Wandering Palm Valley, Northern Territory, Home to the World’s Oldest River

Originally Published on Wandering Wolf Child by Ashley Leonard-Jones 

I have managed to settle albeit temporarily in Alice Springs and what I am really enjoying about staying in one place is the opportunity to really get to know the area. What I love about the Northern Territory is that it continues to surprise me.

Palm Valley is the only place in Central Australia where Red Cabbage Palms survive and, apparently, are left over from prehistoric times when the climate could support such a tropical species. It is situated 138 km west of Alice Springs and the last 16 km after Hermannsburg are accessible by four-wheel drive only—and believe me when I say you will also need good ground clearance.

To get there you drive alongside the Finke River, which is the oldest river in the world at 350 to 400 million years old, and, to add to that, the Finke Gorge National Park covers 46,000 hectares, so there is plenty of exploring to be done.

I could not believe how this oasis exists in the middle of the desert; we were so lucky to visit after there had been significant rainfall as not only was there ample water present, but the area was also so green that, in some places, it looked like a well-kept golf course.

Feeling tiny in Palm Valley, the trees tower above your head. There are a few other spots to stop along the way. Make sure you check out the Kalarranga Lookout; it boasts some stunning views and huge rocks that, again, dwarf you.

The drive is tough but really good fun. Drivers make their way through sot sand, creeks and up steep rocks. The corrugations aren’t too bad on this track, unlike on the way to Chambers Pillar. We released 20 percent of the air from our tires, which increases the surface contact. This means it becomes easier for the tires to push the vehicle along on surfaces such as sand.

I really loved Palm Valley. It’s something unique in the middle of the desert, which I never knew existed. I also didn’t realize I was living next to the oldest river in the world. I think I will stick around a bit longer…

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