New activity proposed for naturists

Active Naturists are proud to present new activity for naturists, that combines fun, physical activity and health benefits. There are already several groups in New York City that offer naked yoga classes – clearly good for your body, but not everyone gets the joy of keeping that downward dog pose after long day at work, and it lacks interactive aspect. Naked body painting events are on the rise too, but is it good for your health? Certainly not, if you use latex-based paints, and even more so, if you consider alcohol consumption that usually accompanies those parties. For this reason, we’ve found something that has it all: naked mud wrestling!

It’s obviously interactive. It’s a strenuous physical exercise for the whole body! Finally, mud is good for your skin nourishing it with essential elements, and who better than naturists value their skin? While wrestling, you will do the job of rubbing it in too. However, if that wasn’t enough, we’ve decided to go even further and bring even more health benefits by adding freshly squeezed garlic to the mud! Just read about 7 amazing benefits of garlic, and you will understand why! Here is the summary:

  • Garlic has large amount of allicin present in it and allicin has antifungal, anti-aging and skin smoothing benefits. It is also known to increase antioxidant levels of the skin and body.
  • Sulphur present in garlic prevents infections and helps in reducing inflammation. It also enhances blood flow thus giving the skin a natural glow

And what is #1 of 13 surprising benefits of garlic? (BTW this gives garlic total of 20 benefits, amazing!)

Garlic could end your hair loss problems because of its high levels of allicin, a sulfur compound similar to that found in onions, which were found to effectively treat hair loss.

So, we expect our classes to be equally popular and beneficial among young ladies who want to keep their skin smooth and elderly men who want to prevent hair loss, and anyone in between!

We are starting regular classes in New York city first, and then hopefully the trend will catch up in the rest of the world. At the moment, we can only offer morning classes, and unfortunately there are no showers at the venue, but we are working on expanding our facilities. Please contact us by e-mail or comment here if you’d like to attend. First 10 get free class!

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Makalawena beach by Kona airport, welcome to Hawaii

view 0000 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

After Maui, I headed to the island of Hawaii aka Big Island. It was a real pleasure to see my first destination on the island – a beautiful secluded beach called Makalawena – from the airplane upon approach to Kona airport. It came highly recommended by two friends, and my guidebook (‘Hawaii, the Big Island Revealed‘) said that it was “the choicest beach on the island [to many who]… don’t mind walking to it”.

view 0001 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

It looked very pretty from the air, with its clear turquoise water, white sand and coconut palm-trees… but I could also see a pretty long road and trails going through black lava field that lead to it! The book certainly had the point, but there was another promising note, which I have to cite here, as it’s quite funny:

By the way, because it’s so isolated, people sometimes travel light to this beach, omitting such extraneous things as their bathing suits. (Yeah, that must be the reason.)

view 0002 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

Although I certainly didn’t travel light to this beach – I was carrying all my luggage, two backpacks with me – I still didn’t plan on using my bathing suit, and in fact I got naked as soon as I got on the trail to the beach.

naturist 0000 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

Here, special thanks goes to AJ, my new local friend, who was introduced to me by my other friend and ‘burner’ campmate also called AJ. He drove me to the beach as close as he could and promised to come and join me after work. I still had to walk 2 miles by the unpaved road and a trail towards the beach, but it was a nice hike.

view 0003 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

The lava field that this road went through was old enough to give out to vegetation. To my surprise, the landscape looked somewhat like african savanna.

view 0004 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

But instead of Kilimanjaro, Mauna Loa volcano dominated the landscape here.

cardinal 0000 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

Closer by the ocean, the vegetation turned into a dense but dry forest with numerous birds, among which I recognized cardinals.

view 0005 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

There was a couple of small beaches and hardly any people; one of the beaches had warning sign saying it was private property, and it looked like there was a campground.

view 0006 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

When I arrived to the biggest beach, it was all mine, and throughout the day barely more than a dozen people appeared there. One of them, started talking to me, and it turned out he used to work in my native Ukraine… and visited Hydropark nudist beach in Kiev, which he rightfully loved! I found it quite amusing that we both were praising a beach in Kiev while being at this paradisiacal beach in Hawaii. Well, both places have their perks. I definitely enjoyed that at this beach I could just crack a coconut against the rock and have some fresh coconut water :p

view 0007 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

Then I walked in the dunes and noticed the amazing stark contrast between black lava field and blue ocean, mingling of earth and water elements in action.

view 0008 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

A dove kept me company before my friend Tod finally arrived from San Diego – we planned the trip on the Big Island together.

dove 0000 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USAdove 0001 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

Shortly before sunset, AJ came back too.

view 0009 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

He’s really lucky that he can come to this place and hang loose after work!

naturist 0001 Makalawena beach, Hawaii, USA

As for me, Makalawena was a perfect start of my visit to the Big Island.

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hang loose at Little Beach, Maui!

naturist 0003 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

When you’re in Hawaii, you’ll quickly learn the shaka sign, aka “hang loose”, and the perfect place to let it all hang loose is the Little Beach on the southern shore of Maui. The beach is quite small indeed, especially in comparison to the neighboring Big Beach, and it gets pretty crowded on weekends. Nevertheless, it’s easy to find a cozy, somewhat private spot, thanks to the trees and their massive roots that create sort of alcoves at the edge of the beach.

naturist 0000 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

This place has a long hippie history, so the laid-back atmosphere is still prevalent there.

naturist 0002 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

This beach is perfect for snorkeling and body-surfing, and when conditions are right, you could surf there too. I really wanted to surf there naked, just like native Hawaiians did, but unfortunately we didn’t have luck with the waves that day.

naturist 0001 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

In the afternoon, there was a pretty big drum circle with a few dancers, but by sunset, it got really crowded as people were gathering for the famous Sunday fire-spinning gig.

fire-spinners 0000 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

I must admit that by this time 90% of the visitor were wearing clothes; perhaps they were mostly tender locals for whom a slight breeze feels too cold, or there were a lot of tourists not familiar with the tradition of this beach, but I felt totally comfortable naked.

fire-spinners 0001 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USAfire-spinners 0005 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

There were fire-spinners of all ages, and some were very good.

fire-spinners 0003 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

fire-spinners 0006 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Most performed with the drum circle,

fire-spinners 0004 Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USAbut some had additional performances at the ‘backstage’. The party was going well into the night, but we left around 9pm.

If only I managed to surf that day, I would say this beach provided the ultimate Hawaii experience – perhaps next time?

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Garden of Eden trail in Iao valley, Maui

naturist 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

How do you top an adventurous trail with four waterfalls that I described in my previous blogpost? Perhaps a trail filled with tropical fruit trees and breath-taking views will do! Just such a trail goes through Iao Valley in the western part of Maui.

Iao needle 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

This is actually a popular spot for mass tourism thanks to easy access to the view of Iao Needle rock formation, but hardly any visitors go on the trail behind the viewing platform. That’s where it gets only more interesting. Of course, I took off my clothes to enjoy the nice weather – combination of warm humid air and fresh breeze – and feel at home in the lush forest.

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2884/12472332205_f26b540009_z.jpg

The view of the lush forested valley with dark vertical walls of mountains partially hidden in white clouds is exactly what you would imagine when asked to think of ‘magnificent beauty of nature’.

The trail was very easy, with a moderate incline.

trail Iao needle 0001 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

To add some more exercises to our hiking, we climbed  a tree.

naturist  0001 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

At first it looked like an easy tree to climb but we didn’t go much further than the lower branches.

naturist  0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

But trees provided much more than shade and climbing opportunities.

guava tree 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Guavas were probably the most common tree along the trail, and they were full of fruit!

naturist  0002 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

That’s why I felt like Adam in the Garden of Eden! Perhaps I did not find the Tree of Knowledge, but I felt perfectly comfortable in the buff there and had no reason for shame. Quite on contrary, it was a pure bliss to walk around naked in the perfect temperature and eat all those fruits.

banana 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Bananas weren’t ripe, but guavas were in prime condition. Besides guavas with yellow skin and pink flash, there were smaller but even tastier strawberry guavas.

strawberry guava 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

There weren’t any strawberries proper, but some kind of raspberry was abundant in one spot.

raspberry 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Then I saw a passionfruit vine with a few green fruits,

passionfruit 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

but luckily there was a perfectly ripe giant passionfruit lying on the soil beneath!

passionfruit 0001 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

By then, I wasn’t surprised to see coffee trees with ripe coffee beans (more like coffee berries). Raw (not fermented and not roasted) they tasted nothing like coffee, but it was interesting to try them just like that.

coffee 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

I guess to make my ‘inner monkey’ totally happy I had to eat some leaves too. And my local companion pointed to a young unrolled fern leaf. While still in the ball, they are edible and quite tender!

fern 0001 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

And there were plenty of ferns!

view 0003 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

When we got to the highest point on the trail, we enjoyed amazing views again.

view 0004 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Waterfalls,

view banana thicket 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

forest with banana thickets

view

surrounded by mountains, what else would we need?

naturist  0003 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Maybe a nice branch to seat on and enjoy the view? By the way, “Filium hominis” (son of man) was carved on that branch. Not sure what I felt more, a son of man Adam or son of monkey, but I definitely felt happily connected with nature on that day ;-)

naturist  0004 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

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trail through a bamboo forest with 4 waterfalls, welcome to Maui!

On my very short trip to Maui, I had to be very selective as to what to visit from the wide range of adventures and fun that this island could offer. A rough trail through a bamboo forest with four waterfalls sounded too good to miss out. It’s a short trail (just 1km) that goes along Na’ili’ili-haele stream, but it is rightfully located in the adventures section of “Maui Revealed: the Ultimate Guidebook“, where I first heard about it. I was lucky to find an adventurous couchsurfer in Maui, who knew the island well but not that trail and was up for checking it out. So, we headed there almost straight away after he picked me up from the airport.

There are a few narrow trails that start off Hana highway, and they immediately bring you into a dense bamboo forest.

naturist 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

The guidebook said that few people went beyond the second waterfall, but it wasn’t crowded in the beginning either and I couldn’t wait to get naked in that warm and humid weather. Bamboos greeted us with a pleasant noise when the wind made them move and hit each other.

bamboo forest 0002 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Depending on the rainfall, I assume there may be more springs,

bamboo forest 0001 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

but once you cross the main stream, turn left and walk on its right side upstream.

bamboo forest 0003 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

At the first waterfall, you need to cross to the opposite (left) bank of the stream.

bamboo forest & waterfall 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

At the second waterfall, there were quite a few people, so I put on my clothes back. We found a ladder to the left of the waterfall that wasn’t described in the guidebook (I had 2005 edition) – it definitely made it easier to climb the rock, but use it on your own risk.

trail 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

While climbing that shabby ladder, I continued to admire the diverse plant life of this place. I could see 4 fern species within my hand reach (but the hand had to reach out for the rope!)

ferns 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

When we got up and walked just a little farther, we saw a very different kind of fern, a tree fern that was truly majestic.

naturist 0001 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

As you can see, I got naked again. It started drizzling but was still very warm.

forest 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

That stretch of the trail goes through a more open area no longer dominated by bamboos. There were a lot of guava trees full of ripe fruit, so we didn’t need to worry about snack ;-)

guava 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Another edible plant growing in abundance there is ginger.

ginger 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

As much as I love ginger, it’s not the kind of thing I would eat just like that.

ginger 0001 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

About 15 minutes after the second waterfall, the stream’s valley narrows and the trail actually disappears… Now, you have to swim to see the next waterfalls! That’s when a waterproof bag gets handy – I used it for my camera, and hid my shorts just under a tree.

naturist 0003 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

After swimming about half-Olympic-size pool,

naturist 0004 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

you get to boulder along the third waterfall, but it’s an easy climb.

naturist 0006 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

And, just a short walk later, you are at the fourth and the most impressive waterfall so far!

waterfall 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

The pool is surrounded by almost vertical cliffs which create a very pretty scene.

waterfall 0001 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

We met a couple there who didn’t even blink at my nakedness. I hope they took a mental note that being naked was a good idea on a hot day on a trail where you have to swim ;-) The guy went for a dive from the cliffs, and then I followed.

naturist 0002 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

That was a perfect reward for the strenuous hike!

naturist-jump-0000-Na'ili'ili-haele,-Maui,-Hawaii,-USA

 

The guidebook said there were more waterfalls, but they were “not possible” to reach. We did not have time to test that and headed back down.

naturist 0008 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

At the third pool, we had another chance for a dive.

naturist 0005 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

As the sun came out, I was shining with happiness :-)

naturist 0007 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

On the way back, as it often happens, the trail felt much shorter.

naturist 0009 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Almost at the trailhead, we discovered a viewing spot that we just missed in the beginning.

bamboo forest 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

It provided a magnificent view over the whole bamboo forest, and it was a perfect way to end our hike.

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body art in a new light

Camping trips are usually associated with such visually pleasing activities as watching fire and starry sky, but on our outing to Mecca Hills, California, we had a rather artsy experience – light painting. It’s a photographic technic that uses a light source for “painting” (illuminating certain parts with certain colors) or “drawing” while the camera captures the scene at a prolonged exposure time. Ramon thought of it as soon as he saw a small light with red laser pointer on my key chain. It was of course very different from watching fire, because we were actively creating the imagery, but the other hand it lacked immediacy, as we couldn’t appreciate the result fully until we saw the photos on a bigger screen. However, it didn’t stop us from being engaged with light painting for most of the evening

naturist 0000 body art light

Here, I became fire spirit.

naturist 0001 body art light

Don was about to start flying with his multiple arms that emitted electric pulses…

naturist 0002 body art light

and then he became a pure spirit after separating from the shady and sketchy alter egos.

naturist 0003 body art light

Meanwhile, I was fighting with the Devil himself.

naturist 0005 body art light

Despite his tricky rasteira (a movement in capoeira used to sweep or pull an opponent’s leg in response to a kick), I still won…

naturist 0006 body art light

and became a god of lighting!

naturist 0007 body art light

So, this is what happens when naturists turn into artists ;-) We also had an amazing hike in Mecca Hills, but the report will come as a separate post.

naturist 0008 body art light

The next opportunity for body art, even though it will be a very different experience, is next week already  – “New York Naked Painting Party – World Tour Kick Off!” – see you there?

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some upcoming events in NYC area

Thanks to Travasuns group, even in the cold time of the year we can gather for social naked activities at a monthly Winter Pool Party in Long Island. The next one is this Saturday, March 1 . I’ve been to a few of their events, and it was always fun. It’s a low-key event at a rented gym. They offer saunas, hang-out pool, pizza and even volleyball, which is often unofficially dubbed as naturists’ favorite sport. Given that volleyball is indoors and surrounded by walls, we can also play it as wallyball.

For someone not ready to take it all off at once, there is a perfect opportunity on Friday night: my favorite night club in New York, Pacha, has a No-Pants party with DJ Michael Woods, who is one of the best producers of progressive house and trance music around. From their press release:

Yup, you heard right. Pacha Has Woods! And when you’ve got Woods, the last thing you need is your pants. Pacha is pleased to invite you to take them off – take them all off. A staple of the modern clubbing era, the No Pants Party is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. Rock out with your everything out all night to the waist-down sounds of our brand new resident: Michael Woods!#PACHAHASWOODS FREE ADMISSION TIL 2AM WHEN YOU CHECK YOUR PANTS AT THE DOOR!

Let’s see how far we can go with rocking out with our everything out, and if Michael Woods himself joins the craze!

Two weeks later, on Thursday, March 13, we’ll have “New York Naked Painting Party – World Tour Kick Off!”  at the Highline loft. RSVP@SocialExposureNYC.com, get tickets here. The title speaks for itself, and I’ve already posted about their previous events at Gallery Bar. Their next event will be in Mexico at Hidden Beach Resort in the end of March.

I would also like to mention the film called ‘Stranger By The Lake’ (L’inconnu du lac). I heard about it a few months ago from a friend in Paris, and now it made it to a couple of cinemas in New York. It’s set at a nudist beach and cruising area by a lake in French countryside. It is a very powerful psychological drama about reckless passion, friendship, loneliness… It is very realistic and has no music soundtrack, and yet it’s also beautifully shot. Given that I don’t want cruising culture to be associated with nudism, I need to point out right away that, curiously, cruising itself was done clothed, while most conversations and other interactions were done in the nude. I wonder if this fact made the film so emotionally powerful, as there are studies showing that people are more compassionate and empathic when they see images of naked people as opposed to clothed people. I’ll say no more, I don’t want to spoil it for those who hasn’t seen the film yet.

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exhibition: Alexander Kargelstev’s Friends and Lovers

The image was taken as a protest against Russia's 'racism and homophobia'

My friend Alexander Kargaltsev has recently made headlines with this image above that was taken as a protest against Russia’s ‘racism and homophobia’.

Kargaltsev's Asylum

I wrote about him and his exhibition about Russian gay asylum seekers in the US more than a year ago, and now he’s staging a new exhibition – “The Last Polaroids: Friends and Lovers” set to open at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York on February 28.

Alexander Kargelstev's Friends and Lovers

Be sure to expect some friendly and lovely nudity, of course.

Alexander Kargelstev's Friends and Lovers

Alexander is also set for a new play, Crematorium:

Putin builds a Crematory in Russia to burn gays. Four couples are picked to test a new machine to turn them straight.

Get tickets here.

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баня в Москве с прорубью

 English

Сегодняшняя метель в Нью-Йорке напомнила мне о моих московских зимах… К сожалению, только через несколько лет после уезда из Москвы я узнал что в Серебряном Бору есть баня на Москве-реке. Оказывается, моё любимое место отдыха на природе (нагишом) в черте города стоило посещать не только летом, но и зимой!

На самом деле, такую баньку в Москве найти совсем непросто – чтобы прорубь была настоящая, да ещё и в окружении природы. Но Колька с парт-заданием справился, и к моему приезду прошлой зимой нашёл-таки баню с прорубью как раз в СерБоре. У них есть страничка на сайте Новый Досуг, для аренды нужно договариваться по телефону +7 (495)507-45-52 или +7(925)002-80-72.

По приезду, мы сначала пытались настроить музыкальное оборудование – там были настоящие вертушки и отличная стерео-система, но почему-то не получалось играть музыку через айпод.

naturist 0010 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Но всё же мы не за этим приехали, и через несколько минут пошли попариться. Пара там, пожалуй, было всё же недостаточно для настоящей русской бани – это скорее переоборудованная финская сауна, но всё равно было здорово. Веник дубовый нам тоже принесли. А главное что нас привлекло именно в это место было наличие проруби!

Коля парень закалённый и прыгает в проруби регулярно, так что он пошёл окунуться первым, а мне потребовалось пару секунд на решение.

naturist 0000 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Следующий уже прыгал без размышлений!

naturist 0008 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Сложно описать ощущения, но эйфория точно была! После разогрева в бане в общем-то довольно логично остудиться. Ну и как известно, именно такие перемены в окружающей температуре тренируют сосудистую систему и способствуют закалке. Но засиживаться в холодной воде, конечно, не стоит.

naturist 0006 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Было здорово и просто посидеть внутри и посмотреть как люди играют в волейбол… в снегу на нудистском пляже! Выглядели они прямо скажем совсем не как нудисты, но, учитывая лютый мороз, мы их за это не осуждали =)

naturist 0011 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Одним из приятных побочных эффектов нашего похода в баню было осознание того, что когда люди сталкиваются с наготой, то на самом деле почти никто не воспринимает это как нечто неподобающее, хотя официальная позиция может быть и другой; я наблюдал подобное на всемирных голых велозабегах в Нью-Йорке и Мадриде, а также во время прогулки по Сан-Франциско, например. По замёрзшей и заснеженной реке катались лыжники, и пока мы прыгали в прорубь от них мы получали только улыбки и слова одобрения!

naturist 0003 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Интересно, сколько зимних посетителей Серебряного Бора видели нечто подобное, и хочется верить, что многие из них воодушевились последовать примеру!

naturist 0001 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

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canoeing in the Everglades

You might have been surprised to hear about a hiking trail in South Florida in my previous blogpost, but did you know that you could go canoeing in the Everglades for a week or so without seeing any settlements? That is the largest continuous mangrove forest in western hemisphere for you! On our latest trip to Florida, Tam and I didn’t have quite as much time, but we ventured out to explore the southern part of the Everglades National Park for 3 days on a canoe. That’s where the “river of grass” I was talking about in my previous post meets the sea, but at this point it is no longer dominated by sawgrass but mangroves, a unique group of trees that can grow in brackish and even sea water (I wrote more about them previously). The canoe trail goes from Flamingo Visitor Center in the south to Everglades city, and there are multiple campgrounds along the way. As you may wonder how one would be able to camp in the mangroves, it’s better to reveal the solution right away – chickee.

naturist 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

These are simple above-water wooden structures consisting of raised floor and roof adapted from Seminole (local Native American tribe) design; porta-potty is an important modern addition, though. As we didn’t have time to do the whole trail, we just planned our route based on availability of chickees in the vicinity of Flamingo visitor center. It turned out to be a good idea to arrive in the afternoon the day before, so we could reserve our spot on chickees and have 3 full days of canoeing. We were told that it would take about 6 hours of paddling to get to the nearest chickee, in Hells Bay, but rarely people did paddle there all the way from Flamingo and preferred to be rather dropped off at a closer location, from which they could use another path. We were happy to do all the way by canoe though, that was why we came there for. It’s worth noting that the campground at Flamingo has the best kind of grass for camping, it felt very comfortable to sleep even without any mats. The night was pretty cold (by South Florida standards!), the first cold night of this winter, but the forecast looked promising for the next days. The morning was much warmer indeed, but there were some rain clouds around. Tam and I rented a canoe, and Peter, who could only stay for a day, got a single kayak. We also bought a very detailed map of the area, which is a must if you plan a trip like this. People at boat rental sounded a bit surprised that we were going to paddle to Hells Bay from there, but we trusted the park ranger who said we would be able to do it. Off we went, and it started raining. Luckily, I was clever enough to take my waterproof bike pannier “Ortlieb”, where we could store the essentials. Our food provision  consisted of dried cretan barley bread, banana bread, nuts and a box of tropical fruits that we bought at “Robert is here” farmer market.

It took us about an hour to go through the first canal, and somewhere midway I took off my shorts, as they got soaked in the rain and didn’t serve any purpose. When we reached the first area with open water – Coot Bay, Peter decided to head back to Flamingo. The rain was losing power and turned into a calm warm drizzle. Then I briefly saw a fin sticking out of water, and I was quite speechless, as it was very close to us and I couldn’t figure out whether it was a shark or a dolphin. But not for too long – we heard a sound of deep exhale and saw another fin, it was clearly a dolphin. We followed it for a while and saw that there were a few more closer to the shore. We even saw one jumping out of water in a distance. Then three of them were swimming towards the channel where we had to go too. It was amazing to see dolphins so close and hear how they breathed, thanks to quietness around.

dolphins 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

After that, we went through another, even bigger, Whitewater Bay and then East River. We enjoyed navigational aspect of canoeing both in the open water and narrow winding river. Overall, it took us just 4.5 hours to reach Hells Bay chickee from Flamingo, but we weren’t the only ones to arrive. Just when we entered Hells Bay, we saw a group of 5 canoes with 10 people  approaching the chickee too. They docked all at one side and we took the other. I was still naked and decided to give it a try – I really didn’t want to put on my wet shorts. I noticed a couple of stares and put on my sarong for a while, but it didn’t hold well while we were pitching the tent. One guy from the group came to us though, and asked me to put on some clothes in a semi-awkward semi-appologetic manner, explaining his request by the presence of “college girls”. Later he came back not but once but twice, as he wanted to stay on friendly terms with us. It turned out they were from Outward Bound School, and he said he and his fellow instructor were personally cool with nudity but the girls apparently weren’t; we didn’t feel like having a lengthy discussion as to whether girls of college age should be familiar with male anatomy and why the mere sight of a naked man doing random things like pitching a tent should be seen in any way offensive. On the second time, he gave us a compass; we had one too, but his was more convenient to use with the map. He gave us a couple of navigation tips too. Before the darkness fell, we went on a short trip to explore the surroundings and saw an alligator swimming not too far from the chickee.

alligator 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

Three more people came to the chickee in the evening, but apparently there was a mistake with reservations, as  such chickees are not meant for more than 12 people. Luckily those guys seemed to know the area and didn’t mind to go further to another chickee.

As we went to sleep, we realized that it was a big mistake not to bring any kind of padding to put under sleeping bags… Chickee floor is hard wood, and it’s not something I’m used to when I go camping, so it didn’t even occur in my head to bring something soft… Somehow, we managed to sleep well, probably due to tiredness from paddling, and by the time we woke up, the Outward Bound School team had already left. We started the day with planning out the route, Tam definitely liked to work with our new compass.

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There were just a few clouds,

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but one of them did produce a short rain.

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It remained very warm, and we just enjoyed the sound of rain and the view of the bay from under the roof of the chickee.

view 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

As the sun came out, we gave it a proper salutation :-)

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We definitely needed some good stretching, and partner exercises worked great for us.

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We were almost sad to say good-by to our first chickee, but we knew we had a great day ahead.

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We stopped by for lunch at another chickee, in Lane Bay, and then continued our way towards Whitewater Bay. We noticed that for some reason one bank of the channel had smaller and younger mangrove trees than the other.

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When we entered the Whitewater Bay, it was much more difficult to paddle due to wind and currents. It was also more difficult to navigate with few landmarks around. But at least the day was a perfect combination of clouds and sun.

view 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

We didn’t see that many birds to our surprise (apparently, there are some bird colonies further up north of the Whitewater Bay), but there still was some variety.

great egret 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

A great heron let us approach it pretty close.

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We saw quite a few american ibises but those were a lot warier. I managed to snap some nice shots of their profiles, though.

american white ibis 0001 Everglades, Florida, USAamerican white ibis 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

We also saw ospreys by their nests

osprey 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

One pair seemed to be happy: they were sitting together in the nest watching sunset,

osprey 0002 Everglades, Florida, USAosprey 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

whereas the other pair seemed to go through some issues, as one them was out of the nest and they looked in different directions. Well, I’m just making things up, but it’d be nice if could observe their behavior longer.

We also saw dolphins again, they passed by us very close.

view 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

As the clouds turned white, we finally saw that Whitewater Bay deserved its name. After that, we went through another channel, Joe River, and then entered its smaller branch that was supposed to bring us to the next chickee.

view 0004 Everglades, Florida, USA

Our timing was just perfect,

view 0005 Everglades, Florida, USA

a beautiful sunset view opened before us, and then we saw the chickee. We arrived just as the sun touched horizon.

chickee 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

We still had enough time to pitch our tent in light, but then mosquitos became quite brutal despite the repellent.

view 0006 Everglades, Florida, USA

This didn’t last too long, luckily, mosquitos mostly disappeared after nightfall. We saw an amazing starry sky. We also heard familiar breathing sound close to our chickee but we didn’t see any fins sticking out of the water. So, my guess was that it might have been a manatee, which Florida is famous for but are not easy to spot in the wild. By the way, we were quite annoyed to see some speeding motorboats despite the signs warning about manatees. And even more so, it was annoying to hear how far their noise travels in otherwise amazingly tranquil environment. Here is another paradox for you, how come something like a speedboat is allowed in this national park, despite it is known to be hurtful to the endangered species the park is meant to protect, whereas something as innocent as a sight a naked human wouldn’t be accepted… These were some topics we talked about before we had our early night sleep; again on the hard floor, but we seemed to be getting accustomed to it.  We heard alligators or crocodiles grunting at night, so my first thought in the morning was to go around the bay and try to see any.

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It was a nice quiet morning, mangrove trees with their white trunks reflected beautifully in the still dark water.

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When we approached the place from where we thought the grunting was coming from at night,

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we indeed saw a middle-size alligator! It was looking at us for while but dived when we approached closer.

alligator 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

When we got back to the chickee, we saw a few juvenile needlefish – mangroves are important fish nurseries after all.

juvenile needlefish 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

We didn’t linger much after breakfast, as we had a full day of paddling back to Flamingo and we didn’t know how the wind and currents would be. On the way to Whitewater Bay, we went through another smaller channel where we were supposed to see marshes according to the map. However, both banks seemed to be entirely taken over by mangrove trees. This must be a recent change, as those were small trees.

mangrove 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

The weather was just perfect again. We saw rain somewhere afar, but it didn’t come to us.

view 0007 Everglades, Florida, USA

Despite the wind, we were doing very well in terms of timing, so when we reached Coot Bay, I thought we should divert to Mud Lake, as it was connected by a very narrow channel, which sounded like fun to go through.

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The sign saying “No motorboats” sounded promising. This was a path similar to the narrow kayak trail I took in Yucatan last year, but mangroves were much bigger here. It was quite a lot of fun to maneuver in this channel, challenging our coordination,

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while we had to watch out for low branches

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and mosquitos at the same time. As mosquitos couldn’t reach us in the open water, they must have felt lucky that we decided to go deep into the mangrove forest.

mangrove 0004 Everglades, Florida, USA

We managed to pass through the channel quite fast and were rewarded with seeing the particularly peaceful Mud Lake with several herons ashore and young alligators swimming at the surface.

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As we came back to the main route, we were still naked, but when a couple of tour boats were passing by we covered with shorts to avoid possible confrontation. But we couldn’t really complain, as the previous day we spent naked entirely, and on that day we did 14 out of 15 miles of canoeing in the buff! Sadly, but our naked adventure was over. People at canoe rental seemed to be surprised that we made it :D

We were happy to have a warm meal at the restaurant in Flamingo, although we both agreed that our self-proclaimed ‘eat like a bird diet’, consisting of mainly fruits and nuts, was just fine and we didn’t get tired of it in three days. Now that I think of it, this was more like our ancestral ‘monkey diet’, no wonder it worked well for us. What we were really looking forward to was sleeping on that amazing soft grass of Flamingo campground! During night, the temperature plummeted as a result of the infamous polar vortex which brought freezing temperatures down to central Florida. It wasn’t quite as cold in South Florida, which hardly ever gets freezing temperatures being at the tip of the tropical climate zone, but even 15˚C  felt chilling after the previous three hot days. Wind was more of a problem though, as we had to cycle about 45 miles to Florida city. Because of the constant  headwind, what could be a pleasant leisurely ride of 3.5h across the flat plane of the Everglades, turned into an exhausting 5h trip that felt like a never-ending uphill.

view 0008 Everglades, Florida, USA

This part was no longer naked, of course, but it’s worth mentioning that on one of our brief stops, at Nine Mile Pond, we were almost eaten by saw a huge alligator,alligator 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

which we noticed in the last moment… It seemed to be sleeping.

alligator 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

I wonder if those black vultures noticed it too, as they were coming very close to it, but we didn’t have time to wait and see…

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Actually, we had a chance to eat some alligator meat as we stopped at Gator Grill diner after exiting the Everglades, but I went for local frog legs instead and they were amazing (Tam had a veggie burger). We definitely would love to make another similar trip and do the whole canoe trail perhaps. Let’s see who eats whom next time ;-)

Well, after making this joke, I feel I need to refer to some of the comments made to my blogpost about hiking in the Everglades:

airseatraveler:

Wow… I could never venture to a place that had snakes alligators, and many other creatures that could KILL me, much less naked! Good on you, and awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing!

My reply was:

… thanks for your comments about my bravery, but here is some food for thought for you. So, you say you “would never venture to a place that had… many… creatures that could KILL” you, but I’m pretty sure you drive or at the very least cross streets where others drive. How many people did die from cars in Florida? 2500-3500 per year between 2005-2009. Now, how many people did die from alligators? Between 2000 and 2007, there were 0-3 fatal alligator attacks per year, and none at all between 2007-2014 so far! In the whole of US, on average 5 people per year die because of snake bites. Of course, you could argue that a lot more people drive cars than wrestle with alligators, but nevertheless these numbers show that many more people suffer from cars than from alligators, and yet it’s only the latter that scare you!

And sadly, in the end of our vacation in Florida, well in the ‘safety’ of Miami urban jungle, I only confirmed the statistics with my own example – I was hit and run over by a car, but luckily not with a fatal result, or even, at least as it seems now, any lifelong injuries. I have a few fractures but they are supposed to heal fast… So, I don’t think I’ll stop hiking or canoeing anytime soon, just like I’ll continue move around in big cities such as my current hometown New York.

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