Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

Palm Valley from Alice Springs

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We took a tour to Palm Valley in a very large 4 wheel drive vehicle. It held 25 passengers.

Our first stop was at  the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct.  First we stopped for tea and scones.  We stopped for tea and scones

The driver encouraged us to also purchase apple strudel because they are known for having the recipe from one of the German missionaries.

The first Aboriginal Mission in the northern Territory, was established by the Lutheran Church in 1877 on the traditional lands of the Western Aranda people. The Mission was revitalized by Pastor Carl Strehlow from 1894 to 1922.  Below are some photos of the buildings that remain.

The Old Church at Hermannsburg Historic Precinct

School House at Hermannsburg Historic Precinct

On the chalkboard in the school-house was written:

Counting in Arranda:

nyinta = 1   tharra = 2  Tharra-ma-mynta = 3

All that is beyond 3 is called a mob

Mortuary and Correspondence School

Water tank and meat house

We learned about Albert Namatjira.  Because I think this is a significant story, I  am going to repeat it.

Albert was one of Australia’s great artists, and perhaps the best known Aboriginal painter. His western style  landscapes – different to traditional Aboriginal art, made him famous. Fame led to Albert and his wife becoming the first Aborigines to be granted Australian citizenship. It was a significant achievement, because at this time Aborigines had few.

Albert Namatjira was a celebrity, but not always a comfortable one. It was always a relief for him to leave the big smoke and return to his desert home. Success brought money – and Albert planned to use it to secure a future for his family. He wanted to lease a cattle station – but as an Aborigine he wasn’t allowed.

Next he tried to build a house in Alice Springs. Once again the law prevented him, just because he was Aboriginal.  It was a strange situation. Here was a man, heralded as a top artist, treated like a celebrity and yet not even allowed to own land.

Public outrage at Albert’s predicament pushed the government to grant him and his wife full citizenship in 1957. This meant they could vote, enter a hotel and build a house anywhere they chose. It took ten years for the government to grant similar rights to the rest of the Aboriginal population.

As a citizen Albert Namatjira could now also buy alcohol. In keeping with Aboriginal custom, Albert’s friends expected him to share any alcohol he bought. But in doing this he broke white man’s laws. In 1958, police charged Albert with supplying alcohol to Aboriginal people. He denied the charge, but the court didn’t believe him. After two months in prison, Albert emerged a free, but broken man. He had lost his will to paint, and to live. Albert Namatjira died in 1959. He was just fifty-seven years old.

Albert Namatjira’s life and work have inspired other Aboriginal people to paint. Among them have been his children and grand-children  This great painter captured Australia’s heart in artwork and was praised around the world. His life showed white Australians the injustice of racist laws, and contributed to long overdue changes for his people.

The Aboriginal People were not give the right to vote until 1962.

Here is one of his painting taken from the web.

Albert Namatjira was a great painter.

We drove onto the riverbed of the Fink River which is dry.  The road was very bumpy.  The driver told us about buffelgrass was introduced in the 50s as cattle feed and to control dust.  It burns at 300 C. which is too hot to burn all of the seeds.buffelgrass is also significantly more flammable in creek beds than the soft native grasses. This can fuel very hot fires which damage River Red Gums and other trees. Prior to the introduction of buffelgrass, sandy creek beds acted as firebreaks but now the opposite is occurring. Buffel-infested watercourses provide channels for spreading fires rather than stopping them.  It has now been declared a weed in Southern Australia.

This is Buffel Grass

After a while we stopped for lunch.  We took a walk around the area and took some photos.  Then we continued up the river bed which was now extremely bumpy.  The driver did a great job of going slowly over the bumps in the road, but the vehicle still bounced and bounced and bounced.

Here are some photos of the road.

The road up the Fink Riverbedroad-shots-2  At the end  of the road, 6 of us took a 2 km hike.

Usually this area is very dry.  But lately there has been an unusual amount of rain.  Because of the rain we were able to see many more flowers than usual.  During this trip, I met Mary and she knew the names of so many of the flowers.  I tried to take notes as we walked, but I dunno (that is another new Australian phrase that I have learned) if I have the names of the flowers correct, but here goes my best attempt.  Some of them I just can’t remember so there are no names.

This is a flower collage.

This s a collage of flowers

Here is some information about the Rosie Doc and the Spinifex.

Mary calls the Rosie Doc a weed.  In America we tend to call any flowers that we don’t want in our gardens a weed.  Mary calls the Rosie Doc a weed because it is not native and it spreads a lot.

Except for some Spinifex which are actually soft, Spinifex a tough, spiky tussock grass.  It supports the entire eco-system, binding the soil and Spiky Spinifex provides a good home for many desert lizards, snakes, birds and small mammals.  Aboriginal people eat the tops as a grain, and extract resin which occurs at the base of the stems and use it as an adhesive, mainly for attaching stone cutting chips to wooden implements such as spears.  I know there is more that I don’t remember.

More plants:

This is a plant collage.

Now for the main plants that we came to Palm Valley to see:


Cyads grow only in the central Australia ranges, although other forms of cycad are from elsewhere in Australia. These cycads grow mainly on Rocky slopes where they get some of the shelter from the hot sun, and where the roots can penetrate deep into moisture trapping rock crevices.

Chads are also a very slow-growing plants. It’s trunk consists of the densely packed remains of every leaf the plant ever grew. By counting these leaf bases, scientist estimate that some of the local cycads are 200 and 300 years old. So some of these individuals were alive and have  been growing here even before Capt. Cook landed in Australia in 1770.  The species have been here since the dinosaur era.

Reproduction of the Cyads.

Below male cycad root is a blue-green algae which stays at a constant 30 centigrade.  Little grubs live way down in the root algae.  Sometimes the male Cyad raises the temperature of the algae and it doesn’t like warm. So it leaves through the root and through the flower moves to another cycad.  If  it finds a female Cyad where temperature is 29 C to 31 C it stays for a while then it  leaves and goes back to hopefully a male.  This takes a very long time.  Somehow, this is how new Cyads are born.


This is a Cyad.

Version 2

Central Australian Red Cabbage Palm:  Remember we were in the Palm Valley.

  • Occurs only around this park
  • Only Palm in Central Australia and is separated by 1000 Km from it’s closest relatives. They occur in groves over an area of 60 square km in the Park and neighboring land. These groves placed side-by-side would only cover an area of around one square kilometer. There are no other of these palms naturally occurring in central Australia. After a good season, each mature palm produces numerous seeds, many of which germinate. But many young palms don’t survive to become mature trees. In the past, horses and people eroded the soil at Palm Valley so many seeds were damaged or washed away in the floods. Since the palms are now protected by the Park from threats, the population of adult palms appears to be more stable. Management and volunteers are working to remove introduced grasses from around the palms which gives young seedlings more opportunity to grow.Buffel
  • A unique set of circumstances gives the palm and other plants around this area access to a huge store of underground water. These unique conditions occur over about two kilometers of this creek bed. Permanent water and protection have created a safe haven for the palms.
    • The narrow valley is protected from the drying winds and raging floodwaters
    • Rainwater is soaked up by the sandstone hills and is slowly release through the layers of rock to provide a permanent supply for the plants.
    • The creek-bed has stable deposits of silt for the palms shallow roots to grow.

The Cyads and Central Australian Red Cabbage Palms live side by side but are millions of years apart.

Now for some photos of the rock formations in Palm Valley:

Palm Valley Formations

Our driver took us directly to Campfire at the Heart where we will be participating in a Monk’s and Mystic’s Dance workshop.  I met Rose’s friends and a couple new people at the fabulous dinner that David had prepared.  I am looking forward to learning about Interplay when the workshop begins tomorrow.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

One thought on “Palm Valley from Alice Springs

  1. I am so enjoying your posts, pictures and stories. Thank-you for taking the time to take me “traveling” with you……


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