For the first time, you can embark on a unique hiking adventure through the irreplaceable beauty of Tasmania’s Southwest Wilderness area.
By Georgia Rickard
With its outrageously beautiful landscapes and multi-layered terrain, Tasmania is a mecca for world-class hiking – and the island is already home to several renowned trails (Overland Track, we’re looking at you). Now, Tasmanians have created another one: the Wild Pedder Walk, a three-day walking experience combining luxury, adventure and an ancient landscape in the Southwest Wilderness area. In one of the most significant World Heritage-listed areas on earth, this ancient place remains so untouched that some of its plants and animals are even older than the dinosaurs that once walked among them.
Introducing the Wild Pedder Walk
Tasmania’s Southwest Wilderness is part of the 1.4 million-hectare (3.5 million-acre) Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, widely considered one of the most significant UNESCO sites on Earth. An area of vast glacial lakes and sweeping alpine vistas, its landscape draws regular comparison to the sites of Patagonia and the Himalayas, but, according to UNESCO, this area has even more outstanding features of global significance (it satisfies seven of the nine criteria for World Heritage listing, a feat achieved by only one other place on the planet). When you embark on this walk, you’ll climb above the cloud line to the top of a mountain, kayak an ancient lake to an uninhabited island and hike through majestic old-growth forests. At the end of each day you’ll retire to a very civilised wilderness lodge, where chef-prepared meals and excellent Tasmanian cool-climate wines are served by a crackling fireplace – because even adventurers need a bit of luxury.
Meet the pair behind the experience
Founders Cody McCracken and Lou Balcombe were working as guides on another acclaimed Tasmanian hiking trip when they hatched a plan to launch this experience. “We knew this area was unique,” McCracker says. “You can see some pretty amazing birdlife here, as well as wombats, wallabies and pademelons [small, round, kangaroo-like creatures]”. It’s also home to the Tasmanian mountain shrimp – a creature so ancient, it has barely evolved in more than 200 million years. “Essentially, it’s a living fossil,” McCracken says. These tiny prehistoric creatures are found only in the remote lakes of this alpine landscape. You can peer into tannin-stained waters to spot them during your first day of walking – but you’ll need to look closely. Each shrimp grows no larger than just 50 millimetres (1.9 inches), and these tiny creatures are so primitive they haven’t even developed a protective shell.
A modern history lesson
This area has a special place in more recent history, too. It was here that a large hydro-electricity scheme was proposed in the 1970s, prompting enormous public outcry and ultimately leading to Australia’s – and the world’s – first Greens political party. You’ll see why Tasmanians are known as passionate and committed environmentalists when you visit – the island’s wilderness areas are hauntingly beautiful. Balcombe says one of his highlights is in the Upper Florentine Valley. Far from major cities, towns or even phone reception, this old-growth forest is home to trees that stretch 100 metres (328 feet) into the sky. But what’s really impressive about them is their breadth, he says. “Even a group of 10 people wouldn’t be able to stretch their arms around one.” Sounds pretty special to us.
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