Graet Dane loves Maclean
By IAN THOMSON
THERE was a moment in 1980 when Australia was in danger of losing one of its greatest contemporary adventurers ? Dick Smith.
That was the day at the Sydney Showground when another great adventurer, Hans Tholstrup, was at the wheel of a double-decker bus attempting to jump 25 motorcycles.
Smith and Tholstrup dreamt up the TV event soon after American daredevil Evil Knievel used his motorbike to jump 25 buses.
Smith, dressed as a conductor, was at the rear of the bus as the stunt began. The plan was for him to jump off before the bus made its way up the ramp.
But for reasons best known to himself, he didn't leave the bus.
Tholstrup, who's now a cane farmer at Ashby after falling in love with Maclean, recalls the event:
"There was every chance that once the bus had cleared the motorcycles it would land on its nose and flip over. If that happened, Dick would almost certainly have been killed. I would have survived because I was driving and would have been at the fulcrum of the flip," he said.
The bus cleared the bikes and landed safely. Smith and Tholstrup walked away unscathed from yet another challenge.
There's no doubt you've heard of Dick Smith. But if you're struggling with the name Hans Tholstrup, let me introduce you to a new Lower River resident every bit as famous as Yamba's round-theworld sailor Kay Cottee.
Hans Jeppe Boel Tholstrup was born in Denmark 60 years ago.
By the age of 16 he had pedalled through Europe on a pushbike and a moped.
After meeting a few Australian students while attending Cambridge University in England, he just had to head 'down under'.
So at the age of 18 Tholstrup hitch-hiked through Europe and Asia and finished up in Darwin.
He became a jackaroo, a buffalo shooter, a parachutist and a racing car driver on the track and in rallies.
In the years that followed, Tholstrup would combine his lust for adventure with a passion for renewable energy.
That passion led him to create the world's first solarpowered vehicle in 1981.
'First' is a word that sits well with this son of a Danish cheese maker. Here are just a few:
nFirst open boat trip around Australia.
nFirst four-wheel drive single-handed crossing of Australia.
nFirst motorcycle crossing of Australia.
nFirst to fly solo around the world (no navigational aids).
nFirst to walk across the Simpson desert.
nFirst solar car to cross a continent (Perth to Sydney).
nFirst open boat trip to Japan.
Tholstrup has been involved in many more extraordinary and dangerous journeys, but it's the renewable energy issue that fills his inventive and adventurous mind.
"To have a sustainable future, we must have renewable energy," he says, gazing at the Clarence River out the window of his home in Ashby.
"I've never been able to understand why people won't accept that oil and coal are finite fossil fuels ? they will run out. Look at the world as a giant petrol tank.
"We are running on about half a tank at the moment and it won't be long before we're running on empty unless something is done."
When Tholstrup created the first car powered by the sun, there was an oil crisis and people embraced and applauded his invention.
But when the oil started to flow again, people lost interest in alternative energy forms.
"That really disillusioned and frustrated me," he said.
"THE United States alone is consuming 2300 million litres of fuel per day. Australia is using 140 million litres a day. Do people really think this is a resource that's going to last forever?"
Tholstrup has moved to the Clarence Valley for two reasons. One is the township of Maclean.
"I've always loved Maclean," he said. "It's a great place. It just feels good to be in this part of the world."
Tholstrup lives right across the Clarence from Maclean's commercial centre. When he wants supplies, he rows across in a three-metre skiff moored in front of his 40ha cane farm.
The other magnet that pulled him to the Lower River was sugar cane ?- perhaps an odd choice for a man who has just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But again, it's the renewable energy issue that attracted him to cane.
"I see an enormous future for sugar cane and its by-products," Tholstrup said.
"Ethanol, for instance, can be used as fuel to cook our food, not just to help power motor vehicles. Sugar is one of the highest-productive, direct-energy food sources we have."
Tholstrup believes the sharefarming of cane plantations is the way to go. He says farmers should think twice about selling their land to greedy city slickers for future development.
"The good times will return for cane farmers. Farmland should be preserved -? develop the rubbish land instead."
Tholstrup's research has revealed how much cane farming has meant to the Clarence Valley over the years.
"Chatsworth Island was the site of the first rum distillery in Australia," he said.
"It's a rich heritage that should be preserved and worked on to provide a sustainable energy source for generations to come."
But this 60-year-old futurist hasn't lost his zest for adventure, either.
Far from it.
On the Tholstrup drawing board is a motorcycle trip from Argentina, through Brazil and into Venezuela ?- taking in the world's highest waterfall along the way.
Then there's his second trip along the mighty Amazon River, from Peru to the Atlantic Ocean in a solar-powered boat.
He plans to take some children on that trip, to help their environmental education.
Tholstrup believes that everyone is born an adventurer, but many are talked out of pursuing their adventures.
He closes with a message: "Please be a practising futurist. We must pass on to the next generations what we have enjoyed -? a secure, safe and comfortable life. Know your responsibility before practicing and demanding your rights."