|Lake Ballard salt lake and sculptures|
Kalgoorlie was our final destination on our recent 4-night stint away. Approximately 600km east of Perth and 400km north of Esperance, it is set in the heart of the Western Australian Goldfields region. Gold was found in the area in the late 1890s and continues to be mined today, making the region one of the richest gold producing areas ever discovered. The district is also a huge producer of nickel.
|The Kalgoorlie-Boulder 'super pit' - a huge open-pit gold mine|
For a mining town, Kalgoorlie is big: over 30,000 people. This population sprawls between Kalgoorlie and its neighbouring town of Boulder, and officially they are one town known as Kalgoorlie-Boulder. There are schools, shops and a hospital to service the area. It might be isolated, but the region is well established!
|The tree-fronted Kalgoorlie town hall|
|Rydges 'one-bedroom executive apartment'|
We had two nights in Kalgoorlie, and after saving on accommodation in Hyden and Esperance, we took advantage of a discount deal to book into the Rydges Resort in South Kalgoorlie. We were then upgraded from a standard room to a one-bedroom apartment, which meant we had a huge living space adjoining the bedroom. It would have been nice to stay for a week!
|Rydges pool (we didn't use it)|
|Boulder buildings by night|
|One of Kalgoorlie's renowned hotels|
After taking in the town centre, we headed to the Kalgoorlie museum, which is actually an outpost of the Western Australian museum. It is very well set up, and with a recommended donation entry of $5 per adult, reasonably priced too.
The displays cover the gold mining history (complete with well secured examples of gold), the development of the region over time, showcases of artifacts, and restored old buildings. I liked the attention to the social and environmental impacts of mining, and the acknowledgement that the financial rewards of gold do not counter the costs to miners' health (particularly in the early days when conditions were appalling) or the impact to the land in obtaining it.
|Views over Kalgoorlie - sprawling, but flat!|
Whilst Kalgoorlie itself is worth seeing, one of our main reasons for visiting the area was to see Lake Ballard, set approximately 2 hours further north of Kalgoorlie past the small (tiny) town of Menzies.
Antony Gormley, the British scultpure who created England's Angel of the North, chose Lake Ballard as the site for 51 steel sculptures he created from scans of the local Menzies residents. Titled Inside Australia, the project must have taken a huge amount of work, not just to create the sculptures but to position them around the enormous salt lake.
The area is hot, sun-scorched, and a little bit eery. We were the only ones there, and to traverse the whole lake, you would need to allow at least 4 hours. We visited the sculptures closer to shore, and tried to avoid slipping over in the salt-crusted mud. It turns out salt lakes are soggy underneath the salt!
Lake Ballard is incredibly isolated, but if you ever find yourself in the region, it is worth the extra travel from Kalgoorlie. We were rewarded with an emu sighting on our way back too (just visible to the left of the centre in the photo below).
|Spot the emu?|
In terms of food, Kalgoorlie has two large supermarkets, plenty of fast food chains, and a number of local and chain cafes. It has comparatively few restaurants, but does cover the major Asian bases (Thai, Chinese, Indian, Japanese) and the hotel pubs are popular.
We took advantage of our apartment 'dining room' to collect vegetarian woodfired pizza on our first night, from Sam's Pizza Bar in Boulder. They were happy to customise the order to give a cheese-free half for me.
|A clear cheese line|
On our second night, we collected Thai from Lemongrass Thai and Vietnamese, a casual restaurant that also offered an appealing dining area with inside and outside seating options. I tried the unusual (to me) stir fried tofu and vegetables in lemon and lime sauce.
|Lemon and lime stir fry|
Mr Bite had vegetarian hokkein noodles in black bean sauce, which he approved of, although in his case the spice level was a little too high for comfort. Still, he liked them enough to persevere and I was impressed by the inclusion of actual whole black beans within the dish.
In all, we packed a lot into our mini trip, and I am really pleased to have managed it. The driving was on an enormous scale, but it was worth it!
Rydges Kalgoorlie Resort and Spa is located at 21 Davidson Street, Kalgoorlie. Their website has booking options and their phone number is +61 8 9080 0800.
Sam's Pizza Bar is located at 73 Burt Street in Boulder and offers a range of wood fired pizzas that can be customised on request. It is open Tuesday to Sunday and the phone number is +61 8 9093 1661.
Lemongrass Thai and Vietnamese is located at 5/84-90 Brookman Street, Kalgoorlie. Their menu is uploaded to their Facebook page and they are open 7 days. Their phone number is +61 8 9201 8009.
Have you seen sculptures or other art pieces that have left you a bit in awe?