It’s very easy to forget how spoilt we are by the nature that surrounds us in Melbourne. I’ve been feeling submerged in the city for a little too long recently and catching my breath by the seaside wasn’t quenching my thirst for first air and freedom. So with labour day this weekend, I took the opportunity to get out of town. I chose two places to visit, one each day, opting to enjoy both day trips as fully as possible, stress-free, without overdoing it and planning for an overnight trip.
So this morning I headed to Hanging Rock.
My knowledge about it was limited at best. I knew it was a place that had featured in an old Australian film that I don’t remember watching in its entirety. As memory serves it was fairly airy fairy and hard to follow. I have not rewatched the film this evening so if this is not the case and instead this was the perception of a child with a limited attention span, particularly for outdated technological capacities of film making please forgive me.
Once out of the city I settled into the drive. Located between Woodend and Mount Macedon it takes less than an hour to reach from Melbourne CBD. I stopped first in Woodend to refuel and check out the town. Victorian towns are so intriguing to explore! Usually containing vintage antique stores, arts & crafts stores, book stores and a great bakery I was very pleased to come across an absolute gem of an antique store located in the corner of the 19th Hole Shopping Centre. If I hadn’t just moved home I would’ve been hard pressed not to purchase a couple of antique luxe bargain furniture pieces! (Plush pink velvet sofas for $750!) Also resisting the urge to purchase 2x Smith & Daughter Vegan Cookbooks priced 25% higher than they can be found online or in the city I surprisingly and proudly walked away without doing any damage!
Arriving at the location of Hanging Rock I realised there was an entry fee to the site. $10 would soon become a price I will very quickly spend again to return to this incredible place. Parking in the somewhat haphazard picnic grounds I found myself surrounded by tourists of many nationalities. Heading in the direction of what must be the rock I soon found myself at the visitors Discovery Centre that did a great job explaining the history of the rock. As a result of a volcanic eruption over 6 million years ago, the rock has stood witness to prehistoric animals who walked the land, gave shelter and refuge to bushrangers, was a place of interest to colonialists and explorers, a place of spectacle trackside at the horse races, served as the setting for the book and film “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” which tells the story of the schoolgirls who went missing on February 14th 1900, and to this day remains a sacred site of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. Hanging Rock is a place of mystery, intrigue, magic, significance, colour and above all, nature, that offers spectacular views and a great picnic spot.
At first, I felt perturbed. “This place is like a playground.” There are so many people, lots and lots of tourists and young families with kids climbing over and around the rocks like those old timber playgrounds. The kind built in the shape of a castle, with corridors and pathways forming tunnels beneath and through the structure, enabling one to climb in, under and through it. A high-risk fire hazard, which is why they don’t exist anymore. These rocks form a natural castle to be explored. The rocks stand tall as walls of cold stone give way to narrow corridors, winding sharply and ascending and descending steeply, with ends that cannot be seen. Taking advantage that I was one of the biggest kids on this playground I climbed as high as I could without overdoing it. Knowing the children bustling around beneath me would not be able to reach where I was going. I was searching for peace and quiet. It took me seven or so minutes before I changed tact and ventured off path, to the side, where I climbed down and around the rocks before noticing a narrow path connected by a thick branch that I supposed should easily take my weight, granting me access to what looked like a clearing on a ledge just beyond.
Success, perfection and silence. It’s glorious! Absolutely glorious! I could finally enjoy a deep breath, the first since arriving. With the noise abated I could take it all in. Sitting down into a perfectly comfortable seat. The Ausralian bush is so pretty. These colours, gentle, brilliant, lime greens with bursts of yellow as gold as straw. My goodness, I could feel and see the wind as falling leaves danced in the air, twisting, twirling and lifting before bouncing between the rocks. The straw-like grass tingled and jived, wiggling quickly, picking up speed as the wind brushed passed it. The branches moved gently, lifting upwards and downwards while the green of their fingertips brustled in the breeze, waving. The branches almost look naked, stripped back and colored like Winne Harlow’s skin. Some covered in bark, while others stood bare and nude. I could see people beneath me ascending to the summit. The realistion began to dawn that while this spot out on the clear ledge was phenomenal, there must be more as this had only taken me 7 minutes, not 50.
Every single angle of Hanging Rock is different, making me understand how the random eruption of lava form these strange unique shapes and rock formations. There are so many mysteries surrounding Hanging Rock, so many stories to tell. The significance of the rock has been captured beautifully and poignantly by the park. So much so that as I sat looking out at the second place I parked myself, out over the Horse Racing Track below, I placed my palms by my sides, flat against the rock and closed my eyes. I thought immediately of a similar occasion meditating in Mongolia. Leaving my eyes closed for several moments. As I reopened them the sight before me took my breath away. I could feel the power of nature, and the true significance of where I was sitting. It was amazing for so many reasons. The faint trickle of rainwater adding to the ambiance and bringing the feeling of being at one with nature home.
To think that I thought I was going to hate this when I started climbing. When I got up there and realised how many kids there were it really put me off, I didn’t feel comfortable or any sense of the tranquility I was hoping for. However, as I kept climbing and exploring each of the areas along the ascent, getting off the path by myself, I found plenty of spots amid the labyrinth of the rock. In amongst the glorious array of colours, so brilliant and bright it’s hard to believe they’re real. The colours are so vibrant. Two of which that stood out most were the small buds of buttercup flowers and the bright green moss gripping the rock walls. As I reached the summit the rain picked up, not entirely drenching me, but causing many to decide they had had enough for the day.
As I drove home, after first winding through Mount Macedon and its beautiful long driveways and tall tree cover, I found myself exclaiming “How beautiful Victoria is!” Nature is an antidote of its own. Today’s adventure left me grinning and beaming from ear to ear. Getting out of the city and taking a break enabled me to pull my head out of the constant noise that is life and its usual rhythm. It didn’t take much, but as I sat there smiling to myself I felt reinvigorated! Comfortable, happy, confident, grateful and optimistic.