“Done and Dusted”

I was awoken by the departure of Cam and Scott around 5 o’clock this morning. I gave a tired farewell, and they quietly left our room in the YHA.

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Once Byrne and I got up, he took a shower and I stayed in bed, cherishing the last moments of decent sleep before a long flight across the deep blue. I hopped out of my top bunk and quickly dressed and began to pack up the few belongings that I had left out the night prior.

After Byrne taped up a large box that held his new custom-made Aussie longboard, I borrowed his tape to protect my backpack. Cordially accommodated by the front desk attendant, I was given two black garbage bags, and so I began to wrap up my backpacking bag like a transient Christmas present (I’ve heard of some horror stories of nice backpacks being destroyed through checked luggage). Finished packing earlier than we had expected, we checked on the girls to see if they were awake, which Camille was.

Once they were all ready, Raven, Camille, Kayla, Byrne, and I checked out and waited for our taxi to the airport.

Arriving just after 8 am, our taxi driver rushed us to the domestic airport, where Kayla and I departed, and then continued on to the international airport. I quickly said my goodbyes to my friends who had been strangers just two weeks prior. I hope to see them all back in Corvallis when I return.

Check-in didn’t take long; the woman checking me in was very nice (two checked bags for free!). I lost Kayla at that point in time; I’m confident she made it safely to her friends in Sydney.

As I sat and waited for my flight yesterday afternoon, I reminisced of the adventures that we had together: times of learning, wandering the city, dancing like crazy, and becoming friends.I pray for the safe travels of my friends (both professors and students alike), and for Laurie and his family, who are enduring hard times as we speak.

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It has been a pleasure to write to all of you, so that you may not only live vicariously through us as we have traveled, but so that you may share in our dreams.

Until we all meet again further on down the road,

Isaac Soper

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Reclaimed Timber; Koala Refuge (04 July 2014)

Starting the final day of our study abroad program, we packed up and loaded our luggage one final time into Paul’s bus. By about 7:45 am, we were on the road, headed for a reclaimed timber company. We arrived at Kennedy’s Timbers after a short jaunt up the highway. I have long been a fan of recycled and distressed lumber, and upon entering the building, I was immediately impressed by the artistry featured in their lobby.

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All of the walls were paneled with various reclaimed boards, each with a label displaying the type of wood. There was a beautiful life-size wooden sculpture of a soccer ball (it was even hollow), a table made from power poles, and a display of recycling old timber from start to finish.

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After an introduction, we were guided to the raw lumber yard, where all of the power poles sat, still containing many nails and climbing spikes. A large portion of the wood that is recycled at Kennedy’s comes from old hardwood power poles and bridge girders, about 50% of which is brought in is salvageable for reuse. A short distance away, there were two men working to pull nails and other metal from a set of utility poles; they verified their work with a metal detector. We were told that the majority metal removal is actually done at the nearby maximum security prison (it is actually the most popular job available at the prison). This is done due to the high cost of labor in Oz, with minimum wage being about $16 per hour.

We toured the entirety of the Kennedy campus, including their mill and their storage depot. Once the wood is cut to size, there is no way to tell that it was ever used prior, apart from the very attractive weathering patterns.

Continuing on down the highway, we stopped a few minutes later at Moxon Timbers, a worldwide lumber/timber distributor that is housed in Queensland. Moxon even has offices in Portland, Oregon. We quickly toured through the immense facility with the relatively quiet, but very friendly company chairman, Tony Moxon.

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Continuing on after just an hour-long tour, we stopped for lunch at the renowned Yantala Famous Pies. For those who are unaware, meat pies are a favorite Australian meal; we Americans would typically think of these as chicken pot pies, but many places in Australia offer much more than just run-of-the-mill chicken pies. Offering not only a wide range of both meat and vegetarian pies (including steak, broccoli and cauliflower, bacon, and countless more), but delectable desserts as well. All made fresh in-house, Yantala is the place to go for pastries, be that a quick snack, dessert, or a full-on pie smorgasbord.

With lines that serpentine through the building to the door, we found that the wait was actually relatively quick to get our baked goods, and we all enjoyed them thoroughly. I had a veggie pie (though Camille’s broccoli and cauliflower pie was much better), chips flavoured with yeast, and an amazing dessert, to which I can only describe as a bar donut combined with an éclair. Raven had a miniature apple pie for dessert, which was also stuffed with Bavarian-style crème; sure, it’s not what you might call a healthy meal, but it sure was good. I would not particularly recommend eating at Yantala’s more than once per year, but then again, how often do you get to travel to Australia?

Feeling like I was about to fall into a food-induced coma, I sauntered back to our bus with my companions, and Paul drove us to our final tour stop of our trip: The Daisy Hill Koala Centre.

Before actually seeing any koalas, we were informed that the marsupials are native to eastern Australia, and that there are two different species, the threatened Queensland species, which is the smaller of the two, and the overpopulated Victoria species. The Daisy Hill Koala Centre was created by the Queensland government’s Threatened Species Unit once the koala became listed as threatened, and works to rehabilitate sick koalas in the region. They even have their own koala ambulance and hospital.

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Faith and Elsa enjoying some eucalyptus leaves.

The Queensland koalas are in danger from four primary threats: the greatest being habitat clearing, as urbanization forces koalas to live in much smaller patches of bush (forest); cars, dogs, and chlamydia (a koala-specific disease, not to be confused with the human STD).

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Once our introduction to the species, we entered into the koala habitat, and observed Faith and Elsa, the two sleeping koalas currently being treated in the centre. Both are females, which do not have the ability to survive on their own in the wild. After a short while, Faith was woken up to be given her medicine, which was a paste-like substance fed to her through a syringe, and then she and Elsa enjoyed nibbling on some eucalyptus leaves for a short while before falling back asleep.

After taking numerous photographs, we headed back to the bus, to journey to Brisbane for our final night in the land of Oz. As we walked, a wild wallaby (a small kangaroo-like marsupial) was spotted in the nearby bush, so we snapped a few photos, and continued on our way.

We arrived in Brisbane around 5:00 pm, where we checked in to the YHA Brisbane City hostel. Shortly after getting settled in we all walked about 1.5 miles to the Hotel Morrison for a final dinner together. The food was wonderful, and we discussed our trip and one another’s plans for the days ahead. Saying our goodbyes to Jeff (who was staying with a friend that evening) and Jo (who was taking a taxi back to the hostel), my fellow students and I walked a mile or so and then caught a bus up to King George Square. We browsed through the Queen Street Mall for a short while, purchasing a few souvenirs for our loved ones back home. We continued along the lively street, and made our way back to the YHA.

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It has been quite a wondrous journey here in Queensland; it will be hard to say goodbye in the morning.

Until then,

Isaac

Fire; softwood mill, round 2

We drove our large bus this morning until dirtbike tracks limited us from continuing further. Grabbing what gear we thought we would need (to which we had no idea), we ditched our bus and hiked for fifteen minutes on the dirt road to meet up with our speaker for the day, Tom Lewis, of the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (DAFF).

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We spoke of the importance of prescribed burning in exotic pine (Pinus spp.) forests, due to their intolerance of crown fires (fires which reach the canopy layer). Tom described an thoroughly abridged version of the long history and importance of fire in the Australian landscape, due to the many fire-prone and fire-adapted species. He showed us a few plots which have prescribed burns at different time intervals, being no regular interval, every three years, and every five years.

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In these experimental plots, we noticed grass trees (Xanthorrea spp.), Banksia spp., and Hakea spp. (which is in the same family as the macadamia), each of which relies on fire in some way. Xanthorrea relies on fire to burn up old foliage, so that it may replace it with new foliage; it often flowers immediately following fire. Both Banksia and Hakea have serrotinous seed pods/cones.

We also spoke for a short time of the Australian soil classification system, which is vastly different than the U.S. method. In the area we were in, known as wallum heathland, the common soil series in the area were Chromosol/Kurosol, which is a fine sandy loam, with a rich clay beneath, and Hydrosol, a soil which may look dry, but is often very wet beneath. The heathland is also known for its large flowering events.

Heathland vegetation types reach a plateau after about 10 years, at which time plants start to die out. Tom mentioned that researchers believe that due to this observation, that heathlands likely burned every seven years or so.

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We wandered around the experimental fire sites for a while, trying to identify the sites’ fire regime, which we were able to do fairly well, by looking at the approximate height of the shrubs. After this, we were given datasheets and recorded information regarding species richness and percent cover along 1×5 meter transects.

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Once our activity was finished, we said our goodbyes to Tom, and walked back to our bus. After an hour, we stopped in Imbil for a quick break, and then continued onto a small softwood mill for another tour. The mill, Superior Wood, was owned in the past by Hyme, but was sold after not producing profits for the company. After seven years on their own not being able to make a profit, this is their first year in the black. During all of those hard times for the mill, not a single full-time employee lost their job.

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After our visit to the mill, we stopped again in Imbil, so that Rachelle could give her presentation on recreation; though she had a few close calls with some kids riding bikes up and down the area we were in.

Tonight will be our final night in Mooloolaba; tomorrow we’ll be driving to Brisbane for our last evening in Australia together.

Until tomorrow,

Isaac

Softwood plantation; controlled burn

Seeing the bus pull up precisely at 7:30 am this morning, we raced downstairs to load up for our drive. Today, Jeff would be leading our class today to tour a softwood mill. With Paul at the helm and Jeff riding shotgun, we drove for two hours in search of this hidden mill. Finally, after turning around a few times, we found a long gravel road near a plantation forest where a man was driving a tractor. Jeff asked him if he knew where Hyme Mill was located, and he pointed us to continue down the road.

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Driving down further, we saw a group of wild brombies (Aussie horses) in the distance, which was awesome to see. These horses are typically seen as a pest, like in central and Eastern Oregon, and, like in Oregon, are often killed.

At our arrival, we parked our RV of a tour bus and walked into the main office with cameras in tow. Promptly told that it was against Hyme policy to allow camera equipment and mobile phones into their mill, we stowed them away. We each received electronic swipe cards, and headed into the board room. Once we were given an overview of the mill’s practices and read and filled out safety information packets, we were prepared to don the armor of the mill worker: an orange hard hat, florescent safety vest, and hearing protection.

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Venturing out of the office, we walked along a fenceline armed with outward-angled barbed wire; I jokingly asked Scott if we were touring a prison. Moving into a corridor between buildings, our guide through the mill, Tony Dakin opened a door on the side and we engaged our safety earmuffs and entered the wood slaughterhouse. We climbed a metal staircase into another office, where we saw the brains of the sawmill. A lone worker sat in front of a console which determined the boards that each log would be carved into. At a lightning pace, logs were sent into the maw of the mill, which quickly rotated them for the best angle which they would be cut at, and then the milling would commence.

We walked out the opposite door of the office and walked along the side of the giant metal beast. Having never toured a mill before, it was amazing to see the speed and power of this massive machine. It cut full logs into useable lumber in mere seconds. Continuing through the mill, we watched machines sort wood for quality, using many techniques (even Lucidyne, which is a brand of screening software based in Corvallis!).

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After leaving the mill, we met up with Ian Last once again, this time to talk about fire and its effect on the landscape. We walked through the bush and spoke about the different species which rely on fire for important parts of their lifecycle. During this time, we found a fairly large termite mound and talked about how quickly they can repair their mound if it is damaged.

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On our drive back to Mooloolaba, we witnessed a controlled burn alongside the road. The fire was burning low in the plantation, likely due to consistent burning, which helps to keep the midstory and undergrowth levels low. This prevents fire from entering the canopy of the forest, which would likely cause the mortality of many trees.

Tomorrow, we will be visiting another mill, and discussing the further effects of fire in Queensland.

Until next time,

Isaac

Destination: Noosa Biosphere

Traveling to Noosa for our third and final time this morning, we met with a man named Ben from the Noosa Biosphere Council at the Noosa Hill Lookout. To help us better understand what a biosphere is, we were told that the Earth is a biosphere itself—the interaction between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere make up a biosphere. Biosphere reserves were originally created in the 1970s with UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program, as a method of management, research and educational practices to help conserve and sustainably use natural resources.

Noosa is a very unique community, in which the conservation of natural values is highly regarded in the community by many citizens. In the years following 1995, as the Noosa community gained their classification as a biosphere reserve and began to develop, they sought to retain the aesthetic values of their area, which makes Noosa what it is today: A urban landscape hidden among the surrounding trees. Unlike the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, and Mooloolaba, Noosa has no high rises, no billboards, and no traffic lights (many roundabouts are in the area, which is very efficient). The city is legitimately hidden among the trees, which are planted throughout the city, including a natural rainforest near the water’s edge. The community does support approximately 50,000 residents, with an estimated 15-20,000 more when all hotels and rentals are booked.

We discovered that Noosa, though very successful economically, is rapidly approaching a state of zero population growth—uncharted territory for a prosperous community.

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We walked from this area along a long path of connected wooden staircases. All along the path, which connects the Noosa Hill Lookout to the Noosa beach, were many modern and expensive-looking homes, surrounded by tall rainforest trees. The trees are allowed to grow in such close proximity to residences, because unlike trees of North America, tropical rainforest trees do not contain hydrocarbons in their oils, making them a low fire risk. These trees can be easily killed by high-intensity fires.

 

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After some time of walking, we made it to the gorgeous Noosa beachfront, which we discovered has a bit of a tragic history. The natural beachfront was nearly destroyed, and now there is a large pump that constantly moves sand from one end of the beach to the other, and costs half of a million dollars to run annually. If people had just left the area alone, this would not be a necessity today. Without this constant pump, the beach would be little more than a long pile of rocks—a choice made by people in the area in the 1970s-1980s attempting to “protect” their homes built too close to the ocean.

Isn’t it said somewhere that the wise man built his house upon the rock?

While walking along the beach, we found people surfing, standup paddleboarding (SUP), and playing on the shore. We continued our tour of the beach along a paved trail that led to another lookout and then enjoyed some morning tea at a small coffee shop. We spoke for a short while and then headed back to our bus. Paul was there to greet us, and we drove (with Ben joining us) to our next destination in Noosa. Arriving at the trailhead to Tinbeerwah Mountain, we met up with Phil Moran of the Noosa Biosphere Council. Phil, Ben, and our group hiked the stone pathway up to the lookout.

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During our hike, Kayla and I noticed some bolts in the rock that were set up for rappelling and rock climbing; if only this weren’t a class trip—I would have loved to climb. It was an amazingly beautiful hike, as it overlooked the city of Noosa below, with its intermingled low buildings and forests. Reaching the top, there was a short lookout, possibly modeled after U.S. fire lookout towers, which allowed a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding area. The lake systems of the upper Noosa Everglades, Fraser Island, and all of the surrounding mountains created an astounding view.

 

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Our group from left to right: Jo, Jeff, Phil, Raven, Isaac (kneeling), Ben, Kayla, Scott, Cam, Camille, Byrne, Devin, Rachelle, and Laurie.

After snapping photos of the landscape, Phil talked to our class about the management of these surrounding areas, and how that it is necessary for the community to work together (as Noosa does) to manage their land for multiple values (and reach many of their goals). Near the end of our time together, Phil discussed how we must view ourselves as part of the ecosystems that we live in, and how every part of the ecosystem has a specific purpose, and without it, there are devastating effects. Ben added that there is no such thing as “significance” in an ecosystem, as everything is significant; a perfectly functioning ecosystem, a polluting factory, and everything in between affects the health of the environment. We are not the owners of the land, but rather the stewards. As Lyndon Davis of the Gubbi Gubbi people told us before, we must be the custodians of the land.

To learn more, check out http://blog.noosabiosphere.org.au/

Until tomorrow,

Isaac

Small Landowners; Noosa Everglades

Our group loaded the bus today at 7:30 am this morning, with Paul driving once again. During our transport, we spoke of some of our adventures from the day before. Jo, Cam, and Raven traveled to Steve Irwin’s Australian Zoo (which sounds amazing!), while Devin, Scott, Camille, Kayla, Byrne, and I rented sea kayaks to explore the Mooloolaba harbor and mouth. Both parties had a great time (though I wish I had taken my friend Brent’s advice and gone to the zoo, as Cam and Raven were able to hang out with Kangaroos and hold Koalas). Cam and Jo mentioned that the animal habitats were all very open and beautiful, and that they all had running water, such as streams. The roo habitat alone was perhaps the size of five or six football fields.

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The kayakers paddled up and down the fairly large bay, circling two small islands with massive houses erected on them. We traveled closer to the ocean into a shallow inlet, where we waded into the cool waters and dug small blue and pink sand crabs. On our paddle back to the pier, we ducked under a few docks for some excitement, though the hanging barnacles were quite precarious.

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Regarding our adventure today, after our hour-long drive, we arrived at a small hardwood plantation forest held by a private landowner. The Private Forestry Service Queensland (PFSQ) is a nonprofit organization which is very similar to the Extension Service in the United States. They are dedicated to helping small landowners manage their lands, and also work in native forests to control noxious weeds and stabilize hillsides.  Camphor laurel, a tree that is quite common in Queensland and is harvested for its aromatic wood, is actually an invasive species from China.

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Andrew Sinclair, landowner, displaying a small sawmill on his land.

Within the plantation, many unique bird calls could be heard, including one that sounded like a loud drop of water, which Laurie informed us was a whipbird.

Andrew Sinclair, the landowner, was felling trees as we first arrived at the stand, and came to speak with us after a second tree had gotten caught up in another. He informed us that the majority of the trees on his land were eucalypt hardwoods. Spotted gum, one of the species on his land, has very thick sapwood, which allows it to take chemical treatment very well. One of the common UV treatments available in Australia is called Intergrain, a relatively new treatment that has been shown to be more durable than the chemicals available in the United States. The forests on this plantation are actively thinned and pruned for timber use, which is a very intensive and expensive process, but necessary to prevent widespread use of herbicides.

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When asked of the cost to start a small timber stand of this size, Sinclair told us that the startup cost was about $200,000, and that the profit yield was relatively low, making it not possible to live solely off of the plantation. Perhaps small-scale forestry in Australia is more of a rich man’s hobby than a practical application for landowners.

After our tour of the eucalypt plantation ended, we boarded our bus once again and drove out to the Noosa Everglades, one of two named everglades on the planet (the other being in Florida).

We waited for a short time and hopped onto a boat that looked like a floating greenhouse with its numerous windows. We traveled down the river, which quickly became bordered by houseboats and various abandoned boats; thankfully this only lasted for a short distance. As we motored further into the river, it became bordered by mangroves and various eucalypts and we saw many bird species. Someone asked Ben, our tour guide, if we would see any crocodiles, and he didn’t think so, as the last reported sightings in the everglades were about 20 years ago. Though there wouldn’t be any crocodiles, Ben mentioned that 8 of the 10 most deadly snakes live in the Noosa Everglades, and that bull sharks have been known to swim up the river. The invasive (and poison-skinned) cane toad also calls this area its home, but the keelback snake, a freshwater species, is immune to the cane toad’s poison, and loves the taste of the toad. Many other species have fallen due to the toxins in the skin of the toad, but kookaburras have learned to flip the toads over and eat their undersides, which are apparently free of the toxin.

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The river transformed from having relatively clear water to a dark brown to black water, where the melaleucas (tea trees) boarder the river. The tea leaves stain the river into a presumably strong (and probably microbe-saturated) brew. Due to the tannins in the water, the acidity is too high for mosquitoes to breed in the water, though the bugs can be a great irritation in the area in the Australian summer.

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Crossing a shallow lake, Ben slowed the boat to a near-crawl, to keep the boat as flat as possible on the water. We scraped along the sandy bottom until it became deep enough to increase our speed slightly, where we came to a startling discovery: a small catamaran tipped onto its side, with no signs of any people. A few members on board, including Jo and myself stepped onto the front of our boat and scanned the water for any signs of survivors, to no avail. Ben called the police as I continued to scan the water, ready to enter if necessary. After some time, I noticed a small boat in the distance heading our way; I flagged them down as they neared, assuming that they were with the police. Instead, to our surprise and joy, it was a small motorboat containing the fallen catamaran pilot. He had tipped over and swam to shore—an amazing feat for not only his age (of perhaps 50), but there were strong waves in the lake, and the shore which he hailed from was well over a mile away!

Extremely thankful for the circumstances, we continued across the lake and into the next section of the river. We slowed again; the dark waters appeared as a sheet of glass, creating beautiful reflections of the trees at the water’s edge. Ben told us that rangers who manage the Noosa Everglades try to keep the river as natural as possible. When a tree falls across the river, they cut out only enough for a boat to pass though and nothing more.

We traveled further and came to a small wood plank house known as Harry’s Hut, where we enjoyed afternoon tea and lamingtons. Harry, who was a landowner when the area was converted into part of the Great Sandy National Park (circa 1999), who was unwilling to sell his land to the government at the time. After some discussion back and forth, Harry finally told the government that they could have his land, if he could still stay in his hut that he had lived in for many years. They agreed, and after his death a number of years ago, his hut is now a protected part of the majestic Noosa Everglades.

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Tomorrow, we will be heading back to Noosa for a third time, but this time, our journey will take us into the Noosa Biosphere, a 150,000 hectare nature reserve.

Until then,

Isaac

A day off at the Australia Zoo

Cam and Raven and I decided to spend our day off at the Australia Zoo. It was a quick 30 minute, $15 RT ride on the greyhound bus to get to the zoo. The entrance fee was steep ($59/adult; $47/student), but we agreed it was a great opportunity to learn about some of Australia’s iconic animals.

Immediately after entering the main zoo area, we saw zoo keepers showing off a hungry little echidna. Echidnas are monotremes – like the platypus – meaning they are mammals that lay eggs. These two animals are the only monotremes that we know of.

We were able to feel their spines which were firm, but not prickly at all – if you move your hand in the right direction.

 

The Australian Echidna.

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We saw endearing little wombats sunning themselves.
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There were enclosures where we discovered how truly soft kangaroo fir is! Cam was especially enamored of the ‘roos.

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And, of course, we got up close with koalas. While we were watching a female koala, we saw a tiny koala joey peek out from her pouch.
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Koalas are really cute, but no one tells you how stinky they smell.

 

I was excited to see cassowarys. Despite their size and colorful heads, they are remarkably difficult to see in the rainforest. And, they can be quite dangerous with their powerful. clawed feet. Better to see them from the other side of the fence!
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We saw lots of saltwater crocodiles, mostly in the 10 to 15 foot range (what is that in mm, Laurie?). Although not native to  Australia, Cam and Raven got to hold the much smaller American alligator.

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And we saw quite a few beautiful snakes including the Taipan,

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and an albino python!

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What a day!

Fraser Island

Rising early for our journey to Fraser Island, we stumbled downstairs to the large bus that looked reminiscent of a garbage truck with windows. We traveled in the early morning darkness until our transfer in Noosa, where we moved from one garbage truck to a larger one; thankfully there was enough room for everyone aboard, so they didn’t have to use the compactor.

Our bus driver for the day, Henning, had quite a deep German accent with a unique inflection, and a very humorous nature. He mentioned right away that the ride would be bumpy and that he had an array of sick bags that we could use or perhaps have a competition with, if anyone suffered from nausea.

After a 2 ½ hour drive, we stopped to release half of the pressure from all of the tires for driving off-road. Henning said that this helps to maintain the roads on the island, since they are all made of sand or wooden planks. We drove a short while longer until the pavement turned into sand, and then boarded a barge to cross over the half mile of ocean that separates mainland Australia from Fraser Island. Fraser is the world’s largest sand island, meaning that it is essentially an ever-expanding sand dune on top of volcanic bedrock in the ocean; it is 99% sand and only 1% rock, and host to various plant species. Plants are able to grow well on the sand thanks to abundant mycorrhizal fungi (a fungi that covers the roots of plants and allows for better uptake of nutrients, due to greatly increased surface area). The island is also classified as a World Heritage site, and a very popular tourist destination.

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Driving along the ocean’s edge and swerving in and out as waves came in, Henning kept us all greatly entertained. We stopped for tea and biscuits on the beach, where I gorged myself on delicious lamingtons (an Australian tea cake, covered in shredded coconut). As we wandered along the beach for a short time, Laurie discovered a very large beached jellyfish, perhaps 12-16 inches in diameter; it would have been amazing to see it in its life.

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I had no idea that our tour was going to primarily from the confines of the bus, which could have been bland, had the island been paved. We drove over beaches and through the inland jungle at a grueling pace, which bounced all of us passengers around, and most of the time felt like we were in a monster truck traversing an off-road obstacle course. Inland, some of the steeper roads were make of boardwalk-esque wooden planks, which allowed for climbing in our 4×4 garbage truck a bit easier, and prevented washouts in heavy rain.

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We stopped for lunch at the beautiful McKenzie Lake, which contained possible the softest sand I have ever felt, and a pH level of 3.7, making it some of the softest water on the planet as well. This low pH level is said to have a healing effect on those who swim in the waters, even taking off 10 years of age. Though I don’t think I am fifteen again, I sure felt younger (as I typically do) when splashing around in the water and swimming out a short distance. I wish I would have thought to bring by mask and snorkel; perhaps next time.

Fraser Island has the purest breeds of dingoes on the planet, which thankfully we were able to see. Right after finishing our lunch, we had boarded the bus, and a lady called out that she could see some dingoes in the distance. Those of us who had boarded quickly offloaded the bus and crept over a bit closer, as to see the wild dogs (they are actually a subspecies of the grey wolf). The dingoes appeared to be a mating pair, which had come into the area possibly due to the scent of food. A few of us students continued to pace closer and closer to the pair, while watching for any signs of annoyance from our presence. We were able to get within only a few feet of the lovely animals, whose temperament greatly reminded me of my huskies back home.  After many photos, we left the animals in peace and continued our wild ride through the jungle. We stopped again to walk along an elevated boardwalk above a crystal clear stream with some massive ferns, aptly named king or giant ferns, which can grow fronds up to 8 meters in length.

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Leaving the jungle after some time, we worked out way back to the beaches, and then across the ferry once again. As the tide had dropped, we were able to drive along the beach back toward Noosa; along the way, we stopped at the Painted Sands, which range in colors of yellow and orange.

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Tomorrow, we will have a free day in Mooloolaba, and then on Monday, we will venture to the Noosa Everglades.

Until next time,

Isaac

Tolga Woodworks (Atherton Tablelands addition); Bamboo Bicycle

The Atherton Tablelands are home to a wide range of tropical hardwoods. When the area was settled large areas of rainforest were cleared for agriculture. Markets for the high value lumber were limited owing to the isolation of the area and it was used locally to build many of the houses in the area. The rainforest that remains is now preserved but small volumes of wood are now used by local artisans to create high value wood products that we were able to see at Tolga Woodworks (http://www.tolgawoodworks.com.au/).

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The shop is essentially an art museum, in which all of the pieces are available for purchase. The art is all very beautiful, ranging from pieces such as a hand-crafted classical guitar, lathe-shaped wooden bowls, live-edge tables, spinning tops, wall art, and many other unique works. Apart from art pieces, there is raw wood available for purchase in the shop, all of which come from Australian trees.

Speaking of the utilization of tropical hardwoods, bamboo, though not a true wood, is a plant with many useful and artistic applications. Before our flight into Brisbane the other day, we discovered just one of these at the Cairns Airport: a bamboo bicycle which was handcrafted by artist David Hudson, of the Ewamian/Western Yalangi people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maroochy Botanical Gardens; Hoop Pine Plantation Forest

Leaving our new penthouse apartment at our now typical time of 8 am with our new driver, Paul, we found ourselves to the amazing Maroochy Botanical Gardens. We toured through a myriad of unique flora, most of which is native to the region. After a brief introduction to the park, our class split into groups of three students, each with a park naturalist. Laurie, Camille, Cam, and I toured the gardens with our Canadian-accented guide, who has lived in Oz (Australia) for the past 30 years.

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We meandered through the gardens collecting data for our first true assignment: a photographic key of the native plants of the region. We saw the turpentine tree, which is one of the most durable woods on the planet (though the chemical turpentine actually comes from a North American pine tree). The Casuarina, known as ironwood, is an interesting Aussie tree that appears to have needle-like foliage, while up close, it visually resembles the horsetail species. We saw a few examples of the Banksia species, named after Captain Cook’s botanist Joseph Banks, a species found only in the southern hemisphere. This columnar-flowering species is quite visually striking and very unique, having inflorescences unlike any other species I have seen before. Another visually unique species is Grevillea, whose flowers appear to be small hoops (as seen below).

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Another very interesting plant species we were able to see is the grasstree (Xanthorrhoea), this specimen being a short-trunked tree that appears to look like a stump with a large bushy clump of grass atop of it.

While viewing these plants, we heard the song of a black and white bird, which looks similar in shape to the Western scrub jay of Oregon. The song was very pleasing, and could be repeated with a whistle, to which the bird would return your call. As our tour of the gardens came to a close, we walked back to the visitor center, finding a large kookaburra perching on a sign. The bird, related to the kingfisher, allowed us to walk up relatively close to it for taking photos, only flying off when I was within a few feet of it.

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In the visitor center, we enjoyed tea and biscuits with our hosts—speaking of which, Australia has some of the best cookies I have ever had. They are similar to Girl Scout cookies, but better, if you can believe that.

On the road again, we drove for about an hour until we arrived at a road closure where we had to turn around to find another route to the town of Imbil. Reaching the memorial plaza of Imbil a short while later (and a bit later than expected), we enjoyed lunch together under a gazebo, and then browsed through the small shops for a bit, though nothing in particular caught my eye.

Ian Last, plantation manager of Hancock Queensland Plantations (HQPlantations), whom we met up with in the plaza, instructed us a bit about their plantation practices. Their forest plantations were government-managed areas, which the Queensland Government wanted to sell, so Hancock, a Boston-based company purchased the available lands on a 99-year plantation license. 44,000 hectares of this land is planted with hoop pine (Araucaria).

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After our talk regarding these licensed areas, Ian led us to an Araucaria plantation, which contained some very large clearcuts with rainforest buffers. Looking at the buffer areas, one could identify remaining hoop pines, due to their emergence over the rainforest canopy.

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There are no laws in Queensland, as there are in Oregon, regarding the replanting of trees after a harvest, nor is there a forest code of practice, but due to the industry being based off of the utilization of these lands for growing and harvesting timber on 20-to-40 year rotations, the forest managers typically replant cleared lands quickly. We then entered into one of the rainforest buffers, which contained many species, including eucalypts, silky oaks, hoop pine, sandpaper fig, and banya pine (Araucaria bidwillii), which is very similar visually to the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), though its cones are larger than pineapples.

In the early morning tomorrow, we will be leaving for a long day trip to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world.

Until tomorrow,

Isaac