Yoga In The Media

There are as many reasons to come to yoga as there are ways to shuffle a pack of cards (that’s 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636, 856,403,766,975,289,505,440, 883,277,824,000,000,000,000 in case you were wondering), but I often wonder just how many people are missing out because of the way yoga is portrayed in the media?

Unless you’re really into yoga, and are doing some specific research, chances are when you come across yoga photos online it’s going to be some celebrity on a sun soaked beach performing asanas as the sun goes down, all bronzed and gorgeous and serene as hell.

yoga google screen grab

Or if not, then it’s an article on some new weird type of yoga that, let’s be honest, was probably written for people to have a good chuckle at the hippy weirdos.

You rarely get articles on the normal, average, day-to-day yoga that most of us do, the yoga that happens in a church hall in Croyden on a wet Wednesday afternoon. But in a world of click-bait headlines, with so many things vying for our attention, is that really a surprise?

Yoga
image © distelfliege, via Flickr

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve suggested yoga to people only for them to tell me “But I can’t even touch my toes!” With so many pictures out there of experienced practitioners doing advanced asanas really well people just think “Well I’ll never be able to do that, so why even bother trying?” With all the emphasis on the physical benefits of yoga that happen further down the line, people miss out on the positive mental benefits they can experience right away.

Which is why, when I come across a good yoga story that isn’t all about bendy celebrities, I like to highlight it.


image © Lee Ann Olwage, via sevaunite.org

I recently came across this story on the BBC News website, which I found quite inspiring. (NB: If you’re outside of the UK then chances are you won’t be able to view the content. If so then here’s another article on the project that I found on the Guardian website instead.)

In summary, the Prison Freedom Project is about bringing yoga to prisoners in South Africa, allowing them to learn and enjoy the benefits of yoga, and enjoy a feeling of liberation despite their incarceration. It is a voluntary, contribution driven organisation, that has already made a difference to many inmates, and will no doubt help countless more find health and happiness in their lives. To me it embodies the true spirit of yoga, and I like what they’re doing so much I decided to make a donation.

***

I’m not saying we need more ‘positive’ yoga stories out there. There’s plenty of those already. What we need is more ‘average’ yoga stories out there. More stories of normal people incorporating yoga into their everyday lives. I might even go so far as to say we need to stop elevating yoga to unattainable heights, and bring it back down to earth (which, ironically, is where most yoga happens, lol).

It’s understandable people want to show off when they do something well. No one wants to share pictures of themselves being average, or, even worse, doing something badly. But, in the interests of science, and to get the ball rolling, here’s a few pictures of me doing some asanas to the best of my abilities at the moment (with examples of how they look when you get good).

my forward bend

my plough

my pigeon

There are many aspects to yoga, and many benefits to be had, some of which you have to work at, and some of which you experience from day one. Anyone can do yoga (wherever you are in life, mentally or physically, that is where you begin; that is your starting point), and everyone has something to gain, one way or another.

Each practitioner is different, each experience is different, and each benefit is different; but all of it is positive, and worthwhile, and beneficial; and if it’s not, it’s not yoga.

A Day In The Life Of A Coconut

With the edge of a hurricane tickling the north Queensland coast you would think it’d be the wrong time to go for a stroll.

a stormy beach

But stroll we did, and lovely it was too.

beach strollin'

We even found time for a bit of lounging about.

lounging

The wind was whipping up the trees, but with the heat it was actually a blessed relief.

wind in the trees

And it provided an unexpected bonus too in the shape of a bit of windfall.

windfall

With a bit of effort, and a handily placed stump,

the nutcracker

we managed to free the nut within. But then, what to do with it?

victorious

To begin with of course there’s the water.

decanting the juice

But that tasted nasty, so we moved swiftly on to the flesh within. That proved easier to get to,

just bash it against a rock!

and what we found inside maybe provided us with the explanation for the funny water.

an unexpected discovery

Still, the flesh itself was pretty good,

fresh coconut

but with so much of it what to do then? Well, make it into a curry of course.

coconut curry prep

The coconut fried up a treat,

in it goes

and we were rewarded with a tasty meal to enjoy.

so yummy

All in all, not a bad afternoon’s work if I do say so myself. 😀

Life’s fun when you know how to amuse yourself. 😉

Sydney To Cairns By Camper – days 7-9

day 7

Do you remember I said “…we still had several thousand kilometres to go, and just ten days to do it in (at the time).” Well, today was the day we woke up and realised that driving 1877km in 6.5 days (288km a day, or 3.15 hours driving, for those of you trying to do the math) was not going to be a lot of fun, especially if we wanted to stop for a day here and there to enjoy the view. So we called up the rental company and extended our rental by another four days. It wasn’t much, but it did give us a little breathing space; enough to stop and smell the roses at any rate.

We’d already planned on spending the day in Byron Bay anyway, and with views like this can you blame us?

awesome byron skies

We also had a yoga class to go to in the evening, but that will get it’s own post coming next. In Byron we were pretty much only going to do three things; shop, chill and eat (not necessarily in that order).

We did start with the shopping though. We’d been on a dress mission for Lena since she’d got here, but so far with no luck. Same with finding her a hat that suited. So we strolled up and down the high street seeing what we could find.

Didn’t take long for me to get distracted though, and pretty soon I was in the bookshop seeing what I could find for myself. I’d grown tired of plodding through Richard Feynman’s ‘simple’ explanation of physics and quantum mechanics ‘Six Easy Pieces‘, and needed something less brain busting to get my teeth into.

Tell you what though, books in Oz are expensive! You’re talking $20AUD for a paperback (that’s £13.35 / €15.75 / $20.75USD). Now I don’t know about the rest of the world, but that’s twice or even three times what you would pay in the UK for a paperback novel. And Lord knows why they’re so expensive either? I asked the lady in the shop but she didn’t know. It’s just what the publishers/stockists charge, she said.

I did manage to pick up some bargains though (3 for $15), so with that victory under my belt it was time for some lunch.

healthy burger

Being a hippy town we didn’t have to look for to find a nice healthy veggie burger. The toasted bun was rock hard and the lentil patty simply oozed out everywhere, but it was full of good nutritious stuff so I’ll look the other way on the terrible execution.

After that we shopped a bit more, then finished our little trip out with some sorbet and a nice stroll along the beach.

sorbet smiles

postcards from byron

blue and green

As I mentioned earlier, the evening was spent doing yoga, but I’ll come back to that another time.

day 8

After an excellent yoga class the night before (it’s amazing the difference a really good teacher makes) Lena and I arose keen to do some more. We had been doing yoga in the various parks and things along the way, but this was our first chance to do some on the beach. Lena went first, as she is an early riser. I, being well lazy, went much later.

It was hotter when I got there, but still I found a nice, firm, flat spot to practice in, with a nice view to enjoy too.

yoga on the beach

Asanas done, and a bit of brekky later, and we were off! With the extended rental we were going to spend another day round Byron Bay area. But before we looked for somewhere to camp we decided to go check out the lighthouse, if only for the views (and so I could do another headstand shot).

is it a castle is. is it a lighthouse...

It was cute, kind of a mini castle, and the views were excellent.

byron bay

magnificent skies

seven mile beach

That done we were then on the hunt for a good bit of wild camping. The local authorities are very anti-camper it seems, so finding somewhere legal and free to park up is nigh on impossible. But someone had recommended the end of a long track from Arrowhead that led up to the middle of Seven Mile Beach (pictured above) so we thought we’d give it a go.

Two minutes up the worst mud track I’ve ever been on, heavily pot-holed and washed out after the rains, in a vehicle that found it tough going on tarmac, we quickly abandoned that idea in favour of something less hazardous.

Someone else we know had recommended Nimbin as an interesting destination, so off we set with our unreliable maps to try and find some free camping there.

After an interesting, but not always direct, drive through the hills we made it there, arriving two minutes after the Travel Information Centre closed. But the lovely man who worked there took pity on us, let us in, and gave us a map to a couple local campsites.

But we were on a wild camping mission, so we set out into the middle of nowhere to try and find the location of a picnic area with over-night camping that was marked on our map.

After a bit of a drive on a road that turned out to be not much better then the one to Seven Mile Beach we were eventually confronted by this;

go no further

Now part of me wanted to give it a go, but thankfully the wiser part of me decided that, with light fading and no real idea where you are, discretion is the better part of valour.

the road just traveled

So we did an about face, headed back into town, and went to the local YHA for the night (as they did parking for camper vans as well as dorm room accommodation). And you know what, it was one of the most fortunate decisions we ever made.

day 9

This is what greeted us when we awoke the next morning.

nimbin

kookaburra

good morning nimbin

Lovely, no? Much better than waking up in the woods in the middle of nowhere. And for $12 bucks apiece (thanks to our YHA membership discounts) having toilets, shower and a fully stocked kitchen within walking distance was a real bargain. Not to mention the pool!

nimbin yha pool

Nimbin YHA, like the town itself, is a real old hippy outpost. It’s a great place to stay, and they’ve put a lot of care and attention into making it a happy place to be.

om

jimi

thank you for pot smoking

mosaic mirror

love

If you go to Nimbin I thoroughly recommend staying there.

We spent the morning in Nimbin, seeing what we could find. Not a lot really, unless you’re into jester hats, incense, and wind chimes made out of bent forks.

silly buddha

But Lena did manage to finally get herself a dress she liked, and I got something that was to my taste too – a bag full of Lamingtons! 😉

a bag full of lamingtons

We had lunch by the roadside where we had a view of the Nimbin Rocks,

nimbin rocks

I got another (precarious) headstand shot to add to the collection, then we hoofed it on up the coast to Surfer’s Paradise, where we planned on spending the next few days.

The Sydney Tourist

Well I’ve been the consummate tourist these past few weeks. Maybe that’s what Sydney does to you, but I’ve been to a number of sights, done lots of touristy things (including eat a lot of chips!), and got tons and tons of photos to share.

Actually I think having people to hang around with makes a big difference. You tend to do more stuff. My first week in Sydney I had my friends Sarah and Kellie to drag round all the tourist spots. And we did plenty, as seen previously.

Then last week Lena arrived, so there was more stuff to do (special items I’d been keeping in reserve just for her), so all in all it’s been a busy few weeks!

Now as mentioned previously, I did the yoga at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower. Well later that day I went along to do the Skywalk I had originally planned to do right afterwards but couldn’t because of the weather.

wet and windy

For $65 they give you a snazzy blue jumpsuit to wear in exchange for all your personal belongings (including your camera, but more on that later), then they harness you up, clip you onto the guide rail, and away you go!

skywalk group shot

kiki on the left

kiki on the right

I didn’t find it as scarey as some of the others. Personally I just found being outside that high quite invigorating. Even jumping up and down on the glass walkway didn’t bother me that much. See…

one, two, three... JUMP!

I have to say, the guy doing the tour (Stu) did an excellent job. He was fun, funny, and told us lots of interesting stuff that I’ve since rattled off to other people, much to their bemusement. He was even good enough to let me do a headstand shot, which is the main reason I went up there in the first place (that, and it’s twice as high as the Sydney Harbour Bridge at a third of the price).

25. skywalk headstand

That photo cost me $50, more or less. That’s how much for their souvenir photo pack. Considering how much it costs to print photos and burn a disc these days it was a bit of a rip-off, but what can you do? If you want a momento they’ve got you by the asanas.

It wasn’t as dark as it seems on the photos when we were out there, but it got dark not long after, and I got to enjoy Sydney at dusk once I was back inside, which was nice.

dusk from the tower

In fact I had to enjoy it, as I got the shakes a little once I was back on ‘terra firma’. I had to sit for a bit and have a cup of tea before I could head back to the hotel. Now that was a surprise to me.

All this I did the day before Lena arrived. Once she landed we had a whole list of stuff to do, including tickets (one of which was a surprise for her :)).

NB: I won’t tell the saga of the hideous ‘lodge’ we had booked. Suffice it to say I took one look and immediately went out to find something better. And I did, just around the corner! Ten times better, and at the same price. I’m telling you, don’t settle for less. Life’s too short!

The surprise I had for Lena was in fact the first proper thing we did (aside from eat, sleep, and stroll about). It was tickets to see the opera Carmen at an outdoor event on Sydney Harbour. To get an idea of what I mean here’s a view from the Tower Eye.

carmen from the tower

Not very good as I really had to zoom to get the shot, but you get the idea.

We got down there a little early and managed to take a few shots of the harbour from one of the best vantage points in Sydney.

sydney harbour at dusk

opera house and bridge at dusk

a night at the opera

I also got some shots of the spartan stage before the show began,

carmen

including one from our seats.

the view from the cheap seats

The show was good, but I have to say, I don’t think I’m that into opera. Just didn’t do anything for me. A few nice tunes, but other than that I wasn’t too bothered. Still, it was an experience, and at least I can say I’ve been.

Now even though I’d done the Skywalk, I still wanted to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. $11 and you get to go up one of the towers on the bridge (which are purely decorative by the way. Look at the photos. There’s nothing connected to them. they do nothing to hold the bridge up!).

You get some great views of the harbour,

sydney harbour

and Circular Quay,

circular quay

CBD, with cruise ship

not to mention the bridge itself.

sydney harbour bridge

bridge climb in progress

You also get to see an upside down Englishman, but only on rare occasions.

26. pylon lookout headstand

After the Pylon Lookout we went to the Chinese Gardens near Darling Harbour. I’d been here before when I swung through Sydney for a day on my way to Perth. I’d found them nice and peaceful, a really enjoyable and relaxing place to be, so I wanted Lena to see them too.

phoenix, dragon, duck

baby buddha

through the square window

temple through the trees

clinging

yin yang

chinese gardens bonsai

the garden gate

happy smiles

I also got another headstand shot,

27. chinese gardens headstand

as well as doing a bit more yoga based monkeying around.

baby buddha crow

I love that Baby Buddha statue! I want one in my garden. 🙂

Our last day in Sydney we went to Bondi beach. Had to be done really.

bondi beach

kiki at the beach (on a very bright day)

We wanted to have a swim, but in the end it was too cold. But, we did get to sunbathe a bit, and I got this photo (one for all those who think I’ve gotten really skinny since being away, lol).

28. bondi beach headstand

We finished the day off with a ballet performance at the Royal Opera House. I really wanted to see something there, and the performance of Don Quixote is what was on.

don quixote

I think I like ballet a lot more than I do opera. The show was brilliant. Started off a little slow, but by the end the dancers were doing some amazing things, and you couldn’t help but cheer and applaud.

The storytelling was great too. I mean it was handy to have a program to get all the details, but you got a good idea of what was going on just from the performance. I’d go again to the ballet, and to the Opera House (significantly more comfortable seats than Carmen too!).

sydney opera house detail

I even managed to get a sneaky headstand shot when everyone had cleared out,

29. sydney opera house headstand

and another one outside, of the harbour at night,

30. sydney harbour headstand

which puts me up to thirty headstands so far! Not a bad haul really. I wonder if I’ll be able to get to 100 by the end of it all?

And that’s me for now. The next day we picked up our camper van and started our drive up north to Cairns (by heading west, but more about that later).

Onward And Upward

Well, my time in Melbourne doing karma yoga is done. I have to admit, this last month was a little tough for me. Not only the getting up at 5:30am to do chanting and meditation (I’m just not that into chanting) but also things like not being allowed to put ginger in the dahl. It just got to me. I guess I’m over the whole asking other people permission to do stuff thing (ie: I’ve had enough of having a boss). All the more reason for me to make a proper go of it on my own.

But not yet. For now, the traveling continues.

I flew out of Melbourne a week ago. Got a bit of a surprise at the airport. I thought only small third world nations and bush pilots made you go out on the runway to board the plane. Not so, as this photo proves.

boarding at melbourne

Not that I’m complaining. It did add a certain novelty to what would ordinarily have been a boring flight. And the plane did have jet engines, not propellers, so that’s something to be thankful for.

Here is the ubiquitous blue sky shot.

so much blue

So I’m in Sydney now. Was here for a day before Christmas, on my way to Perth. Going to be here two weeks this time. One week just me, hanging out with my friend Sarah. Then next week my girlfriend arrives, and we have a few days in Sydney before we pick up the camper and head north.

sleeping car

My first two nights I stayed at the Railway YHA, where you literally sleep in converted railway carriages (if you want to). I, of course, wanted to. It amused me no end. And it was pretty nice too. You are literally right next to a working platfrom/station, so you’d think there’d be more noise, but not so. I slept fine each night, and hardly heard the tannoy.

My next six nights were at the Sydney Harbour YHA, where I am now, and where you get some excellent views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Just check this out…

balcony view

And it’s even better as the sun goes down.

roof terrace

sydney opera house at dusk

view from hostel at dusk

That’s from the roof top terrace, but here’s the view from my bedroom window.

view from my window

Not bad for $40-something bucks a night. Ok, you have to share, but the facilities are excellent, and you can’t fault the location (unless it’s to complain about all the steps from Circular Quay, lol). Plus, it’s built above an archaeological dig, so this is the view you get beneath you.

archaeology

can you dig it

How cool is that? Mind you, when you’re used to Roman remains, calling the old settler remains ‘archaeology’ is stretching the term a little thin in my book. But what the heck, it looks nice.

Melbourne was a little bit of a hiatus for me. I didn’t do any headstand pics, which I regret a little, but with this new leg I plan on rectifying the situation asap. And with someone to help take the pictures it makes life a whole lot easier.

I met up with my friends Sarah and Kellie my first full day in Sydney (the two of them have been traveling around Oz and New Zealand working at retreats and planning their own next big step for over a year now) and we decided to head to the zoo.

sarah and the opera

kiki on the ferry

I’ll be honest, as a vegan I’m not sure how I feel about zoos. On the one hand I think the animals would have been better off left where they were. On the other hand the ones that are there probably couldn’t survive in the wild after getting used to life in captivity, so you can’t just put them back. And breeding programs are saving many species from extinction. I don’t know. All I can say is, I’m slowly going off the traditional zoo idea. But anyway…

To get up there from the ferry you take a cable car to the top. That makes about the fourth one I’ve been on since starting this trip. Who knew there were so many, lol.

We had a lovely day for the visit, really hot and sunny. Great for taking photos of the spectacular views you get of Sydney from the zoo.

view from taronga zoo

Even the mountain goats get a spectacular view!

bridge, goat. goat, bridge

And of course we saw many interesting animals.

pygmy hippo

look at my nose

camoflage

Though what kind of animal this is I’m really not sure???

big ears

We ended the zoo visit with the first of many future headstand pics.

24. taronga zoo headstand

To quote Peter Kay – “We’ve started now! Now we’ve started!” (again).

Actually, that wasn’t quite the end of the trip. We finished it off with a nice bit of veggie bento. Sweet! 🙂

veggie bento

A few days later Sarah and I went down to Bondi Beach to check that out.

me and sarah

It was, as you might expect, gorgeous. And a lovely day to be out on the beach.

bondi beach

I see beaches

And it was hot too. I needed some cooling down. Thank Zod for sorbet!

kiki the sorbet muncher

We even managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping. I bought myself some new shoes. What do you think?

kiki's new shoes

I like them, but I think they might be a little big, lol.

And in case you’re having any trouble keeping perspective, helpful graffittos have shared this to help bring you back down to earth.

everything you say is irrelevant...

Nuff said.

No headstand pics for Bondi though. I’m saving that moment for when my Deutsche Frau arrives. Likewise ones on the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I mean I’ve been around those sights dozens of times as I’m so close to Circular Quay,

sydney from the north shore

circular quay from the harbour bridge

I’ve taken many a ferry,

the ocean princess

NO TUG

bridge from ferry

I’ve even walked across the bridge,

sydney harbour bridge detail.

warning signs

but since I’m planning on doing the Pylon Lookout Tour, and I’ve got tickets for the ballet at the Opera House, I’ll save those headstand moments for later.

And speaking of later, since this post is getting a little epic and I’ve still yet more to share, I think I’ll save my pics from the Maritime Museum for next time. So, ciao for now.

On Yer Bike!

‘Only’ is a beguiling word. When someone tells you something is “…only nine kilometres away.” a little voice inside your head goes ‘That doesn’t sound that far.’ And it doesn’t, especially when you’re used to dealing in miles, and you know kilometres always sound like more than they actually are. And when that person seems supremely confident that you could easily cycle there and back in a day, your little voice pipes up once more with ‘What the hell, I’ll give it a go!’

That was how I found myself huffing and puffing down a baked West Australian highway on a bike that had seen better days (and was in dire need of some WD40!) on my way to the Jewel Cave.

my new chariot

Jewel Cave is one of several open to the public in Margaret River, and according to those in the know (ie: my brother and a few random strangers) it’s the best of the lot. That was why I was in Augusta, and the lack of public transport was why I was on the bike.

Actually it wasn’t so bad. The nine kilometres (five miles, in case you were wondering) only took me about half an hour. It was tough going in places, I had to walk up the odd hill here and there, but i made it unscathed and in one (panting) piece.

jewel cave entrance

You can only do the cave as part of a guided tour, and thankfully I got there five minutes before the next one left, so I didn’t have to wait long.

Our guide took us down several flights of stairs to different platforms, each time stopping for us to take photos while he explained a bit about the cave and it’s discovery.

Now this isn’t the first cave I’ve ever been in, but it is the biggest. I mean it was massive! Much bigger than I was expecting anyway. I could just imagine being the guy they dropped down the wee hole at the top to see what was there and coming across this.

jewel cave, top to bottom

No surprise they decided to develop it for public access on the strength of one short exploratory trip. And they did a good job too, with great access and a nice little light show at a few of the rock formations.

'coral' stalactites, jewel cave

stalactitelight show, jewel cave

I enjoyed the tour, and I got my next headstand shot (plus the cafe at the cave did an excellent roast veg panini) so despite the long pedal I was feeling pretty good about things.

10. jewel cave headstand

So good in fact that a moment of insanity took me. A quick glance at my map showed an enticing place called ‘Cosy Corner’. Who could resist a visit to somewhere called Cosy Corner? And it was only another nine kilometres further up the road. I mean, when you;ve come that far, what’s another nine kilometres? (It’s five miles, as I’ve mentioned already.)

the way to cosy corner

So off I went to Cosy Corner, along a stretch of road that proved a lot hillier than the last bit. I ended up out of breath and walked a great deal more than I had before, but I was determined to get there. And when I did this is what I found.

the beach at cosy corner

beautiful, clear waters

Worth the ride? Maybe. Of course what the pictures doesn’t show you is the gale force wind that was blowing off the ocean. I had to brace myself just to get a steady shot! Cosy Corner: a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Ironically, the ironically named Foul Cove a bit further back up the road was much nicer. Slightly sheltered, you could actually enjoy the golden sands and crystal clear waters.

fowl cove

footsteps in the sand

I had a nice stroll along the beach, and then I hopped on my bike for the now eighteen kilometre ride back to town. Y’see, you should always remember, that no matter how far you go, you always have to go that far back again. I forgot that, but the ten miles back to Augusta soon reminded me of it.

bench, augusta

I didn’t do much the next day, just hung out in Augusta recovering from my ordeal, but the next day I was on my bike again heading off to my next ‘big tree to climb’.

Amusingly, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was also ‘only’ nine kilometres away. I took solace in the fact that, being at the end of a jut of land, I couldn’t get it in my head to go further to see what was there. What I didn’t enjoy was the marked increase in hills along the way.

cape leeuwin lighthouse

It was an effort, but I made it,once again just in time for the next tour, where I got to enjoy climbing several flights of stairs (oh joy).

kiki on the lighthouse

Actually it was quite nice up there, and interesting because Cape Leeuwin is where two oceans meet; the Indian and the Southern. If you look in the background of the picture above you can just about see the join. 😉

It was also good because I got to add another headstand shot to the collection.

11. leeuwin lighthouse headstand

And that’s it for Augusta. The day after I hopped on the bus and made my way up to Dunsborough where I am now, where I got to add another two headstand shots to the collection, and where I did my first ever non-Sivananda yoga class. But that’s a story for another day, and another post (or two).

For now just enjoy the fact that your not saddle sore and eighteen kilometres away from home. It doesn’t happen to you often, but when it does you do start to wonder what you’re doing? Then you look back at the pictures, and you remember night shifts, and it all starts to make sense again. 🙂

Fun In ‘Frisco

Someone asked me the other day if I’d ever found a city I could settle down in? Well, after visiting San Francisco I’d have to say, maybe yes; but, with two qualifications.

First off San Francisco is gorgeous. Built round the bay it has views all over the place. A city needs views. Apart from Primrose Hill, and a few streets in Crystal Palace, London is woefully short on viewpoints. SF has them by the bucket load.

twin peaks 1

Met up with my mate Mark who’s settled out here and we drove around a bit checking out some of the sights. He took me up Twin Peaks, where you get the best overall views of the city, and we also went across the Golden Gate Bridge to see it at sunset from one of the best viewing spots you can get.

twin peaks 2
sunset from twin peaks (lens flare)
crossing the golden gate
the golden gate at sunset
koo and keith at the golden gate

Yes indeed, SF looks good from a distance, but it also looks good close up.

Much of the architecture is gorgeous. To be fair plenty of it is quite run of the mill, but the good stuff is really good.

san francisco architecture 1
san francisco architecture 2

And the food! OMG, the food. SF is a vegan paradise. Not only does it have a couple chain vegan places to eat – the Loving Hut and Herbivore – with 3 outlets each throughout the city, but there are plenty other little spots you can go to get something tasty when you’re out and about (like Ananda Fuara and Patxi’s Pizza).

combo plate with optional pancakes at herbivore
patxi's vegan daiya cheese pizza
tempeh blt with pancakes at herbivore

But, even better than that, if somewhere does a vegetarian option chances are it’ll be vegan as well. For some reason more people who go veggie in the US go all the way vegan as well, so most places do a vegan option rather than just a vegetarian one (how it should be, in my opinion). I was never lacking for something to eat, and that is never a bad thing.

surprisngly vegan diner burger, san francisco

Thankfully all the hills you have to go up and down helped keep me slim. SF has plenty of hills, lol. But you can’t complain. It’s part of the city’s charm. What it also has plenty of is touristy stuff to do. My girlfriend Lena flew out to meet me while I was there and we did it all; Alcatraz, Pier 39, cable cars, Alamo Square (the one in all the movies). We even went icepo hunting in the San Francsico Public Library, an excursion which I’ve already blogged about elsewhere, in case you’re interested.

heading out to alcatraz
alcatraz island
welcome to the rock
sweet nothings
san francisco from the rock
on alcatraz island
alcatraz, home of the free indian
heading back
bay bridge, boat and sky
seal of disapproval
lena in alamo square
cable car 3

But the sights aren’t the only thing to keep you fit. There’s yoga too of course. We went to check out the SF Sivananda Centre on the weekend, as we were both in need of some reinvigoration. It was, naturally, a lovely place to visit, staffed by nice friendly people. The class was great, in a room on the first floor (second floor if you’re American) of their house near Golden Gate Park which they’ve turned into a yoga centre. We both felt great afterwards, and would have loved to have gone back if we’d had the time.

But, with so much to see and do, heading back there wasn’t an option I’m afraid. What we did manage to do though is get down to the beach on the last sunny day (it rained quite a bit when I was there) and do some asanas on the beach. We even managed to get a few photos of some postures, just for the hell of it.

headstand on the beach
scorpion
peacock
headstand, fail

If you think mine look in any way impressive let me assure you, all the balancing ones were taken mere seconds before I collapsed. Unsurprisingly, balancing on an uneven, shifting surface like sand isn’t the easiest thing in the world (as Lena discovered).

So I think, as you can see, SF is a lovely place to visit, and to live even. But what about those qualifications I hear you ask?

Well, first up there’s the homeless situation. It is ridiculous! There are so many homeless people it beggars belief (and I lived in London for 15 years, so I’m used to seeing homeless people around). They are everywhere, on every street and every street corner pretty much. How it is allowed to persist I don’t know, but anyone who thinks Capitalism works needs to take a walk down Haight Street and then we can talk.

rex vs the golden gate bridge

The other thing is the impending earthquake. The whole San Andreas Fault is due a major quake, in fact it’s been due for a number of years. They come every 140 years or so, and the last really big one to hit was in 1868, so the people of SF are living on borrowed time. Things are going to get pretty interesting around there some time soon, and while part of me would like to be there when it happens, most of me wouldn’t. Heck, who knows, it could still hit while I’m in LA.

I’m on my way down to spend a few days in LA before I fly out to Oz. I’ve done the one week meditation retreat in the cabin in the woods, and I’ll be blogging about that next. Right now I’m on the Amtrak heading south. Once I’m in my hotel and settled I can get on to that.

Ok, that’s it. Ciao for now.