Travellers looking to explore unique landscapes that have hardly been touched by modern development could do worse than to head for the Northern Territory’s Finke Gorge National Park.
The rare Australian Cabbage Palm is abundant in the verdant Palm Valley section of the park. Lunar-like terrain and cliffs, unique sandstone formations and scenic waterholes are the other major draws.
Finke Gorge is 140kms to the west of Alice Springs. The first part of the journey follows the paved Larapinta Drive. The last 15km-stretch of the route from close to Hermannsburg requires travellers to drive along the Finke River course.
The riverbed is treacherous after heavy rainfall, but can be navigated most of the year with 4WD vehicles.
Several travel agents in Alice Springs operate single and multi-day trips to the park. Intrepid travellers can camp at designated camp places.
There is also a campsite at Finke Gorge National Park which has basic facilities such as showers, toilets and barbecue pits.
There are no waste-bins and visitors are required to take out what they bring in.
There are a number of interesting walks in Finke Gorge National Park. Those on daytrips are usually restricted to the short Arankaia Trail or the longer five-kilometre Mpulungkinya Trail from Palm Valley.
Walking the Mpaara route takes in the noted amphitheatre sandstone rocks. A 20-minute climb up to the Kalaranga viewpoint gives commanding views of the amphitheatre.
Camping at the national park is convenient for those making the journey farther down to Watarrka via the Illamurta Springs. Travellers gather around campfires at the fire-pits in the evening. Independent visitors will need to collect firewood before entering the park as there is a ban on picking it up inside.
Staying overnight at the park provides the rare opportunity of gazing at clear, starry skies and communing with nature at its finest.