A few months ago I visited Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake, part of the UNESCO-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, in central of Tasmania.
The park is internationally known for adorable social media posts of cute wombats strolling along the promenade and countless Instagram posts of craggy Cradle Mountain, Tasmania’s highest peak, reflecting in the tranquil waters of Lake Dove. .
Lake St Clair at the southern end is actually its own entity. There’s the famous Overland Track, a 65 kilometer multi-day hike through rainforest, moorland and alpine moorland that connects the two landmarks, starting at Cradle Mountain, and which sees 8,000 walkers a year d October to May. Walkers stay in wooden huts along the way, some dating as far back as 1896.
If the “search for wilderness” is a big motivation for travelers these days, then this pristine landscape, accessible from Launceston or Hobart, must be one of the best destinations in the world to get lost in nature.
I say “lose” because that’s what I kind of did. With no agenda or particular destination, I embarked on a (well-signposted) walk through the cool, humid Gondwana forest that surrounds the lake to Watersmeet, a game of thrones-sound encounter of the rivers which is one of the shortest walks visitors can take.
It was a very slow form of travel because I had to stop every few meters to admire yet another beautiful pattern on the bark of an old tree or some other curious moss, to match the sounds of leaves and the faintest rustling of undergrowth creatures.
I know the city best, where a noise – a car exhaust, heavy footsteps – can mean danger, so it took me a while to relax and recognize that the sounds of the forest were benign.
It was only after returning to the warmth of an inner fire that I realized how much I benefited from this crisp silence. I had completely left behind the emotional burdens that I had brought with me to the park. I hadn’t needed to walk on hot coals or eat a mushroom to have this epiphany. I just needed to clear my mind enough to reset it.
“The only sounds you hear here are the screams of people swimming when they realize how cold the water is,” says Peter Feil, who oversees the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service ranger team at Lake St Clair. , which includes several Aboriginal interns. They are tasked with many responsibilities, including repairing tracks, cleaning up fallen logs, maintaining lodges and campsites, rescuing animals, fighting fires, running the visitor center and even cleaning the toilets in the park – from heroic to menial. Because it is a UNESCO site, there is a large amount of paperwork relating to following strict UNESCO rules.
I don’t think it surprises anyone to know that the most pressing danger to this exquisite landscape is the human animal, and not just in the broader context of our impact on climate change. Ranger Frank Garbe tells me that climate change has brought less snow, below average rainfall and more lightning strikes, which have sparked bushfires. Lack of rainfall also means fires can smolder in peat for months and rekindle weeks later. In his opinion, the magnificent huon pine is unlikely to survive in the end.
But the most immediate problems come from thoughtless and stupid people. According to Garbe, a big part of the rangers’ job is to stop people from sawing trees for firewood, lighting campfires on days when there is a total fire ban, or illegally bringing dogs into the forest. forest. Rangers disperse large groups, rescue drunks or hikers who are not properly prepared for the wilderness, search for missing persons, administer first aid after accidents, and organize medical evacuations.
People still use the park as a dumping ground for garbage. Unfortunately, some people also hunt wildlife. It’s hard to fathom the mood, but UNESCO listing in 1982 and the parks and wildlife services have given this precious wilderness a fighting chance.
There is a $200 fee for a pass to walk the Overland Track and there is a waiting list, but entry to the park itself via the Tasmanian National Parks Pass is available for a small fee . Australia’s 870 national parks and reserves make for some of the best travel in the world.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair tops the international “hot list” for wilderness wellness and we have access to it for a pittance.