We left Glen Helen Homestead (in the West MacDonnell Ranges) and travelled to Hermannsberg with our final destination to be Palm Valley Campground in the Finke Gorge National Park.
We casually packed up the camper and D-Man enjoyed playing with a big group of new ‘camping friends’. There were 11 kids in total including our two. All the other kids were southerners hailing from various Melbourne suburbs.
By the time we had packed up and said our goodbyes and well wishes for safe travels, we were on the road by about 10:45am. We arrived in Hermannsberg around 1pm after a stop to visit Albert Namajira’s childhood home just outside of town. Sadly the signage at the property was unreadable, but the house was in pretty good nick considering. We had some phone coverage – the first time in more than a week – so we checked voicemail and called the family who were a little worried about our whereabouts (we had expected mobile phone coverage in the main tourist areas, but alas it was not to be).
As we drove into Hermannsberg it seemed everyone was out to watch the footy. We think it was a local comp between community teams. We beelined for the Historic village and wandered through the old settlement buildings learning more about Lutheran Mission established here back in the late 1800s. There was a school rooms, church, blacksmith, kitchen, meat house, water tanks, and homes. We even stopped for an afternoon high tea of sorts with tea and scones. They were delicious and the building (previously a home to one of the pastors I think) reminded me of a couple of the old pubs I visited in Germany many moons ago. Anyway, I am digressing. But by now it was mid arvo and we needed to make tracks to Palm Valley campground, which is about an hour’s 4WD drive away.
Needless to say we rushed the 4WD route into Palm Valley and completely missed the turnoff to the campground! We ploughed on past the sign indicating not camper trailers or caravans past this point and onto the ‘high clearance 4WDs only’ section of the track.
As the track turned from sandy and pebbly, we entered boulder-hopping territory along with deep sandy ruts. We thought it was odd, but there really was no where to turn around and back-track. The only way out was forward. Then just as we slowly edged down a large drop in the rocks scraping the van in the process, we rounded a bend and instead of taking the boulder side on the right, we went left into a sandy section. Needless to say, with 1.2 tonnes off the back we quickly became stuck.
We got the Treds under a couple of the wheels, but nothing. We found boulders to help too. Still nothing… unless downward movement counts?
Red was screaming now. He wanted out… of his seat that is! D-Man wanted to get out to ‘help’ too.
With sand almost up to the running boards on pretty much all four tyres, there was no other choice. We had to wind out the winch and hope like hell that the dead tree in front of us will hold!
As the revs rose, sand flew, smoke billowed and the smell of diesel wafted in the air, the tree and winch pulled the Prado and Harry out of the bog. Thank goodness. All up it set us back about 45 minutes.
Slowly we pushed onward taking plenty of time to negotiate the boulders. Red and I walked ahead and checked the tracks, but when there was a steep boulder hop or drop down The Husband inspected and chose the best track. Watching all those 4WDing shows has obviously paid off.
When we finally got to the end of the ‘road’ we were absolutely devastated to find nothing but the starting point for… walks. Not. A. Bloody. Campground. In. Sight!
We briefly contemplated pulling up stumps right there for the night, but since we were sitting atop undulating boulders, we decided it best to back track and aim to find the campground by dusk.
The return journey was a little better – we at least knew where not to go this time! But I must say I have never been more nervous in my life and silently prayed that we made it to camp incident free. At one point The Husband caught a glimpse of me – eyes closed, lips pursed and hands tight – and burst out laughing! “I’ve finally found something that I can pay you out about,” he jibed referring to me always being miffed at his fear of flying.
Soon we passed by our dead tree savior, rounded the bend and were finally back onto the 4WD track that was actually designed for trailers.
Just as the sun was setting we were winding down the jockey wheel, unhitching the Prado, and winding up Harry.
But I still wasn’t so sure we would be doing any more 4WDing.