Hik­ing Lake Ped­der is a hid­den Tas­ma­nian gem.

Lake Ped­der’s ori­gins were bathed in con­tro­versy and head­lines, but these days it’s some­thing of a hid­den Tas­ma­nian gem.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - NOVEMBER - Words AN­DREW BAIN

Thirty-five years ago, the Tas­ma­nian geo­graph­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal land­scape changed for­ever when Lake Ped­der was dammed. It was a heav­ily protested act that’s been cred­ited with the birth of the world’s first Green po­lit­i­cal party and the cre­ation of one of Tas­ma­nia’s largest lakes.

There are many peo­ple who still be­moan the loss of Lake Ped­der’s fa­mous pinks and beach, but to out­door guides Cody McCracken and Lou Bal­combe, there’s so much still to love. “In these in­un­dated gorges, you could be in the Nor­we­gian fiords,” says McCracken as we kayak across the lake’s dark wa­ters.

Last sum­mer, McCracken and Bal­combe cre­ated Wild Ped­der, one of Tas­ma­nia’s new­est ad­ven­ture of­fer­ings — a four-day bush­walk­ing and kayak­ing jour­ney around this strik­ing lake of­ten over­looked by vis­i­tors to Tas­ma­nia.

As we pad­dle across the glass-smooth wa­ters, there’s no one else in sight. “If the orig­i­nal Lake Ped­der was still here, there’d prob­a­bly be peo­ple ev­ery­where,” says Bal­combe. “There’d be Cra­dle Moun­tain, Wine­glass Bay and Lake Ped­der as Tassie’s great nat­u­ral at­trac­tions.”

Through this day spent kayak­ing, and our three days hik­ing the sur­round­ing val­leys and moun­tains, it be­comes clear that the area’s nat­u­ral story is even more com­pelling than its hu­man story.

Lake Ped­der sits in­side one of the most sig­nif­i­cant World Her­itage sites in the world, with the Tas­ma­nian Wilder­ness World Her­itage Area be­ing one of only two places to meet seven of the 10 cri­te­ria for her­itage list­ing.

Hik­ers pass un­der­neath the tallest flow­er­ing trees known to man, then rise into the stun­ning con­trast of bon­sai-like alpine gar­dens that are so per­fect and colour­ful they ap­pear cul­ti­vated.

Gla­cially carved val­leys pro­tect plant species that have re­mained un­changed for al­most 200 mil­lion years. It’s as though time it­self has been sucked from the land­scape, re­turn­ing the earth back to its primeval ori­gins.

Each new day of hik­ing in­tro­duces us to a dif­fer­ent land­scape in the sur­rounds of the lake. On the first day, the route weaves among a speck­led line of alpine lakes on the Tarn Shelf, a nar­row bench of land in Mt Field Na­tional Park that’s more blue than green on a map.

An­other day you’ll wan­der through The Lost World- like at­mos­phere of the Floren­tine Val­ley, where con­ser­va­tion bat­tles have long raged and where the last Tas­ma­nian tiger was cap­tured in 1933.

But, even here, the hu­man story comes to feel se­condary as you walk over a shag-pile car­pet of moss, and be­neath a sky that’s ob­scured by

gi­ant moun­tain ash trees, a species which can reach as high as 100 me­tres tall.

The most chal­leng­ing walk­ing day comes with Mt El­iza, where a re­lent­less 1200-me­tre climb rises to one of the finest van­tage points in Tas­ma­nia. The fi­nal as­cent to the broad sum­mit is tricky and gym­nas­tic — a scram­ble up cliffs and through boul­der fields — but the re­ward for the ef­fort is im­mense.

One of Tas­ma­nia’s most dra­matic peaks, Mt Anne, rises im­me­di­ately over­head, and Lake Ped­der is pooled far be­low. Across Mt El­iza’s sum­mit plateau, a stunted cover of en­demic Tas­ma­nian alpine plants — pan­dani, cush­ion plants and sco­paria — bloom into a pal­ette of colours in sum­mer.

By the time we hike back off the moun­tain, even the long south­ern sum­mer day is al­most at its con­clu­sion.

“It is a chal­leng­ing trip,” ex­plains McCracken. “We like to think of it as a mini-Iron­man. It’s an ad­ven­ture trip with some com­forts at the end of the day.”

Those com­forts come at the Ped­der Wilder­ness Lodge, with rooms over­look­ing the lake, and pri­vate three- to four-course din­ners which fea­ture tasty dishes along the lines of cur­ried mus­sels with water­melon, eel re­moulade with beet­root chips, and pork belly with scal­lops.

Slot­ted be­tween the hikes on the jour­ney is a day of kayak­ing that seems to en­cap­su­late the trip.

With the wa­ters of the lake laid out around you as flat as a ho­tel bed sheet, you’ll pad­dle be­tween the moun­tains and also through the skele­tal limbs that re­main of in­un­dated forests.

Once the for­est clears, there re­mains the ghost-like me­mory of the fa­mous pink beach, but in its place gleam dozens of white-quartzite beaches where you can nose your kayak ashore for swims or just to laze about in the shal­lows, cel­e­brat­ing this fa­mous lake for what it was — but also for what it is to­day. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about Wild Ped­der’s four-day trips cen­tred on Lake Ped­der, visit www.wildped­der.com.au.

GET­TING THERE TO BOOK YOUR FLIGHT TO HO­BART, VISIT WWW. VIR­GINAUS­TRALIA.COM OR CALL 13 67 89 (IN AUS­TRALIA).

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT The mir­ror-like sur­face of Lake Ped­der; hik­ers pass­ing through batwing ferns in the Floren­tine Val­ley; kayak­ing will def­i­nitely be on the agenda at Wild Ped­der. PRE­VI­OUS PAGE, CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP Lake Ped­der’s jaw-drop­ping land­scape; Cra­dle Moun­tain Na­tional Park is also pop­u­lar with hik­ers; view nat­u­ral wildlife such as echid­nas.

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