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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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Shortly before sunset, AJ came back too.

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

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

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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.

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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.

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

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

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But trees provided much more than shade and climbing opportunities.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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!

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And there were plenty of ferns!

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

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Waterfalls,

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forest with banana thickets

view

surrounded by mountains, what else would we need?

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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

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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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

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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 😉

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Another edible plant growing in abundance there is ginger.

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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.

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After swimming about half-Olympic-size pool,

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

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

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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.

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That was a perfect reward for the strenuous hike!

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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.

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

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As the sun came out, I was shining with happiness 🙂

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We also saw ospreys by their nests

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

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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.

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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.

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Our timing was just perfect,

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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 😀

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.

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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.

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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.

Scenic trail in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

naturist 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

South Florida is one the most popular tourist destinations, but it’s not known for its hiking. In this blogpost, I invite you to join me on a scenic trail that proves that hiking in South Florida is exciting even though it’s as flat as it gets.

Florida trail view 0003 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

This 8-mile section of Florida trail goes through various landscapes of Big Cypress National Preserve. About a year ago, I went to Florida with my sister, and we stayed at the same CouchSurfing hosts, as in my first visit to Florida with Joe; Peter already knew we would love the idea of hiking in the swamp, so he got in touch with his friend Dave from Florida Great Outdoors group. Dave was an excellent guide, he knew every corner of the trail and told us a lot about the wildlife, of which we saw plenty!

cormorant 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Just on the way to the southern trailhead, we saw various birds, from a cormorant with a fresh catch to great egrets wading between cypresses.

great egret 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Dave knew that we were unlikely to encounter too many other hikers, so, almost immediately after the start of the trail and getting ourselves familiar with its rules, we got naked. Given the muddiness of the trail and hot weather, it was clearly the best way to go!

Florida trail view 0002 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

In the beginning (coming from the South), the most typical landscape is grassland with a few scattered cypress trees. But unlike prairie or savannah, this grassland is flooded, with water levels varying throughout the year and depending on weather conditions. On this trail, we could really see why the Everglades are called the “river of grass” (the whole southern part of Florida practically represents a giant swamped slow-moving river). Besides the sawgrass marsh, we also went through the pine forest and cypress swamp. On the photo below, you can actually see the so-called cypress dome in the background. It is formed when pond cypress trees grow higher in the center than on the edges of the swamp, which can happen due to various reasons.

Florida trail view 0004 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Our first encounter with an animal on the trail was a snail.

snail 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

There were many dragonflies

Halloween Pennant dragonfly 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

and grasshoppers,

grasshopper 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USAgrasshopper 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

one of which devoured on a flower 🙂

Speaking of flowers, maybe we were lucky with the season, but there were quite a few plants blooming:

white star sedge (a sawgrass species),

White Star Sedge 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

milkweed,

Hymenocallis,

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5503/12021500684_86f8da91cf_z.jpg

and marsh roses (Sabatia) – pink

marsh rose (Sabatia) 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USAmarsh rose (Sabatia) 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

and light-blue.

marsh rose (Sabatia) 0003 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Bromelias were blooming too,

bromelia 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

but even when they weren’t, they served as a nice decoration on cypress and pine trees.

bromelia 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

At some point, palm trees appeared more frequently between the pines, but we could tell that the first one wasn’t in the best condition… which made me look like a giant next to it.

naturist 0007 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

That’s where we saw some Carolina anoles too. I was too slow with my camera and only got one hiding in a hole in the tree and missed how it changed colors while moving across different surfaces (for this ability, they are nicknamed american chameleons).

carolina anole 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Midway, pine and palm forest got denser and we stepped on solid soil for the first time in a couple of hours. This is also the only place on the trail that is suitable for camping; we had our lunch break there.

naturist 0002 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

We couldn’t rest for too long, however, and soon followed the trail further through the swamped cypress forest.

Florida trail view 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

When we reached the cypress dome, we could see how the tallest pond cypress trees indeed surrounded the central pond, with many tropical understory plants mingled between them.

naturist 0003 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

We almost missed our second reptile encounter, a snapping turtle, as it was well-concealed in the mud. Being much better protected than a lizard, it didn’t feel the need to run away from us but looked cautiously; considering the name of the species, we didn’t approach it too close though.

common snapping turtle 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Then there was a stretch of the trail that went through fern thickets taller than human.

naturist 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

And some open water again, where we could see the odd cypress ‘knees’ (I saw many more of those in the Mississippi swamps near New Orleans).

naturist 0006 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Usually, I don’t post pictures of people in clothes due to the nature of this blog, but my sister deserves a credit because later on this trip she did get naked in a public place for the first time in her life (at Haulover beach), and here in the swamp she looked pretty cool and odd at the same time in her white night dress (she thought if she didn’t get naked she should wear the lightest thing she had…)

naturist 0005 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

The rest of us were content with our naked attire… As you can see on these photos, the cypress forest after the dome became more flooded, and the rest of the trail we hiked in ankle-deep water, which actually felt nice.

naturist 0004 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Then, we had our third reptile encounter, or actually two but of the same species.

Water Moccasin 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

This was a venomous snake, water moccasin. They are territorial and feel safe with their venom-filled fangs, so they didn’t show a sign of retreat, but thankfully they did show their warning display. So we just stood there and looked at each other for a few minutes, and who knows who of us was more scared… Well, there is no use for them to bite humans unless attacked, so I guess we could call it mutual respect.

Water Moccasin 0002 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

It also provided enough time for taking pictures 😉

Water Moccasin 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Soon after that, we could hear the noise of Tamiami road; it didn’t make sense to put on clothes in the end of the trail just to make it dirty, as it was still muddy, but that’s what we had to do.

In the pond by the visitor center,  we had our fourth reptile encounter. A group of american alligators were sunbathing and just waiting to be photographed.

american alligator 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Thus, we saw representatives of the major groups of reptiles on one trail!

wood stork 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

And as a bonus, while picking up the car, we saw some more wading birds: wood stork (above) and great blue heron (below).

great blue heron 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Florida doesn’t really need much publicity for tourism with its climate, beaches, festivals and Disney World, and it probably has more nudist colonies than any other state, but there is definitely more to it! This trail was perfect to discover Florida’s wild side and see the “river of grass” that it really is. Next, we’ll show you the place where this river meets the sea.

PS Keep in mind that Big Cypress National Preserve is also a home to black bears and  elusive Florida panthers (a subspecies of cougar)!

wandering at Ostia Antica, inspired by Ancient Greek statues

Happy Nude Year! Here is a treat for you, and hopefully some inspiration for the New Year! It would probably be more appropriate to post something winter-themed, like my Russian banya with an ice hole experience, but hey, it’s summer in Southern Hemisphere, and then there are parts of the world where it’s summer all the time, so here is something neutral, another collection of autumn photos. This one has been waiting to be published for a few years now, but it’s well worth a wait. Special thanks to Joe for photography.

naturist 0002 Ostia Antica, Rome, Italy

Ancient Greece, with its deep traditions of nudity in sports and other activities, has been an obvious inspiration for this website (look at out Gymnasion section), just like it was many ways inspirational to Romans. So, when we visited Ostia Antica, a large archeological site, which was the location of the harbour city of ancient Rome, we were tempted to do some nude photography with such a beautiful background and mild sunlight of late October.

naturist 0000 Ostia Antica, Rome, Italy

I rarely pose in front of sites of interest, unless I want to send a picture to my relatives and friends, or if it is for my blog 😉

naturist 0001 Ostia Antica, Rome, Italy

As there weren’t many other visitors, we seized the chance and took quite a lot of nude photos, I was pretending to be a statue that became alive…

naturist 0005 Ostia Antica, Rome, Italy

Only other statues could see us.

naturist 0003 Ostia Antica, Rome, Italy

We’ll have only more stories to share in the New Year, a couple of adventure trips are already in the pipeline. Have a great 2014 too!

nudist kayaking down the Ebro River

español

Water is definitely the most popular element that invites many to try and practice nudism, and besides obvious swimming/snorkelling or just plain fun skinny-dipping, kayaking sounds like the next best thing to do naked in water. We organized a kayak tour through a naturist forum and got a very good group of people to go down the Ebro River in Spain.

Kayaking is a lot of fun: it’s a good exercise and a great way to explore the area. Although I bet not many people think about it as a naturist activity, it is probably the easiest one to practice on public land (water, that is), as no one can really see from aside whether you wear a swimsuit or not.

We found that we could rent kayaks at the town of Miravet (Tarragona province), which also sounded like a great place to experience Ebro, one of the mightiest rivers of Iberian peninsula. It is a town with long history but is well kept; it was very important during Medieval Ages as a river port. The medieval structure of the town has been maintained till now, and the castle is certainly worth a visit.

When came to rent kayaks, we wore swimsuits, of course; also we were given lifejackets.

But as soon we departed a few meters from the bank, off went the clothes!

The day was just perfect for kayaking, and although we had just tow hours for the whole trajectory, we made a lot of stops to relax and take photos. Aurelio lives in Miravet and knows the area well, so he brought us to an Ancient Roman mill, almost in ruins. This place seemed to be unknown for other travellers.

By the end, we got really tired. I went in a double kayak with my friend David, but it appeared that people that went in single kayaks could move faster. It takes time to learn to coordinate well with your partner, and otherwise, it is more difficult to control a double kayak.

So we definitely enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by the pool at the rural house. Excellent weather, excellent group of friends!

Hopefully we will organise something of that sort next year 🙂

Body painting again and again :-)

Body painting seems to be a nudist party activity du jour. Almost every nudist party provides body paint as a part of their program, and there are some that are dedicated to it specifically. I went to one of the events organised by Social Exposure Media in NYC a month ago, and as always body painting proved to be a great tool for socialising and exposing [love to] our bodies.

Unlike previous parties that I’ve been to, this event provided paint that glowed in the dark! in black light, that is. Body art is not difficult to make intriguing and entertaining, it’s just fun to decorate bodies, but glow-in-the-dark effect makes it surreal!

Maybe this video will be able to show the atmosphere.

Now, there is body paint event on Halloween at SoHo Gallery for Digital Art. That might solve your costume problem! I just hope the city will be fine after Frankenstorm. And I guess people will be even more eager to go out and party! Just sign up, show up and show off! It is a ‘bare as you dare’ event.

Black light body paint party in NYC tomorrow + a couple of announcements

Tomorrow, the Gallery Bar in East Village will once again turn into naked dance and body paint extravaganza. I’ve been to a couple of their previous events, and they were a lot of fun. This time it’s going to be a little crazier, as the paint will be glowing in the dark!

Curiously, these events are organised by Social Exposure Media, which isn’t a nudist group, but they manage to get a good turnout of happy naked people, I bet many of whom are first-timers. The webpage with info of the party is courtesy of Young Naturists America, however.

I also would like to add that my silence in the last weeks was mainly due to two amazing travels, which will definitely make several excellent entries for this blog 😉 One of them, as you can guess from my previous announcements, was of course Burning Man. Meanwhile, my friend Juan finally got his first blogpost published, congratulations! Soon we’ll add English translation.

Stay tuned!