A dry salt lake in Western Australia’s remote and rugged west hides a little-known secret.
LAKE Ballard, approximately 180km north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, is unknown to many in the eastern states. Anyone driving from Melbourne to the Pilbara or Kimberley regions faces a round trip of up to 11,000km and, if taking the inland route, they’ll probably pass close by this attraction. However, even if aware of the lake’s existence, the thought of all those kilometres still ahead possibly deters many from stopping off.
WA is big, but you don’t realise how big until you try to drive it from south to north. Crossing the Nullarbor prepares travellers for seemingly never-ending drives through nothingness, but it’s just a precursor to what lies ahead (not a lot).
The gold-mining city of Kalgoorlie is a hive of activity that breaks the monotony of the drive. Everywhere you look there seems to be mining activity; it’s a place that gives the impression there isn’t a stone that hasn’t been turned over in pursuit of that precious metal.
Travelling north of Kalgoorlie, the countryside quickly becomes sparsely populated semi-desert, where the low scrub is punctuated by occasional signs of mining activity. The town of Menzies (population: 56) is where the bitumen turns to dust for those wanting to take a shortcut north-west to Meekatharra and pick up the Great Northern Highway.
At more than 500km, perhaps the word ‘shortcut’ isn’t entirely appropriate. For anyone thinking of doing this drive, the wide gravel roads are generally in good condition (albeit far bettersuited to a 4x4 than your average Commodore). But, after rain, the red outback dirt quickly turns to mush that can see roads closed for extended periods.
Dry salt lakes pepper inland Western Australia, but Lake Ballard, 54km from Menzies, is very different from any other dry salt lake in Australia. Its notoriety is due to the 51 stylised human sculptures dotted over its 10km2 surface. Created by artist Antony Gormley and called Inside Australia, the installation was