thermal pool ‘El Tambo’ in Papallacta, Ecuador


By coincidence, as I was preparing yesterday this blogpost about an outing with the group of Nudismo Ecuador a year ago, they went to the same place; so I am starting with a few photos from their recent trip

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… and continue with the story of my visit: A few years ago I got an idea to travel to either Ecuador or Peru and of course looked up options for naturism; Ecuador seemed to have a much more vibrant naturist community with a few active groups. I had to cancel and postpone my trip a couple of times, but a year ago I finally went there and indeed found a good bunch of local naturists. There is a couple of groups in Quito, with weekly gatherings at a pool with sauna and less frequent outings to thermal pools outside the city. Even though Ecuador is situated (you’ve guessed it!) at the equator, the capital and a few other major cities have pretty cool or even chilly climate being high up in the mountains (Quito is the second highest capital city in the world), so hot springs is a natural choice if you want to hang out naked. I had been in touch with one of the local naturist groups – Nudismo Ecuador – for a while, so when my plans solidified, I made sure to coordinate to meet up with them. So a dozen of us went to the thermal pools of Papallacta east of Quito.

There are no officially designated clothing-optional pools, but some admit naturist groups with prior arrangements. This one is called ‘El Tambo’. If you want to enjoy it sans clothes, coordinate with Nudismo Ecuador by e-mail. After parking, there is a short pebble walkway (quite slippery from the mist),

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on which we stripped off right away, as from then on only sheep could see us. They seemed a bit a amused,

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as at this altitude of 3.5km asl, even some plants prefer to have a wooly cover.

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So, yes, it was quite chilly, especially in the mountain mist, so we quickly proceeded to the pool,

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although some preferred to gain some body heat from running around the pool first.

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But once we were in, it was pure relaxation… until more group member arrived and we decided to play a ball game. The invented it on their own, so I was curious to try!

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While water volleyball is common at naturist resorts,

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this one is more reminiscent of rugby: you score by touching the “gate” area of the opponent team.

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Due to having to run in water, passes are more common in this game,

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and less chance of injuries from tackling.

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We did take it seriously, so the victory was well celebrated =)

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After the game, we were certainly warm enough to venture out for a brief hike, even though it was drizzling.

naturist 0001 balneario Tambo, Papallacta, Ecuador

Some of the mountain peaks around are covered in snow – it would have been even more amazing to see them while hiking naked or enjoying the pool, but there was a thick cloud blocking the view (typical for the area).

view 0003 balneario Tambo, Papallacta, Ecuador

We went down to a small river,

view 0001 balneario Tambo, Papallacta, Ecuador

and on its bank there was a natural thermal spring

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with contrasting, almost neon, colors.

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All that moist results in dense vegetation.

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Some plants were blooming,

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and tree trunks were covered in ferns, moss and lichens.

plants 0002 balneario Tambo, Papallacta, Ecuador

After the hike, it was already time to go back to Quito, but that hot shower felt amazing!

naturist 0002 balneario Tambo, Papallacta, Ecuador

So even though there is not much official recognition of naturism in Ecuador, local naturists are certainly very active, and my further travel proved that there is plenty of opportunities for naturism!

Naked in Motion – 2 years of nude yoga in New York, and counting

naturist yoga 0000 Naked in Motion, New York City, NY, USA

Naked in Motion‘ is a group of a few yogis in New York City and Boston with a great mission “to create spaces where all people can experience the freedom and empowerment of clothes-free movement without worrying about their safety”, and they have been making lots of buzz in press! So much in fact, that it’s hard to believe they are only two years old. This is particularly encouraging, given that many naturist events and organizations in NYC have recently disappeared, e.g., body-painting dance parties, Zensual yoga, Vita Nuda gatherings and sudden departure of YNA (I certainly miss their Nude Year’s Eve parties).

So, I finally made it to visit ‘Naked in Motion‘ – for their birthday class last Saturday (which only makes more sense to celebrate in birthday suits). The class was led by the founder – Willow,

naturist yoga 0002 Naked in Motion, New York City, NY, USA

and she made sure it was a safe and comfortable experience for all. Before the class, she read ‘Community Rules’ (which also came in the confirmation email). Frankly, I am not a fan of rules, but I may be just used to being in the naturist environment, where there is usually no need for such rules to be told explicitly – I  heard from other newcomers that they appreciated this approach. The major part of the rules ensures that the environment is non-sexual and body-positive, and a subset is aimed to women and transgender people in particular, as they may have additional hurdles on their way to feeling comfortable in their own skin.

naturist yoga 0003 Naked in Motion, New York City, NY, USA

After all, ‘self-kindness’ seems to be the major goal of this class. You can read more about this approach and mission of ‘Naked in Motion’ on their website, as well as in their numerous interviews – from local New York Post and Time Out New York to Today News Africa.

As this was a celebratory event, it ended with some food (even naked yogis love pizza), mocktails, and socializing – not surprisingly, but totally unexpectedly, I bumped into some friends from Sandy Hook. In the absence of the beach during winter, such events are only more appealing!

naturist yoga 0001 Naked in Motion, New York City, NY, USA

My excuse for taking so long to this class is that I have a luxury of having a weekly private yoga gathering where I live, and I would certainly go back frequently, if I didn’t have this luxury. Given that Naked in Motion provides several classes a week right by Penn Station, there is no excuse to not check out their class if you live in New York metropolitan area (or visiting) and up for some naked yoga. My next visit will be for pilates though – I’ve never done it before, and I love trying new things in the buff!

And to sum up, here is a minute-long documentary about them.

Russian and Turkish baths in NYC

When it is cold and gloomy, one of the best things you can do is to go to a bathhouse – as I did yesterday, while the cold spell is back to the US Northeast. New York City has several options. The biggest one is probably the Spa Castle with Korean saunas in Queens, but if you prefer a more central location, Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village is a good choice. Some friends of mine don’t like its dated look, but I actually find that low key style appealing; the room of Russian sauna (banya) looks as if it has not been renovated since the opening of the bathhouse in 1892.

Although the bathhouse is called Russian & Turkish Baths, it has also two Finnish saunas (dry and hot), in addition to two hammams (Turkish steam room, relatively mild temperature), and a bigger banya (Russian sauna, very hot but with humid air, sort of a mix between Turkish and Finnish ones). There are also massage rooms with treatments (e.g. mud scrub). But my favorite treatment there is actually performed right in the Russian sauna room. It’s a traditional Russian banya massage (aka platza, a yiddish term). It is a whole body massage that includes soap wash and whipping with oak branches. It may look a little rough, but in fact it feels very relaxing. As they claim, “the oak leaves contain a natural astringent, which will open your pours, remove toxins, and actually take off layers of dead skin”. And it does feel so. Platza is finished with a dip in the cold water pool, which is supposed to train your vascular system. Yesterday, I used the birch broom which I brought from the Ivanovskie Bani in Kiev. I first massaged two Brazilian friends of mine, and then one of them massaged me. But if you don’t have such a broom and don’t know how to do platza, you can ask local masseurs – they are really good!

On a side note, coming to the US after Germany, I have to mention that saunas here are clothing-optional only in single-sex setting. (This is also increasingly common in Ukraine and Russia.) So unfortunately for heterosexual couples or mixed-gender groups, they will have to walk around in shorts soaked in sweat… If you want to hang out naked, Russian & Turkish Baths offer one women-only and two men-only time slots.

BTW, they regularly offer special deals and discounts through Groupon, and, so keep your eyes open.

Ivanovskie Bani (sauna) in Kiev


On the recent visit to my homeland, I spent a few days in Kiev; pretty much the only option for a naturist experience in winter was to go to a sauna. My friend Sergey found a public sauna online that sounded particularly appealing, and we ventured there with two more mates.

Ivanovskie Bani indeed fulfilled our desire for a traditional Russian sauna (banya) experience. It is located literally on the  Dnieper River, in a modified boat. It has a traditional ambience, and already in the locker you can smell “venik”, a special sauna broom, typically made of birch or oak branches, which is used for massaging. After the lockers, there is a room with showers and a massage table, and then a steam room. You can hire a local masseur to do the banya ritual for you, but we just bought “veniki” and did it ourselves. Though one of the fellow visitors thought that our massage technique was too rough and showed a milder, calmer version with softer and slower moves (but it felt like the heat penetrated even deeper).

Regardless of the kind of massage you prefer in the steam room, after absorbing all that heat, you are supposed to cool down, and this is where Ivanovkie Bani truly stand out: you can splash in the waters of the Dnieper River right outside its doors, and if you are not too shocked you can meanwhile enjoy the views of the river banks with such landmarks as Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves) and the Motherland monument.

Well, it could only get more striking in much colder weather, when the river would be frozen, as it happened when we went to a banya in Moscow a couple of years ago.

After repeating the ritual a couple of times, we felt both relaxed and energized. We had some tea before leaving in the cafe (they don’t serve any meals there, but you can bring food with you or order something more exotic, like crayfish, in advance).

Even though the location is central, it’s not easy to get there without a car (and if you call a taxi, it may take a while for them to arrive), but it’s totally worth it, especially if you want a relaxing break from the busy city life without leaving the city!

PS Keep in mind that most banyas are gender-segregated, and in this one the only women day is Wednesday.

Thermen am Europa Center (and Winter Badeschiff) – amazing saunas in Berlin

We continue with Berlin series (it’s not over yet!), and here is something for winter time, and looking at the calendar – particularly suitable for Valentine’s Day, if you’re up for a hot date… Literally! I’m talking about two of my favourite saunas in Berlin (one of them doesn’t seem to be open this winter, however).

Thermen am Europa Center is located in the centre of Berlin. It’s easy to see why I loved it, with multiple types of saunas including 2 hamams, several pools of different temperatures, and large outdoor terraces with views over some of Berlin’s landmarks like Gedaechtniskirche.

naturist 0000 Thermen am Europa, Berlin, Germany


The biggest pool goes partially outdoors and is very warm. Due to the narrow shape of its outdoors part though, don’t expect to do laps when there’s more than a couple of people. But if you go there primarily for relaxation, you will definitely get it! Thermen am Europa Center is open throughout the year, so it can be also a good idea for a chilly summer evening, which is not a rare thing in Berlin either…

Well, the description below, is for historic reference, as of now… hopefully they’ll reopen it next winter!

Another option is was Badeshiff , which from November till the end of March becomes used to turn into an oasis of warmth with saunas and partially open-air swimming pool with transparent walls over the Spree River! This not only allows-ed you to enjoy the views, up to the tallest city landmark – Alex TV-tower

naturist 0000 Winter Badeschiff, Berlin, Germany

– but also to appreciate the warmth of saunas in contrast to the chilly winter weather outside.
naturist 0002 Winter Badeschiff, Berlin, Germany

However the water in the pool could be warmer

unless you’d swim intensely 🙂

But why not, keep yourself active in winter too, and you’ll enjoy the sauna even more!

naturist 0001 Winter Badeschiff, Berlin, Germany

Orient Land Trust, Colorado

naturist 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Orient Land Trust is an amazing piece of land between San Luis Valley and Cottonwood Peak of Rocky Mountains in Colorado; it encompasses wildlife corridor with numerous hiking trails to explore, pristine spring waters – including geothermal springs for you to relax, an abandoned mine that now hosts the state’s largest bat colony, and rustic cabins and camping area for you to stay. And what makes this place truly natural, relaxing and liberating is that it is very much nude-friendly! When we went there in July, the weather was just perfect for that – it only cools down at night, but then you’d hang out at the hot springs 😉

naturist 0015  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

We stayed at the Oak House community lodge, but if I come again, I think I’ll go for tenting next to one of those natural hot springs.

This place is perfect if want to connect with nature at ease – it’s everywhere around you, and even such luxury as hot baths are natural there. On my first walk around, I was amazed to see several deer right off the trail that seem to be quite tame. I didn’t have my camera that time, but when I grabbed it, there was a rabbit instead, but it was a bit shier.

rabbit 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USArabbit 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I saw quite a few deer on a random trail afterwards, and it looked like they felt pretty much the same as human visitors of OLT – relaxed 😉

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Fawns, however, seemed to be more alert and cautious,

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so as squirrels (unlike their Central Park counterparts).

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As I continued going up the mountain, I also apparently scared the whole flock of grouse, as they noisily took off the ground and sat on the trees around me.

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The views from the trail were beautiful: multicolored hills and mountains,

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magnificent San Luis Valley,

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and cute tiny settlement of Orient Land Trust itself…

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At the top of the nearest peak to OLT, there was a primitive stone construction by a dead tree – not sure about its purpose, but it could protect you from the wind if you decide to camp there.

view 0004  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

As I looked down at the forest on the opposite slope, it caught my attention how various the vegetation appeared to be, with patches of different broad-leaf and coniferous trees sticking to each other, and other parts covered by grass or bushes.

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Aspen trees with their white barks stood out in the sea of green.

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As aspens let a lot of light to reach the ground, a lot of other plants can grow in such a forest.

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And if aspens caught my eyes’ attention, my nose was pleased with conifers –

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many of them released sap on  their young cones, and it provided a pleasant aroma.

conifer 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Too bad I didn’t see any edible fruits. This one below looked like a gooseberry, but I wasn’t sure.

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This plant below had beautiful leaves,

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but the main attraction was of course flowers,

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which were in abundance all over the mountain but especially on non-forested slopes.

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Colors spanned the whole spectrum.

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My favorite was probably this one below.

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Flowers mean butterflies (and hummingbirds, in this part of the world, but we’ll get to them later).

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But not all butterflies were busy pollinating flowers.

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Cactus flowers seemed to be more popular among bees though.

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I was surprised to see so many cacti species so far up north and at relatively high elevation,

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but they were clearly at limit of their ecological tolerance,

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as all of them were very short.

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I wonder if sticking together helps cacti survive winter.

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Well, at least some of them clearly showed their love to the place ❤

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And as much as I love cacti, I don’t like stepping on their spikes… oh, have I mentioned that hiked not only bare but barefoot too?

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The terrain was quite rough even without spikes, but all that pain made relaxation in hot springs only sweeter.

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So, finally I’m getting to describe you what Orient Land Trust is probably most known for – geothermal springs in truly natural setting! There are a few pools with different temperature of water, different levels of accessibility and seclusion. The uppermost of the upper three pools has an extra feature: air bubbles seep through its bottom caressing your body on their way to the surface.

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The middle of the upper pools is one of the smallest, but its depth is just perfect to lie down and enjoy the flow of warm water over your body.

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After that, I was ready for another hike! (I’ll get back to description of other hot springs of OLT in a bit.)

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At around 18:00, together with many other visitors and a guide, we headed out to the abandoned Orient Mine turned home to the largest bat colony in Colorado to see the spectacle of thousands bats leaving their cave to prey on insects at dusk.

view 0007  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The views on the way were stunning again.

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The excavated red earth stark perfect contrast to the green, whereas the valley literally on the other side of the road was covered by dry grass.

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Typically for OLT, we were greeted by a deer chilling by the bush.

deer 0004  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I snacked on ‘Bear Naked’ energy bar (I see an ad potential here!)

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The trail was very easy, with only one decent uphill hike, after which we had a break at a cliff with magnificent view of the valley.

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The sea of dry grass  spotted by green trees and bush thickets presented a beautiful picture.

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Then, the beams of sunlight coming onto the valley between the mountains and clouds created yet more splendid view.

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As the last sun rays of the day touched our skin, we hurried to the Orient Mine cave.

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While we waited for the bats to emerge, I was try it to figure my at-the-time-new-to-me camera settings, that would work well for a fast moving small object in dark conditions.

view 0012  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I could certainly catch the colors of sunset,

view 0013  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

and an airplane gaseous trace,

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but I failed to take any decent photograph of bats.

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You’ll just have to believe my word or go to OLT webpage about their bats to see photos and videos.

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It was a mesmerizing nature’s spectacle! As we were told by our guide, these bats were mainly males of a tropical species that migrate there for the summer, it was funny to think of the cave as a huge bachelor resort for bats and their huge night feast in the valley.

By that time, it got substantially colder and I was the only one left naked. It was still ok for me, especially after we started walking, but I was looking forward to the hot springs. At night, we only went to the pools that were closer to the campground, and although they were pretty full, it was still easy to find a nice spot for yourself. At the biggest pool, we were treated with yet another amazing nature’s spectacle: incredibly bright starry sky and fireflies ‘dancing’ around us. Unfortunately I didn’t even try to photograph this, but the whole experience was magic.

Next morning, we went to the upper pools again and enjoyed the views from the lowest of the three. By the way, there was mint growing right next to it, so it smelled nice around too.

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This geothermal infinity pool is just priceless, and I hope I’ll enjoy it again some day!

Right before our departure, I found hummingbird trapped in the bathroom.

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Luckily, I have a lot of experience handling birds,

saving hummingbird 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

so I easily caught it while it was bumping into the window and set it free outside.

saving hummingbird 0002  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I must say that I myself felt pretty much free as a bird at Orient Land Trust, I wish there were more places like that!

Orr Hot Springs and Montgomery Woods

While winter’s attempt to reinstall its reign over New York City on Monday night failed totally, with the morning rain washing down almost all snow and the afternoon sun dealing with the rest, my friends in Europe are still suffering from yet another particularly long and snowy winter. So, here is probably my last blogpost of the winter season. Well, this one is from Californian ‘winter’, so don’t expect anything like jumping in the ice hole in the Moscow River, or frolicking in the snow by the naked gym in Paris… but rather soaking in hot springs! California has lots of those, so Niko and I spent some time choosing which ones to visit on the way from Eureka to San Francisco. Orr hot springs called our attention by having a reputation of providing exquisite tranquility; it is a cute rustic resort with small cozy cabins, excellent self-service kitchen, and of course saunas and baths filled with natural thermal water.

naturist 0000 Orr springs, CA, USA

Orr hot springs are quite easy to reach from Bay Area, but seclusion is one of their key words. There is no cell phone service, no wi-fi, and actually, not even an official webpage! I don’t think there is a lack of visitors though, thanks to the word of mouth and reviews in Yelp… and websites like this one 😉 Therefore, to make sure there is a spot for you, reservations by phone are required +1 (707) 462-6277.

We arrived quite late in the evening and had the main bath for ourselves for a while.

naturist 0001 Orr springs, CA, USA

It was gorgeous full moon night, and mist gathering above the hot springs made the whole place look mysterious.

naturist 0002 Orr springs, CA, USA

In the morning, the mist highlighted sun rays peeking through bamboo.

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… and the mist that condensed on the grass around hot springs, provided another pretty display – hoar frost – and a proof that it did get down to freezing temperatures during the night.

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Not a problem though, if you are surrounded by hot springs and saunas.

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After absorbing the heat of thermal waters, it feels just great to walk around butt-naked despite the cold.

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By the way, the whole resort is clothing optional except for registration desk.

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We explored the territory of Orr for a bit,

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and after the check out time in the cabin (noon), we decided to go for a hike.

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Unfortunately, there are no trails starting at the resort, but there are some in its vicinity, in the Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve.  The afternoon was getting quite warm, and as we turned away from the main trail, I felt comfortable to get unclad.

naturist 0010 Orr springs, CA, USA

This trail mostly featured young redwoods, as the area was probably still recovering after logging. One of the huge redwood stumps looked like a stage.

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We didn’t see much wildlife except for a few birds and a couple of these ancient-looking creatures, red-bellied newts.

red-bellied newt 0016 Orr springs, CA, USAred-bellied newt 0017 Orr springs, CA, USA

It was the first time when I saw an adult newt, as previously I only saw juvenile forms (efts) of a related species in Harriman State Park, NY. Adult forms aren’t that bright, except for the belly in this species. By the way, only preparing for this blogpost did I find out that their red belly “serves as a warning to potential predators, as [they] have enough of a neurotoxin … in their skin to easily kill an adult human”.

Speaking of warnings, soon we reached a fence with a sign saying that there was private property further up the trail and no trespassing was allowed. Why wasn’t there any warning in the beginning of the trail? We turned back and went down to the main trail, which went through old growth redwoods, including some of the tallest trees around!

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We didn’t have enough time to explore the whole trail, but even the trees near the beginning were impressive.

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In this forest of giants, we looked somewhat Lilliputian, but it made us appreciate only more the splendour of nature.

naturist 0015 Orr springs, CA, USA

Zensual yoga in New York

I think New York wouldn’t be New York without some naked yoga classes. In fact, well before moving here, just when I got interested in naturism I got across Hot Nude Yoga videos of Aaron Star school and tried to follow those at home in Moscow and later in Berlin. Now this school is in Hawaii, as far as I know, but luckily, there are new options in New York City, and clearly there is a demand for it.

naturist 0002 Zensuality Yoga, New York, NY, USA

Zen and her family are well known both in yogi and naturist community. I got to know them at the Lighthouse beach when they came with their drum set to Vita Nuda’s event. Then I was glad to find out the she taught classes of naked yoga, dubbed as Zensual yoga. It is conveniently located in Midtown near Bryant Park in Solstice Studio (moved Downtown to The Warshaw Dance Studio). It is a small but pretty place, and the lighting is perfect. Zen also brings her friends to play live music – didgeridoo and African drums – during the class, which sets everyone on a good, relaxed wave.

Zen’s classes are definitely worth joining for anyone willing to learn basic yoga poses and relax at full. You’ll go through some breathing exercises, like breath of fire, and major poses, such as downward facing dog,

naturist 0001 Zensuality Yoga, New York, NY, USAnaturist 0000 Zensuality Yoga, New York, NY, USA

and different versions of the ‘warrior’;

naturist 0004 Zensuality Yoga, New York, NY, USA

my favourite one is the peaceful warrior 🙂

naturist 0005 Zensuality Yoga, New York, NY, USA

Whether you follow yoga teachings or not, I believe these exercises improve your respiration control, blood flow and flexibility, and give you more control over your body. Doing it in the buff will only increase the effect.

As if all that is not enough, in the end of Zen’s classes, some delicious raw food snacks and deserts are offered. Their chocolate truffles are simply divine! Actually, they also mentioned raw food ‘cooking’ classes – I am looking forward to those! Here is the link to their Meetup page for upcoming events.

Country Club in New Orleans

In the aftermath of Frankenstorm in New York, I would like to post some happy photos from New Orleans, another city that 8 years ago suffered severely from a hurricane, and actually much stronger one than Sandy…

Despite being surrounded by water, New Orleans is not known for beaches, let alone naturist beaches. But there is a clothing-optional club with an open air pool, jacuzzi and bar all surrounded by lush tropical plants. It is called simply The Country Club, and the atmosphere is very laid-back.

It is located in the most charming and picturesque residential area I’ve ever seen, Bywater, rivalled only by the neighbouring Marigny (imho).

It is located close to bustling French Quarter, but in this neighbourhood, there are only few quiet cafes.

So it may be your perfect oasis of tranquility in the city. You can simply chill on a lounger by the pool or in a more secluded corner in the garden; there is WiFi, in case you need to work and stay connected to the outside world.

You can also order pretty decent food from the indoor restaurant (far not the best one in New Orleans, but that still means good in the culinary mecca!) or get drinks from the bar by the pool. Speaking of which, there are floating mats in the pool, that is what I call ultimate relaxation!