With a day to spare and experience with a 4WD, following the Finke river bed from Hermannsburg down to the Ernest Giles Road offers an adventurous alternative to the highway and saves some backtracking. Rewards include stark gorge scenery, a reliable waterhole and the likelihood that you’ll have it all to yourself. Before you set off, check the road conditions. On the route follow the small signs for “Kings Canyon”.
The 100km track starts immediately south of Hermannsburg. After 10km of corrugated road you descend into the river bed. From here on driving is slow, along a pair of sandy or pebbly ruts – you should deflate your tyres to at least 25psi/1.7bar and keep in the ruts to minimize the risk of getting stuck. The sole designated campsite is at Boggy Hole, much nicer than it sounds and almost two hours (28.5km) from Hermannsburg. The campsite looks out from beneath river red gums to permanent reed-fringed waterholes, best seen at dawn as the sunlight creeps across the gorge and the ponds are alive with birdlife.
Beyond Boggy Hole, the track crisscrosses rather than follows the river bed before taking a roller-coaster ride to the Giles Road across some low dunes thinly wooded with desert oaks – beware of oncoming traffic on blind crests. Boggy Hole to the Giles Road is 65km, so allow at least three hours.