INT. TRAVEL ARCHIVE:
677: The Little Island
Escape the late-winter blues with a tropical blast from the past
675: Scenic Spirituality
Commune with religion and nature in an ancient land
673: Aoni Onsen
Return to a forgotten time at one of Honshu’s most remote getaways
671: The Golden Rock
One of Burma’s many splendid attractions hangs by a hair
669: Hida Takayama
For personal trips gentle to the soul, seek out the old-time charm of Hida Takayama
A serene stroll through history awaits at this seaside retreat
663: Cruising the Bay
Ha Long Bay offers a breath of calm away from Vietnam’s urban rush
Fox fires and bar codes help a rural Niigata town reinvent itself
535: Hotel California
Mark Parren Taylor kicks up the desert dust in Palm Springs, the perennial
Hollywood star retreat.
531: Race through time
The Xterra Saipan triathlon journeys through tropical jungle, up steep mountain
paths and across the sands of history. Tama M. Lung joins the chase.
527: Bohemian rhapsody
No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district.
Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.
523: Slow Motion
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
519: Rock of ages
From ancient times to the present, Gibraltar has always been an island of
legends. Stephen Mansfield sifts through its history.
515: Go west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western Australia's
East Kimberley region.
511: All mixed up
Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures,
cuisine and heated competition.
505: Earth, wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds the keys to a magical
getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes ashore.
501: Off the rails
Braving the 2,010 kilometers of Vietnam's Reunification Express from Ho
Chi Minh City to Hanoi is quite the adventure. Simon Rowe goes along for the
493: Rites of passage
From firecrackers and cheek piercing to divinations and buffalo races, Thailand's
most colorful customs come alive at two annual festivals. Mark Parren Taylor
joins the crowds.
489: Paradise found
Beaches, battlefields and a colossal casino provide tropical pleasures on
the Pacific isle of Tinian. Carlo Niederberger touches down.
485: Through the grapevine
Stephen Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac
in southwest France.
481: Pleasure island
Saipan awaits the young and young at heart with its pristine beaches, pointy
peaks, and perfect amount of entertainment. Carlo Niederberger checks in.
477: Reservoir of dogs
Simon Rowe visits the Kingdom of Tonga, where storms burst without warning
and wild canines rule the night.
473: Into the bat cave
Sarawaks Niah Caves are home to hairless bats, birds on the brink
of extinction, and lots of bugs, according to Simon Rowe.
469: A fork in the river
Laos ethnic minorities battle the forces of time. Stephen Mansfield
goes upriver in search of them.
465: Action scene
Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ its
summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings
long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.
457/458: In living color
Simon Rowe soaks in the glow of Samoa's kaleidoscopic streets.
454: From Jamaica with love
Michael McDonagh soaks up the atmosphere in James Bond's balmy birthplace
449: See worthy
Dan Grunebaum drops oar in the stunning caves of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay
445: Great heights
Simon Rowe packs his hiking boots and sets out for Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu
441: Split personality
There are few cities with such an exacting dividing line between past and present
as Lijiang in China's southwestern province of Yunnan
438: Fierce creatures
Simon Rowe introduces us to the untamed charms of Australia's Kangaroo Island
434: Leap of Faith
Simon Rowe dives into a tropical island paradise of waterfalls, reefs and bush
rugby on the Fijian archipelago
430: A week in Provence
Stephen Mansfield explores the historic festival city of Avignon, a medieval
diamond in the south of France
426: Outer space
Surreal sites, lunar landscapes and UFO sightings go with the territory in Chile
422: The Big Easy
The Moorish streets of Granada, Spain are alive with a new Bohemian rhapsody
418: Small awakening
414: Fowl play
The animal kingdom comes alive in the Galapagos
410: The river of spirits
Wading through soulful waters in Varanasi, India
406: Heading north
Marching to the beat of a modern drum in North Korea
Santa's lap - enjoy saunas, Santa and sightseeing in Finland’s Lapland
Seeking the past in China's megacity
Rising from the ashes
Mary King explores the rich history, culture and art of Croatias phoenix
The betels and the stones
Simon Rowe rolls with the tropical exotica on the obscure island of Yap
World heritage site
Land of hope
Salt of the earth
Tour the Uyuni Salt Pan
Suzhou and Hangzhou
The river mild
Top of the world
Memo from the Lower Mekong
Call of the wild
Mad about Madurai
west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western
Australia's East Kimberley region.
"It takes skill to track a killer out here."
I hardly hear Billy's words as he wrestles our dust-caked
Toyota Hilux down a thin red line of potholes and into the
rippling afternoon heat. This is the Gibb River Road and the
only sounds most 4WD travelers usually hear as they labor
through the heart of Western Australia's East Kimberley
region are the ricochet of stones beneath their vehicles or
the thunk of some departing car part.
This is also escarpment country-35 million years in
the making-and when the sun sets across the towering
rock faces, turning them a deep burnt red, it is simply magic.
Outside my window I glimpse the Cockburn Ranges doing just
that, though I'm not here to savor the Jurassic period
vistas. Billy, Buddy and Jack are employees of El Questro
Wilderness Park-the "million-acre" former
working cattle property-and today I'm joining
them on a hunt for a shorthorn Brahman, known in outback lexicon
as a "killer." It is a chore undertaken once
a month, explains Billy, to stock the larder for El Questro's
staff of horse handlers, mechanics, ranger guides, a helicopter
pilot and a steady stream of outback travelers like myself.
|Indigenous to the Kimberley
region, boab trees are used for shelter, food, fiber and
medicine while the waters of Chamberlain Gorge supply
the game fish barramundi
Like four peas in a pod we rattle down the Gibb, passing boab
trees shaped like fat Cuban cigars and the odd flock of sulphur-crested
cockatoos screeching over a dry riverbed. At a water hole,
Billy brings the ute to a grinding halt where a dozen telltale
cattle tracks lead west in the direction of the crocodile-inhabited
lower Pentecost River.
Five kilometers on, Buddy spots the slow-moving mob through
the chest-high spear grass. Instantly, Jack is sighting a
large male bull through the scope of his Ruger .222 caliber
rifle from the passenger's window. A gentle squeeze
of the trigger and the first bullet zings off to the right,
deflected by the grass. The second fares no better, disappearing
into the afternoon heat with a curse from the shooter. The
third ends our suspense, finding its mark and sending the
huge beast into the dust.
An oasis or an outpost? I'm unable to decide as we head back
to El Questro's Station Township, once the nerve center
for one of Australia's largest cattle properties, at
4,400 square kilometers, and now the hub of a well-organized
wilderness park operation. Many holidaymakers who drive two
hours from Kununurra, 106km east, still expect to find a rawhide
lifestyle of cracking bull whips, roving mobs of cattle and
bowlegged stockmen who chew saddle leather for breakfast.
Even in such timeless surrounds as the East Kimberley, more
than a few are disappointed. These days, fewer than 5,000
head of cattle, mainly the bush-hardy shorthorned Brahman,
range across the station in ragtag herds. What mustering remains
begins each year in May when stockmen take to their horses
and helicopters and pluck the best bullocks for "trucking
out" to the coastal town of Wyndham. From here the
value-adding process doesn't end until Australia's
best filet steaks reach the discerning fingertips of Japanese
housewives, 8,000km away.
In 1991, El Questro upgraded its rugged charm with bush bungalows,
safari-style tented cabins, a bar, steakhouse restaurant and
shop, and introduced a host of ranger-guided activities geared
toward giving visitors access to the East Kimberley's
natural wonders by horseback, 4WD and helicopter. For high-rolling
city slickers, the fully inclusive Homestead with its escarpment-top
swimming pool is on offer for A$750 per person, per night.
Judging by the safari-suited couples with thick Italian accents
that came and went during my stay, there is no shortage of
well-heeled globetrotters to fill the beds.
Riveting yarns, on the other hand, are not lacking among the
riverside campsites where you can join other dusty faces trading
their tales of woe and fortune on the Gibb, and the air hanging
over the upper Pentecost River is wonderfully cooler. Conversation
moves up to the open-air Swinging Arm Bar in the evenings
and it is here that I find Buddy demonstrating to a crowd
of wide-eyed day-trippers the lethal precision of a kangaroo
hide stock whip. "When I speak to strangers, I don't
tell tall tales. I've lived this life for 50 years!"
he growls at them, whisking the flies from his face, his hands
as fat as mulga roots and legs so bowed you could drive a
road train between them.
The next morning I set out with Jack, who is also the station's
resident helicopter pilot, and head for El Questro Gorge.
It is the height of the dry season, which lasts from May to
August, and even with the windows sealed the savannah dust
turns my throat to sand paper. Relief comes in October when
the northwest Monsoon arrives-though just when the
Big Wet arrives is impossible to say, but when it rains, says
Jack, it "bloody pours."
Within the cool depths of El Questro Gorge, the seasons seem
not to exist at all; a freshwater stream winds down through
the escarpments, passing through groves of fan palms and swarms
of butterflies, making its way to deep rock pools. To these
oases, and to others like the 127km-long Chamberlain Gorge,
come anglers from around the world bent on hooking "the
The East Kimberley's waterways are well stocked with
barramundi-Australia's most delectable game
fish-and those who brave the vertebrae-jiggling drive
from the Station Township to cast their lines across the Chamberlain
Gorge and its tributaries, don't often come home empty-handed.
Three months before my arrival, an American landed a 15kg
"barra" in the upper reaches of the nearby Ord
River. Bird life is also prolific here and it's in
the cool dawn hours, before the sun has topped the gorge walls,
that this huge natural aviary is at its most frenzied and
Nightly entertainment around the Station Township can be just
as noisy. Like some bizarre Mad Max-style roadshow, convoys
of stripped-down jeeps, customized trail bikes, and old-model
Land Rovers pass steadily through El Questro's gates.
The average life of a vehicle on the East Kimberley roads,
locals testify, is two years-if you drive slowly. But
nobody drives slowly and tire blowouts, shattered windscreens
and fractured shock absorbers are the price many tourists
and locals pay for driving fast. Referring to the conditions
on the Gibb River Road, one haggard-looking 4WD traveler summed
up the Kimberley experience: "She's as rough
as guts, mate."
Qantas operates three flights a week from Narita to Perth.
Kununurra is serviced by regular domestic flights (see www.airnorth.com.au)
from Perth, Darwin or Broome. El Questro (ELQ) is located
100km west of Kununurra, in the East Kimberley. Flights to
ELQ take 90 minutes, A$60 pp each way. Hiring a 4WD vehicle
in Kununurra is recommended; ELQ staff can arrange bookings
if you call toll-free at 1-800-013-314.
Where to stay
El Questro Homestead includes a swimming pool, spa, tennis
court, open bar, gourmet meals and all activities within the
El Questro valley. Prices start at A$750 pp/pn for a two-night
stay. ELQ's Emma Gorge Resort safari-style tented cabins
start from $133 pp, located 2km from the Gibb River Road at
the base of the Cockburn Ranges. Riverside Camping (Apr 1-Oct
31) at Station Township costs $12.50 pp. Facilities include
a swimming hole, store, steakhouse restaurant and tour desk.
An ELQ Wilderness Park Permit (valid 7 days) costs $12.50
and can be purchased at Station Township on arrival. For general
information info, call 61-8-9169-1777, fax 61-8-9169-1383,
or visit www.elquestro.com.au
credit: Simon Rowe