Melaleuca is known for reasons including its remoteness, the slog required to walk there from other parts of Tasmania, its tin mining history, the people who lived in this challenging environment last century in splendid and productive isolation and, in more recent times, the opportunity to fly in on a tiny aircraft including glam tenting an experience over two or three days. Reading about this place, watching films or seeing photos can never give an all embracing experience of the location and its ambience; the sort that comes from breathing the air, feeling the sun and the wind, hearing the cries of birds, walking the ground and most significantly taking time to look and think. I think we were all eager to arrive and see and feel first-hand this place we had long heard about.
In two zodiacs we motored southwards through Forest Lagoon then along the Melaleuca Inlet. This gave me time to look closely at the waterside vegetation. “The wash of the zodiacs hit the peat walls and spread through the vegetation. I thought of mangroves and felt this was the South West Tasmania version of the tropical north in terms of water plants. The ‘grasses’ firm and straight being washed by the wash and never bending.” When we’d motored along the Bathurst Channel the day before, I thought many mountain sides looked potentially easy to scramble up because the vegetation, with the exception of tree clusters, presented as an even smooth close-to-the-ground skin.
However this was a deception, at least in parts. Instead, as we travelled towards Melaleuca, in places I could see the ‘low level’ entwined bushes grew evenly at least half to one metre high. Making new tracks through such terrain would be slow and challenging. The efforts to walk and work through this landscape made by the early settlers and tin miners, can be read in books such as Janet Fenton’s Win & Clyde, Tony Fenton’s A History of Port Davey, and Christobel Mattingly’s King of the Wilderness-the Life of Deny King.
Once we arrived at the pontoon and unloaded, our injured passenger was rolled along the board walks in an aircraft luggage carrier creating great amusement for all (Rob’s happy photo is the second one below).
Informative interpretation panels helped us to understand this part of Tasmania’s south west. On the first map below I have added in the approximate position of our ship to the north of Melaleuca.
This was a glorious day when the water sparkled and the land stretched long and wide before reaching the enclosing peaks and hills. Exhilarated, we were eager to explore. Ralph must have been near the end of the line when he took the following photo.