Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hanging Rock, Victoria

~ Until 1975, Hanging Rock was a volcanic rock formation unknown to most people outside of Victoria. All that changed when the Australian film director, Peter Weir, turned Joan Lindsay’s book, Picnic at Hanging Rock into one of the finest feature films in modern Australian cinema.

The book and the film, tell the story of the disappearance of several female students and a teacher from an exclusive girls boarding school who visit Hanging Rock for a school picnic on St. Valentine’s Day, in 1900.

In Australia, the film made stars of Helen Morse, Jacki Weaver, Anne-Louise Lambert, and Peter Weir in particular, although only Peter Weir went on to real international fame. Almost all the actors in the film have spent their subsequent careers acting in Australian television dramas. Few if any, went on to have an international movie career of any real substance.

All this is by way of an extended introduction to explain my second visit to Hanging Rock a couple of days ago. To say Picnic at Hanging Rock put the volcanic outcrop on the map, is an obvious understatement. Anyone who has seen the movie, should make a point of visiting Hanging Rock if they are passing through the Mt Macedon area, or if they have the opportunity during their stay in Melbourne.

Since Hanging Rock is about an hour’s drive from my Melbourne house sitting address, it was a no brainer for me to jump in my car and head out of town for the short drive to the Rock and to reacquaint myself with the mystery and majesty of this area.

There are essentially two main walking paths: one going around the base of the Hanging Rock (a distance of 1.8 kilometres), and the other much more strenuous (though shorter) walk leading up to the summit.

Both paths can be traversed over a couple of hours, depending on how fit and active you are feeling. For those visitors who enjoy a bit of solitude, I recommend the easy walk around the base of Hanging Rock. I encountered only two other people on my walk, and was lucky enough to spot a group of kangaroos resting quietly in the shade of some eucalypts at the base of the Rock. This, in addition to the Kookaburra’s and Cockatoo’s calling overhead, and the abundance of butterfly’s, made it a very pleasant walk.

Since I was there anyway, I also followed the path to the summit of Hanging Rock. There are two paths to select from. One built using steps, and the other following a smooth asphalt covered path. Both paths meet towards the top of the Rock, where you can continue to the summit. The summit climb showed me just how unfit I have become, and left me puffing and blowing and gasping for air at one point. Note to self: get out and exercise more, Jim!

Because Hanging Rock is a little off the beaten track, it is not exactly crawling with visitors – or at least it wasn’t when I visited in the middle of the week. Not that I’m complaining. However, if you are able to time your visit to coincide with some of the special events that take place at Hanging Rock, you might like to consider these. Annual events include The Age Harvest Picnic, car events, annual picnic horse races on New Years Day and Australia Day, and an annual outdoor screening of Picnic at Hanging Rock itself, among other events.

Hanging Rock Information
Open every day except Christmas Day
Hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm
Fees: $10.00 per car
Phone: Ranger 0418 373 032
Office Hours (03) 5421 1469

Image: Hanging Rock, Victoria
Camera: Apple iPhone 3G
Photographer: Jim Lesses

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