Lake Ballard and the Anthony Gormley statues
I had read about these statues in the middle of nowhere; they call it Inside Australia and it covers an area of around ten square kilometres, billed as the ‘largest outdoor art gallery’.
British artist Anthony Gormley was commissioned to produce something for the 50th anniversary of the Perth International Arts festival in 2003, and he came up with these 51 cast iron statues, spread over the flat landscape of a salt river bed. It was originally intended as a temporary exhibition, but they remain today, eerily stood on a vast expanse of crunchy salt lake.
It is hard to show the sheer scale of the place in these photos. 51 stark figures stand forlornly spread over a flat landscape. When I visited, the ground was quite muddy in parts because there had been a fair amount of rain (the road had been closed the day before due to the weather). In summer the area is likely to be bone-dry.
I had been hoping to find a tour/trip out there, since part of the journey is on unsealed roads (technically I shouldn’t be taking my hire car on unsealed roads; I vaguely remember that from the T&Cs). However they needed ten people to make the tour viable and since that wasn’t going to happen it looked like I was on my own.
Getting there from Kalgoorlie
To get to lake Ballard, drive for 132 kilometres North to the town of Menzies. This is a lonely road; if you see more than ten cars the whole journey then count it as a busy day.
When you get to Menzies you turn left directly after the old roadhouse petrol station and travel for another 51 kms to Lake Ballard.
This road has now been sealed for about half the distance to lake Ballard (there is talk about doing the rest of it at some point) so there is now only around 30 kilometres to do on an unsealed gravel track. It is ok for two-wheel drives unless there has been a lot of rain; you can check at the tourist office in Menzies if you are in doubt.
Some other stuff to visit on the way
This is a gambling game that basically involves betting on the toss of a coin (it’s a little more complicated than that but this is the gist). This hut is the once place where it is legal to play (Broken Hill in NSW is the only other town where this game is legal). This happens on Sundays only, starting at the stroke of midnight. The rest of the week it’s just a tin hut, but worth pulling over for five minutes to take a look.
Just 38 kilometres out of Kalgoorlie and effectively a ghost town, just the pub remains. Broad Arrow Tavern is worth a visit though; it has a long history.
It’s hard to imagine that at the end of the nineteenth century Menzies had a population of 10,000 people, boasted thirteen hotels and had four churches.
However it proved a difficult place to build a community, with a desperate water shortage and frequent typhoid outbreaks. Once the gold was depleted the population soon dwindled.
It now has a population of around 200. One solitary pub remains, the Menzies Hotel, where you can get a drink and sometimes food and a room too. There is a general store for provisions, a cafe for coffee and cake, a caravan park and a tourist office.
You can also walk around the heritage trail, where these figures give information about life in the town.
I had no mobile reception on Vodafone for most of the journey, although someone told me that the Telstra network works in Menzies to a fashion. There’s nothing in Lake Ballard.