Last October, on a rare clear calm day which I had carefully picked out of the weather forecasts, I took a Par Avion trip from Cambridge airport, near Hobart, to Melaleuca, south of Port Davey in the far south west of Tasmania. It was sensational and made more memorable because of the connection to my mother’s family – more of that later.
We flew out along the Derwent south over the Huon River, to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. There the scale of the salmon farms was evident. The big pest are the seals (although some say the salmon), which show incredible ingenuity to get into the pens for the easy pickings. The farmers catch them, truck them to the seas off the far north-west of Tasmania, where they gratefully indulge in “relationships” with the females, and then are back in the pens even before the trucks get back.
Rounding over Cockle Bay, there came the incredibly spectacular south coast.
The South Cape Rivulet, stained with timber oils, was where one of the few people to venture into this country (Charles King, father of the famous Deny King) started mining tin in the early 1900s. The rivulet still carries the rail-line he built to get the tin out.
Flying into the “settlement” of Melaleuca, you see part of the 7 day track, with the occasional boardwalk sections. The massive and relatively shallow (average depth just 7 metres) Bathurst Harbour opens out to the north. I only just discovered through map staring , that the south-west of Tasmania is actually an island, cut off by the Melaleuca lagoon and creeks.
The MIA (Melaleuca International Airport) is a thriving hub where apparently you can’t land more often than you can land. There is a lockup shipping container as the terminal storage and, well a largely destroyed wind sock. The only building is a substantial hut built by Denny King, and a couple of stand alone bedrooms on blocks to keep the kids safe from the snakes.
With water water everywhere, although generally salty, there are lots of wildflowers and birds. The small bird with the yellow throat is a Yellow-throated honeyeater, unique to Tasmania. The other is the New Holland honeyeater.
There are some interesting walks, and a boat trip up moth creek into Bathurst Harbour. Although a safe harbour away from the southerlies, it is also shallow and the open water can be very wild for small craft. We were lucky to cover a larger territory than is often possible.
We were very fortunate with the beautiful calm day so were able to take off and head further west out over Port Davey (well below the more accessible Strahan and Macquarie Harbour), then head back over Federation Peak and the Hartz mountains.
The final stretch is over the upper Huon, much of which was explored and cleared by my Great great great grandfather, William Fletcher, Great great grandfather, Charlie Fletcher, and Great grandfather, Frederick Fletcher. There is an interesting link to Deny King and his family. Deny’s father had bought some land in the outblocks of the Huon Valley. “The only human habitation beyond that was the cabin of lone prospector, Charlie Fletcher, eight kilometers further out.” (King of the Wilderness. The Life of Deny King. by Christobel Mattingley p9). Apparently Charlie was a kindly chap who helped the King’s with their buildings and took them (even further) out teaching them practical bushcraft.
Out back of Judbury, ie anywhere, you can find Fletcher’s Hill and Fletcher’s Lane.
And to cap it off, I got a glimpse heading back into the airport of the area south of Rokeby, on Droughty Point Road and Clarence Rivulet, granted in around 1808 to my first fleet ancestors.
A fantastic trip I would recommend very highly indeed.