The next day we traveled back to Broome, our starting point for this adventure nine days before. While the area is arid it does provide a constantly changing view in vegetation and in the color of the dirt.

Some sections of the road are better with respect to wash-boarding, or corrugation as it’s known to Aussies.

Eucalyptus trees and grasslands are typical for this cattle-dominated area.

On the way back we stopped at the Mowanjum Cultural Centre and learned much about the Aboriginal people that live in the region today, and have been there for 1,000s of years.

Broome was a nice change from the Gibb River Road with the ocean that was visible from nearly anywhere from the peninsula of a town.

That night we went to the local movie theater, and just happened to catch the first showing of the new Lion King movie.

The movie theater has been open for over a century and is an outdoor theater. We watched the movie under the stars, and along the approach path for the late evening flights into Broome from around Australia.

The next day we found the local farmer’s market and shopped for some souvenirs to take home.

We said goodbye to Pam’s Aunt Melinda and cousins Riley and Tasman later that day at the airport. They were heading back to Canberra while Pam and I took off back to Perth to begin the third part of our Western Australia trip.

Bell Gorge

The next day we headed to Bell Gorge. Bell Creek runs through the gorge and it was a nice hike down to the water.

The gorge had a nice stair-step waterfall that dropped down to a big pool below.

We hiked on down into the gorge and jumped in for swim.

Riley and I swam downstream to check out the cascading pools that headed down further into the gorge. Several folks followed us down. I noticed on our return a few crocs were sunning themselves and the rocks along the water’s edge. Luckily, the water was a little too cold for them to be active, so they stayed where they were sucking up the heat of the sun.

We hiked out of the gorge area while spotting more birds and admiring the geology of the area.

Back at the Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge, the communal seating area was a great place to relax and have a drink before another great meal that included a lamb filet that was the best I’ve ever tasted.

The tents for the guests were spread out into the grassland.

Across the lawn we spotted another kangaroo grazing on the grass and watching us.

The last night of our stay in the outback, we had a birthday celebration for one of our fellow travelers. Riley was nice enough to finish off all the cake and ice cream so it didn’t go to waste – lol.

Home Valley Station

While El Questro Station is big at 700,000 acres, Home Valley Station is huge, covering 3.5 million acres, or 5 times the size of El Questro. Home Valley Station’s first pastoral lease was in 1957, and similar to El Questro, they added tourism to the station in 2006 to augment the always struggling ranching business.

This huge station’s pastoral lease is currently owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation, a holding company for the local Aboriginal people. The dining area was the old maintenance shed that was converted to its new use with a kitchen, bar and seating.

I thought the use of one of the old windmills as a wall was very interesting.

The building’s low perimeter walls were built from stone with 55-gallon drums as structural support bases marking the entrances. Cowboy saddles were thrown on top of one of the walls.

In areas with regular water, like sprinklers for the grass, the boab trees had leaves. This boab tree was split open in the back but was still thriving with just the outer ring of the tree alive.

We left Home Valley Station and stopped at Ellenbrae Station for a mid-morning scone with whipped cream and jam. While the station is also over 1 million acres of ranch land, it’s known for their delicious scones along the Gibb River Road. The family serves up about 20,000 scones during the tourist season. We all made short work of eating them up, including Riley and Tasman in the picture below.

Our next stop was the Manning Gorge for a nice swim. The parking lot had a few other folks that were travelling in the outback along the Gibb River Road. This vehicle was typical of those on the road, a vehicle fully loaded with a roof rack, towing a trailer with a boat and bikes. Australians know how to pack for the outback.

Riley and I took a dip in the Yallamia Pool in the gorge. It had a boat with a tow rope if you wanted to get to the other side dry, a rope swing, plenty of rocks to climb on and a few fresh water crocs to keep you alert.

Our next stop was a short hike into Galvans Gorge.

The boab trees around the top of the gorge were interesting, and due to the lack of water up there, leafless.

The gorge was protected by a Wandjina, who were the ones in Aboriginal stories that created humans. Their likeness is painted onto many special places in the outback.

On our hike out from the gorge we spotted these two kangaroos making their way up the other side of the gorge.

We arrived at our next camping spot, the Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge. This was the view looking out from our tent.

The inside of the tent was nice and cozy with two beds and a full bathroom.

We headed down for happy hour and another fantastic dinner in the wilderness.

El Questro

El Questro Station, where station is the Australian name for a ranch, is roughly 700,000 acres in size. The station is approximately 48 miles north-to-south, by 36 miles east-to-west. The stations in the Kimberley region are on leased “Crown Land”, which used to be held by the English Monarchy, but it’s now public land held by Western Australia. The initial lease for El Questro was in 1958. Before that date it was just outback wilderness. The lease changed hands many times over the years because you must meet lease payments and land improvement criteria to maintain the lease, which is tough to do in this remote area. However, in 1991 the lease holders expanded from just cattle to tourism due to the natural beauty of the area. El Questro still maintains nearly 6,000 head of cattle, but the tourism business model has rippled across many of the Kimberley region stations to generate additional revenue and to show land improvements in order to maintain the leases.

El Questro offers a range of camping options, from a basic campsite, to our tent wilderness camp and even a resort up on a mountain top.

The wilderness camp at Emma Gorge was very nice and the common areas for meals and just hanging out were open-air and very comfortable. The meals we had there were buffet-style with a lot of really good food. A couple of tour groups like ours were there, but the dining hall was also filled with folks who were traveling alone, or as a family, and made their own reservations.

We hiked up Emma Gorge over large boulders and crossed the small stream several times. It was slow going for most of the folks and it was good we left near dawn, so we had the trail to ourselves.

The gorge ends at a nice swimming hole at the base of a 65-foot waterfall.

The water was refreshing, and Riley and I found the one warm spot near the outlet of the thermal spring under the rock overhang.

When we got back to camp, we jumped into our tour bus and were off again. This time I jumped in the front with Ray, our tour guide / driver. The bus had air ride seats in the front making the ride over any road condition noticeably smoother than the ride in the back.

Even though it was the dry season there were still some rivers and creeks that had water and needed to be crossed. It was amazing that every Toyota land cruiser there had the engine snorkel kit installed. It must be for additional air inlet filtration of dust because the water in the region is either like this in the dry season, which doesn’t require a snorkel, or its 20 feet deep in the wet season, in which case a snorkel won’t matter.

Our next stop was at a water reservoir while we waited for our appointed lunch time.

While the water looks harmless enough, nearly all water in this region is home to crocs.

At lunch this blue-winged kookaburra came in looking for some free food.

After lunch we headed to Zebedee Springs, a thermal stream that pools among the rocks and palms for a great place to relax.

The palm-treed oasis was a striking change to the surrounding vegetation.

We watched the sunset glow its last light onto the Cockburn mountain range in the east.

To the west, the sunset was beautiful.

That night we stayed at Home Valley Station.