The spiral pandanus is also called a screwpine. It’s a native plant in northern Australia but also found in India. There are about 650 species of them. Kimberley locals call them corkscrew palms. This is ironic since the spiral pandanus, which admittedly looks like a palm, is neither a pine nor a palm. Aboriginals believe that their mashed leaves can be tied around the head to cure headaches. The spiral pandanus has many other uses–making baskets, wrapping food for cooking, etc. They grow near running water and their sex is easy to distinguish. The female spirals to the right and the male to the left. Add your own joke here.
Since I went to bed so early, I was reading about this important local plant in the Boab Bulletin at 4 am and deciding that I had to see them in the wild.
At 8 am Ruth & I took a Station walk with Matt. It was already bloody hot. We knew more about the place than Matt, an El Questro guide, did. There for only a week, he finally admitted that he still had a lot to learn and abandoned us. To young Matt this was a job; to us it was an adventure.
A lot of people will tell you things with great authority that simply aren’t true. For example, I was informed that Will Burrell & and his wife Celia were Texans. Wrong. Will’s an English aristocrat who bought El Questro when it was a dilapidated cattle station in 1991. There are still 8,000 cattle roaming about its million acres, but I didn’t count them so don’t trust the figure. Will & Celia were determined to turn El Questro into a world-class wilderness resort and opened for business in 1992 but sold out 3 years later. I was told that Celia was pregnant and reluctant to be living in such a remote place, but I had no way to verify this information.
Long before iron-willed Will & adventuresome Celia took charge, this property had been a large lease for running cattle. Way back in 1903 it was called Spurling’s Pocket. It became El Questro in the 1950s when new leasers added vegetable growing to cattle raising. It’s now owned by Delaware North Parks and Resorts, an American company based in Buffalo, New York, that has operated the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park since 1993. Delaware owns several resorts, catering companies, food service operations for such institutions as the Empire State Building, etc. It owns 4 other resorts in Australia, and Ruth and I have been to 3 of them, Heron Island, Kings Canyon (reported on in my book Alone Near Alice), and El Questro.
Our tour to Zebedee Springs, Explosion Gorge, and Branco’s Lookout began about 10 am. We had to cross the Pentecost River on our own to get to Zebedee, a series of thermal pools with waterfalls spilling over boulders and surrounded by heavy vegetation including many spiral pandanuses. Or is that pandani?