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March 26, 2007

The Lonely Pacific is Not So Lonely Anymore

Bird_80days
Torpedo bomber at 9 o'clock

Serious action on the ocean today. At breakfast, a German man who boarded in Honolulu and has been selling duty-free diamond jewelry down in the gift shop at, he tells us, quite a discount, pointed over the railing and said, "Look, there is a ship." (The German gem dealer, incidentally, is one of the best-dressed people on board.) No one stirred. No one, that is, except me, because I have been left dumbstruck and agog--flabbergasted, really--by the shocking lack of ships out here on the Pacific.

Sure enough, the German man was telling the truth--about the ship, at least. Way off in the distance you could make out the silhouette of a freighter. The body was long and low and at the very back was a tower. I downed my porridge and headed directly to the front of the ship, so as to put myself a few hundred feet closer to the alien vessel. Its course was perpendicular to our own, and for a while it looked like we were going to get close. We did not.

Oiltanker_80days
Ahoy there!  How's the shuffleboard?

Bob showed up a few minutes later. Bob is the kind of inveterate world traveler you only ever meet while traveling the world. The last such character I bumped into was on an overnight train from Geneva to Barcelona in 1996. His name was Bill Braun and he was 90 years old. He spoke 11 languages--nine of them fluently--had crossed every continent save Antarctica several times and had a wooden leg, which he'd earned fighting the Germans in World War II. Bill left me with one piece of advice: "I'd rather be glib than be daft." At the time, I didn't know what "glib" meant.

Bob is a similar kind of person. He grew up in Seattle and when he was a young man, he and a buddy drove across Africa in a Land Rover for the simple reason that they could. Bob has crossed the world's oceans countless times and has a story for each journey. One time, when he was crossing on his own boat, Bob took the remainders of a leg of lamb that he and his family had enjoyed at dinner, wrapped it in steel cable and then threw the whole package overboard, just to see what would happen. The next morning, they awoke to find the cable frayed and only the barest nub of bone left. "You'd have to figure it was a Great White," Bob said. You'd have to figure Bob is right.

Bob's first ever cruise was on the original Queen Mary in 1937. His most striking memory is the food, which he says was a lot better on cruises back then than it is now. There is an important lesson, here. We assume there is constant and uninterrupted progress in the world, and that the arena of hospitality is included in this. Everything, after all, is vastly improved compared to 1937. Transportation is better, refrigeration technology has grown by leaps and bounds, farm yields have quadrupled, and we now know what mesclun and yuzu are. And yet, cruise liner food is worse now than it was almost 75 years ago.

Bob identified the alien ship as an oil tanker. "It's on its way from the Persian Gulf up into Asia. Probably Japan." We watched it pass, which took about an hour, distantly aware of the tanker's hulking significance.

Bird2_80days
Can anyone identify this bird?

When it was gone, we began watching the birds. The birds were white with black markings, like seagulls but with a much better sense of style. I'm not sure if they were gulls, terns, or some member of the albatross family-likely none of the above. They seemed to have joined us out of nowhere, though we did swing close to the Northern Mariana Islands on Sunday.

This is how the birds spent their day: The would fly to the front of the ship, then start to glide. When they would lose a little altitude, they would flap a few times and glide some more. It would go on and on like this for several minutes, and this was in itself entertaining.

Every now and again, however, something fantastic would happen. Scanning the ocean below, a bird would see a flying fish skip over the surface and would pull into an insane swoop, turning 90 degrees in a fraction of a second and accelerating towards the ocean's surface at an alarming rate. Sometimes, they would pull up just as they were about to hit and snatch the flying fish out of midair, which was exhilarating.

More often than not, however, something yet more exhilarating took place: The birds would tuck their wings behind them and bring their legs up landing-gear style and torpedo into the water at top speed. Even from several hundred feet away, you could see the arrow of bubbles shoot down into the water for several feet, and it was evident that the fishes' chances were dismally low. Seconds later, the birds would bob up to the surface, sitting there in the rubber-ducky position as though nothing special had happened, turning their heads left and right, perhaps enjoying an avian belch or two. A minute later, they would take off, assume their position at the front of the ship and it would all begin again.

I spent most of yesterday stringing together torpedo moment after torpedo moment. The birds, it occurred to me, possess so many of the skills wanting in people: patience, diligence, determination, focus, and, who can forget, the ability to fly. One of these birds, I thought, could do very well as a motivational speaker. By dinnertime, I had quite a sunburn.

Posted at N 23 53.513     E 137 22.262

Comments

Awesome. Getting close to land. I can't wait to hear about Asia and Europe.

I think the bird is a masked booby

I'm pretty sure that the bird is a Masked Booby. Happy travels!

excellent blog today. one of your best. phiilosophical, yet not too much so, and with a sprinkle of humor.

I wish I could be doing what you are doing.

the bird is a gannet, which utilizes that unique way of hunting. Thanks for the fun stories!

Thank you.

Jeh.g wenjiang tiing yeouyih.se. Woo jen sheang hwei daw jonggwo chiuh, chiuh lyushying i.deal, bu.guoh shiann.tzay, jinn.nian meiyeou bann.fah. Jinn.nian, woo jyyhao gonq.tzuoh, gonq.tzuoh! Mingnian, keeneng, huoo.je how.niann. Kee.yii shuo: "Jinn.nian tzay Meeigwo, Ming.nian tzay Jong.gwo!" (Dang.ran, woo tzay kai.waan shiaw i.deal!)

Congratulations, on stepping out of the US box and making a trip to China. It seems that you have no Chinese language skills, but you'll be fine. Enjoyed reading your first impressions, which were very similar to mine when I came 3 years ago. You'll have a wonderful time, can't wait to read your next 79 days.

Ky,

This was exactly as I felt while living in China. Except I wasn't scared...I was at ease. Eased by the feeling that there was nearly a 0% chance that I would get robbed at gunpoint.

The one thing that did make me grateful for where I live though is the absolute lack of open space. Not a square inch of that land was left untouched by human hands. Everywhere you look, there are scars bearing thousands of years of human acitivity. It was rather depressing, yet unconceivably amazing.

You understated the numbers by saying less than half. It is way less than half. If you take away the 300 million population equivalent to the USA you still have a billion people left. That is still scary. On the other hand something I have noted while travelling is that no one considers themselves quite as important as Americans do (except maybe the French). Most people in the world see themselves as a small part of a larger population, both in the present and as member of populations passing through time.

typical hotel guests.... impatient... with "things should come right away" mentality. it takes time to cook your food after you place your order. you think the food would magically appear as soon as you finish saying "can I have 2 of those pancakes please?"

This is why "tourists" shouldn't write travel blogs, or anything else the public can read.

It's a ger, not a yurt. Yurt is Russian, and no matter how much influence the Soviet Union had in Mongolia in years past or even now, you do disservice to your hosts by calling something they invented with a foreign name.

And your picture of waiting to get on the train at the Mongolian/China border? Funny, that crossing only happens at night, so where'd the daylight come from? And you don't mention any of that in your blog? The most comical bit of the whole journey? So you're not a traveler, and you're not a journalist, obviously. So why are you doing this?

How did you book your trip to Mongolia? I have always been interested in going there. Can you provide some travel tips in terms of tours and time of year to go, or direct me to some websites that are good sources of information on travel to Mongolia? Thank you, and have fun in those gers! They look like comfortable tents!

Don't Ride Mongolian Horses!

It was the spring of 2000, the last season of our expatriation from the suburbs of Philadelphia to Hong Kong and Guangzhou for two years and Beijing for two more. With me were my wife, son and our two daughters. My son was only with us in Hong Kong for the first year, after which he returned alone to college in the US (I'll save his stories of sleeping in his Jeep unbeknownst to us while the dorms were closed for another blog). My eldest daughter stayed with us for three years, and the youngest was with us for all four years. We planned a trip to Inner Mongolia as our final reunion and great adventure before returning home.

The three kids decided to travel by overnight train themselves, first to Da Tong, an incredible monastery overhanging a huge cliff (it was built only a few centuries before the Grand Canyon Skywalk). They told wild stories of their train ride, where they met entire families, including their animals, gave English lessons and played cards with other travelers.

But I digress. When my wife and I arrived by air at Hohut, the capital of Inner Mongolia, we were greeted by a very nice young female guide with a driver and our children, whom they had picked up, in a not-so-new UVZ. Ours eventually had a streak of red in it from my daughter's bloody head. More on that later!

We were to camp out at a ranch in a yurt (that's what we called it), enjoy the wide open and pollution-free steppes and just take a step back from our busy lives for three days. We started off with a sumptuous lunch featuring all the lamb and local foods a person could devour. My son did justice to an entire leg of lamb! Next we went to see the local version of a rodeo.

After the horse riding exhibition, they had a Mongolian wrestling demonstration. Being the only laoweis (translation for Yankees, but literally old foreigners) there, our son was singled out to participate. Why not, we all thought! With our video and film cameras rolling, my son was pitted against a young and wiry Mongol. Now my son, as I previously mentioned, does enjoy eating, so although not tremendously heavy by US standards, he was about twice his opponent's weight. No matter, it was only a demonstration. They locked arms, circled, and soon enough, my son was flipped to the ground on his back. He forgot to let go, though, and the poor Mongolian teenager landed face first in the dirt! The Mongol stood up with a bloody nose, and I took a picture of a very sheepish son. I'm not sure if it was because of how he was feeling, or what he ate! We made amends by offering my son's opponent a tip, and he left happily.

It was getting a little late, but our guide suggested we go for a horseback ride. Each of us was given a Mongolian horse. They looked more like emaciated ponies, but anyway, we mounted our steeds and with our two guides riding on a single moped next to us, headed towards the hills! Those horses had to be coaxed to move, but slowly, eventually, our campsite faded to a distant blur behind and below us. We were having a real family bonding experience. Anyway, our guides' sputtering moped snapped us back to reality. It had run out of gas. Not to worry, they said. They would coast back downhill (could this have been planned??) to the ranch, and advised us to continue a little ways further (we didn't realize at the time we were paying by the hour!) around the next bend, and then head back to camp. Ok, it sounded great! No sooner was the moped out of sight than my tired little horsie turned into a wild bronco! He apparently had had enough of me and wanted to be home by twilight! So there I was, holding on for dear life to a horse that was galloping at full speed! For me, it was a mixture of exhilaration at the excitement of it, and terror at the thought of falling off (my previous horse riding experience amounted to an overnight stay at a dude ranch as a child).

I heard one of my daughters screaming in the distance as her horse, and wife's, had the same idea as mine, but all headed off in different directions. So we each were on our own. Try as I might, pulling on the reins wouldn't slow my horse down. We eventually ended in the midst of a flock of sheep, and the horse stopped. With the shepherd yelling bloody murder in a language I didn't understand, I dismounted and decided to walk back. To make matters worse, my favorite Phillies baseball cap had blown away. So I walked and walked towards the campsite, wondering how my family had fared. Eventually, what is that I heard? Putt, putt, it was the moped with one of the guides coming to my rescue. At the very least I told him (actually gestured to him) I was driving. I asked him how my family was. He said they would be ok. Be ok? That wasn't very reassuring news!

So we made it back to camp and he pointed me towards our beat up old UVZ, or whatever it was. I went inside, worried sick for my family. Inside I found my wife holding her chest and breathing very heavily - uh-huh, uh-huh. Next to her was my youngest daughter, 18 at the time, holding her head with a big bandage on it. It turns out both their horses also had bucked. My wife was a good rider, having taken horse riding lessons in college. It did her no good because her saddle hadn't been cinched up, and it slipped sideways when the horse ran. She jumped off, and would have been fine if only the horse hadn't kicked her in her ribs as he galloped away!

My daughter fell off backwards and must have hit her head on a rock. By the time I arrived they had sewn her up with a needle and thread, using dirt to stop the bleeding.

Well, the authorities don't take kindly to guides whose customers get hurt, so our guide was more than a little concerned. They piled us into the van and headed straight towards the hospital in Hohut. It was housed in a cavernous, dimly lit old building. As we walked through, I saw a room with an AEA sign on it. AEA was our insurance carrier. I felt like we were saved! Motioning to it, we were informed it hadn't been opened in years. Oh, just a little disappointment there. Instead, they took us to a local nurse. I called my colleague in Beijing on my cell phone, who acted as our long-distance interpreter. (Sam, if you read this, I thank you one more time!).

The nurse was clearly unhappy with the stitching, which she said were for clothes, not wounds, but frankly, had served their purpose. She cleaned the wound and re-stitched it. She checked my wife and said she had a broken rib, and there was nothing that could be done about it.

We were then given a prescription written in Chinese to be filled at the pharmacy. By then, my Chinese was good enough to be able to discern a sign indicating "Western Medicine" at the counter with the long line, and "Chinese Medicine" at the other counter. We decided to take our chances on the long line. Amazingly, we were given a package of Cipro antibiotics. The total charge came to about $2.00! In Beijing, any trip to the western clinic cost over $100! My Chinese colleague, by the way, swears to Chinese traditional medicine. He just downs it with a little penicillin for good measure!

By then our guide had decided to drive us straight to the airport. We decided to hold a family meeting. My wife's ribs were going to hurt, and she was going to wheeze regardless of where we were. My daughter wasn't in too much pain, and the yurt was beckoning! So we decided to stick it out and continue with our vacation. We had a great night in the yurt, and the next day we went camel riding in the Gobi desert (except for my son, who was sick from something he had eaten!).

When I arrived back in Beijing and told my colleagues the story, they were incredulous! Not because of our adventures, but because we hadn't known not to ride the Mongolian horses. Apparently a Westerner had died there from a fall the previous year!

All in all, it was a fitting end to our four years in China. Plus, we have my daughter's scars and wife's slightly protruding rib as frequent reminders of an experience we'll never forget. Did we regret it or enjoy it? Suffice to say that my youngest daughter is now in China, where she is spending a full year on a research project as part of her medical education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Richard Sander

I am afraid that I anticipate your daily entry as much as anything else in my hectic life. Thank you for sharing your remarkable opportunity. Your experiences are similar to many I had in the late 1980s, when adventure was high and funds were low. I always regretted not going on the Siberian Express through Mongolia on my way home from China in 1985
(I went back East instead of heading West). Not many places are funner to pronounce than Ulaan Battar

Thank you for writing such a wonderful blog. I felt as if I was right there along side you! Have a wonderfule trip!

I think you can use the robe at a party. What I suggest is throwing a parting in lieu of the robe! call it a Robe Party, and of course, yours will be the "King Robe"!

I'd love to visit Mongolia. It's historically VERY rich. Did you know that the languages of Turkey, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and central Russia all trace its roots to Mongolia (They are all Altaic languages)? Moreover, supposedly the oldest Persian style rug in the world came from present-day Mongolia about 4,000 years ago. I'm curious about the food and way of life there.

Hi, this is James from Orvis... I can send you a replacement rod.

Please contact me at hathawayj@orvis.com and I will have it shipped immediately to your next location.

James Hathaway
Manager, Communications & Conservation
The Orvis Company

Hi, this is James from Orvis... I can send you a replacement rod.

Please contact me at hathawayj@orvis.com and I will have it shipped immediately to your next location.

James Hathaway
Manager, Communications & Conservation
The Orvis Company

I'm hoping that the smoked fish you tried was the "Omul". Smoked Omul is the best-tasting fish I've had!

Enjoy the rest of your trip...

Re: Mark Schatzker's so-called "old-fashioned" trip through Siberia, "taking the time to see, eat, drink, and blog..."

Let's put it this way: silly, inconsequential, bordering on racist, definitely across the line on the stereotyping question, self-indulgent, devoid of insight or orgiinal observation -- where do I begin? Or end?

Suffice it to say, we have about 1000 words of stereotyped images of Igor, Vladimir, and their traveling cohorts into whose world our blogger seems to be forbidden entrance.

Then, maybe 150-200 words about the land we're presumably traveling through, followed by another 400 or so words of "this is about me and my patently unoriginal pre-Cold War stereotyped Russian characters, damn it, not the space I'm traveling through. I'm a blogger, dammit, and since when does a Travel Writer have to be a travel writer, anyway?".

Our oh-so-clever and hip "Travel Writer" is almost right when he says he is "taking the time to see, eat, drink, and blog" -- he sees himself in trite, cliched characters, eats and drinks like a stranger among them, and suffers us to read his blog about it.

Existential? How's this for existential: If blogs didn't exist, would this bad diary entry ever have found a venue for publication?

Do svidanye,
Bugsy

I love the way this article is written. I was born in the Ukraine but our family was lucky enought to move to America in 1989. This article is entertaining to me becuase i totally know what he is talking about.I read it and laugh becuse its so true, thats how russian people act and behave; its great to read it trough an American's point of view.:)

Sounds like you went to a Yalki Polki Restaurant. The food there is...um..."inconsistent" to sya the least. Sometimes it's really good, but many times it is horrible. Depends on the branch location, and the mood of the chef, I guess.

I'm sure someone must have pointed out this, but didn't you intend to reference an "open air BAZAAR" instead of bizarre? I, too, had no intention of buying carpets in Istanbul, but I did. And I still admire them and am happy I made the purchases.

Some friends and I travelled to Turkey last year and almost got suckered into buying rugs in Istanbul. Luckily for us we also got to travel around the country a bit more and ended up going to Konya in central Turkey on a whim. We arrived at 11:00 at night with all of our bags and no hotel reservation. A nice man asked us if we needed help and proceeded to help us find a place to stay for our duration in Konya. He asked that we come by his carpet store the next day and were shocked to find very similar carpets to the ones we had eyed in Istanbul, but for a fraction of the price. So of course we all bought carpets. My husband and I bought three and we got a really good deal on them. In return for buying the carpets, our salesman took us on a tour of the city showing us places that we never would have found on our own and eating and drinking at places that only the locals do. It turned out to be such a great experience and we still keep in touch via email with our friend Nazif in Konya, Turkey.

So true. I was fortunate enough to spend a month in Turkey with a college group, and it was an absolutely wonderful experience (in which I also purchased the fabled carpet and accidentally consumed the grounds of Turkish coffee). My advice: learn how to say "too expensive", and go to Hattusa. Happy travels.

I do not know what you paid for yours, but, mine is silk and I paid over 5 figures.
It know hangs on the wall above the bed in the master bedroom. The ensuring remodel of the second story to show case this fine cost me well into 6 figures.
I loved Istanbul, but I am never going back. My wife might buy something else.
"Doc"

had to smile...I did the EXACT same thing in India buying silk curtains-impluse, paid way to much and had buyers remorse....and my fiancee said the same as your wife-"when will you be in India again, you had a great experience etc).

God, how I love Italy and food and taking time to appreciate both! Your blog just brought this back for me. Thanks for keeping us posted on your trip!

Wow! I could not think of a better way to have lunch or dinner for that matter. All that for the price of wine. No wonder Italy is a fantastic destination for foodies. I spent my Honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, technically not part of it but no one has really heard of it so Almalfi works) and had a wonderful time. The seafood, lemons and the coast are fantastic. I reccomend skipping Rome (really a bunch of old buildings) and head to the Amalfi coast.

I am German and have lived all my life in America, I was in Germany visiting Family and and my brother in law and his daughter (18) went into a Public Swimming Pool and decided to take a steam bath after swimming. Some People swam topless or in the nude. I swam in trunks but I went into the steam room naked and he was in there naked sitting on the first tier and all of a sudden his daughter came in naked and sat right on his lap. Needless to say I was kind of taken by surprise but the Germans just don't get up tight with nudity. We are all Male and female just in different sizes and shapes and they just don't get all a fluster about it. I said if that happend in America people would be calling the police and he would be charged. He said the Germans don't find it sexual its just family being with family in their natural state. She said she wouldn't sit on a strangers lap but with her own father she didn't find it sexual, it was natural for her. No one in her family ever hid them selves when they walked in on eachother in the nude.
Through out the afternoon other people came in, in the nude and people did talk with eachother. They probably just recognised you as an American. They let you make the first attempt at communication. They don't want to intrude on your privacy.

The funniest thing about German spas and being naked is the Roman spa in Baden-Baden. Being naked in the co-ed part of the spa is the norm for the locals, but a bit of getting used to for the Americans. After being naked, the next event is the black-tie casino across the street, where one can see the same people who were in the spa! Also, the Germans are a bit funny about nude sunbathing. Totally nude at the inland quarries, but bottoms on at the North Sea beaches!

Dear Mark I live in Germany, and yes the beer and scnitzel are great but its not only in the Saunas that they dont talk. Eye contact is a no no and chit chat practicaly scorned upon. My good german friend (and once you break through the ice they are loyal friends and never flakes) but anyways my girl friend says that germans are just shy, especially in the Schwaben region. but I dont know I think its much deeper than that. I mean you really can freak people out just by trying to stir up a friendly conversation. I heard in beer gardens and on hking trails they sorta shed a bit of their reserve, but..ah well enjoyed your blurb will send it on. I thought something much more seedy was going to come to light, believe me old men do talk to innoccent young foreigners......

A few years ago I was on vacation in Palma De Mallorca Spain and the German tourists used to run down the main street naked every morning around 6 AM. Whole families naked as jaybirds ran dowm the street. Seeing a 80 year old guy naked and running would make anybodies breakfast hard to eat

While you do not exactly come out and say anything discriminating about Germans, except that they are like Robots(which I beg to differ), you bashed them. its funny how everyone can take a stab at them as they they will always be dumped on from here on out, however, its not considered discriminating. I know many germans that are full of life and love and I have never heard anyone do a belly laugh louder then my mom, Oma, or Aunt Monika, a real laugh, that is not a fake one presented by someone looking down their nose at another country. It appears to me that you simply did not enjoy it as you wanted to relive some type experience that you had before and thought that these germans where there for your entertaintment, and to revolve around your little world when they were simply unwinding and destressing. the only stress that you felt was probably your own since it did not cater to YOUR needs. Its okay to be silent and reflect. thats how we get in touch with ourselves. You must fill your space with empty words on every occasion. after reading about your spa experience, I find the title offensive. I believe you are a racist.

Just take off the swimsuit, Mark.

Ah, the memories... I had the same experience at the Grand Hyatt in Berlin 2 years ago. They have a gorgeous rooftop pool/sauna/steam area, and it's filled with naked people. As a shy American girl (now in the equally shy UK), I was the only one wearing a swimsuit and got lots of odd looks for doing so. One night almost collided with a (naked) man while entering the steam room as he was exiting. How odd it was to run into the same man (clothed, thankfully) in the office the following day and realise he was very highly placed in the company. SO happy that I was covered up the prior night!!

German spa commentator, I can't quite believe you were not aware that many cultures are far, far more comfortable with public nudity than Americans are. Canadians, Australians, Europeans are all very clear on Americans being odd religous prudes, and to no one's surprise, consider Americans to be pitiful at sex. Try and open your mind. Why should other people's introspection and comfortable attitudes toward their body bother you, or even have anything to do with you. Get off your judgement buddy.

You should have stopped at, "it not my place to criticize innocuous cultural habits that are not my own." (verb anyone?) If my experiences are correct, they were not offended by your "not" disrobing. They probably didn't even notice as they were there to enjoy the spa. Your attitude is not helping the negative global image of the American traveler. Get over it or stay home.

I am glad to read that things haven't changed in 30 years in Deutschland. As a young American - trying not to do anything "wrong" in Germany while struggling with the language (I studied Russian not German) - I made sure that the sauna I entered was the one with the picture of the person in pants. Ten minutes after getting as comfortable as you can in a soup pot, the door springs open and in walk two naked, typically German young women. Thinking I'd really screwed up getting pants confused with skirt, I made a polite, quiet, and quick exit. As it turns out, I'd not made a embarrassing navigation error, rather the ladies sauna was closed for repair - lacking any inhibitions they'd decided to use the men's instead. Needless to say - as a typical American - I retrieved my glasses from the locker and .....

Naked Hippie Hot Springs. I live in Colorado and try to spend some time at a hot spring every few months, especially in the winter. There are several commercial hot springs in Colorado and New Mexico that I frequent (most requiring clothes), but my favorite ones are off of the beaten path, next to running, cold rivers in canyon bottoms, that you have to know someone who's been there to find. I think it feels great to be naked outside, and I search out solitude. I'm sometimes surprised to find people already there in these remote quiet places. And that someone (or someones) is/are usually naked. It is a little bit of a shock, and definately gets the adrenaline running to work up the nerve to put on my own birthday suit and slide in, telling myself "I came all this way and I'm not going to give up just because some naked person was here first!" I am quite confident about my body, I'm in my mid 30's and am considered an attractive woman. But a lot of emotions scramble through my mind, including 'this just feels WIERD!'. I like the adrenaline rush from doing something that is considered taboo, and I've never felt frightened or in danger. It's interesting to meet total strangers in this setting. Many of them are older hippie guys. Some have a lot to say, and some not much at all. It feels strange to have a chit chat with someone in the middle of nowhere, just happening to be naked. But it's somehow very beautifully human. There are no pretenses, no masks to hide behind. Talk about an 'in the moment' experience. I like the kind of people who hang out at hot springs, especially the ones who feel comfortable naked. They are generally gentle, kind people who feel comfortable being themselves. If there is tension, it melts away very quickly in the healing waters and serene environment. I think everyone should try it once, if for no other reason than to go outside of their comfort zone and explore their feelings around such an unusual experience.

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