in sight. It was however getting hot and we all struggled with sleeping, something which might pose a problem for us over the next month or so.
Emma Gorge was the last gorge we visited at ELQ and the walk was certainly a lot easier than El Questro Gorge. The track ends at a gorgeous swimming hole, surrounded by a high red curved wall which is covered in ferns. Warm thermal water drips from above and also runs into the pool from small streams and water falls. The streams were a favourite hide away for the kids and they enjoyed sitting in the warm water before hitting the cool pool again.
Having travelled the Gibb River Road nine-years ago, it was interesting to revisit some of the areas we had seen but also experience some new ones. It was a lot dustier this time and not as much water but despite this, the gorges are like oases and they are never too far apart to find somewhere to cool off. Emma Gorge was a definite postcard moment and a fine way to finish off our Gibb River Road Experience before we hit the Northern Territory.
How things change in nine years since we last visited El Questro.