Epupa Falls is a series of cascades stretching about 1.5km through the Kunene Region. This is the northern-most point in Namibia, where the Kunene River forms the border with Angola.
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It is a primordial landscape, born out of the very heart of the pre-Jurassic Gondwana super-continent.
The Kunene Region in Northern Namibia is dry, mountainous, and underdeveloped. It is home to semi-nomadic tribes whose ways of life have barely changed for hundreds of years (see: Women of the Himba, and Himba Model Shoot).
The Kunene River, which starts in the Angolan highlands and runs 1,050 kilometres to the Atlantic Ocean, is the only perennial river within the ecoregion. The river marks the Angola-Namibia border and tumbles over Epupa Falls at a gorge formed between 2,100 million and 1,750 million years ago.
Although the time-lines are wildly different, I had no trouble imagining dinosaurs walking among the primitive baobab trees that cling to the rocky river banks.
That was, of course, once we got there.
I and four other photography enthusiasts were travelling with photographer Ben McRae and local guide, driver, chief cook and bottle-washer, Morne Griffiths, across the vast expanses that comprise Namibia.
I knew we’d be camping for the next several nights, so I treated myself to a small cabin with a plywood bed the night we stopped in Kamanjab, and enjoyed a decent sleep and a shower with water so splayed that I got my exercise dancing around, trying to get wet without getting scalded; facilities in Namibia can be “rustic”. After a very early hot breakfast, we started our journey of 440 kilometres north through the dry winter landscape dressed in subdued autumnal colours; about six bumpy hours past hornbills perched on electrical wires, ostriches and giraffes loping in the distance, and long-horned cows and humped brahman along the roadside. Gradually, the thorn trees gave way to palm forests, and we came across our first giant baobabs.
Nothing, though, prepared me for the magnificent Epupa Falls.
Join me in Namibia’s timeless Kunene.
Rosy-Faced Lovebird (Agapornis Roseicollis)
The sun wasn’t yet up and the winter air was still cold – but the birds were already gathered around the feeder in the rest-camp courtyard in Kamanjab.
View from the Truck
We set off early morning, heading out on the long, dusty roads north to Epupa. (iPhone6)
The mighty baobas (Adansonia digitata) grow along the side of the road.
“Make your Mark”
There is an African proverb: “Knowledge and wisdom are like a Baobab tree, one person’s arms cannot encompass it.” The trunks are huge, with an average diameter of 5 m (16 ft).
Scars and Textures
Baobab trees frequently live for between 1,000 – 3,000 years. Their succulent trunks have a high resistance to drought and fire.
In the right soil, baobabs grow quickly, and can reach between 5–25 m (16–82 ft) in height.
Nests in the Branches
Cairn or Shrine
View from the Truck
Leaving the baobab tree behind, we rejoin the the road and climb the rocky hills to Epupa. (iPhone6)
Above Epupa Falls
After pitching our tents in the allocated camping spot, we join the other visitors on the dry, rocky terrain above the falls.
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Afternoon above the Falls
The afternoon sun still packs heat as the shadows deepen and grow longer. It is not as quiet as it looks, however: the roar of the falls, just hidden from sight, is palpable.
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Nothing had prepared me for the first sight of the magnificent falls, with the waters of the Kunene tumbling straight down the rocky gorge separating Namibia from Angola.
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Below the Falls
Before sun-up the next morning, I grabbed a head-lamp and tripod and picked my way carefully over the jagged, primordial landscape below the main falls. Countless waterfalls tumble into the river below from all directions.
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Morning on the Falls
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As early as I was, I wasn’t the first. Photographer Ben McRae had already found a spot on the ancient rocks.
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Below the Falls
Epupa Falls are thought to be the oldest rock formation in Namibia, between 2,100 million and 1,750 million years old.
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As the sky finally lightens, the green river contrasts with the ancient rocks of the gorge.
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Water on the Rocks
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Morning Light on the Baobabs
The spray from the falls backlights the baobabs.
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Angola over the River
Angola looks wild and empty across the river.
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The giant baobabs have a shallow roots, spreading further than the height of the trees, allowing them to cling to the river banks and survive the dry climate.
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It’s a pre-historic landscape: baobab trees are among the oldest living trees in the world.
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Leaves on a Baobab Tree
To conserve moisture, baobabs only have leaves about three months a year, during the wet season.
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Top of the Falls
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Top of the Falls
“Epupa” is a Herero word for “foam”; the falls are named for the the foam created by the tumbling water.
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Girls at the top of the Falls
The morning sun lights up this “foam” at the rocky top of Epupa Falls.
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Since 2012, Himba chiefs have been protesting against a proposed dam on the Kunene River in the Baynes Mountains. The dam might bring in economic development to the region but would irreparably change the traditional ways of life, and this ancient landscape itself.
Development is not always “progress”.
Until next time.
Zähringerbrunnen : the Zähringer Fountain
In the UNESCO-listed medieval city-centre of Bern, a fountain topped by a bear in full armour, with a cub at his feet, was built in 1535 as a commemoration to Berchtold von Zähringer, who founded the city in 1191. (iPhone5)
The Swiss city of Bern is indelibly associated with bears. The bear has featured on the city seal and coat of arms since at least the 1220s. Stories relating to the keeping of live bears in a Bärengraben (bear pit) in the centre of the city – in what is still called Bärenplatz (Bear Plaza) – date back to the 1440s (or 1513 – depending on your source!).
Legend has it that Bern was named for the bear that Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, came across in the wood that was to be cleared for his new city. He had vowed to name the city for the first animal he saw on his hunt.
This story is widely questioned. For a long time it was thought that the city might have been named after the Italian city of Verona, then known as Bern in Middle High German. Scholars since the 1980s, however, think the name is of Celtic origin.
What is not in question is that Berthold V founded Bern in 1191. He had been charged with establishing a city to help solidify his family’s position over their land holdings. The Zähringer ruling family, decreed dukes by the German king, held much of what is today Switzerland – then considered part of southern Burgundy. In order to reinforce their position in the region, they started or expanded a number of settlements.
For Bern, Berchtold V chose an easily defensible, long and narrow hilly peninsula, surrounded by the Aare river on three sides. Somehow, the old city has managed to retain its medieval charm, while functioning in the modern world. Tram tracks run down the cobbled streets; up-market hotels, fashionable boutiques, and quirky coffee shops are tucked into the covered, arcaded sidewalks. Everywhere you turn, there are colourful statues and fountains and clock towers. Guild flags hang from the buildings that once housed them; canton flags hang from the Renaissance-style Bundeshaus (Parliament Building); geraniums hang from every window. It is the best-preserved historic town centre in Switzerland, and – as the “Old City of Berne” – it was UNESCO-heritage listed in 1983.
The beauty of travelling in Europe is that everything is accessible by train. My husband and I were travelling from England. Friends of ours from Zurich met up with us, and we spent a leisurely day walking around the Old City.
Busker on a Dudelsackspieler
Evening in the centre of Old Bern is lively, in spite of a threat of rain. (iPhone5)
Evening clouds hang over the buildings used by the National Council and the Council of States. (iPhone5)
Nine Men’s Morris
The restaurants fill up as people stroll the streets. (iPhone5)
Bundes Platz – Parliament Square
Flags of the Cantons – Bundeshaus
To the Bundeshaus Terraces
An archway leads to the back of the parliament buildings, …
Woman in the Fountain
… where there are gardens …
View from the Bundeshaus Terraces
… and views over the red-roofed buildings below.
BEKB Bank Building, Bundesplatz
Bern Old City Streets
Trams and pedestrians share the old cobbled streets.
Bern’s 800-year-old mechanical clock in its 23-meter tower is one of the the city’s most famous landmarks.
Lion – Marktgasse
Old Clock Tower – Zytglogge
The Old Clock Tower, built by Caspar Brunner between 1527 and 1530, in what was once Bern’s west gate
The buildings in the Old City include 15th-century arcades of painted limestone.
Doors to the Underground on Kramgasse
Intriguing slanted doors lead down to cellar stores and coffee shops.
Monkey Guild Statue
Zähringerbrunnen and Zytglogge on Kramgasse
Medieval clock towers and Renaissance fountains are features of the Old City.
Vennerbrunnen – Ensign Fountain
The ensign, carrying a flag with the bear of Bern, promises to protect the city.
Das Berner Rathaus – City Hall
Medieval Ships and Dreams
There are plenty of shops to fire the imagination.
The Fast-Flowing Aare
To reach the Rose Garden and the Bear Park, we crossed the Nydeggbrücke over the Aare River.
The Old Bärengraben – Bear Pit
Bern’s first captive bears were held at Bärenplatz (Bear Square) in the Old City from the 1400s or 1500s. The bear enclosures here were first opened in 1857, and were upgraded numerous times. Due to ongoing protests from animal rights groups, the newer Bärenpark was opened in 2009, and this section of pit became an information area, access to the Bärengraben’s shop, and a performance space.
Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos)
The bears remaining here, near the old enclosures look healthy, but forlorn.
Contributors to the improvements are commemorated in the walkways.
View over Old Bern
At the Rose Gardens, we enjoyed a late lunch – and views over the old city.
We walked back down the hill through the Bärenpark – opened in 2009 –
Eurasian Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos Arctos)
– where the bears have more room to roam between the old Bärengraben and the bank of the River Aare.
Waiting for the Zytglogge
We made our way back through the old city, where people were waiting at the east face –
– for the old clock to perform. At four minutes to the hour, the clock’s mechanical figures (including bears, a crowing cock, a fool, a knight, and a piper) begin their procession.
On Swiss Rail
We collected our bags, made our way to the train station, and – sadly – left Bern behind.
It was a delightful city to visit.
Like I said – that’s the beauty of Europe: every delightful city is just a rail-trip away.
Vietnamese Spices and Rice Noodles
Street food gives you insight into local culture, but it can be risky when you are travelling; sometimes it is safer to eat the five-star version as prepared in the pristine environment of a modern resort.
It can be relaxing to travel like a “tourist”: to find a haven in crisp sheets and smiling staff who speak your language, after a hectic day in a bustling foreign environment.
I usually avoid up-market resorts – mostly because I’d rather travel twice as often than pay twice as much. But, every so often, an offer comes to my attention, one that fits in so neatly with other plans we have already made, that I can’t resist.
So it was in February this year. My husband and I were already committed to attend the Singapore Air Show (see: Lines, Curves, and Dreams of Flight) when I saw a special deal for a new resort (Naman Retreat) near Danang in Vietnam. It gave me a chance to go back to Halong Bay (see: Vung Vieng Pearl Farm, Karst Mountains and Caves; and Spring Rolls and Winter Weather), and took us into a region of Vietnam I had always wanted to visit.
The resort itself and the package-deal we got was bliss: wonderful food, daily massages, an included cooking lesson, yoga classes and gym, a bicycle tour and other daily activities, shuttles into Hội An and Đà Nẵng, smiling and attentive (but not intrusive) staff… the list went on. Our only complaint was the weather: winter was colder, wetter, and had hung on longer, than any of the locals could remember – but we couldn’t really blame the resort for that!
Put your feet up and settle back into some true Asian comfort.
Nothing says “Southeast Asia” to me like waterlilies in beautifully manicured ponds.
When you see the conical hats working in the rice fields, you can be nowhere but Vietnam.
Even in the rain, the staff are hard at work maintaining the grounds. (iPhone6)
Morning on the Beach
Fishermen have their rods set on the quiet winter beach. No holiday-makers are around; it is far too cold to swim. (iPhone6)
Sand Crab (iPhone6)
Naman Retreat’s Hay Hay Restaurant
With bamboo walls and a thatched roof, the Hay Hay Restaurant, designed by locally-based Vo Trong Nghia Architects, is an intriguing fusion of contemporary design and Vietnamese tradition. (iPhone6)
Resort Dining Room
Inside, bent bamboo pillars reach high …
Vaulted Bamboo Ceiling
… up to the vaulted ceiling. Different types of bamboo, chosen for their properties of strength, rigidity or flexibility, have gone into the construction of the airy resort buildings.
When I saw the breakfast selection, I was in heaven! (iphone6)
Mid-morning, we were back in the dining room for our cooking lesson.
Vu, whose official designation according to his name-tag, is “Flame Keeper Captain”, greets us and gives us our Cooking Class Recipe card.
Spring Roll Ingredients
The rice-paper wrappers and filling ingredients are laid out and ready.
Vu describes the ingredients and explains the process of making the dipping sauce for traditional Vietnamese fresh spring rolls.
He whisks the coconut juice, white sugar, melted rock sugar, salt lemon juice, chilli, garlic and fish sauce together, …
… beating vigorously until the ingredients are well combined.
Rolling Spring Rolls
Once the sauce is made, Vu demonstrates how to roll the prawns, pork belly, mint, coriander, and bean sprouts into their parcels. I love the contrast between his simple Buddhist bracelet and his jewel-studded gold ring.
Vietnamese Traditional Fresh Spring Rolls
When we’ve made our own spring rolls, we get to eat them. Lunch is served!
Making Pho: Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
As we enjoy our spring rolls, Vu tells us how to make Vietnam’s best-known soup: Pho.
Chef with a Frypan
With a sous chef watching on, Vu adds ingredients to a heavy frypan …
Ingredients in the Pan
… and cooks them up.
Talking about Pho
Although pho is now known around the world, the noodle soup is thought to originate near Hanoi in the early 20th century, influenced by both Chinese and French cooking traditions.
Chef Making Soup
Although the soup stock has simmered for 10 hours, pho is delightfully fresh tasting. Vu puts freshly cooked noodles, cooked beef, and fresh herbs into bowls before topping the dishes with the broth.
Chatting with the Guests
As we finish up our soup, Vu takes time to review his cooking class and chat with participants.
Rice, sprouting in watery rice paddies where it is grown by dint of backbreaking labour, is central to Vietnamese life. Dotted around the Naman Retreat buildings, beautiful bronze sculptures of rice sprouts are reflected in granite ponds.
It was a beautiful combination:-
We had a haven where we could retreat from any hustle and bustle, while being immersed in the very best of Vietnamese food and culture.
Who could resist?
Portrait of a Man in a Turban
Textured walls and colourful turbans: you don’t need to go far in India to find a photographic subject. (Khejarla, Rajasthan)
Trip Advisor gives it a good rating.
“Fort Khejarla offers guests an enlivening experience,”says the official website.
I still think of it as the hotel that tried to kill me.
Well, shock and asphyxiate me; “kill” might be a bit extreme.
I was looking forward to our stay at the heritage “resort”, Fort Khejarla Hotel, 85 km east of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. My husband and I had stayed in a couple of old palaces on an earlier tour through Northern India and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. On this trip, I was travelling with a photographic group under the tutelage of photographer Karl Grobl and the watchful eye of local guide DV Singh.
Fairytale turrets rise up over the 400-year-old walls built by the Rajputs.
Inner Courtyard, Khejarla Fort
Morning light slants through the delicate arches and over the ancient crumbling red sandstone bricks (iPhone 4S).
I was thrilled with my room: cool marble floors, a four-poster bed all to myself, and even a sitting alcove, complete with velvet-covered antique furniture. I bounded out of the suite and crossed into the courtyard, where a shoemaker was selling his wares. I bought slippers for my absent husband and an embroidered silk jacket for myself before checking at the office for a hairdryer.
Back in my room after dinner, I slipped off my shoes and went to wash my face. The light switch zapped me. I tried to turn on the water at the sink: the taps shocked me. I called for a technician, who finally arrived in his black patent shoes and shiny blue pants. Of course, the electrically charged particles ignored him.
He turned on the shower water; I put my hand towards it and you could see the electricity arcing towards me. “Ah,” said the technician (translated by DV), “it’s because you have bare feet!”
They decided the mini-electric water-heater might be to blame, and installed me in the room next door. Not as nice, but less “shocking”.
Or so I thought.
While working on my computer, I noticed a funny smell – which I’d previously attributed to an oil burner left in the room – coming from the bathroom. The hair dryer which they had lent me was on fire, and it had attacked my waterproof plastic toiletry bag. Before long, toxic fumes were choking me, the fire was spreading, and I was despairing of anyone hearing my cries for help as I attempted to smother the flames with towels.
That I am still here clearly indicates I was eventually heard. The fire in my room was dealt with as I sat, like a limp, soot-blackened rag-doll, raspy-voiced and quite exhausted, in the courtyard outside my room.
The next room I was given was a palatial suite in the newer sections of the building. I retrieved what was left of my toiletries and finally got my shower and hair-wash before tumbling, completely worn out, into bed.
Of course, photo trips sleep in for no one. Bright and early the next morning, I was out in the streets of the modest surrounding community with my camera, making portraits wherever I could find them. Even with no voice, I had no trouble gaining consent from the friendly people of Khejarla.
Join me for a walk through town, and some street portraits – Indian style.
It is early morning, and the light has not yet fully reached into the narrow streets. Young women in their pristine salwar kameez walk to school.
“Kids wil be Kids”
Younger school children goof around when they see the camera, ….
… but without invitation, they line up against gates and doorways, …
… with their siblings …
… or alone, looking boldly and clear-eyed at the lens.
Around every new corner, the backgrounds, the light, and the colours change.
Two Men on a Motorcycle
Shopkeepers wait for customers…
Customer at the Counter
… and customers stop to chat.
Even though they know I’m not buying anything, they are generous with their smiles.
Child with Finger-Goggles
Once the school-children have passed, the streets are the domain of the younger kids, …
Children in the Street
… with their cheeky faces and brightly coloured “civvies”.
Man and Child
Woman in a Doorway
There is plenty of food available on the streets: fresh …
… and freshly cooked. I have no idea what some of it is.
Ribbons and Beads
Children are everywhere: I’m not sure why so many are out of school.
Woman in the Street
Everywhere, “life” happens in the dusty streets.
Boy at the Gate
The young ones are curious about the stranger.
Men in the Doorway
Men take a break from their labour to check out the woman with the camera …
Discussion on the Stoop
… or just to chat with their friends and neighbours.
Cows in the Street
It wouldn’t be India unless there were cows in the dusty streets, …
Woman with a Bundle
… women carrying things on their heads, …
… or young children looking after their younger siblings.
Places to Go …
… things to do. Life goes on.
I enjoyed my time in the streets of Khejarla; it was engaging without being too “enlivening”.
Until next time ~
Our Lady of Lourdes Indian Band Catholic Church – Sechelt
A simple church built of wood, Our Lady of Lourdes, was transported by barge to this spot on the waterfront on Shíshálh Nation lands in 1973 to replace an earlier building which had burned down. (iPhone6)
Woods and water are the central features of Canada’s Sunshine Coast.
This rugged, mountainous, landscape on the southern-mainland coast of British Columbia (BC) in Canada’s west is bounded by the Coast Mountains on one side and the Strait of Georgia on the other. Although it’s just a stone’s throw from Vancouver, no access roads have been built around the fjords or through the mountains, and the region is only accessibly by air or water. Most residents and visitors are dependent on the BC Ferries, which act as an extension of the local highway system.
Coniferous trees – especially Douglas fir and western red cedar – cover the steep slopes and have always been important to the life and livelihood of the people. The indigenous Coast Salish people built their longhouses and dugout canoes from the resilient and ubiquitous western red cedar. Much of their artwork was carved into and painted onto the beautiful local timbers.
The first European visitors explored the area from the waterways in the late 1790s (e.g.: José María Narváez, George Vancouver, Dionisio Alcalá Galiano & Cayetano Valdés), leaving their names on many of the local geographic features. The first European settlement didn’t happen for almost another century with the arrival of loggers, farmers, and fishermen.
Logging has always been important, developing into a broader timber industry in the early 1900s: most of Canada’s softwood comes from BC. Patches of brown, felled, land can be seen breaking up the forests of Douglas-fir, western red cedar, western hemlock, yellow cedar, juniper, yew, red alder, grand fir, mountain hemlock, broadleaf maple, sitka spruce, lodgepole pine, balsam fir, western white pine, white spruce, white birch, and black cottonwood trees that extend almost endlessly up the mountainsides to the snow caps. Smoke plumes rise up from the timber- and pulp-mills, meeting the clouds that frequently threaten coastal rains. Arbutus trees cling to rocky cliffs high above the rushing waterways; those waterways are made treacherous by the scattering of dangerous dead-heads – the almost-unseen stray logs that have escaped the long log-booms that drag far behind the sturdy tug boats that tow them.
The evidence of the importance of wood is everywhere.
Wooden Boat – Gibsons
Whether in or out of the water, boats – of all shapes and sizes – are a feature of the West Coast. (iPhone6)
Wooden Bench – Sechelt
Benches – donated in the names of loved ones – sit along the Boulevard on the Sechelt waterfront, overlooking Trail Bay. (iPhone6)
Watchful Totem – Sechelt
The northern-most West Coast Native tribes (the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian) were the first to carve the cedar totem poles we are now used to seeing. Through cultural exchange, this art form spread across the whole region. This particular watchful face looks to the waters west of Shishalh tribal lands in Sechelt. (iPhone6)
A “Fixer-Upper” – Earl’s Cove
Even wood as resilient to the elements as western red cedar (Thuja plicata) can end up mossy in the damp shadows and weathered by time. (iPhone6)
BC Ferry – Earl’s Cove
The mountains are high, the rivers are wide, and the forest is thick: if you want to drive, car ferries are the only way to access the Sunshine Coast roads. (iPhone6)
“Welcome to the Heart of Powell River”
Powell River is the site of Western Canada’s first pulp mill, built in 1908. The pre-planned model company town was started in 1910. In 1995, the township and the 400+ original buildings that remained within the boundaries were designated as a National Historic District of Canada.
Rodmay Heritage Hotel
Built in 1911 as the Powell River Hotel, the Rodmay was the first commercial building in the old township.
One of the first buildings in the township was the former home of the local doctor – build in 1910 to replace the earlier tented accommodation. The Postmaster’s House followed soon after. A typical Craftsman Style house built in 1912 of cedar shakes and shingles, it is now a private home.
The community centre, built in 1927, is still home to community activities.
Once housed in an older building (1913), the Patricia Theatre (1928) is the oldest, continuously running cinema and vaudeville business in Canada.
The 1939 building that was once the site of the Post Office, the Customs and Excise services, and the Canadian Telegraph operations, has been re-purposed to house the local craft brewery.
The trees in the gardens, …
… and those lining the streets, are lovingly cared for.
Even plants that are not indigenous …
… do well in this wet and temperate climate.
The Old Courthouse Inn
The Provincial Building (1939) once housed the local police, forestry services, and other provincial government services.
The interior of the old Provincial Building has been lovingly refitted and filled with antiques (iPhone6) …
The Sheriff’s Office
… and operates as a charming boutique hotel: The Old Courthouse Inn.
The wet weather takes its toll, and not all of the buildings have kept up.
Build as the Oceanview Apartments in 1916 for married employees without children, the beautifully maintained Arbutus Apartments remind us again that the whole raison d’être for the township …
Mill Smoke and Roof Work
… was the mill, which as Catalyst Paper Mill, still operates. In its glory-days, the paper produced here supplied 25 newspaper outlets. In the foreground, you can see a carpenter working on the eaves of St Luke’s Hospital, originally built in 1913 by Dr Henderson.
While wood, and timber products, are still important to the livelihood of the Sunshine Coast, the area is reinventing itself as a centre for recreation, tourism, and retirement living. The forests still play a major role: providing a beautifully aesthetic backdrop, places to walk and sit, pulp for specialised papers, timber-products for modern building, and beautifully grained woods for homewares and artworks.
And, of course, plenty of fresh air.
‘Till next time,
Pictures: 08- June2016
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