June 10

Our last day of the trip and we end it with a wonderful mix of educational stops. We left On The Wallaby hostel at about 930 due to a little hiccup involving dog poop and Ryan and Alexa. Our wonderful tour guide took us to Mt. Hypipamee National Park, which lies just west of Yungaburra, where our hostel was located. Mt. Hypipamee is home to a huge granite crater that was formed due to powerful volcanic gases exploding through the rock.Throughout our trip we kept an eye out for tree kangaroos, but were unlucky and did not find any.  We kept walking down a wonderful rain forest path that led us to the crater. Paul made an early discovery on the trail and made me as day leader carry a big rotten stump. We were all confused on why I was made to carrier the stump but once we got to the crater, Paul gave the instruction to hurl the piece over the railing. I threw it as manly as I could into the center of the crater. The

View of the tablelands and the rainforests.

returning splash created an amazing echo that was much louder than expected and also made amazing ripples in the duckweed in the water below.  After getting our fill of pictures we continued down the winding trail to come to the wonderful Crater Falls. Crater Falls is spring fed and is the beginning of the Baron River. This river feeds Lake Tinaru (we went night canoeing on this lake) then continues to the irrigate much of the farmlands such as the ones in Dinbula. Finally the river ends in Cairns, which is our final stop of the trip. The river is very important to many farmlands and helps feed the land during the dry season but is also a source of much controversy dealing with farmer’s runoff and the ocean being affected.  Both of these sites are highly important and show how we can preserve wonderful pieces of rain forest that regulate the climate in the surrounding tablelands. But they both can be affected by unsustainable farming practiced or just bad decisions. We ended our tour of the tablelands at Millaa Millaa falls. These falls tower over you at close to 60 feet. We were initially warned about the extremely cold water and the slippery rocks. These two were both unavoidable, especially the cold water that resembled that of the

The group after swimming in Millaa Millaa Falls.

Great Lakes. We took a quick dip under the powerful waterfall. This swimming trip was mandatory seeing as it was most of the group’s last chance to swim down under. The falls hold many secrets and were once used by the Aboriginal people tohave meetings and “parties”. The reason they were not inhabited and only used for these was because of the spirit that lived in Millaa Millaa Falls. This “spirit” is only visible by staring directly into the falls for about 15 seconds and then looking away and concentrating on something else. This optical illusion creates a waterfall on the surrounding area but this “waterfall” is heading the other direction.

After being in the tablelands we loaded up the bus and continued on to the amazing Sugar Museum and lunch at the adjoining café. We enjoyed our burgers and ice cream before our tour of the museum. We all had to indulge in the ice cream before we left because we don’t have many of their awesome treats. We met our tour guides and split into two groups so they could manage our great size. Wayne, a member of Cane Grower, helps operate the Sugar Museum. He explained that most of the museum was ruined by cyclone Larry in 2006 and they are still trying to rebuild. They started the rebuild in 2009 to save the history of the industry. The Sugar Cane Industry is

Wayne, from Cane Growers, explaining the museum to the group.

massive in Australia creating revenue of 1.75 billion dollars and has been around for over 100 years. 95% of the sugar cane is grown in Queensland and is still mostly family grown including 4,000 family owned farms. Australia harvested 37 million tons of sugar cane and about 80% of that is exported to other countries such as China, United States, and New Zealand. About 20% of the total harvested is refined locally into different things such as molasses. One major aspect of farming such a water and nutrient intensive crop is the sustainability of such farming practices. We learned that new techniques like green cutting and trash blanketing help conserve the longevity of the crop. Green cutting and trash blanketing involves cutting the cane early and leaving the unused parts of the plant on the ground. This “blanket” helps retain moisture, decrease pests, and protects the soil from the increasingly strong sun. This new technique replaces the once used method of burning cane fields, which got rid of the unused extras of the plant and left the sugar in the stalk. Burning was used to control disease but is mostly replaced by the new technique. Because the burning cane was such a large part of sugar cane history the museum is hoping to put in a new cane field fire replication that would help visual what happens when a cane field actually is on fire. Wayne also continued to say that they have begun reduced chemical used and have brought in new technology to decrease the use of chemicals all over the fields. He also explained that most farmers have been encouraged to incorporate new technologies when water the fields. Irrigation can be a major issue when talking about sustainability and longevity of environments. New technologies have allowed farmers to water the crops intensely without wasting water to the evaporation and by using moisture probes, the farmers can tell when the plants actually need water and don’t just water everyday. Australia has to compete with many different sugar markets such as Brazilian and Indian markets. Brazilian markets harvest close to 600 million tons of cane per year compared tothe 37 million that Australia harvests but the difference is the way they are harvested. In Brazil sugar cane is still harvested by hand using extremely cheap labor, so Australia has to compete by making new technologies that can harvest cheaply and efficiently. Overall the Sugar Industry is turning to more sustainable practices but they still have a long way to go to become completely sustainable.  The Sugar Museum gave us as a group a great insight into the mass-produced cash crops and their histories that date back to the beginning of Australia and it helped us learn that things are beginning to change towards a more sustainable future.

The finished Bio Diesel ready for use in a vehicle.

Our final highly educational stop was at the Biodiesel in Cairns. We arrived there around 430 and were ready to see how this new type of renewable energy was created. Steve Walsh greeted us at the gate and continued to give us the overall process of making bio fuel. Mr. Walsh explained that he collected waste cooking oil from businesses locally and his business was also constructed locally. He gets large amounts of oil for free from pubs and restaurants because usually they have to pay for removal where as Steve takes it away for free. The process begins by giving the dirty oil a water wash. This process includes heating the oil to about 80 degree Celsius and then running clean water throughout the heated mixture. This process allowing the thinned oil to rise above the water and lets the water collects the heavier particles as it sinks to the bottom of the 4000 Liter tank. The thinner oil is pumped off and transformed into bio fuel immediately. When creating bio fuel from waste cooking oil you are left with two byproducts. This mixture is run through cat ion filters. These filters resemble sand filters but they use the polarity of the molecule to extract it from the mixture pulling away the other impurities. Again the liquid is then heated to 45 – 50 degree Celsius to get rid of excess methanol.  Methanol ruins diesels flash point by lowering it, ruining timing in engines. Finally the fuel is pumped through a 1-micron filter, which removes even smaller particles.  Steve then showed us his pumping station and samples of his product. The fuel from the pump had a wonderful caramel color and an even better smell. The reason for this color is the use of sulfuric acid when water washing which actually burns the fuel. Virgin oil from soy of Coconut would not have to be water washed thus creating different colors. Steve then brought out a sample of his new adventure, which is coconut oil. This oil is created from the excess coconut shells that are created when processing coconuts.  The oil is highly sustainable by creating 400 gallons per hectare. This fuel is more powerful than usual bio fuel because of its chemistry make up but is also bad for cold weather allowing it to only be used in warm climates.  Steve’s bio fuels are much safer than normal diesel fuel by increasing the flash point from 60 degrees to 150 degrees. This feature of his bio fuel is the main reason is sells most of his mix to Boral Asphalt. This company needs his fuel to wash their equipment and the higher flash point makes it safer around the super hot components. Steve continued to talk about the longevity of bio fuels. He explained that in his opinion algae would produce more oil than other bio fuel sources such as soy and coconut. He was disappointed that even a large amount of new bio fuel would compete with normal fossil oil. He sells close to 1 million liters of bio diesel a year compared to the overall use of diesel, which was 200 million liters last year. Even if we could use all the bio fuels in the world as of right now we could not power all the cars in the world. In the end, Steve’s effort to compete against larger mineral oil companies inspired many of us. He showed us many ways to reuse our waste oil and how it can be used in everyday life. I think that his effort is helping create a sustainable future in Australia and will hopefully catch on in the rest of the world.

After our long day, we arrived back the Cairns Queenslander. We will be staying here till Saturday morning when most of the group flies out and heads back to the USA. Some of the group is continuing on to New Zealand and others are staying in Australia. Even though we are all parting ways I think we have all been changed on this trip. Each of us has grown in so many ways its remarkable! I am so glad to have spent this last month in Australia with a great group of people and I hope that most of you learned as much as I did. Good luck in the future and CHEERS!

Andrew

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Responses

  1. I have really enjoyed following your daily blogs, I looked forward to them every day. What a wonderful experience for all of you. Have a safe trip home, can’t wait to see you Jenna.
    Love
    Mom

  2. What an amazing adventure for you all. I enjoyed the blogs, they were all truly informative and fun to read. Have a safe trip home or enjoy the rest of your trip.


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