Saturday, 16 January 2010

Walking With Ada 1 - No Lack of Lakes

[Photo: A few thousand lakes as viewed from Mt Jerusalem, Tasmania]


[A new piece inspired by a recent bushwalk]

I love walking with Ada. Ada takes me to parts of Tasmania that are high, wild and remote, even if they lack the cachet of some of our better known wilderness areas. If I want to wander off-track Ada, the Tasmap 1:25 000 map, will take me there.


The map extends westward from Lakes Ada and Augusta to Lakes Ball and Toorah. To the north it stretches from the centre of the spectacular Walls of Jerusalem National Park to places like Pillans Lake in the lake-dotted Central Plateau Conservation Area. Its southern margin reaches to the Little Pine and Pine Rivers, while the whole is diagonally bisected by Great Pine Tier.


It is 200 square kilometres of quintessential Central Plateau country, all of it in excess of 1 000m in altitude. Yet eyes trained to expect the drama of Cradle Mountain or the jagged peaks of the south-west, may find it flattish, bleakish and somewhat parched, despite its high rainfall.

Once imprisoned by a glacial ice sheet hundreds of metres thick, the plateau appears to have greeted liberation with restraint rather than exuberance, at least in terms of vegetation cover. For the most part the rainforest and thick scrub found in other parts of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area are lacking here. Heavy frosts, snow, strong winds and shallow soils favour straggly grey-green eucalypt forest or low-growing alpine heath over more luxuriant vegetation. And generally the understorey is less tangled than its south-west counterpart.


The one legacy of ice that is unrestrained here is the sheer number of lakes. The slowly moving ice sheet, which departed around 10 000 years ago, has scraped a phenomenal number of hollows, depressions, grooves and gouges out of the mostly doleritic bedrock.


I once started the eye-watering job of trying to count the number of lakes on the Ada map. I gave up after counting 350 in one typical 10 sq km strip. Given there were 19 such strips still to count, I think it’d be fair to estimate between 5 000 and 7 000 lakes on the Ada map alone.


And there are literally thousands more in the neighbouring high country. You could walk here for a lifetime and still have no chance of seeing them all. It is one of the factors that makes walking with Ada so endlessly fascinating. That and the chance to see some of the last large stands of Tasmania’s pencil pine (Athrotaxis cupressoides).


[Part 2 coming soon]
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