Saturday, January 12, 2013

Inside Australia

130 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie sits the town of Menzies.  This little town with a population of only 56 people is pretty far into the middle of nowhere.  To give you some perspective, the area the town council overseas is roughly the same size as Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania!  The whole state!  Surely, there must be other big cities or something in an area that big, right?  Wrong.  The total population of Menzies including its rural areas is 231.  231!  That’s like half of one apartment building in Pittsburgh.

Needless to say, driving up to Menzies is about as remote in Australia as I’ve ever been, even more so than the middle-of-nowhere yet popular Alice Springs and Uluru in Northern Territory.  Because of the heat in the desert we set out early to avoid the car overheating (or us overheating).

So, why the heck would Oscar and I drive up to this spot in the middle of nowhere?  The answer could be found roughly 55 kilometres west of Menzies…

Down an old dirt road…

That led us to Lake Ballard – a massive salt flat about 70 kilometres long which only fills up with water once in a blue moon after an intensively heavy rain.  Lake Ballard is one of a group of massive salt lakes – stepping out onto one you can really taste the salt.

Here was our destination, and the attraction that I was most excited about seeing while in Western Australia:  Inside Australia!

Inside Australia is a collection of 51 sculptures spread across 10 square kilometres of Lake Ballard, making it the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.  The sculptures were commissioned and installed in 2003 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Perth International Arts Festival.  They are featured on several tourism websites and commercials, and of course, I just had to go check them out.

The sculptures are based on 3D scans taken of the townspeople in Menzies, though shrunk down a bit in several dimensions.  To walk across the entire 10 square kilometres viewing all of the statues would have taken all day, but we saw roughly 15 – 20 before heading back to Kalgoorlie.  We were the only people at the sculptures that day, and it was a bit eerie to be so far from civilization without reception on my mobile phone (and in Oscar’s very old car), especially in the heat, but we were prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and very sexy fly nets to cover our faces.

We chatted with the locals…

And even made some new friends…

But we kept it strictly platonic.  These townspeople let it all hang out, and with that kind of view, we decided it was best not to get involved.  Can you imagine undressing someone and finding this?

Dear lord!  Who lives in this town and why does their thingy look like that???

On that note, we decided to head back.  Actually, it wasn’t the weird statue penises.  It was the heat.  The high temperature that day was 39 degrees Celsius, and you could see it in the air.

Overall, our trek out to Lake Ballard was well worth the drive – a real outback adventure with some (what should be) big city art thrown in for good measure.  If you’re ever driving north from Kalgoorlie, turn off the main drag and check out the sculptures before the next big rain fills up the lake and dooms them.

Oh wait – you probably won’t be driving north of Kalgoorlie anytime soon, will you?  Or anywhere near Kalgoorlie for that matter, right?

Well, consider that one checked off the list by me on your behalf.

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