Lake Pedder

A lot has happened since the last blog almost 5 months ago.

We returned from our big oversees trip without catching covid. Jenni went to a works event and caught covid. We built a house. We built a fence. We added a deck. We added a sauna. I got my 4th covid jab. I caught covid a week later. We worked all over the Christmas and New Year break and then, first week of January we went on a trip to Lake Pedder in South West Tasmania. This is the story of that trip.

The house, deck (in progress) and fence

Ever since I first came to Tasmania I have wanted to go to Lake Pedder. It is a wild and beautiful region in the much less often visited South West. We had planned to go several times but it always got called off or bumped for something else. This Chistmas Jenni got me 2 nights, 3 days in Lake Pedder at the Pedder Wilderness Lodge for my Christmas present. There’ll be a bit on what I got Jenni for Christmas at the end of this blog if you make it.

Strathgordon

Strathgordon is a rural municipality in the South West of Tasmania. It is remote, even by Tasmanian standards. It is 144km from Tasmania at the end of the long road to Gordon Dam. The nearest proper town is 57Kms away. At the last census there were 16 people living there. It was the company town for the crew and families that were building the dams for Hydro Tasmania at Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon. The old crew quarters were turned into the Pedder Wilderness Lodge where we would be staying.

Pedder Wilderness Lodge

Knowing the remoteness of the hotel we made sure the car was full of petrol and set off on the two and a half hours drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in Tasmania.

Bushy Park

About halfway we passed through Bushy Park, home of HPA or Hop Products Australia, the largest hop producer in Australia.

hops.com.au fields of green. 230 hectares of hops producing 420 tonnes of hops per year. Just enough to keep me in beer for a year.
HPA produces about 95% of all the hops in Australia. Rows and rows and rows of different hops.

After Bushy Park we came to Mount Field which is as far most travellers go on this road, we kept going through beautiful rain forest and mountains and hills. Well some of it was bleak and covered in black, bare trees.

Pedder Wilderness Lodge

Before we left for the Lodge we heard there was a bushfire on the banks of Lake Pedder. By the time we arrived several teams of firefighters were on site using the Lodge as a base from which to fight the blaze. A few years ago bushfires devastaed the area causing everyone to be evacuated and destroying hundreds of hectares of rain forest so they weren’t taking any chances this time. The black, bare trees we saw on the way in were from the last devastating fires.

You can see a video of the teams fighting the fires here.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-10/bushfire-at-lake-pedder/101838782

As we checked in we saw teams of firefighters in the hotel grounds and could hear the sound of helicopters taking off and landing all day long. The next day we heard they had the spread of the fires under control. Great news for us as and everyone else as we knew we wouldn’t be evacuated.

Firefighter helicopeters in the hotel grounds.

We were given the key to our self contained apartment which was basic but spacious and clean.

Apartment at Pedder Wilderness Lodge

Pedder Lodge is situated in the South West National Park, it is Tasmania’s largest park and forms part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. There is a long list of hikes and sights and activities you can do within a short drive from the hotel.

Shortly after we checked in we went on the short walk that started just 50m from the hotel. Just to create a thirst you know. The temperature was 26 centrigrade that afternoon and forecast to be even warmer tomorrow.

Jenni on the forest walk

The Forest Walk was short and steep in some parts, it took us about 45 minutes.

Thirst properly acquired we returned to the hotel and found the bar.

Bar at the Wilderness Lodge

We’d booked a table in the restaurant for dinner.

View from the restaurant. The food was pretty good too.

As we were eating the chefs opened the doors to the event room and piled a ton of food onto a table. Pretty soon a couple of dozen firefighters and support staff descended on the table and took their plates to the tables outside as it was a warm night. One thing I noticed is every single one of them had a pint in their hand.

That night I stayed up late to try and capture the iconic picture of the Milky Way above the lake. It didn’t happen. This is as close as I got.

The evening shoot started out well as I waited for the sun to set.
I got some promising pictures to start with.
But then the mosquitos found me and they loved me. There were millions of them and they all wanted a piece of me. You can see them in this picture. I was covered in bites, every exposed piece of flesh was being ravaged. I had a dozen mozzies under my glasses and could hardly see. I was eventually so miserable I gave up and went back to the room.
Before I left I did manage to grab a night picture of the lodge. If you squint you can see the bar still full of firefighters with freshly refilled beers. Can’t blame them for celebrating a bit.

I decided to get up early and try and catch the dawn hoping for a descent sunrise.

I got there a bit before dawn and the lake had a cracking covering of fog.
As it always does the sun rose, it looked like there wasn’t going to be a spectacular sunrise, just a gradual brightening of the landscape.

If you want to see any more pictures exactly like this just message me, I have hundreds.

I did eventually get a glimmer of sunrise, worth waiting for.

The forecast said it was going to be over 30 centigrade today. A great day for us to spend some time on the water.

Kayaking in Lake Pedder

As a bonus part of my Christmas Present Jenni had arranged a half day kayaking trip around Lake Pedder. The tour was organised by Tassie Bound Adventures.

Tassie Bound Adventure website.

We set off from Ted’s beach not far from the hotel at 9am.

Jenni is a natural in a kayak
Liam the tour guide.

We kayaked around the lake for about an hour and then stopped for lunch on a little beach on one of the many islands on the lake.

We had a brownie and a cup of chai tea with honey. Both were delicious. Liam told us a little of the history of the Lakes while we ate.

According to Liam, prior to the damming in 1972 the original Lake Pedder was a tourist attraction which was visited by naturalists and photographers. It had a small beach they used to land light aircraft on. A long time after the lakes was flooded they sent down a diver with a camera and you could still see the plane landing tracks on the submerged beach.

The waters of the lake were warm. Jenni and I and a few others took the opportunity to get in for a swim.
Action shot of me on the water from the Tassie Bound Adventures web site.

We kayaked around the lake for another hour or so before heading back to Ted’s Beach. The water was calm as a pond and the weather was fantastic, a perfect day indeed.

Gordon Dam

We had lunch at the hotel and then set off for the afternoon to see some of the other sights around the area including the famous Gordon Dam.

The view of the dam from the lookout.
The name for this lookout spot was called Knob Hill Lookout. I couldn’t drive past that could I?

We drove on and stopped at the famous Gordon Dam.

185 steps down to the dam wall, and of course 185 steps back up.
On the Gordon Dam Wall
At the far end of the wall is another lookout from which this pic was taken.
Great view from up there.
Quite a long way down.
The view over Gordon Dam from the wall.

Tasmania has 100% renewable energy generated from solar, wind and hydro. Gordon Dam generates about 13% of the electricity in Tasmania. Well pedantically it is the Gordon Power Station (below) that does that. Gordon Dam just supplies the water to turn the turbines.

Gordon Power Station
It’s been a dry few weeks and as you can see the waters have dropped a bit in Lake Gordon
There is still a lot of water in the dam but it has dropped a bit.

Luckily Lake Pedder is connected to Lake Gordon through McPartlan Pass Canal. Lake Pedder can be used as a backup battery to “top up” Lake Gordon if required. For those of you sytem inclined here is a diagram of the dams.

Lake Pedder is held back by Scotts Peak Dam and Serpentine Dam. We didn’t drive to Scott’s Peak Dam but wed did go and check out Serpentine Dam.
We shouldn’t have bothered but here it is.

We went back to the hotel and rested up for the night. We were pretty tuckered out after all the paddling and climbing steps. We were heading home next day and wanted to get an early start.

A funny thing did happen as we were sitting in our cabin relaxing. The cabins are arranged in groups of 3. This is relevent. Suddenly, while minding our own business the fire alarm went off. I went outside to see smoke belching out of the apartment next doot and a man running towards the cabin at a pace. I surmised the fire alarms are all linked. I went back inside but left the door open in case. Suddenly an official looking chap burst through the door asking where the fire was.

I stood up and took him by the arm and turned him 90 degrees and said, ” It’s probably in that apartment there, the one the all the smoke coming out of the windows” Actually I didn’t do that but wish I had, all I said was, “Next door”. We discovered afterwards the guy running had left a toastie under the grill, forgot about it and went to the bar. Easy done.

The funny thing was not one of the 30 firefighters staying in the hotel even lifted their head.

Last day

While packing up in the morning we noticed we had new neighbours.

Our new neighbours (or neighbors) were two intrepid Americans riding their Goldwings around Australia.

We packed up and left for home. We took the opportunity to stop at some of the top scenery spots along the road. This one was not far from the hotel.

First stopping point, mirror still waters and a reflection
More reflections
Another cracking scene I thought could be made better by me standing in front of it.

Bitumen Bones

Not far from the the scenery stopping point the road winds past the foot of the Sentinel Ranges and there you’ll find this striking art installation called Bitumen Bones.

This artwork is a response to the beautiful and often harsh environment in South West Tasmania and draws inspiration from a poem by Sarah Day titled ‘Wombat’. The quartzite earth wedge represents weather-bleached bones, and framing the view, the black wings of a Forest Raven (Corvus tasmanicus) – often seen hopping along the roadside scavenging roadkill remnants.

Bitumen Bones artwork

At the far end of the sculpture is a poem called “Wombat” by Sarah Day. An ode to the hundreds of animals killed on the roads of Tasmania every day.

Wombat

The wombat lay, full length,
as long as a big dog, but thicker set,
a mass of weight and muscle.
Soft still, his bulk gave but didn’t shift.

It gives me an uneasy feeling
to leave an animal on a road
to flatten into fur and flesh
under so many tyre prints.

You may say that bone dust is all the same –
that morsels for ravens
or worms are neither here nor there
but those meaty silhouettes receding
into ignominious shadows
on the asphalt make me unhappy.

Here, right on the bend,
this dead wombat was a ploy
to catch the outer front wheel
unawares; someone’s wheel
some time in the night
had caught his living self by surprise.

His head was as big as a person’s
and his grey palms big and soft as
a child’s, with lines scored:
the line of fate, the line of the heart.

His fur was not like that of a possum –
even, mink-like to the touch;
his pelt was all manner of hair:
dense brown under-fleece to keep him warm,
marsupial-grey flecked outer fur he shared
with wallaby and bandicoot
for melting into landscapes;

but struck all through in one
inexorable direction from head
to rear like a boar’s or an otter’s,
these needle-thick and pointed-at-the-end
black hairs. They seemed to be
his courage and his will.

His small eyes, his lesser sense,
already dull, evacuated; his nose,
the greater part of his great head.

His claws and shoulders brought to mind
the anecdotes of those who, rearing orphan wombats
in a human house, find, returning home,
the babies have made soft work
of plywood doors and hardwood floors.

In the end, the only way to move his bulk
was to hook an arm under each of his
and haul him like a dead man
off the yellow gravel across the ditch
and leave him on the grass bank
as if in deep repose.

Somehow, his poor back leg,
already gnawed away to the bone
by a devil or a quoll or a dog,
with its missing claw
had tucked itself away out of sight.

There he lies; the living ants and maggots will do their job:
his fur will fall apart, his mass collapse
from within, his head and claws
and massive shoulders
the last to tie him to his shape and life
as the rest recedes into two dimensions:

an arrangement of bones upon the drying grass,
summer warming up his patch of earth;
the forest ravens jawing higher up the hill,
a magpie carolling each lightening morning
and skylarks overhead
rising on each ascending note.

Salmon Ponds

The drive back home took us through New Norfolk. We’d driven through there a few times and had seen tourist signs to Salmon Ponds. We’d always driven past but this time we decided to stop in and take a look.

Big trout at the Salmon Ponds

From their web site:
To the European immigrants in the mid 1800’s, the Australian environment was very different to the land they had left behind.

To make their new surroundings more like ‘home’ they introduced European plants and animals. Salmon was one of the many species chosen for introduction, largely because of the popularity of fishing but also because of the unexpected economic benefits.

After a number of failed attempts to transport them, the first live salmon and a small number of trout eggs arrived at these ponds in May 1864.

The salmon were released into the rivers hoping they would eventually migrate back to their spawning grounds but they never did. Some trout eggs were in the first batch from England and they took to the Australian waters like they were on an Club 18-30’s holiday.

They were so successful at breeding and reproducing that most of the trout found in the rivers of Australia and New Zealand are from these hatcheries.

Museum of Trout Fishing
Jenni checking out the fishing female poster
The aforementioned poster

And with that it was time to head home.

We had a fabulous time and I can recommend this trip to anyone visiting Tasmania. But wait, if you’ve read this far you will have probably been waiting for the details of the fabulous gift I got Jenni. It was a food dehydrator.

{Hangs head and shuffles off into the distance}

Till next time.

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