I started writing this article thinking I would share a beautiful story about the origins of Palm Valley, however I discovered new facts that completely crushed the appealing story told to most tourists. Maybe just like me, you have been told or will be told that the palm trees are survivors of the time when Palm Valley was a rainforest (As you may know, Australia was covered in rainforest during the Gondwana times). Well it’s not the whole story…
Palms Trees in Central Australia
Palm Valley is located in the Finke Gorge National Park, 138 km South West of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and is actually the only place in Central Australia where Red Cabbage Palms manage to survive. I wasn’t expecting to see Palm Trees in the desert and was quite impressed by their preeminence and strength. There approximately 3000 adult plants inhabiting the area.
Regarding their origins, some studies have recently found out that the plants have been actually dispersed “something transported seeds from Mataranka which is just south of Katherine to Palm Valley 15,000 years ago”, says Professor David Bowman, an environmental change biologist at the University of Tasmania.
Cultural Significance – What’s now very interesting about these science discoveries is that they match the Aboriginal Legend. In 1894, an Aboriginal legend was recorded by Carl Strehlow, describing the “gods from the north” bringing the seeds to Palm Valley. This isn’t without significance as it would illustrate the accuracy of verbal tradition in Aboriginal culture, which had been transmitted from generation to generation “possibly for over 7,000, possibly 30,000 years”.
If like me, you happen to visit Palm Valley, you will probably wonder why this place is not as crowded as King’s Canyon? Where are all the tourists making their way through the Outback? If you love 4WD, you will love driving to Palm Valley, located only 20km south of Hermannsburg. Make you haven’t eaten much before you hit this very bumpy road!
You can visit Palm Valley with your own 4WD or choose among several 4WD tours departing from Alice Springs and only one overland tour departing from Adelaide.
Where to Stay
Palm Valley has a campground with great facilities (showers, toilets and communal bbqs). No booking is necessary, and there is a $6.60 per person fee to camp. However it is possible that it gets popular in the winter months so make sure you get there in the morning!
What to Do
You can start with the loop walk (Arankaia Walk, 2 km, 1 hr). It felt like I was discovering safe secret place hidden in the centre of Australia, so far away from anything I’d seen in Australia, so far away from civilisation, so far away from where I come from. The sun and the sand were both shining in harmony in a peaceful and quiet space.
Depending on the weather and your level of fitness, you can choose to walk up to the Kalaranga Lookout (1.5km, 45 minute return), which will give you a breathtaking view of the Amphitheatre. I would suggest to go there for sunset, when the bright red light will be hiding behind the hills made of sandstone and will leave you completely speechless.
If like me, you’re always up for adventure, I would highly suggest to do the longest walk in the park, the Mpaara Walk (5 km, 2 hours return). Don’t google it, don’t search for photos on Facebook or Instagram, just let yourself be surprised, and trust me it will exceed your expectations. As you will be hiking through some beautiful sandstones, make sure to pay attention to the signs introducing you to the Arrernte Aboriginal people’s culture. Maybe you will be as intrigued as me by the indigenous story of the man and his missing son. Once you get to the top, take a moment to look around and embrace the moment, you won’t be coming here everyday!