UNESCO World Heritage Tasmanian Wilderness (Part 2): Southwest National Park

After three nights at Mt Field National Park, we continued our journey. We had already asked the ranger the day before about the current bushfire situation in the area. So we could have an early start and didn’t need to wait until 10 o’clock, when usually the ranger gives an update. This was also necessary, because the trip from Mt Field National Park to Gordom Dam in Southwest National Park was supposed to take 2 hours driving time alone.

Southwest National Park

The B61 is the only road to the Gordon dam and during the 90 kilometers you come through only three small villages: Tyenna, Maydena and Strathgordon. Along the way we only met 4-5 other cars, which gave us the feeling to be off the beaten tourist path. We must say though, the scenery is a real eye-catcher. From deepest forests up to great mountain panorama everything is there. Towards the end of the route we saw Lake Pedder for the first time. Just WOW – so of course we took a quick photo stop.

Lake Pedder

Lake Pedder is a reservoir, it was created artificially (for the generation of electricity) and used to be much smaller than today. It grew from 3 square kilometres to over 240 square kilometres and is today probably the largest freshwater lake in Australia. This led to protests in the population already in 1967, but in the end that remained unsuccessful. Apart from this intervention in nature, it fits perfectly into the landscape for our eyes today. Again and again, smaller islands (formerly mountain peaks) come into view that are covered with green vegetation and represent a great contrast to the blue water. Shortly before we arrive at the Gordon Dam, Lake Gordon appears on the right side. When we stopped at the parking lot of the dam, there was only one other vehicle (it was around 11 am at the time). The Gordon Dam itself can be reached by stairs. Those who love thrills can also abseil from the 140 meter dam (on the side facing away from the water). When we were there, nothing happened, so we just took a few pictures of the dam and the adjoining reservoir.

Gordon Dam

Serpentine Track

We continued our journey, because we wanted to follow a recommendation by the ranger-in-charge Brendan and do some hiking close by. The track was supposed to start at the Serpentine dam (Lake Pedder). But we didn’t see anything there, and there was also no sign indicating a hike. Nevertheless we packed our backpack (seat cushions, a bottle of water and something to eat) and took a closer look at the end of the dam. There was a stairway leading up from there, which seemed to end in bushes. But I didn’t give up so easily and went further. And lo and behold, behind the bushes I saw a narrow path and a sign.

There was walker logbook in which you sign up for your hike with your name, your contact details, the planned hike as well as date and time of your start. When you are back from the hike, you simply sign out again. The books are regularly checked by the rangers and if necessary a search action would be initiated.

After we signed up in the trail book, the path went steeply uphill and there were many climbing passages to overcome. Actually the whole “hiking trail” completely consisted of climbing passages. I started to worry about Christiane’s mood, because usually these kind of hikes are not her thing. But she kept up quite well! So the scramble went on…

And then we slowly but surely arrived above the tree line and were able to have a look at Lake Pedder. What a view!

The bushes were scratching our legs and the sun was burning down on us. And guess what was still in our campervan? Exactly! The legs of our hiking trousers and our headgear. Also the water was running short. We continued to fight our way forward, but every time we think “this is the peak”, it’s only a little hill and the peak is still waiting in the distance 🙁 So we realized that we had misjudged the equipment and water and food supply. So we had no choice but to cancel conquering the summit for today. We took a few more great photos and then turned back.

Bushes and trees help us to climb down

Teds Beach

Then we drove to the campground Teds Beach at Lake Pedder and jumped into the lake to freshen up.

Teds Beach

The campsite offers a covered kitchen/picnic area with BBQ plates and several clean flush toilets. All of this is actually provided free of charge! Not many people were here and in the evening only three other campervans parked next to us and three more tents were set up. The only issue here was the countless flies that jump at you as soon as you don’t move 🙁 Even if they don’t sting, it’s just super annoying. Since there is almost no shade at Teds Beach, staying in the campervan is not a real alternative given that it’s more a sauna.

In late afternoon the sun disappeared behind clouds. This was not what we wanted to see, because ranger Brendan had explained during our conversation that they are currently trying to make the region around Strathgordon a dark-sky preserve. In these areas the light artificially produced by humans (the so-called light pollution) is reduced to a minimum. As a result, you can see the starry sky much better and we would have liked to have seen that! In New Zealand we were already in such an area at Lake Tekapo in New Zealand is also a dark-sky preserver and when we were there, it was cloudy as well 🙁

The clouds became darker and darker, and finally a series of sometimes very long flashes unloaded over the national park. Unfortunately the clouds did not bring any rain, which would have been great to fight the bushfires.

Mount Wedge

We got up quite early the next morning, because Mount Wedge was on our list for today. According to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service this hike is supposed to take 5 hours. After our experience yesterday we are much better prepared this time. But first we have to drive about 25 km back into the “civilization”, during which we don’t meet a single car. 

At 9:15 our backpack is packed (incl. all necessary equipment) and off we go. The track started through dense forest and cobwebs made life a bit difficult for us. But there was no time for a warm-up, because the path got steeper and steeper. Today we had enough time to take a couple more breaks. An hour and a half later the forest cleared and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Pedder. But it still took some time until we reached the summit in the end. 

Again, one hill followed the next and the summit was still not in sight. The path now became more and more rocky and we had to do some serious climbing to get ahead. At this point I just want to mention that Christiane is doing really well regarding “difficult hikes” lately. She feels much safer and seems to have much more fun than last year – which I think is great! After a good three hours of ascent we finally made it and are spoiled with a 360° panorama.

The beginning is quite comfortable in the forest
… then it’s gets more difficult
Always remember to turn around when climbing up
… and this was quite a challenge 🙂

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enjoy the view for long. From the summit we could see new outbreaks of fire on the other side of the river, probably caused by lightnings the evening before. We tried to call the emergency number 000 and inform them about the fire (which Brendan had instructed us to do), but unfortunately we couldn’t get through. Anyway,  these fires were for us also a sign to leave the region now. So after a short snack and the mandatory summit photo we started our way back.

Great reward after a demanding ascent
Summit conqueror
Bushfires

Back at the start of the trail, we saw that in the meantime our hiking route was closed due to the fires. This is often done as a precaution to avoid the need to search all the trails for hikers in case of an emergency. We don’t think that we were in danger at any time though, given that our campervan was parked clearly visible and nobody had been looking for us.

Walking track was closed when we came back

On our way back towards Mt Field National Park we passed the Scotts Peak Road and saw a police car blocking the entrance. Too bad, because the Southwest National Park at the southeast end of Lake Pedder would have been good for two or three more exciting day hikes.

Campground, Hike, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
UNESCO World Heritage Tasmanian Wilderness (Part 1): Mount Field National Park
Camper Fun and Tourist Stupidities

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