Kings Canyon is a gorge a few hundred kilometers from Uluru that we didn’t get to see last time we traveled through. Actually we missed a whole chunk of spots in the area. This time we left Uluru and did Kings Canyon, then the badly corrugated Mereenie Loop Track up to Hermannsburg and Palm Valley.
Palm Valley in Finke Gorge National Park was a standout. The awesomeness starts immediately with the track going in. The track is easy so doesn’t feel like you’re hammering the crap out of your car, but still feels like fun offroading as it follows the Finke River through some hills and arid landscapes. Often the track is actually the Finke River itself. It’s not often you get to navigate a river in a car!
Driving on Finke River in Finke Gorge National Park
The camp grounds are also great. It’s set among some beautiful red hills and cliffs and has good facilities: water, gas bbqs, flushing toilets and even warm showers. This is all at standard Northern Territory national park prices. There’s a nice little walk out of the camp grounds to Kalarranga rock formations.
Then Palm Valley itself is also awesome. The short vehicle track from the camp ground to Palm Valley travels through some nice red cliffs and rock formations and through a few steep dry creek crossings. It’s much rougher than the first track into the camp grounds but it’s only a few km long.
Track into Palm Valley
Steep rocky section of track
The Palm Valley walk is easy and a bit different than your usual gorge walk. A lot of the walk is in the river valley itself, which is a piece of cake since the valley is bed rock worn smooth by the water flow a few years ago. The palms and dark red cliffs and smooth river valley make it a unique walk.
Here is an artistic photo of the red cliffs with the shadows of the palms on the cliffs. Most people just take photos of the actual palms.
After a couple of nights in Palm Valley we visited Hermannsburg – an old aboriginal community that started as a Lutheran mission in 1877. We grabbed a pie at the bakery, coffee and scones at the cafe and checked out some of the old buildings.
Time to show off some macho mastery with a boys day trip to the power line offroad track through Mundaring. It was an exciting day with Mark nearly rolling it on a deeply rutted section of track in his Landrover Discovery. Later on he rolled backwards attempting a steep incline that the Hilux had just driven up, damaging the rear of his car and requiring a pull from the Hilux to get out. Although I’m the first to admit that a Toyota Hilux is a superior off road vehicle in every possible way, in this case it’s down to diff locker vs traction control. The Hilux makes it through smoothly and easily with a rear diff locker whilst the Landrover hesitates due to traction control. Check out the videos below the photos.
Further excitement was had when the dude with the Ford Courier broke a few of his engine mounts. The Hilux didn’t get off scot-free either with some nice new dents added to the already bent up side steps plus a good dent on the fuel tank. This sort of off roading is not something you want to be doing too often unless you have very deep pockets! I think I’ll stick to the much tamer bush tracks that take me to camping and fishing spots.
I replaced the rear suspension bushes a few weeks ago but the front bushes were still those that we originally set off with on our trip around Australia about 45,000km ago. Although there were no handling issues with the front end of the Hilux I thought I better take the front struts out and have a look since collapsed bushes have lead to strut failure with the bottom stem of the strut shearing right off.
Turns out the front bushes were partially collapsed. A few thousand kms of corrugations will do it. So I bought myself a new set of bushes, strapped the struts to the back of the bike and rode down to the local mechanic to have the bushes changed out (special equipment is needed to press the bushes out of / into the strut). Then got home and slapped it all back together ready for the next camping mission.
After an overnight at Towns River, we continued our journey on Savannah Way south on Nathan River Road. This part of the trip got interesting, with some areas having received heavy rainfall making the track pretty wet and slippery. We had to pass through many muddy puddles, including a few long, deep pools that had us holding our breath as the car lost speed and bogged down in the thick mud before barely making it to the other side. We had a look at Maria Lagoon and the Limmen River Fishing Camp on the banks of the lagoon. The track to the fishing camp was pretty bad. The main Nathan River Road is constructed with camber and gutters and gravel to help resist water, whereas the track to Maria Lagoon and the Limmen River Fishing Camp is just pushed straight through the dirt, becoming pretty muddy when wet. We had a look at Butterfly Springs camping area and rock pool but decided to push on as the rock pool had not received enough water to flush out the stagnant water from the end of the dry so wasn’t good for swimming. It’s much better just after the wet. We passed an airstrip with a steel bull mailbox complete with large bull package, stopped for a photo, then continued to the Lost City camping area. Here we walked the trail through the lost city as the sun began to set, bringing out the red colour of the sandstone pillars, then retired for the evening.
The ultimate sand driving guide. This is my tour de force. This might be the reason I was put on this Earth. Read it here.