Jan 142014
 

The weekend before last, Mike and I joined from friends just 45 min outside of town at a local tea farm.  We were really looking forward to it, since part of our New Year’s resolution was to get out of the city more.  We went to Kiambethu Tea Farm close to Limuru town, which is northwest of us.  On the weekends, they have a lunch session where you can go learn about the farm, take a walk through the forest, and enjoy food on the lawn. It was a really nice day out that Saturday, so perfect weather to be outside!  As we came up on the tea farms, I was pretty startled by how bright neon green the tea bushes were.  I guess I’d never seen a tea plantation before.  It was gorgeous with all the rolling hills.  When we got the farm, there was a living room set up in an old house, and they had set up chairs for people to sit and listen about the history of the farm.  The owner now is this really old cute British lady whose family had come to Kenya in 1903 (!).  I can’t even imagine what it was like back then.  Tea was introduced to Kenya when all the workers from India came to work on the railroad.  They used to bring it from India, but people tried to grow it here and it grew very well, especially in higher altitudes where it was cooler.

Beautiful day!

Beautiful day!

The tea pickers are paid by weight, and it’s amazing to see how fast they work.  They go through the bushes which are planted densely together, and throw the plucked leaves over their shoulders into a basket on their back.  It’s one of the few industries where they still employ human labor to pick the leaves since they’re so delicate and the machines would crush the leaves.  You have to be very careful, because once the leaf is crushed, it immediately starts oxidizing and would get rejected by the processor.  When they pluck, they also only take the first 2-3 shoots off the end, so the bush keeps generating.  The top shoot is the youngest and the best quality.  The different types of tea are made from different types of tea plants but they are all in the camellia family (had no idea!).

Tea leaf pickers hard at work

Tea leaf pickers hard at work

Camellia bush up front with a stripped section in back

Camellia bush up front with a stripped section in back

Then we went on a walk through the indigenous forest–there’s not many left near Nairobi unfortunately and that was nice, but a little strange since it had nothing to do with tea.  But nice to take a walk nonetheless.  They don’t let you walk through the tea fields since you can damage the bushes.

Huge fuschia bushes on the plantation

Huge fuschia bushes on the plantation

Then we all ended it with lunch outside with some nice Kenyan iced tea!  Great afternoon spent and learned a lot.

Overlooking the tea fields

Overlooking the tea fields

 January 14, 2014  Posted by at 10:35 am Attractions, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Jun 232013
 

Last month, Mike and I decided to do a weekend getaway in Diani, a town on the Kenyan coast, just south of Mombasa.  We didn’t take any days off, just left on a Friday evening as it’s a 1 hr flight from Nairobi to Mombasa.  It was low season so we didn’t have any problems booking hotels or flights.

I think if we were to do it again, we would probably take at least a day off to make it a 3 day weekend.  Friday night – Sunday is just too short for the travel logistics that are involved.  Fridays are the worst for traffic in Nairobi and even though we left at 5pm for the airport, we didn’t get there until 7:30pm.  We almost missed our flight!  We got there 30 min before take off and they let us through.  Whew!  The flight is quick but then to get to Diani it’s an hour and a half taxi ride — mostly it takes this long because you have to wait for the ferry.  We don’t arrive at the hotel until around 11pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner.  Luckily, the hotel had dinner waiting for us.  We stayed at Southern Palms Resort.  It’s a huge complex and it must get really crowded during busy season, but it was a bit cavernous while we were there during low season.  The pools are huge and winding all around but the rooms probably need a bit of updating.

Swim Up Bar

Swim Up Bar

I was fascinated by these yellow weaver birds who had made their nests in the waterways in between the hotel lobby and restaurant.  They would loudly chirp all day and weave their little nests.  There were so many of them!  Mike and I watched one weaver for a long time as it took down an old nest and then started a brand new nest from one long blade of grass.  It’s pretty incredible that the birds know how to build those with just their beaks and feet.  In order to get to the bottom of the nest, they would hang upside down and beat their wings to keep themselves up while weaving the nest.  I feel like I notice the birds a lot more here–partially because there’s just so many more here (nature!) and also they’re usually brightly colored or unusually patterned.

Amazing Yellow Weaver

Amazing Yellow Weaver

The first morning we got up really early and went diving with Diani Marine.  The first dive was a wreck dive that was sunk for diving and the other one was a reef dive.  Diani Marine was a good shop but definitely expensive.  I think compared to the diving we experienced in Indonesia, we are really spoiled!  The diving was good, but not great.  Hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to wake up at the crack of dawn after getting in so late the night before!  But pretty much everything closes on Sundays in Kenya, so Saturday was our only option.  After we got back to the hotel, it started pouring…ahh, low season.  But we played a mean game of ping pong. =)  Mike always has very low expectations of my hand-eye coordination skills (rightly so), but I think I impressed him and surprised myself with the ping pong skills.

The next day was a beautiful sunny day and we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves at the beach and pool.  Diani is known for its beautiful white sands.  The sands were definitely super soft, powdery, and white but I think during low season there is more seaweed washed in from the rains.  It’s still beautiful, nevertheless.  The only reason we didn’t spend more time out on the beach is because you tend to get harassed by “beach boy” selling boat rides and crafts.

Soft Seaweed Drifting

Soft Seaweed Drifting

White Sands

White Sands

All weekend, we kept seeing this mysterious set of blonde twins, dressed exactly the same, walking around the resort.  They were very distinct, with blunt cut platinum blonde hair, super pale, and very tall and skinny.  It was so bizarre!  We felt like we were in the twilight zone and the other hotel guests seemed to think the same too, since everyone would stare at them.  Turns out they were German and were shooting some sort of TV program at the hotel.  Wild.

Strange Twins...

Strange Twins…

We didn’t want to leave when the time came–just needed one more day!  Next time, when our parents come visit us in August, we will check out Watamu which is 2 hours north of Mombasa.  It will be closer to high season then, so we will see how it is up there.

Hypercolor Lizard

Hypercolor Lizard

 June 23, 2013  Posted by at 2:49 pm Attractions, Diani, Kenya Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Jun 172013
 

Nairobi is one of the few cities with a national park right next to it.  The national park is actually right across the street from my office, and I often stare out at it whenever I go up our glass elevators.  It’s quite big–you can’t even really see where it ends from my office.  Some of my coworkers who live in Karen drive through the park every day to get to and from work, and they post photos of a group of lions by the side of the road on their way home.  Crazy right?  It’s typically hard to see wildlife from the road though, and to get a good luck, you usually have to get up by 6am when the animals are out.

You can drive around yourself in the park as long as you stick to the roads.  Mike and I haven’t really been though since a) we don’t feel like waking up at 6am on the weekend, and b) it’s a bit far from where we live and we usually stick close to our neighborhood due to traffic.  But one weekend my coworker invited us to his house for lunch and he lives even further from us than the national park, so we decide to visit the park before we go visit him.  Since we don’t wake up super early, we decide just to check out the Safari Walk, which is a sectioned off area of the park.  We have friends who bring their kids on the weekend.  You go through the entrance of Nairobi National Park off of Langata Rd (just past Wilson Airport), and the Safari Walk is on the right hand side of the parking lot.

But we get to the ticket gate and it’s more like a zoo.  Mike and I aren’t big fans of zoos at all since it’s so sad to see the animals locked up.  But we were there already, so…I guess if you were going to have a zoo, the Safari Walk is a better model.  The animals have a larger space to walk around and it’s their native environment, so there’s not a lot of fake habitat.  But what ends up happening is that since it’s natural brush, you can get to an exhibit and not see the animals at all since they are hiding in the bush or trees.  We were lucky to get a few peeks of some of the animals, so I’m sharing those photos here.

Baboon and Her Baby

Baboon and Her Baby

Cheetah With Nowhere to Run =(

Cheetah With Nowhere to Run =(

An Eland - This Thing was Huge!

An Eland – This Thing was Huge!

When we got to the lion exhibit, we couldn’t see any lions since they were hiding.  But after we left and were walking away, we heard these crazy loud roars!  We saw a groundskeeper and he told us it was the lions.  So we ran back and there they were, coming out of the bush.  The sound was like nothing I’d ever heard.  Much louder than you think.

Lion Coming Out of the Bush

Lion Coming Out of the Bush

Next time we are going to wake up early to drive around the park – no more Safari Walk for us!

 June 17, 2013  Posted by at 9:19 pm Attractions, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 162013
 

It’s been a way long time since I last posted!  Sorry, sorry.  It’s been really busy at work lately so the last thing I want to do when I get home is sort through my photos and write.  So these photos are quite old, but still worth the update!

Since we’ve been in Nairobi, Mike and I are always on the hunt for outdoor spaces to go on walks.  We really miss walking around and while we have Karura Forest, we wanted to explore the Arboretum which is not far from us.  I had heard mixed reviews; people said it was actually quite busy and not very peaceful at all because of singing church groups (huh?).  But really how bad could it be?

You can get to the Arboretum off State House ride and then make a turn on Arboretum Drive.  There’s a small parking lot where you pay a small fee.  It’s free to walk in though.  There’s a paved path when you enter, but pretty soon it’s just dirt paths.  There are large fields scattered around and it’s less of an arboretum and more of a green public space.  Wow, but we were unprepared for what we experienced!!  It was actually super crowded, and sure enough, tons of church groups.  Mostly, they were doing team building activities–lots of holding hands in circles.  There was preaching, singing, jumping up and down, games, anything you could think of.  And the groups were literally all next to each other so you almost felt like you were at a very crowded church camp.  It was actually quite cool to see, but definitely not our idea of a peaceful garden walk.  Pretty chaotic.  Since there were so many groups, it was actually quite loud with all the singing and yelling in teams.

Kids About to Break a Tree Branch

Kids About to Break a Tree Branch

Team Building Mania

Team Building Mania

To escape the crowds, Mike and I tried to take the side paths around the park.  When we came upon this little guy!

Karma Chameleon

Karma Chameleon

I had never seen a chameleon in real life before.  It’s feet were the coolest.  Of course Mike had to pick it up and take a look.  It didn’t really flinch at all and just kind of settled on to his arm.  We’re glad we went to check out the arboretum, but honestly, I’d probably stick to Karura Forest if I’m looking a nice quiet place to walk around. =)

 June 16, 2013  Posted by at 9:17 pm Attractions, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Apr 142013
 

Friday I was feeling pretty down for some reason.  Some days are good here and some days I get terribly homesick for friends and family and the comforts of NYC.  I don’t know why, but Friday evening caught me in a downward spiral and I couldn’t get out of it.  There were many tears shed and I just forced myself to go to bed super early.

The next morning, I got myself up to check out a yoga class for the first time.  I had heard a lot about Africa Yoga Project’s free Saturday community class but had never gone since the last couple weeks we had been doing a lot of errand running for the apartment.  The class is from 10-12pm at the Shine Center in Diamond Plaza in the Parklands neighborhood.  Part of my hesitation in going is also driving our stick-shift car there alone.  I’m not too comfortable with the manual car yet and Nairobi is not a fun place to drive.  Tons of potholes, crazy matatu drivers, and crowded roundabouts.  But Saturday I forced myself out and knew I would feel better afterwards.  I only stalled once in the parking lot. ;P

I got there and had no idea where the Shine Center was, but saw some other mzungu (white) girls and asked them if they were going to yoga.  Yep, was right, so they let me follow them — turns out I had gone up the stairs of the wrong section of Diamond Plaza.  As we climbed the stairs, you could hear the loud commotion as we got close to the studio.  What was happening?!  Turns out this was the last day of a week-long teacher training session they were doing.  So there were people there from all over the world, US, Canada, other African countries, and all over Kenya.  220 people!!!  A rowdy bunch.  It was pretty intimidating and the mats were lined up wall to wall with only about 2 inches between mats.  The only free spot was in the middle of the room near the front, so there I plopped myself.

I had no idea what to expect from class.  I figured since it was a free community class, it would be a beginner level class.  Boy was I wrong!!!  Holy crap, this was one of the hardest classes I’ve ever been to.  My whole body hurts today.  This was probably unique that day due to the teacher training, but the teachers rotated leading the class while everyone else came around and did adjustments.  There was probably someone giving you an adjustment every 5 min which was really nice.  The class was such an amazing mix of people.  I would say 50/50 male/female which is pretty rare for yoga classes.  Tons of men in this one.  There was a big group of deaf Kenyans in the class and they were all signing before class.  During class they just watch everyone around them for cues.  I was in between two deaf guys and they were super friendly.  Because you are so close to each other in the crowded room, a lot of the poses you end up on your neighbor’s mat or they tell you to hold up your neighbor’s leg.  The guy to my right had striking blue eyes, which was such a crazy contrast to his dark skin.  In front of me was a Masai guy, complete with beaded bracelets and anklets and weights through his huge ear holes.  It was probably 80% local and 20% ex-pat which is also rare for yoga classes.  So cool.  I’d never been to a class with so much energy and whooping and hollering.  Every time there was a particularly difficult sequence (plank, low push up, back up to plank, repeat x5), people would yell out “YEAHHH, whooooooo!”  It just put a smile on your face.

Afterwards, the people upstairs came down (yes, there were two floors of classes going on since there were so many people) and they had 4 people stand up and tell everyone how they enjoyed class and how they felt.  Then everyone who was there for the first time had to stand up and say their name, where they’re from, and how they felt.  It was such an awesome class and actually I got pretty emotional a couple of times during class.  It was just such a release and the rock in your throat isn’t from good or bad feelings, it’s just the release of emotions.  After a tough week, it just felt good to leave it all on the mat.  I definitely will be going back regularly.

Africa Yoga Project has an interesting model.  They train yoga teachers locally and these teachers go out into the neighborhoods to spread and teach yoga.  They go to orphanages, the slums, prisons, rehab centers, schools, etc.  It’s very admirable and I have no doubt they bring a certain calm to people in otherwise dire situations.  But I wonder how much the yoga is helpful to them rather than other things that help alleviate poverty.  Like do I really care about yoga if I don’t have enough to eat every day?  But nevertheless, it’s better than not being there.  It will be interesting to see how they evolve.

Apr 072013
 

Over Easter weekend, Mike and I went to Rwanda to see the silverback gorillas.  We were deciding between Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Cairo/Egypt, Victoria Falls, or Rwanda.  We went with gorilla trekking in Rwanda since that’s high on our Africa bucket list and it’s very doable in a long weekend.  The flight to Rwanda is only 1 and a half hours, direct, and most people only get the gorilla permits for one day.   Most people see gorillas in either Uganda and Rwanda and we chose Rwanda because it’s a quick 2 hour drive on tarmac to the National Park versus an 8 hour drive in Entebbe.  Rwanda’s permits are slightly more expensive but with the transportation costs they essentially come out the same. We originally tried to get the permits directly through Rwanda Development Board, but no one ever picked up the phone or replied to our emails.  So we ended up going with a tour operator who could arrange everything for us.  It’s nice because we get a discount for being East African Residents.

We arrive in Kigali that day and our tour operator is not there.  I call and I’m like “we’re here, where are you?” thinking oh great, I hope we didn’t just get scammed after we wired all the money to them.  The guy finally gets who I am and then says “wait, I thought you were coming on April 29, not March 29!”  DOH!  Crap.   I frantically check my emails from the week before and even though I had said we’re coming next weekend, I accidentally wrote April instead of March 29.  Pit in stomach.  We spend an agonizing 15 minutes waiting at the airport for the tour operator to call back to see if he can make it work this weekend.  I feel horrible.  But this is an instance where TIA (this is africa) worked in our favor.  Luckily, it’s low season right now since rainy season has just started, so they were able to get us permits for Sunday.  Phew!

We spend a day and a half in Kigali and meet up with one of Mike’s coworkers for dinner one night.  Kigali is a beautiful city – extremely clean and safe.  There are parts where you feel like you’re in a suburb in the US.  It was really nice to be able to walk around at night (something you can’t really do in Nairobi) and not have to worry about getting mugged.  The weather is cool like Nairobi also.  I can see why it’s so popular with expats!  It’s amazing that just 20 years ago the country was torn apart by genocide, they have come a long way.  People liken it to the Singapore of Africa – it’s very clean and safe and there’s little corruption, but there’s not a lot of political freedom either.

We went to a nice cafe called Shokola near our hotel and I was obsessed with this one wall they had covered in kanga fabric.  Kanga fabric is a type of cloth worn in East Africa and they are very bright and colorful and usually have Swahili sayings on them.  I want to duplicate this in our apartment!

Colorful Wall of Kanga Fabric

Colorful Wall of Kanga Fabric

The next day we did the two-hour drive to Volcanoes National Park and relaxed for the afternoon.  We walked around Musanze, the town we were staying in and got to see a church preparing for their big Easter event.  Men and women were singing and children practiced dancing.  So much fun to watch.

The morning of the trek, we met our driver at 5:30am and headed over to the National Park.  While the tour operators are sorting out the permits, we got treated to a local dance group.  They were killing it!

Catching Air

Catching Air

There are many gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park and the tourists get split up into groups of 6-8 and are assigned a family.  Your guide then radios with the trackers who stay with the gorillas all day to know where to lead you in the park.  The trackers essentially stay with the gorillas from dawn until dusk for safety from poachers and also ease of tracking.  We got assigned to the Sabinyo family which has the oldest and largest silverback gorilla in the park – 42 years old!  And we also got to see the youngest gorilla at 2 days old.  Pretty amazing.  The groups usually just have one silverback but our group had two, the 42-year-old one and a younger silverback.

We hiked for about an hour through bamboo forests – the paths were very narrow and muddy.  Our hiking shoes pretty much got demolished and we’re lucky they were waterproof.  Although at the end I did step into a massive puddle and my socks got drenched.  The bamboo forest is gorgeous and it’s amazing how much of it there is in Africa since you always associate bamboo with China.  There are parts that are so dense that they have to hack through with machetes so we can pass through.  You’re constantly ducking to get through and getting tangled in vines.

Hiking Through the Bamboo Forest

Hiking Through the Bamboo Forest

How long you hike really depends on where the gorilla family is.  We had heard stories of people hiking anywhere from 20 min to over 4 hours.  We were lucky and had it just right – 1 hour.  The climb gets pretty steep at parts but it wasn’t too bad.  With the permits, once you get to the gorillas you’re allowed 1 hour viewing time and then you have to leave.  The gorillas get visitors every day so they’re pretty used to humans and it’s as if we’re not there.  We got really lucky that it didn’t rain either since it’s the start of rainy season.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

42 Year Old Silverback Gorilla - Oldest in the Park

42 Year Old Silverback Gorilla – Oldest in the Park

Lucky We Got a Great Viewing Spot

Lucky We Got a Great Viewing Spot

 

Young Gorilla Climbing on Bamboo

Young Gorilla Climbing on Bamboo

Whatchu Lookin At?

Whatchu Lookin At?

 

Overlooking the Sabinyo Gorilla Family

Overlooking the Sabinyo Gorilla Family

Mike Holding His Breath as the Silverback Walks By

Mike Holding His Breath as the Silverback Walks By

 

This Guy was 5 Feet From Me

This Guy was 5 Feet From Me

2 Day Old Baby Gorilla!! Cutest Ever.

2 Day Old Baby Gorilla!! Cutest Ever.

Close Encounters

Close Encounters

 

Silverback Standing to Snap the Bamboo in Half

Silverback Standing to Snap the Bamboo in Half

These gorillas seemed very gentle but you quickly remember their strength when the silverback reaches up to snap thick bamboo stalks in half like they were sticks!  What an amazing experience.  Definitely worth it and no matter how much it was hyped up for us, it was still surreal to be that close to the gorillas.

Feb 062013
 

Mike and I have pretty much spent almost every weekend in Nairobi so far running errands and trying to get our apartment together.  We were really sick of going to Nakumatt, which is our everything-store—kind of like a Target/Walmart with groceries.  Produce is very cheap here, especially all the things that are grown domestically.  But things like button mushrooms are more expensive and usually spoil very easily.  Anything imported of course is expensive.

So a few weekends ago we decided to screw the car shopping and go hiking in Karura Forest.  The “forest” is really a protected land within the city only a 10 minute drive north of our apartment.  It’s like our Central Park if you will.  Except really wild and not landscaped at all.  It’s pretty cool that something like this is so close to us and within the city.  We walked a lot of it in 2 hours, so it’s not huge, but there’s a waterfall and a cave that you can visit inside.

Entrance is 200 KES for adult residents and we bought a map (which was a good idea).  We went in through the Limuru Rd entrance which is closest to our apartment (you don’t have to go to the main entrance).  We walked up to the waterfall and caves and it was so nice to be in nature and go for a walk.  We really miss being able to walk around (no real sidewalks and theft make it an issue here).  Most of the times, we were the only ones on the trails, but occasionally we would pass young families or couples.  Great place to run or bring your dog.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Wild Trail

Wild Trail

Karura Forest Waterfall

Karura Forest Waterfall

Magical River Pathway

Magical River Pathway

One thing I couldn’t capture on photo were the number of butterflies everywhere.  All different colors, everywhere!  There must have been thousands.  I felt like I was walking in a wonderland.  The green turquoise ones were especially striking.  Unreal.

Fallen Turquoise Butterfly

Fallen Turquoise Butterfly

Orange Butterfly Duo

Orange Butterfly Duo

Mike saw a bushbuck, which is a like a small version of a deer but I was too busy jabbering away about something that I totally missed it.  Darn!  There are other small animals in the forest, but we didn’t see much probably because it was mid-day and pretty blazing hot.  We will definitely be back and can’t wait to explore it some more!  The only thing I wish there was is a big lawn where you can relax and picnic. The forest is pretty wild and unkempt so there’s not really a place you can sit and rest.

 February 6, 2013  Posted by at 5:54 pm Attractions, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Nov 012012
 

I know you are wanting to hear more about Dar, but I couldn’t help but share these photos from when we were in Big Sur.  I had been dying to see McWay Falls forever and my sis highly recommended it after she did her Hwy 1 trip last year.  After we set up camp at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, we decided to go for a drive to find McWay Falls since we figured the view would be nicer right before sunset.  If went the next morning on the way down, there was a chance we could run into fog.  The stopping point for McWay Falls is near the southern end of Big Sur, so it was actually quite a bit farther than we thought.  The roads are pretty windy so be careful driving at night.  The nice thing about going late in the afternoon is that most likely everyone there is staying in Big Sur, so it’s not as crowded since you don’t have all the drive through tourists.

When we got there, the light was beautiful and just right.  It’s a short path to the viewing platform.  We also went the other way, where there are two beautiful campsites, but you can’t see the falls from that side.  Those two campsites fill up so quickly but how amazing would it be to camp cliff side with the amazing Pacific Ocean view??  Mental note: one day we will book it.

And here is McWay Falls in all its glory:

McWay Falls: Amazing Waterfall Into the Ocean

I love the pink flowers on the cliff-side in the foreground.  The views driving down Hwy 1 are pretty amazing and it’s definitely worth taking a couple of days to spread it out and take your time.  It felt rushed trying to drive from Big Sur to LA in one day.  We managed to stop a few times and take in the views though and they were breathtaking.

Famous Big Sur Bixby Bridge, opened in 1932

Big Sur Viewpoint

Closer to Morro Bay, we stopped at the Elephant Seal Preserve.  There they were, all just sunbathing on the beach!  Too cute.  We did see some male lions get into a bit of a tussle, where they rear their heads back and make honking noises.  Reminded me of the penguin preserve in Cape Town.

Sunbathing Elephant Seals

Dueling Male Elephant Seals

We got back to LA pretty late and very tired, but well worth all the amazing scenery.

Oct 122012
 

The last time we went up to SF, we had originally planned to take the scenic Highway 1 route down the coast, but we ran out of time.  This time we decided to break it up into two days to get down which is definitely the right choice.  It’s just too long to do it in one day and you end up just driving down the road instead of stopping to take in all the gorgeous scenic points and hikes.

We camped for one night at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park which is on the north end of Big Sur.  The campground is really gorgeous and if you can get into the lower number campsites (1-50), they are among a grove of coast redwood trees.  Absolutely breathtaking.  When we drove into the campsite and passed by that first section, we were stunned into silence.  Like out of a movie.  Of course all of those had already been reserved so we ended up in campsite 218 which was nice since it was a little more isolated and had some good trees around it.  We didn’t bother to bring the camp stove for one night so we opted to check out the Big Sur Bakery which is known for pizza.  I saw it on Yelp and the local state park newsletter so off we went.  We got there and oops, turns out it’s a nice restaurant with cloth napkins and candlelight and all.  We definitely showed up in our zip off pants and hiking shoes.  Oh well, I’m sure it happens quite often.  It was a fancy camping dinner complete with glasses of red wine!  Very tasty though the pizza could have been seasoned better.

Luxury Camping Dinner

The next morning we set off on a hiking trail called Buzzard’s Roost that goes through some redwood groves and has views at the top.  It was really convenient since the trailhead started right within our campground.  We chose a relatively short one since with my knee injury, I didn’t want to push it.  What a beautiful hike!  We barely saw anyone on the trail.  That’s the nice thing about Big Sur—most people just drive through and don’t bother with the hiking so it’s not as crowded as the trails in Sequoia or Yosemite.  The redwood groves were fantastic and we saw some cool things along the way.

Sun-Dappled Redwood Grove

Believe it or not, I spotted these on the side of a redwood and turns out there were a bunch of shells that were shed by bees!  At least, I think they were bees?  These were just empty see through shells that were the result of molting.

Shells Leftover From Bees Molting

These trees were all over the top of the hike.  They were so fascinating with the peeling and curling red bark, it was such an extreme contrast of colors with the red and green.  It was like they were shedding their skin like the bees.  A quick search reveals that these are madrone trees, native to the western coast of North America.

Amazing Curling Red Bark on Madrone Tree

At the top of the hike, we were greeted with a blanket of fog on the ocean side, so I’m not sure if there was an ocean view on that side.  But we did get a nice view of the canyons and mountains behind us.

View of Santa Lucia Mountains from Buzzards Roost

It was such a nice, calm start to our day that I wish we could start every morning with such a beautiful hike!  What happy people we would be then, right?  We were tremendously envious of all the isolated, gorgeous homes along the cliffs of Big Sur.  One day…

Oct 112012
 

When Mike and I visited SF last month, we decided to be tourists and enjoy the city on an amazingly beautiful clear weekend.  We didn’t know the next chance we would get to visit the city since when we come back to the States, it will likely be to either LA or Chicago, where our families live.  I wanted to get some good shots of the city view and we both had never been to the famous Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks is located smack dab in the middle of the city if you look on a map and there’s a famous figure eight driveway at the top.  You can get a nice view of downtown, Alcatraz, Bay Bridge, and on a clear day, you can also see the Golden Gate Bridge.  I always think SF city views are unique since all the buildings seem to be white and with the hills it creates a lot of fun lines.  There was plenty of parking when we went up in the afternoon and the view was great!  Highlight of our weekend in SF.

Beautiful, Clear Day from Twin Peaks

Golden Gate Peeking Out From the Fog

Figure Eight Between Twin Peaks, Looking from the Top of One to the Other

I had to climb down the hill to get this straight shot down Market St towards the clock tower on top of the Ferry Building, built in 1898.

View of Ferry Building Clock Tower down Market St.