DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
This unique travel experience is a drive-yourself, or passenger trip from Hermannsburg, down the ancient Finke River Gorge to Palm Valley and return. Doing the trip in an ATV is a much more fresh-air excursion than in a 4WD.
The Finke River bed is the oldest continuously-operating river bed on earth, which fact alone makes it worth visiting. On top of that, the Finke Gorge contains Palm Valley, a palm-tree-lined oasis in this arid landscape.
We’ve visited Palm Valley many times and it never fails to impress. However, in recent years it’s become yet another 4WD-crowded site. Camping there is more squeeze than the front seat of a Fuso Canter and the corrugated track into the Valley is almost bumper to bumper at school holiday times.
Fortunately, there’s an escape from the bottleneck: an ATV visit to Palm Valley, via the actual riverbed, not the trafficked gravel road.
Finke River Adventures is the brainchild of local resident Brenton Schild, who has lived and worked in Central Australia for many years. We’ve summarised his latest business initiative in our Tours section of this website.
So there we were, stepping out of Brenton’s ‘Benz Vito luxury minibus, at his FRA HQ in Hermannsburg, some 130km from Alice Springs. While we sipped his barista-quality flat whites, he rolled out three Can-Am ATVs, or ‘side-by-sides’ as they’re also known. These vehicles aren’t simple quads, but have roll cages, seat belts and seating for four in individual bucket seats.
After a briefing on the day’s planned excursion and a run-through on vehicle operation it was helmet-fitting time. Then everyone mounted up and obeyed the CB radio call to ‘start your engines’.
The Rotax engines burst into life with plenty of appropriate noise and it was simply a matter of selecting forward gear and away we went: no clutch or ratio changes to worry about. Even novices to driving these left hand drive agricultural machines adapted quickly and it was a case of smiles all around.
The three-Can-Am convoy roared out of Hermannsburg, crossed Larapinta Drive and headed straight for the sandy and rocky riverbed of the Finke. We were immediately impressed with the dynamic safety of these little beasts, as their four-wheel independent suspension and low-pressure off-road tyres coped
happily with undulations and tight turns.
Fresh air blew around our helmeted heads and it was wonderful to be able to look around at the red rock and spinifex scenery as we bounced along, unconcerned by traffic. Brenton chimed in on the Cb whenever there was a hazard and puled up several times for a chat about the country and its Aboriginal cultural
His intimate knowledge of Finke Gorge geology and history is a significant reason in why he has been entrusted with this exclusive tour route through Aboriginal land.
After a morning tea stop we entered Finke Gorge National Park and shared the entry track to Palm Valley with conventional 4WD vehicles. The nimbleness and rock climbing capability of the Can-Ams drew envious looks from bystanders and kids waved enthusiastically.
Our convoy crew included two sub-teen boys, who rated the drive at, “100 out of 10!”.
Brenton hosted a one-hour informative walk through the flatter sections of Palm Valley, before heading to a picnic hut for a slap-up lunch of sangers, rolls and cake.
The return drive to Hermannsburg was quicker, as Brenton encouraged some slightly ‘lead-foot’ behaviour through the soft sand.
Back at Hermannsburg, all participants shared their exploits and praised Fink River Adventures’ initiative. Would they do it again? You bet. Would we? Absolutely.
Somehow, Kezzie managed to hold the video camera tight enough to get some great footage. Check it out