There’s something about Central Australia that truly is magical. Whether it be the ancient cultural history embedded within the earth and its people, the rich colours of the outback – unimaginable unless seen for yourself – or the endless opportunity for adventure right smack bang in the middle of this enormous country. When the opportunity came for us to discover this region, we couldn’t wait to dig our heels into the renowned red dirt at the heart of Australia, and we were exceptionally keen to get lost amongst the beautiful expanse west of Alice Springs.
Whilst spending a week or so exploring all that Yulara and Kata Tjuta had to offer, we ran into a couple from home, who proceeded to tell us about a magic place called Palm Valley. Straight away our attention was captured when they continued to tell us there were around 3000 rare red cabbage palms growing in the midst of the desert. We both agreed it was a must-see while venturing through the area, instantly chucked it on the bucket list and a few sleeps later, we found ourselves on the sandy winding road into Palm Valley. Hidden south of Hermannsburg amongst the Finke Gorge National Park was where we were offered further spectacular views of stunning, picturesque landscapes and sheer cliff faces almost standard now of Central-Australian beauty. Following what at the time was a dry river bed, only made for further yearning to be lucky enough to experience this region when the rivers were in full flood.
Shortly after, we arrived at our destination only to discover one of the magnets on the electric brake unit on our camper had completely fallen off, causing the hub to become extremely hot. This then left Mick to chuck his ‘mechanics’ hat on, and I my ‘fetch him the tools, grease, paper towel and beer’ cap on, to which we then spent the majority of the afternoon repairing the faulty brake unit back to a usable state. With the sun now setting on another eventful day on the road, we settled in for the night around the communal campfire with fellow campers, where we shared wine, damper and stories of our travels around this great land.
"The beauty that was held within this valley was truly awe-inspiring, and where else but this magic palm jungle, to take time out for a bite to eat, and admire the hidden jewels this country has to offer."
The following morning, we set off with a packed lunch in search of the infamous red cabbage palms we’d heard so much about. Just a short, somewhat rocky drive later, we arrived at the carpark set upon a bed of river rock where we stocked up with water and sunscreen in preparation of our 5km walk. The adventure commenced with a steep climb up a beautiful natural rock staircase, where we then followed the ridge around and dropped down into the valley which would lead us to find these massive palms stretched out for as far as the eye could see along a damp creek bed. We couldn’t believe our eyes. How strange it was to find thousands of these plants – the kind one would generally associate with the tropics, in the middle of the desert. The beauty that was held within this valley was truly awe-inspiring, and where else but this magic palm jungle, to take time out for a bite to eat, and admire the hidden jewels this country has to offer.
On our way back to camp that afternoon, we came across two young couples. One from Holland, and the other from Victoria, who seemed to be broken down at the base of a rough section of the track. Unable to get past and being a typical ‘happy to lend a helping hand’ pair, we pulled up to see what was the bother, and, whetherif Mick’s ‘mechanics’ hat had enough knowledge to conquer repairs two days in a row. While Mick was investigating the issue that seemed to be involved with the de-mobiliser unit on the young Holland couple’s 80 series, I got chatting to Brad and Mel from Melbourne who mentioned they were keen to discover a place called Boggy Hole, which is also located within the Finke Gorge National Park, but with little to no four- wheel- driving experience in their knapsack, they were a little nervous about tackling the road alone. It didn’t take long for us to offer our companionship and within ten minutes we’d made plans to spend the coming days exploring the region together with our new-found travel buddies from south of the border. The following day we set off into Alice Springs to re-stock our supplies and made camp that night at a serene little spot tucked away from the world on a dry river bed 50kms east of Hermannsburg, where we soaked in our fellow adventurers’ spirit and learnt all we could about these ‘Mexican’ folk, who, in return for a few tips on how to use their new camp oven, agreed to teach us cards.
Daylight awoke us the next morning, and without a doubt there were four excited souls, all eager to tackle the anticipated five-hour challenging drive into Boggy Hole. We set off from our hidden camp mid-morning and were thrilled when we arrived at the turn off to our next destination. We knew we would be in for some fairly deep corrugated road to begin with and some soft sand further along as we followed the Finke River, so letting our tyre pressure down was a must not long after we turned off the tar. Not a lot of time had passed when we came to our first dry, sandy river bed encounter. With Brad and Mel in the lead, they were the first to tackle this stretch of soft sand and it wasn’t too long until they came to a standstill, bogged down and not going anywhere, anytime soon. The shovels and tyre deflator were abstracted from their designated homes, and after 15 minutes or so of digging and letting more air from their tyres, the red Patrol with Mel behind the wheel made its way smoothly through the remaining stretch of sand. After deflating our tyres again before tackling the sandy river bed ourselves, we completed a successful execution of the first challenge for the day.
"With full tummies, we continued our venture down into Boggy Hole, with us ladies at the wheel we were given plenty of opportunity to gain confidence with off-road driving that both Mel and I were lacking prior to this trip."
A few hours more of somewhat fairly challenging driving, we pulled up for lunch under the shade of a massive red river gum. Lucky for us the flies weren’t too bad, and we were able to enjoy our ham and cheese sandwiches accompanied by a cold beer in peace without fly nets making this basic process somewhat challenging. With full tummies, we continued our venture down into Boggy Hole, with us ladies at the wheel we were given plenty of opportunity to gain confidence with off-road driving that both Mel and I were lacking prior to this trip. In the hours that followed, we had a few more chances to practice our shovelling and MAXTRAX positioning skills before arriving at our destination, Boggy Hole. As we explored the camp ground and surrounding area, we discovered beautiful water holes, bursting with waterbirds of all kinds and spectacular views. We were definitely chuffed with what we would call home for the days to follow. Not only had we accomplished our mission for the day, but we were fortunate enough to have the whole place to ourselves. We didn’t have to venture far to find firewood, and after setting up camp, rewarded ourselves with a cold beer and a chair around a monstrous fire, to witness another breathtaking sunset inject fluorescent beams of orange and pink through darkened clouds, which set the perfect backdrop on a new friendship that would surely last for many miles to come.
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