Notes from Pumphouse Point, Lake St Clair, Tasmania

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We were very privileged to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in January of this year (2015). In spite of all the jokes about how I’d have been out in 7 years for murder, it’s been a fantastic journey.

We decided to celebrate with something special. But what? Well, in June of 2014 we did one of our many ventures up into Pine Valley at the Southern end of the Cradle Mtn – Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania. Three days in the wilderness (stunning) and then out by ferry across Lake St Clair to our waiting cars.

When we boarded the ferry, the ferryman informed us that because we had some tourists onboard, we wouldn’t be heading immediately back to Cynthia Bay, but would be taking a circuitous route. (This is why you never pay the Ferryman until he gets you to the other side).

Bugger, we thought, flush toilets and hot water were within our grasp and had now been snatched from under our noses (well, the women thought that…). But it was a beautiful, sunny, calm day – the sort that only Tassie can deliver in the midst of Winter. What the heck, let’s just enjoy the tour – and we did.

Part of the tour included a very slow drift past the (being) refurbished Pumphouse Point that Simon Currant was developing into a luxury resort for (what we thought) the rich and the famous. Not for the likes of us, grubby bushwalkers!!

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(Photo: Peter Grant)

However as the explanations and descriptions unfurled, I started to have devious thoughts. Then, one of our fellow bushwalkers, Lynne Grant, started talking about celebrating her 60th her with friends here (yes, we are all that old).

Hmm, I thought, that gives me an idea too!! I’m bringing back Cheryl to celebrate our 40th. So, the plan was set in motion.

But immediately, my thoughts turned to January when our anniversary would be celebrated. Did we REALLY want to come here and pay top end prices when the sun would be beckoning us outdoors???

So, there hatched another cunning plan. We could delay our trip until, say, May when we might have a chance of crap weather and be forced to stay indoors in our 5 star accommodation and drink wine and eat chocolate.

Now, the only flaw in our plan was the Tasmanian weather. Tasmania has an amazing ability to snow and sleet in Summer and deliver stunning, still, clear days in late Autumn and Winter. What to do? Would the Weather Gods smile?

We picked May as this was usually the awfulest month, June is often good. A booking was made, requests were made to the Pumphouse Point staff and offerings were made to the Weather Gods.

The weekend before our intended departure dawned sunny and calm. Sav/Blancs were consumed in the Indian Summer days, BBQs were fired up and depression began its insidious march upon our expectations.

But behold!!! The Met Bureau was consulted and typhoons were anticipated, gale force winds were expected, snowfalls to toe level predicted and ‘batten down the hatches’ instructions were issued. Woohoo!!! We were in luck!

The day of departure dawned cold, wet, miserable, snowy and….. perfect. BUT, alerts were issued for road closures, two schools were closed!! The Mountain (Wellington) had disappeared under clouds of mist and snow. Police, RACT, Tasmanian Storm Chasers, ABC all said – ‘Don’t go!!! Stay home, preferably in your cellar!!’

Would we get through? Were we wise to go? Well, bravely we went. After all, what could possibly go wrong???

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Go we did, and it was fantastic. We drove though fallen and falling snow to arrive at a picture postcard destination. Welcomed with a complimentary bottle of bubbles to celebrate our anniversary, we watched in awe as we sat and sipped smugly from the cosy warmth and comfort of our stunning vantage point, INSIDE not OUTSIDE the Pumphouse, as snow fell heavily into the lake at our very feet.

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We took the gamble and decided to eat at the Lakehouse with other guests that evening. It is promoted as a chance to mingle with strangers and share experiences. Sounded just like eating in a bushwalking hut to me – and it was.

The evening began with a very brisk stroll along the 250 metre flume from the Pumphouse in darkness and heavily falling snow. Well, not complete darkness as there are lamp poles spaced along the flume.

These were cones of light illuminating the eddies of falling flakes, then you were plunged into darkness briefly until you reached the next pole.

In the Lakehouse were three long tables at which 30+ people arranged themselves. The experienced and/or canny guests had already bagged the prime seats as soon as they’d entered the dining room. Well, they were mistaken, for as we newbies searched for a seat we discovered a table in a separate area where the lighting was muted and the ambience more intimate. Perfect for the exalted group to which we obviously belonged.

And it was just like being in a bushwalking hut!! A long table, people from all over the globe, varying occupations and life stories and the evening filled with great conversations.

The meal was good, the company was excellent, the wine very drinkable. The breadth and depth of discussion was wide-ranging, also reflecting that which I’ve experienced in many huts on the Overland Track.

The only things missing were Trangia stoves with rehydrated stews gently bubbling away and the roaring hiss of MSR Whisperlites. Oh, and the usual fug of varying smells was also absent  (wet boots, damp socks, clothes that had been worn for more days than they should have and unwashed bodies),  .

Our first morning dawned bleak and cold. Perfect. A leisurely start, a hot shower, coffee then the invigorating walk on the flume again as we headed for our communal breakfast.

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Familiar faces from the night before greeted us, ‘good mornings’ exchanged. ‘How did you sleep?’ ‘Were you warm?’ ‘Did the wind wake you?’ discussions ensued.

It is a ‘help yourself’ breakfast, so we carefully watched the experienced guests and followed their lead. The sign said seven minutes for a soft boiled egg. But advice flowed from the ‘once bitten’ and we were all adding a minute or two to the recommended times.

Conversation flowed as new friends were made and it soon morphed into a delicate balancing act; working out the etiquette between leaving the table for more supplies but not breaking the flow of discussion .

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Breakfast finally concluded at about 10:00, a long and potentially exciting day beckoned. We thought we’d walk to Cynthia Bay from the Pumphouse, then down to Watersmeet. A doddle we estimated.

When the knowledgeable staff informed us it was approximately 1 & 1/2 hours each way to Cynthia Bay, that plan evaporated more quickly than an English batsman’s hopes of holding out against a rampant Australian quick.

Oh well, nothing for it but to drive to the Visitor Centre, then walk to Watersmeet.

But of course, by then it was nearly 11:00, time for coffee, catch up on earth shattering news on Facebook, delete the 9,000 advertising emails that had arrived overnight and continue to be fascinated with the Fifty Shades of Grey outside our windows.

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Hooley Dooley, it’s 1:00 – where did the morning disappear to?? Steady sheets of rain had set in and were sweeping horizontally past our windows. We decided to rough it, so we raided the wonderfully stocked larder for picnic provisions.

A Huon Gourmet Pâté, Huon Wood Roasted Salmon, an Antipasto Platter and Abel’s Tempest Sparkling adorned our small table right in front of a large window. Sometimes creature comforts have to be sacrificed in order to gain a full appreciation of nature’s beauty and untamed extravagance.

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We sat there grazing satisfactorily as nature hurled itself across Lake St Clair right before our very eyes. We almost FELT cold. By then it was time for a nap.

I awoke refreshed about 3:30 and, having been berated on Facebook by some friends questioning my qualifications as a Rugged Mountain Man, I thought we should venture out.

‘But,’ says Cheryl, ‘Do you realise it will be dark in an hour? Then we will no longer be able to sit in here and look out at this magnificent vista.’ Oh well, better open another bottle of wine and pull out the chocolate.

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Before long it was Dinner time again, new companions were met and good food and wine were consumed.

Before we knew it the night was over, dawn had broken, another breakfast consumed (eggs perfect) and we felt that we were about to be evicted from the Garden of Eden. Bugger..

A last chance to steal some time doing this:

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And then back to ‘civilisation’.

So, Would we return? In a heartbeat.

 

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About jimrobwilson

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4 Responses to Notes from Pumphouse Point, Lake St Clair, Tasmania

  1. Theo Gray says:

    Great story Jim, good reading mate

  2. Alan Hinds says:

    I can do that Jim great story and thanks for sharing Jim .
    My wife bought this place up only a couple of months ago and looking at the prices I didn’t think it would be possible but after reading your story It looks the place to be .
    We did a 10 day , Tassie west coast trip on my 50th back in 2010 , First week in June and when the trip finished my wife said she would never go back in winter. Again seeing this it could be possible .

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