Archive for ‘Health’

12,000 Feet Above Sea Level

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

As I was flying over the Fiordlands on my way to Queenstown I said to myself, “this is someplace I will want to return one day,” and when I left Queenstown I said the same thing.  The southwestern part of the south island is a place of vast beauty; a scenic paradise.  On a clear day all one can see for miles around are Over Fiordlands glacier covered Alps, pristine-crystal clear blue lakes, and flowing waterfalls surrounded by rugged landscape.

Queenstown is a wonderful place, although it is clearly a tourist town.  It consists of many bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, and tour operators, but it is quaint in its size, and offers a myriad of activities to do.  Queenstown Gardens is a gorgeous park with both manicured lawns and rugged lakeside trails, as well as a Frisbee golf course, tennis, ice skating, and a bowling club.  This type of bowling is similar to bocce, not like our version with pins.  The trail around the lake goes for miles to neighboring towns, and is very pleasing to walk.  There are several other day hikes available at all different levels.  My favorites were the Queenstown Hill Trail and the Ben Lomond Summit Trail.  The Queenstown Hill was less difficult, through forest to a lookout of the lake where there sits a sculpture called The Basket of Dreams.  One can literally sprawl in it and let it absorb their dreams so that they may come to fruition.Wahoo, made it!

The Ben Lomond was a much more strenuous hike, eight hours return up steep inclines to 5375 feet, and it was well worth the effort.  The 360⁰ panoramic views were outrageously gorgeous from the highest peak in Queenstown.  From there you can see to the horizon and are surrounded by picturesque snow covered mountains (oh yeah, it had snowed the night before I did this hike), deep forested valleys, and a couple of lakes.  Absolutely breathtaking.

And then there is Fiordlands National Park and Milford Sound.  I went out there on a day tour from QT, but it is on my list of places to return to.  This area is huge, so vast there is no way to explain, and there are several different treks one can do, varying from 3-12 days, including the famous four day Milford Track, supposedly one of the most beautiful in the world.  The topography Fiordlands National Parkdiffers greatly here, too, from tropical forest with gushing rivers and falls to barren snow covered Alps.  The contrast is incredible to see.  This is one of those places that everyone should try to see in their lives, on scale with the Grand Canyon.  For pictures of Queenstown and Fiordlands, click here (no pics of Milford Sound because my camera conveniently stopped working).

From QT I headed to Wanaka, a smaller town about 1 ½ hours north, and the place I had chosen to skydive.  Why skydive?  Well, it is something I’ve always been scared to do, but also had a desire to try, to become the master of my fears.  When I began to plan this trip, I promised myself that if I’d made it to New Zealand I was going to skydive.  Why New Zealand versus anywhere else on my trip?  That’s easy…because of the vast beauty it offers.  And then, why Wanaka?  I knew I wanted to do my jump on the south island, mostly because it is sparsely developed and offers such diverse landscape to view.  Lake Wanaka is fed by Clutha River, the longest river in southern NZ, and is next to Lake Hawea, surrounded by the Pisa Mountain range and farmland.  Basically, it’s Free Fallingjust f-ing beautiful.

The skydive was amazing, unexplainable to anyone who has never done it, but one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I was really nervous until we jumped out of the plane from 12,000 feet, and then it was this overwhelmingly fun feeling of flying and taking in the beauty all around.  To me, it didn’t even feel like I was falling.  I was so relieved that I wasn’t scared anymore; I was just laughing and screaming with joy.  This is one activity I will do again.  For pictures of my skydive, click here.

In Wanaka, I also visited Rippon Vineyard, well known for its Pinot Noir and Rieslings, although I really liked their Sauvignon Blanc and it fit better into my budget.  It is situated just beside the lake so from the tasting room there are spectacular views of the area.  Another day I rented a bicycle to ride a trail along the lake to the next town.  This was additionally as stunning, for few people take this trail through the forest bordering the lake, the lake is pristine Rippon Winery(as all the water features are crystal clear snow fed waters), and it is incredibly quiet and peaceful.  In addition, there are several varities of wildflowers all over the countryside, in colors of yellow, red, orange, purple, blue, pink, and white.  I love them.  Riding back into Wanaka one passes the famous museum Puzzle World.  I didn’t want to spend a beautiful day inside this attraction, even though puzzles are my thing, but I did make a short stop to rest and test my skills at some of the free puzzles available to pass time with.  Some of them were incredibly hard, seemingly impossible, so I was happy when I was successful at a couple, less challenging ones.  For pictures of Wanaka, click here.

My next stop was Dunedin, on the southeast side of the island.  Dunedin is a city of 110,000 people, yet also home to New Zealand’s oldest university, University of Otago (Otago being the region), and the population swells to 140,000 when school is in session.  This is a very beautiful city, settled by the Scottish in the late 1800’s, which is noticeable in the architecture of the P1040127churches and cathedrals, railway station, and other various government buildings.  Apparently, 60% of Dunedin’s residents are of Scottish dissent.  There are a number of free attractions, including a National Art Gallery with a lovely collection; the railway station which was recently rated one of the most beautiful in the world; a large diverse Botanical Garden near the city center; and The Otago Museum which reminded me of a NZ version of The Museum of Natural History, and which was hosting an excellent exhibit on the earthquakes which have devastated Christchurch in recent years.  I hadn’t realized that CC experienced 4 earthquakes from Sept 2010-Dec 2011, and have had more than 13,200 aftershocks since the first quake.  It must be a scary place to live.  There are also plenty of to-pay-for attractions, such as the Cadbury chocolate factory, Brewery tours, The Settler’s Museum, and tours to Otago Peninsula to see albatross and penguins.  I didn’t do any of these, but I did hook up with a couple of backpackers who had a car and went out to the peninsula one day.

The Otago Peninsula is sparsely populated farmland with raw coastline.  The sand is soft and white, the dunes are huge and covered with different dune grass and wildflowers, and the beaches are often visited by seals, sea lioAt Tunnel Beachns and penguins.  We did see several seals and sea lions, and while we hoped to see albatross and penguins, we were not successful in that feat.  Oh well, hopefully  next time.  Regardless, we did incredible beach walks on Tunnel Beach and at Sandymount, which had some of the steepest dunes I’ve ever had to walk. For photos of Dunedin and Otago Peninsula, click here.

From Dunedin I headed north to Christchurch, where I met up with Dore.  We have been exploring the north of the south island for the last two weeks.  That will be in the next post.  Til then…


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Posted in Health, history, nature, Special Events, travel | 6 Comments »

I Get It…Southern Thailand

Monday, November 19th, 2012

There is something to be said for Southern Thailand.  Yes, it is touristy and expensive.  We’re basically talking about being in the islands here, but there is something magical about it.  It is tropical and exotic, laden with raw, uncut beauty; places where the jungle meets the coast, where limestone structures jut upwards out of the deep blue sea, where white beaches cascade as far as the eye can see, where colorful coral reef can be seen from the water’s surface.

I found the limestone structures to be stunning.  Colors of grey and tan, streaked with black and white and red.  My first sight of these structures was from the plane.  I’d flown from Saigon to Phuket, set in the Andaman Islands on Thailand’s west side.  I could see the small islands set into clear aqua blue waters.  The coral reef was visible, too.  It reminded me so much of flying into the Keys, except that the islands were mountainous and concealed in jungle, rather than flat and covered in mangroves.  These islands are much larger than any of the Keys, too.  I was excited to be in this island paradise for some time.   Ready to get my dive on, I hadn’t dove in sooo long.  Ready to experience new things.  Ready to stay in one amazing chill place for some time.  Mission accomplished.

I flew into Phuket to meet Dore at Naiyang beach, just south of the airport.  We spent one night there.  I wouldn’t recommend Phuket for those who want to get away from regular life.  It is crowded and busy, but Naiyang is a nice small town flanked by state parks with quick airport access.  Makes for a lovely stretch of beach with a bay you can snorkel in, really good seafood, fun bars.  From Naiyang, we took a communal taxi south.  I love those things.  Basically they are extended pickup trucks with benches built in.  You jump on and off at the back for a fraction of what a taxi would cost.  We ended up in Phuket Town, where we stayed for one night before catching the ferry to Koh Phi Phi.  Next time, I’ll skip Phuket town and just head to the islands.

We landed in Phi Phi Town, and decided to stay in a guest house on the far side of town.  We’d been warned that it wouldn’t be quiet, but we thought “how loud could it be?”  Well, Phi Phi Town is a party place.  Young kids getting obliviated to booming music and coming home with the sun all loud, and for myself & Dore, not one bar we wanted to hang out it.  The following morning, we took a longtail, to Rantee Beach, the small and tranquil beach on the east side of the island. A longtail is about 30 feet long.  They are the local style of boat propelled by what looks like a weed whacker run by a lawnmower motor.  They’re cool boats, with high sides, and tend to be the style that serves as water taxis.  There were two guesthouses on Rantee, each hosting one of the only 2 restaurants.  We stayed at Sunrise Bungalows, which was run by a very cool Thai man named Momo.  Depending on the tide, the bungalows were right on the beach or water’s edge.  There were some very cool people staying there, too, so it made for a great time.  If one wanted to go to Phi Phi Town, there was a challenging 45 minute hike through the woods, to the Viewpoint, and then down 350 stairs, only to come back up again.  There is a really nice coral reef just off the shore of the guest house, too.  Really beautiful soft coral, nice fish variety, including clown fish and eels.  It was great to get to snorkel in a beautiful place.  One day, a group of 8 of us took a longtail trip to 3 different spots to snorkel.  It was brilliant.

Next stop was Koh Lanta.  We went with this great couple from Hawaii whom we’d met in Phi Phi.  Unfortunately, the day we arrived Tate became really sick from something he ate, so for the three days they were there, he was bed ridden and Sasha had to hang out with us J.  Needless to say, we had a great time.  Rented motos and toured around, stopped at a waterfall, did some shopping, did some eating, watched the sunset, etc…  Lots of beautiful jungle on Koh Lanta, but must go south.

From there, our plan was to head to the Rai Leh Peninsula.  Interesting thing about this location is that the three beaches located here are cut off from the main land by a huge rock wall.  The only way to get there is by longtail, so one feels like it is an island.  What an amazing place it is.  While I’d mentioned that there is limestone everywhere, here in Krabi Provence, it is especially stunning.  Loaded with crags and crevices, holes and holds, it makes sense that this is a destination for rock climbers.  Ao Ton Sai is the northwest beach, located in a bay.  It is the backpacker beach, too.  Very cool, chill atmosphere.  Beautiful surroundings.  A nice place to spend some time.  Relatively cheap, for the islands. Plus, really good food.  Must eat at Mama’s Chicken, and try the tacos at Andaman Nature Restaurant.

The peninsula is rather small.  It was easy to circumnavigate it.  A jungle trail led from Ton Sai to Rai Leh East in about 20 minutes.   East would be considered the “town” of the peninsula; ATM’s, some resorts, some backpacker stuff, only free wifi on peninsula.  There is no beach there, only mangroves, but there is an amazing wall for climbing, and the first place I did my climbs.  Then, head west again, and find yourself in Rai Leh West.  This is where the beautiful beaches and pristine water for swimming are.  There are two bays that make up Rai Leh West, Patong Beach and West.  This side is for the big spenders, really nice resorts costing hundreds a night, so makes sense that the beach is really great, too.  For pictures of the Andaman Islands, click here.

It was here in Ton Sai that we met some amazing people and ended up hanging together for 10 days.  The cool Spaniards from Amsterdam who got me excited to climb, the Swedish ex-Army party guys, and Sasha from Hawaii.  We made for a great crew and I hope our paths cross again.  We all traveled to Koh Phangan together for the full moon party.  You know you’re getting old when drinking huge buckets of alcoholic beverages just doesn’t excite you, getting as fucked up as possible has completely lost its draw, and you’d rather be starting your day, then ending your night, when the sun comes up.  All good though.  It was fun to dance, fun to see people having a good time together, and I made it until about 2am.  I felt like I’d accomplished the full moon party.  Supposedly, there are some really nice beaches on the east side of the island, which we never made it to.  Leaving some things to explore the next time I’m on Koh Phangan, not during the full moon.

Dore and I said farewell to the crew and headed to Koh Tao to do some diving.  People had started seeing whale sharks again, and I was really hoping that we just might.  For me, that is one of the things on the “I really hope to see” list.  We didn’t, but we did do 5 dives, and it was very cool.  I felt really comfortable, we did a night dive, and it was great.  I hadn’t been on a dive vacation in years.  Chumphon Pinnacle, a reef sitting in 90-120 feet of water, was one of the best dives I’ve ever done.  The coral structure, both hard and soft, is just spectacular.  The soft coral, the anemones, and fans, and other plant life were probably the greatest number I’ve seen in one place.  On the night dive were these small plants with long leafy branches that waved in the current.  The fish life was way cool.  Saw cobia, moray eels, and a crocodile fish; blue-spotted sting rays, huge hermit crabs, and red-banded shrimp; big groupers, little groupers, and lots of kinds of parrotfish. Then, add in the clownfish, the angelfish, and all the other tropicals.  It was awesome to be diving again, and not in a mud hole looking for lobster.  Three days after I left Koh Tao, Dore dove with a whale shark.  Freaking awesome.  For pictures of the Gulf of Thailand, click here.

At this point, Dore and I said “goodbye.”  Of course, not for good.  I will see her in Sydney in a couple of months, but there is a good chance that this will be the last time we travel together like this.  What an amazing journey it has been.  Among other things, it has certainly been a testament to mine & Dore’s friendship.  When you travel with a close friend for four months straight, you get to know them really well.  For all the times that were challenging and difficult, that we argued or had to get away from each other, I’ll forever cherish our friendship, and regard our travel compatibility highly.  We did good, D.  I miss you, Sista.

I bid adieu to Dore and the islands of the Gulf of Thailand.  It was an all-day ferry and bus excursion from Koh Tao to Phuket, so that I could fly north to Chiang Mai.  Next blog, Chiang Mai, Visa Run, and Pai.

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Posted in Food, Health, history, nature, travel, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Key West Yoga Pass

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

It is very exciting to introduce the Key West Yoga Pass as we enter a new year.  This is a unique opportunity to practice yoga and attend fitness and dance classes at 9 different locations in Key West and the Lower Florida Keys, all on one class card.  What a great way to experience the variety of yoga and teachers we have here in our island community.

$75 gets you 5 classes to use at any of these locations:

Ashley Kamen Yoga

Coffee Mill Dance Studio

Key West Yoga Sanctuary

ommPeace Yoga & Massage Therapy

Paddleboard Yoga Key West

Phoenix Rising Yoga Key West

Stay Fit Studio

Yoga Key West

Yoga on the Beach

Looking forward to seeing you on the mat in this new year.  May it be a happy, healthy, and joy filled year for you.




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Karma Kitchen

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Check out this great video on KarmaTube.com.  It’s about a pay-it-forward restaurant, Karma Kitchen, with locations in Chicago, IL, Wash, DC, and Berkeley, CA.  I love the idea of a gift economy.  So inspiring to see that it has been working for 4 years, and counting…and can’t wait to see more things like it come about.

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Time to Meditate

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I was sent this blurb today in an email from the Key West Tara Mandala, our local Tibetan Buddhist community.  I ended up reading the whole article because I often find myself in the position the author describes, feeling like I just don’t have enough time for my daily meditation.  The blurb reads,

What’s the biggest obstacle to meditation practice?
There are always obstacles to daily practice. Some are quite obvious: traveling, staying up really late, changing your schedule a lot. For the most part, I’ve found the difficult obstacles to be the ones that come from within, those mental tricks we all use—you know, it’s early, it’s cold, I can’t sit. The biggest obstacle is just the mind. You think you’ve got to get up right away and make some phone calls, or have breakfast, or go do this other thing. Your mind always tries to play these tricks. Things suddenly seem really urgent. For me the solution has been to create a schedule, to find myself some disciplined time, to just get up every day at seven no matter what. I’ve made a habit to get up, brush my teeth, sit—in that order—before I do anything else. And then, of course, after you sit you finish and you say to yourself, “What was so urgent that I felt I couldn’t sit?”
–Dan Rosenberg, from “Making Time to Meditate,” Tricycle, Spring 2001
Dan’s contribution to the article is on page 2, but the entire article is worth a read.  Hope you enjoy, and that it may inspire you as it has inspired me.

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Wisdom of sharing gratitude

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

This was sent to me by a friend, and comes from the website DailyGood.org.  I truly believe in the power of sharing gratitude and being grateful, and now it is linked to our health.

“The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have. –Leonard Nimoy

Fact of the Day:
A recent Harvard Business School study found that giving a sum of money to someone else lifted well-being than spending it on oneself. Preventative medicine professor Stephen Post writes that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness. Neuroeconomics researcher Paul Zak found that people who share and experience gratitude release oxytocin, a hormone known to relieve stress and improve immune function. The research is piling up- sharing is good for happiness and health. Why? It builds trust, releases health-boosting hormones, increases positive social interaction with others, and promotes cooperation, and much more.” [ more ]

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Back in the Keys

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I’m back in Key West.  Great time in New Jersey, yet I’m so glad to be home.

I am available for massage, by appointment, starting immediately, throughout the Lower Florida Keys.

Yoga classes resume Monday, November 8th, 8:30am, at Parmer’s Resort on Little Torch Key.  Classes will be held Monday and Thursday mornings at 8:30am.

Looking forward to getting back with you all.  Click here if you’d like to contact me directly.

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Music – good for the whole body

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Today’s “Daily Dream Builder” from Mary Manin Morrisey read,

“Have you ever thought about how every single piece of music is vibration? That’s what sound is.  Have you also thought about how your own body resonates with music? It re-sounds. There is a vibration that happens in us that is our own very aliveness responding to music.  Today, let’s pick at least one piece of music that feels good to us and listen to it. Our body really can read that sound and it actually affects us at a cellular level. It increases our immune system and we become different in the presence of really great music.  Just listen to some good music and notice how your vibration, your energy, is different.”

So, today, whether you are hanging out, working out, meditating, cooking, sewing, driving, showering, whatever, do it with some music in the background and take notice to how it invites positive vibrations into your being.  Effective physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Remember, too, that you can create your own sound through chanting, which is also proven to increase the vibration within our cells, strengthen our immune system and balance our energies.

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The Table and The Mat

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

What a great article I just read in the most recent issue of Massage & Bodywork Magazine, entitled “The Table and The Mat – The Union of Bodywork with Yoga.”  If you are a fan of either massage or yoga, or are just curious about them, this is a great article focusing on the healing facets of both, and how beneficial they are when used together.  It speaks of how yoga and massage may assist us in moving through limitations: physical, emotional, and mental.  This resonates clearly with me and my practice.  Enjoy the read!

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Finding Focus

Monday, April 12th, 2010

This week has been a great one.  10 straight days of out-of-town visitors and a week-long birthday celebration, ending in a fantastically fun party last night.  When I sat down on the mat for yoga practice this morning, I was thrilled to be able to focus on just that, my practice.  This time where nothing matters except for what’s happening at the moment.  The breath flowing in and out of the body, the lengthening of muscles, the release of physical tension, the opportunity to be present.  Today, there was no place else I wanted to be.  And to then be able to share it with others on a beautiful Florida Keys morning, teaching to a class of 8.  Who could ask for more?  Setting an intention for the day, the tone for the week, and allowing it to come into focus through time on the mat.  I love beginning the week this way.

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