Picturesque Palm Valley
The beautiful Cycad Gorge in the Palm Valley is located 23km south west of Hermannsburg, and 138km west of Alice Springs, within the Finke Gorge National Park. The road is a corrugated, sandy track and the big sign at the entrance warns ‘4WD ONLY’. Take heed at this notice as the track follows the bed of the Finke River, one of the oldest rivers in the world! (fun fact: renowned Aboriginal watercolourist Albert Namatjira was born in the Hermannsburg community).
Do’s and Don’ts
Do collect firewood before entry; camp only where permitted; and take out all of your rubbish.
Don’t bring pets; and don’t stray off the designated tracks.
Walks in the Valley
A Finke River 4WD Route information sheet is available from the Parks and Wildlife Services. Camping fees are under $10 and there are shady sites, showers and toilets. Kalaranga Lookout is a 20 minute climb with amazing views over the cliffs. There are several walks to do but Arankaia Walk was our favourite as we ventured into the Red Cabbage Palm area. This area is of great cultural significance to the Western Arrernte people, and we were very impressed by the sandstone amphitheatres and gorges, where the solitude is overwhelming. The mythology of the local Aboriginal culture is expressed on the Mpaara Walk, so walk clockwise in direction to experience the Dreaming Story.
The Red Cabbage Palm is a species unique to this are and is believed to be from prehistoric times when the climate was far different, and able to sustain tropical rainforests. If you’ve travelled all the way to the Red Centre of Australia, then be sure to complete the Mereenie Loop with many side tracks into fascinating 4wd areas such as the oasis of Palm Valley and the ancient Finke River system.
Arriving in Alice
Alice Springs is the second largest population centre in the NT after Darwin, and is the soul of the Outback. The West MacDonnell Ranges (tip: don’t forget to explore the East Macs as well) will keep you occupied as day trips from your base at Alice Springs. We experienced temperatures of zero during our winter camper trailer trip to this area, and loved hanging around in Alice. Make sure to visit the wildlife park; indigenous art galleries; the Old Telegraph Station; the Mall; and Anzac Hill with its 360 degree view over Alice and the outlying desert. You will need to read the restrictions on alcohol purchase per person in Alice Springs – as is the same in many other NT communities. Alice Springs has grown around the Todd River, with some first white settlers being the Bagot’s and Joseph Gilbert with the contract for the Overland Telegraph line in this region in 1872. Hang around Alice and learn of the Australian history, discovery of gold and the arrival of the first car. Interesting stuff! There ends our journey and adventures in the Red Centre and what a great time was had. Leaving the East Coast of Queensland, out to Birdsville, Birdsville and Oodnadatta Tracks, Coober Pedy, Dalhousie Springs and Finke, and Uluru/Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon and finally Palm Valley and the West Macs – this trip took us a month to do, but we could have lingered much longer and trekked off some side roads easily. Make some Memories and go and explore the heart of the Australian Outback this winter!