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.

The Extreme 19th Hole

About six years ago, I remember coming across a Youtube video of a golf hole in South Africa dubbed “The Extreme 19th Hole.” I was immediately interested when I saw a thumbnail of the video showing a pro golfer peering over an enormous cliff, looking at a tiny Africa-shaped green below. I knew that some day, I would have to play this crazy par 3.

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International Rugby – Springboks vs. Ireland

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Ellis Park Stadium

The South African International Rugby Team, known  as the Springboks or simply ‘The Bokke’, recently took on Ireland on a crisp winter evening in Johannesburg.  Ireland’s top international squad is currently on a three-week, three-city tour of the country to face the Springboks, and South Africa will travel to Great Britain later this year to face the rest of the UK.  The first test of three took place last weekend in Cape Town, where Ireland edged out South Africa 26-20.  Little did Cici and I know, our first experience with International Rugby would result in one of the most exciting comebacks I’ve witnessed in all of sport.

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Orienteering

Today marked my official foray into the sport of orienteering. A couple weeks ago during my orientation weeks at Wits, I was looking for the football and futsal club tables to sign up. Unexpectedly, a booth caught my eye because of the large map displayed behind a bored-looking student. I reached the booth to find it was the Wits Orienteering Club, and was greeted with enthusiasm by the student as if I had finally broken the monotony of her post. I heard of Orienteering before but let her know I was new to the sport. I enjoy hiking and enjoy maps, so it didn’t take much for her to sell me on joining the club.
The basic premise of orienteering is that the participant is given a map of a defined area – a farm, park, neighborhood, etc. – and the goal is to navigate through the map based on a predetermined route marked by waypoints. The key is that each waypoint must be reached in a particular order, and if you accidentally break that order and tag in to the wrong waypoint, you’re disqualified. The most popular players of this sport are in the UK and Europe, where there is a professional league with events across the continent. After seeing a promotional video during my first club meeting, it seems the pros all have one thing in common: lankiness. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or just a result of the sport essentially being a long-distance running competition with the added wrinkle of navigation.

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Tuesday Night Lights

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Bidvest Wits 0 – 1 Kaizer Chiefs

As Cici boarded her 777 for an overnight journey to London, I left my computer lab tutorial just after 8 pm and walked about 200 yards down Yale Road to enter modest Bidvest Stadium, home of South Africa Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) Bidvest Wits.  The place was rocking.  Tuesday evening’s league match was against the Kaizer Chiefs, arguably the biggest brand name in South African club football.  I was first introduced to the Kaizer Chiefs in 2010 when visiting for the Fifa World Cup with friends.  Their mustard-yellow and black jerseys were ubiquitous among local sports fans in Joburg, and they played in the largest Stadium in South Africa: Soccer City (now branded as FNB Stadium).  The Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates, the area’s second biggest team, both have roots in Soweto, where allegiances are split between the two clubs.  Their fierce rivalry dates back to 1970, when the Kaizer Chiefs, 33 years younger than the Pirates, were founded.

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