A couple of years ago, I took one of my greatest trips so far – a Par Avion flight from Cambridge (Hobart Tas) to Melaleuca, in the remote Tasmanian south-west.
The first leg was over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, famous for being named after the second European who “discovered” it. Tasman was the first, most likely, but he was already going to have the whole Island named after him, so he couldn’t be greedy. Anyway, at the time French names were, to coin a phrase, de rigeur.
It is now most famous for famous Tasmanian scallops, and more lately, highly profitable and highly controversial, salmon farms.
Amongst the winners of the salmon farming business are the seals. The little rascals seem to think that free salmon is, well free salmon. So they do their best to free them. The farmers, being human and hence smarter than seals, catch the blighters and transport them blindfolded and obfuscated by super loud ACDC tracks, to the far corners of north-western Tasmania – being in a different State, they don’t have a licence to return. The seals, usually males, take the opportunity to frolic with the local females, and then hot tail it home in time to greet the farmers on their return back at the free salmon shop.
Next phase was right around the southern tip of Tasmania. Fantastic rugged rocks, around which the ragged rascals ran, and signs of the vain attempts of early settlers, like Charles Denison “Deny” (as in Den-ee, not den-i) King (more on him later) to tame the rivers with rail, to bring out mined stuff. Bits and pieces of the great southern track were also seen.
After landing at Melaleuca, still seriously remote, albeit a bit less so due to the marvels of flying machines, there was plenty of interest, including vainly searching for the seriously endangered Orange-bellied Parrots, checking out the late Deny King’s amazing home (including snake proof raised sleeping huts for his daughters) and steam driven saws, walks, and a boat trip right out into Port Davey. More on Deny below. Appropriately, no photos of his house, which is still used by his family.
We were most fortunate to have a crystal clear, wind-free day, and all day – the guides kept commenting in awe on the rarity of that.
Time to leave, and due to the fantastic weather, we were able to head west right out over the west coast.
Then back east right over the majestic peaks like Frenchmans Cap et al.
And, for the piece de resistance, back over the remote backblocks of the upper Huon. Close to my heart, because this is the land farmed by people like my great-great-great grandfather, William Fletcher, a convict, and his son born in England, my great-great grandfather, Charles Fletcher. Once married in Van Diemen’s Land, he and his also convict wife, Mary-Ann McBrine, lobbied her famous father, John Corrigan of the 6th Enskillen Dragoons and of Waterloo fame, to lobby the powers to bring various of their children out to be with them. Charles apparently got to know Mary-Ann’s daughter to her first husband, one McBrine, quite well on the way out, and they married in Huonville.
Here we come back to the really famous and amazing king of the wilderness, Deny King. Deny’s father, Charles, bought a remote property in the wilds above the Huon. The excellent biography of Deny King, “King of the Wilderness” by Christobel Mattingley, observes that the remoteness of this property was so great that “the only human habitation beyond was the cabin of the lone prospector, Charlie Fletcher, eight kilometres further out. (Everyone out there was called Charles, presumably to save confusion).
Mattingley further observes, having met Deny late in his amazing life, that the family was taught bushcraft, and the mysteries of the Weld, Arv and Denison rivers, by Charlie Fletcher. Up in the backblocks above Judbury and Ranelagh, are relics of the Fletchers’ fleeting fame – Fletchers Hill, Fletchers Road and Fletchers Swamp.
Deny lived out at Melaleuca with his wife and their daughters (safe in their snake proof quarters), mining and prospecting. Back then we are talking quite remote.
Coming down to land, and no doubt appropriately, we came in over the top of Bellerive Oval.
What an amazing trip.