Monday 10th September

We were up early as I usual and out walking by 7.00. As I have explained, because of the heat our cycle of life has shifted. We rise early but are often in bed (for this read swag) by 8.30. It is the way to make the most of the coolness of the early morning and evening. It is now regularly at least 37 degrees in the middle of the day.

The swimmers were off to do another action packed hike, but we decided to head off on a more sedentary track to a thousand year old Boab tree. The Korean ladies had also opted for our easier option, so the four of us set off as the rest left. We walked from the site, turning right just short of the Pentecost River which we were to follow for much of the walk.

Our route took us along the rivers edge, through the mixed vegetation of the river bank. Tall palm trees gave a sparse canopy. Lush green plants hugged the river shore line.

The track grew more stony but was well signposted and some time later we left the river completely. Initially the route was quite shaded but as we turned away from the water, the rocks became bigger and we were more exposed to the sun which was heating up by the moment it seemed. We could still hear the river gurgling along at this stage, but then we turned quite determinedly right and the gurgling disappeared. We were now in a more forested area and it was not long before a huge Boab tree loomed up before us. It was huge. Its root like branches thrust into the air.

On its side huge carbuncles had developed. Its bark had a very elephantine look, I thought. I find it difficult to contemplate that this tree would have already been well established when William the Conquerer shot Harold in the eye….. enough of these ramblings, we took photographs and two smartly dressed ladies (from the posher part of El Questro no doubt!) came along and took our photos all together which was nice.

It was soon time to start the scramble back. We retraced our steps and arrived back at the camp at about 9.30 having walked 10kms. All in all not a bad effort in the heat, but we were gasping. Despite the prices, we decided to have a drink at the alternatively named ‘El Costro’ bar which the Korean ladies kindly paid for – it was very nice of them and much appreciated!! We then had free time until the trip we had decided to go on that afternoon. It was advertised as ‘4 wheel drive and river sunset cruise’. It did not quite turn out that way…..

I have to say that when Keith first suggested going on the outing I was not overly excited and I was even less enamoured when we were picked up in a roofed vehicle covered in red dust when I had just summoned the energy to have a second shower and change of clothes (it was 2.00pm). In the end I was really pleased we went. Our very competent young woman driver took us out over the cobbled river beds and rocky route towards Explosion Gorge. On the way we visited another famous Boag tree, this one with the initial D carved in it by one of the pioneering Durack family, who I am reading about at the moment. I felt almost related – although it was very naughty of them. The white man’s habit of carving into these trees led to the death of many of them ( the trees not the white men).

The track was very rough going – not dissimilar to the back seat of the truck! – and we swerved and skidded over the terrain for nearly an hour before reaching the Gorge. Here were were offered water before joining our ‘craft’. I would not call it a boat.

At the current time the water in the Gorge is perhaps no more than three foot deep in parts (it rises to at least 15 meters deep during the rainy season). Having no accommodation for a ‘draught’, we travelled in a small oblong flat bottomed arrangement to which an outboard motor was attached. There were just 8 of us plus the driver and we bobbed along the Gorge with it’s clear water and cliff like sides soaring over our head.

The water over years has carved great gouges out of the red ridged sandstone giving an almost huge barrel like appearance. The waterway eventually becomes the Pentecost River and follows the route down to the coast a distance of 220 Km’s. Having bobbed along the Gorge for a bit, we returned to the riverbank and having abandoned our craft, we set off back along the bumpy track, this time heading up to a promontory looking down on the river and across at Burrell’s Bluff (Bill Burrell was the name of the chap who developed El Questro into the the multimillion pound operation it is today). En route we had passed the Homestead where you can stay for a cool $3,000 Aus per night.

Another of the best views of the trip, it was a terrific spot from which to watch the sun go down. Our driver had brought cheese and biscuits and drinks to share, so we had a very civilised half an hour looking over the beautiful view.

To finish it off, along the river we saw a five foot saltwater crocodile having a swish around. Apparently the true name of These crocs is ‘estuarine’ as they can move between salt and fresh water. They have a device within them that converts salt to fresh water to allow them to drink……. who would have thought it?

Back at the ranch we had supper but not before a cast iron Dutch oven had fallen to the floor and broken in half.

Very odd and slightly unusual. Following another excellent supper – despite the breakage – we had news of the next day’s activity. We were leaving the sophistication of El Questro station for the Bungle Bungles.

Can’t wait!!

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