Lake Placid

A dry salt lake in Western Aus­tralia’s re­mote and rugged west hides a lit­tle-known se­cret.

4 x 4 Australia - - Explore -

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

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