Wild by na­ture

Ex­pe­ri­ence the mar­vel of Tas­ma­nia’s re­born Lake Ped­der

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - MATTHEW DENHOLM

Be­fore me lies a vast, serene lake so ex­pan­sive that its scale can be com­pre­hended only from the lofti­est van­tage points, and so calm that its tan­nin-stained wa­ter mir­rors sur­round­ing gi­ant quartzite peaks.

In Europe or North Amer­ica, a mar­vel such as this — Lake Ped­der, in the Tas­ma­nian Wilder­ness World Her­itage Area — would be much vis­ited, and prob­a­bly much de­vel­oped. In­stead, this stun­ning 242sq km lake in South­west Tas­ma­nia is largely ig­nored. In a day’s kayak­ing we barely see an­other soul. In­stead of be­ing a ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion, it seems to be a source of re­gret and dis­cord. For, as many Aus­tralians over a cer­tain age will know, Lake Ped­der as I ad­mire it to­day is not the lake that ex­isted be­fore 1972, when a hy­dro­elec­tric scheme drowned the orig­i­nal, rel­a­tively small glacial lake, to cre­ate a wa­ter body 24 times larger.

The loss of that orig­i­nal, glob­ally unique lake — and its 3km long, al­most 1km wide, pink quartzite beach, cre­ated by glacia­tion 10,000 years ago — re­mains a run­ning sore in the is­land state. Some still en­ter­tain thoughts of drain­ing what they de­ride as “Fake Ped­der”, to re­veal the “true Ped­der” and its beach, which by all ac­counts lies in­tact be­low 12m of wa­ter.

So it is with sur­prise that I learn a new guided walk­ing and kayak­ing op­er­a­tion has cho­sen Lake Ped­der as the cen­tre­piece of its four-day ex­pe­ri­ence, and as the in­spi­ra­tion for its busi­ness name. Wild Ped­der, owned and op­er­ated by two ex­pe­ri­enced lo­cal wilder­ness guides, Cody McCracken and Lou Bal­combe, is based around a lodge on the lake’s shores, at Strath­gor­don, a once thriv­ing town for dam builders now largely re­claimed by bush. The ac­com­mo­da­tion is com­fort­able and the evening meals — fo­cused on fresh lo­cal pro­duce and match­ing wines, and con­sumed over­look­ing the lake — are su­perb.

But it’s on the sec­ond day of the trip, sit­ting in a kayak, drink­ing wa­ter di­rectly from the lake in which I’m pad­dling, that I first be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty and won­der of the much-de­rided man­made Ped­der. Its scale, how­ever of­fen­sive to some, is im­pres­sive. We spend the best part of a day pad­dling to and from one of the lake’s many is­lands, Wil­mot, and yet are only re­ally tin­ker­ing in one cor­ner.

The pad­dling is easy in per­fectly calm, warm con­di­tions. This al­lows us more time to gaze at the olive and brown but­ton­grass shores, ris­ing to the knuck­led peaks of the Fran­k­land Range and the even more im­pos­ing sum­mits fur­ther afield.

Is­lands of myr­iad shapes and sizes in­vite ex­plo­ration. Some, like Wil­mot, where we halt for a pic­nic lunch and short bush walk, fea­ture daz­zling white quartzite peb­ble beaches, formed since 1972 by the lap­ping wa­ter erod­ing the soil and peat at the new wa­ter­line. Th­ese may be a shadow of the “old” Ped­der beach but are still a joy upon which to laze, while rest­ing pad­dling arms and study­ing the ex­pan­sive vis­tas. Lunch is con­jured mirac­u­lously by Lou and Cody from the depths of their back­packs, lo­cal cheeses and hot smoked salmon sup­ple­ment­ing less ex­otic moun­tain breads and dips.

On the slopes of Mount El­iza above Lake Ped­der, top; rem­nants of the past while hik­ing, left;

Eu­ca­lyp­tus reg­nans on the Adams­field track, right

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