A Wild Ped­der BUSH­WALK­ING and KAYAK­ING AD­VEN­TURE through Tasmania’s south-west is a CHANCE TO FEEL at home in the WILDER­NESS.

Australian Traveller - - Contents -

Tasmania’s south-west by foot and by kayak.

YEL­LOW GUM, MYRTLE and megafauna. Le­mon-scented boro­nia and eco­tone. Un­der­story, over­story and creep­ing straw­berry pine. Gnarled pen­cil pines and twisted tarns. As Lou and Cody lead us through Mount Field Na­tional Park, I pluck words from their com­men­tary be­cause I like the way they sound – po­etic and pleas­ingly self-de­scrip­tive – but the pic­ture they build is of some­thing re­mark­able. I’m on a Wild Ped­der ad­ven­ture tour through Tasmania’s south­west wilder­ness, and day one sees our small group warm­ing up with a bush­walk through an­cient land­scapes of lush tem­per­ate rain­for­est, alpine moor­land and moun­tain lakes. In win­ter, the state’s old­est na­tional park is home to pop­u­lar ski fields, but by the time Wild Ped­der’s sea­son be­gins in Novem­ber the snow has melted to re­veal pris­tine scenery that looks much like it would have when Aus­tralia was part of Gond­wana. This cor­ner of the coun­try is a per­fect snapshot of how Tasmania re­lates to the su­per­con­ti­nent that once com­prised the land­masses of the south­ern hemi­sphere. We walk through myr­tles, the dom­i­nant tree species then, and pass large tree ferns whose name, dick­so­nia antarc­tica, re­flects how they have been un­earthed, fos­silised, in Antarc­tica. Up on the Tarn Shelf – an oth­er­worldly ex­panse of boul­der frag­ments and moun­tain lakes carved by glacial ac­tiv­ity – an ecosys­tem ex­ists that has man­aged to re­main rel­a­tively un­changed since the su­per­con­ti­nent be­gan break­ing up 180 mil­lion years ago. We spot an in­nocu­ous-look­ing Tas­ma­nian moun­tain shrimp float­ing translu­cently in a tarn; it rep­re­sents a liv­ing fos­sil whose clos­est rel­a­tives ex­isted in the Tri­as­sic pe­riod, some 250 mil­lion years ago. In au­tumn, you can visit Mount Field to see the leaves of the fa­gus, Aus­tralia’s only cold cli­mate win­ter-de­cid­u­ous tree, turn bright

red, or­ange and gold. It’s so mag­i­cal that a fes­ti­val is held in its hon­our. But for now the colours are bush­land shades of green and brown, il­lu­mi­nated by the sun and con­trasted against the bril­liant blue of sky and lake. We cover 15 kilo­me­tres at a leisurely pace and breathe in the land and its lega­cies. It’s the per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to this re­mote area of Tasmania’s south-west wilder­ness: part of the Tas­ma­nian Wilder­ness World Her­itage Area that en­com­passes a greater range of nat­u­ral and cul­tural val­ues than any other re­gion on the planet. We’re an hour and a half from Ho­bart but a world away, and over four days we will en­gage with the en­vi­ron­ment out here in all its di­ver­sity and from all an­gles. We kayak Lake Ped­der and learn about its sto­ried his­tory. Once a 10-square-kilo­me­tre glacial lake, it was flooded in 1972 for Tasmania’s Mid­dle Gor­don hy­dro­elec­tric scheme, to great con­tro­versy. The bit­ter de­bate that sur­rounded this in­ter­ven­tion on the nat­u­ral land­scape trig­gered Aus­tralia’s move to­wards en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness: it was the flood­ing of Lake Ped­der that gave rise to the United Tasmania Group – the first Green po­lit­i­cal party in the world. Our jour­ney takes us 16 kilo­me­tres through in­un­dated gorges as we fol­low the orig­i­nal course of the Ser­pen­tine River and spill into where the old lake – once fringed by an un­spoilt golden sand beach – lies be­low. We climb and clam­ber up the ex­posed face of Mount El­iza for a chal­lenge and an in­cred­i­ble per­spec­tive on the dra­matic land­scape. We scale the floor of the Floren­tine Val­ley, where the Tas­ma­nian swamp gums grow tall and the last thy­lacine was cap­tured in 1933. And of course, a trip to Tasmania wouldn’t be com­plete with­out fine lo­cal food and wine, and the Ped­der Wilder­ness Lodge – lo­cated in the midst of it all – pro­vides this in abun­dance each evening. And when the ex­pe­ri­ence ends and we wind our way back to Ho­bart, we stop at a Der­went Val­ley vine­yard for a tour, a tast­ing and one last chance to soak it all in. Helmed by Lou Bal­combe and Cody McCracken, Wild Ped­der is ev­ery­thing an ad­ven­ture tour op­er­a­tor should be: a pro­fes­sional out­fit born out of friend­ship – the pair met at a house party when Cody set up his swag on Lou’s garage roof – and a pas­sion for the work it­self. Their sig­na­ture Ped­der Ex­pe­ri­ence is less like a guided group tour and more like a bush­walk with friends, and helps you feel en­tirely at home in the wilder­ness. Over a glass of pinot noir at the lodge, watch­ing the weather roll in over Lake Ped­der, they tell me how it all be­gan. Lou and Cody’s friend­ship for­ti­fied dur­ing their time guid­ing along the Bay of Fires. Rostered on an un­prece­dented num­ber of tours to­gether, their rap­port was in­fec­tious: it wasn’t long be­fore they re­solved to go out on their own. The seed for this par­tic­u­lar wilder­ness tour was planted after an op­por­tu­nity arose to com­bine an ad­ven­ture with high-qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Ped­der Wilder­ness Lodge, an old hy­dro set-up in Strath­gor­don; orig­i­nally built to ser­vice the station’s work­ers, it was re­opened un­der a new guise in 2015. Un­fa­mil­iar with the ter­ri­tory, the mates ven­tured south-west to ex­plore. “Once we got out here and saw how in­cred­i­bly rugged and beau­ti­ful it was, it piqued our in­ter­est,” says Lou. “And then as we started learn­ing the sto­ries

about the lake we be­came more in­vested emo­tion­ally; it started to draw us in.” And though they point out that they’re not the first tourism op­er­a­tors to have worked in the area, Lou and Cody had found a niche. “I think it’s pretty rare on this earth that you can find what feels like a pocket to your­self,” Cody says. “And it sort of felt like that.” The pair spent a sum­mer here to hash out the itin­er­ary that would be­come the Ped­der Ex­pe­ri­ence. “We’d come out for four or five days at a time,” says Lou. “We’d pick a moun­tain, hike the trail, take notes, get muddy, get wet, get ex­hausted.” Cody cor­rob­o­rates: “It wasn’t just about im­mers­ing our­selves in the knowl­edge of the area. It was about im­mers­ing our­selves quite lit­er­ally in the mud and peat of the south-west.” The weather here is mer­cu­rial and the land­scape not al­ways for­giv­ing; that’s where the wild comes in. Whereas we kayak in a squall – rain lash­ing our cheeks while we pad­dle into a cross­wind (it’s in­vig­o­rat­ing), stop­ping for a break in a shel­tered rain­for­est pocket to drink warm­ing chai tea – other trips might see kayak­ers sun­bak­ing and swim­ming dur­ing their pic­nic lunch stop on a Wil­mot Is­land beach. As a busi­ness, Wild Ped­der is still young and guests ben­e­fit from the heart, soul and hard work its owner-op­er­a­tors pour into it, work­ing across its ev­ery as­pect: “We’re go­ing to be the re­cep­tion­ist on the end of the line and the per­son scrub­bing down the gaiters at the end of the trip,” says Cody. “We’re buy­ing all the food, hand­pick­ing the av­o­ca­dos...” Their pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion gets un­der your skin in the same way the com­mand­ing beauty of the south-west wilder­ness does. And for them, be­ing able to show vis­i­tors this time­less part of the world makes all the ef­fort worth it, ev­ery time. “Imag­ine some­one get­ting off the plane – from Syd­ney, Mel­bourne, Bris­bane,” says Cody. “They’ve gone to bed that night and wo­ken up the next day to be picked up in the dark from Ho­bart. Then all of a sud­den they’re at Mount Field walk­ing among the pan­dani – these an­cient plants – in the mid­story and the beau­ti­ful pen­cil pines in the over­story; there’s a tran­quil stream carv­ing its way through the fore­ground and am­bi­ent light pierc­ing its way through the canopy. And in that mo­ment it all clicks, it all feels worth­while; you un­der­stand why you do it. And that’s just the be­gin­ning of the trip.”

As a busi­ness, Wild Ped­der is still young and guests ben­e­fit from the heart, soul and hard work its owner-op­er­a­tors pour into it.

FROM LEFT: Boul­der scram­bling to­wards the sum­mit of Mount El­iza; Walk through a land­scape of moun­tain lakes at Mount Field Na­tional Park .

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A visit to Mead­ow­bank vine­yard makes for a re­ward­ing wind down; Colours of the Floren­tine Val­ley; End each day re­lax­ing in a cosy com­mu­nal re­treat at Ped­der Wilder­ness Lodge; An old alpine hut sits at the edge of Twi­light Tarn; No trip to Tasmania is com­plete with­out a drop of lo­cal wine. OP­PO­SITE: A pit stop on Mount Field’s Tarn Shelf.

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