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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

The INSIDE AUSTRALIA statues at Lake Ballard, Western Australia

Many people had told me that I really, really should go to Lake Ballard when I was in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. They raved so much about it, I was afraid that it might be a letdown when I actually got there. However, this was not to be, it was amazing!

Getting to Lake Ballard is a 2 hour drive north from Kalgoorlie-Boulder, 51kms from the town of Menzies. Once you leave Menzies be prepared to be travelling over 30kms of unsealed roads. I did this easily in a 2WD vehicle towing a caravan.

What is fascinating is that this is the home of Australia's largest outdoor gallery of an art installation. Installed in December 2002 for the Perth International Arts Festival, it is called INSIDE AUSTRALIA. 51 metal sculptures were created by Antony Gormley and are scattered over 10 square kms of the lake. They were created from laser scans of the residents of Menzies, many who still live and work in the area.

I found myself asking why someone would put an installation out in the middle of basically nowhere. In my research I discovered that Antony Gormley wanted somewhere with an absolutely flat, more or less 360 degree horizon. He felt the salt crust made everything stand out absolutely clearly. Wikipedia noted the lake as an ephemeral salt lake. I had to look up the meaning of ephemeral and learnt that it means the concept of things being transitory, existing only briefly. Unless it rains, this lake is a bed of salt on dirt. When I visited, it had been raining several days earlier and it was sludge like. The dirt and salt stuck to my footwear. I strongly suggest taking waterproof shoes with you.

Photos and videos of the site do not do it full justice. Experiencing it in person can take several hours of walking the lake (if it is dry), and noting the differences in the figures and the way the light and shadows play with the figures at different times of the day. People recommend the best time to visit is just after dawn, or just before sunset.

There were several large hills in the flat lake. It was strange that the lake was so flat and the hills looked as if they had been placed there.

One of the mounds had several people climbing up a well-worn path to the top. In the photo below you can just make out two people at the top of the hill, one statue in the bottom middle, and faintly two in the distance on the middle left.

As evening approached it felt eerily as if the sculptures were treading across the salt crust and coming to visit us.

I had taken my caravan on this journey and camped near the edge of the lake. It is free camping here with a composting toilet nearby. There is no drinkable water there, so take plenty of water with you if you go. We were watched over for the night by one of the sculptures.

As the sun started to set I noticed a different sculpture in the trees. At first I thought it was real and it scared the daylights out of me! I would not have camped there if it had been alive.... We do have big spiders in Australia though.

It was a glorious night to sit outside and watch the skies above as they put on a show of shooting stars. I feel most at peace when I am amongst nature. Enjoying the silence, being able to relax and let go of worries and just be in the moment can be euphoric.

If Lake Ballard can do this for me, I would highly recommend it to any travellers, especially recommending that they stay there overnight. Occasionally in the middle of nowhere we can find somewhere unexpectedly spectacular.

Happy Travels!

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