The Coral Coast, Western Australia

For four days, Spencer and I drove up and down the Indian Ocean coastline in Western Australia, in an area named the Coral Coast. We braked for kangaroos, fought off hoards of flies, and enjoyed some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Here are a few of the highlights of our whirlwind tour.

Sand Boarding

IMG_7752.jpgThe town of Lancelin is home to huge dunes of fine, white sand piled high as far as the eye can see. In the adventurous Australian spirit, we rented a pair of sandboards and trudged up the slippery slopes of the giant dunes, and then sandboarded right back down. Stand-up sandboarding proved to be more difficult than either of us expected (the dunes put some ski slopes to shame in height and gradient), and usually ended in a spectacular crash less than halfway down the dune.IMG_7749.jpg Sitting down, on the otherhand, allowed the board to pick up some erious speed without the risk of eating sand. It was a blast, with the only downside being the sand that managed to cake itself onto every inch of our bodies. Still worth it.

The Pinnacles

IMG_7550.jpgThe Pinnacles National Park is a place unlike anywhere else on earth. Out of the yellow sand rises an army of sandstone columns. These pillars, of varying sizes and shapes, dot the desert landscape, making it look like the surface of a sci-fi planet. It is a mesmerizing and beautiful place.IMG_7563.jpg

Hutt Lagoon

IMG_7594.jpgHutt Lagoon would be a fairly uninspiring body of water off the side of the highway if not for the fact that it is Pepto-Bismal pink. The flamingo-tinted lake gets its color from algae that produce Beta Carotene and thrive in the super-saline waters of the lagoon.

Stromatolites

IMG_7573.jpgWestern Australia has no shortage of geological oddities, including the stromatolites of Cervantes. Stromatolites are essentially living fossils – they are rock-like features that are made by a single-celled organism called cyanobacteria, the earliest complex life form on earth. Fossils of these bacteria colonies exist all over the world, but Australia is home to some of the only living stromatolites left in the world.  They aren’t terribly exciting to look at, but it is fascinating to try and grasp just how long these creatures have been chugging along.

Kalbarri

IMG_7639.jpgOur northernmost destination on the drive was Kalbarri National Park, a testament to water’s ability to carve nature and the rugged beauty of Australia. With deep red sandstone gorges and stunning oceanside cliffs, Kalbarri is a treasure chest of incredible Australian sights. On the ocean side of the park, towering cliffs plummet into the water below. We hiked down one to find our own private beach.IMG_7612.jpgFurther into the interior of the park, the Murchison River has carved deep red sandstone gorges into the landscape. It is a strikingly beautiful place, but we did not check out any of the longer hiking trails because the temperature was topping 100 degrees and the merciless flies were insufferable.IMG_7637.jpg

Beaches

Of course, all other attractions in Western Australia are secondary to its primary draw – the beaches. It was hard to wrap our head around the fact that for hundreds of miles from Perth northward lies a line of nearly unbroken, unpoilt beaches. Across the entire length of the country, white sand spills into shimmering, turquoise waters.IMG_7625.jpgDriving along, we could pull off at countless hidden beach turnoffs, each as perfect and quiet as the last. So many happy hours were spent snorkeling over the reefs and simply laying out on the sand under the hot sun.

One fantastics afternoon in Kalbarri was spent on a rented boat, that we rode up the Murchison River. Spencer captained the boat to a spot near an island, where we jumped off and swam to shore to cool off.

It was so hard not to fall in love with Western Australia.

Robben Island

Just off the coast of Cape Town, there is a small, rocky island. During its history, this island served as a leper colony, a military base, and a quarry, but it is famous (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) for another reason. Robben Island was a prison where South Africa’s apartheid government kept undesirable political prisoners. Nelson Mandela was one of these prisoners, and he lived and worked on this chunk of rock in the Atlantic ocean for 18 of the 27 years he spent imprisoned. Continue reading “Robben Island”

Back to Nature: Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

No matter how you slice it, Johannesburg is a big, sprawling city. And as much as we like it here, sometimes we just want to get out of the concrete jungle and amongst real nature. There are a few great parks near us, like the Emmerantia Dam and the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, or the grassy Delta park where we went on a 5k Park Run this weekend. But still, I was anxious to get outside to enjoy the spring weather, so on Sunday we packed a picnic and drove 45 minutes out of town to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens.
Continue reading “Back to Nature: Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens”