2015 – In the blog updating, I came across this post. I was going to re-write it, as it appears to have been put together by a lunatic. It’s full of a million ideas and dubious jokes, with the problem being none of them came off. Instead of redoing the post, I’ll leave it as a warning to others about the excessive use of prescription medication. This was written at the height of my dodgy neck problems, whilst I was under the influence of an excessive amount of Valium and Oxynorm. It shows.
This is not really a hiking report, but more of a ‘day trip’ in which Ben and I had to use our feet at some point. I’ve been meaning to visit Hanging Rock for quite some time and after about five seconds of thinking I’ve worked out I hadn’t been there for over 10 years. Actually, I’ve made the trip a total of four times in my life, which is quite frequent I guess, considering I’m only 14 years old.
It’s certainly an interesting place and Peter Weir’s movie, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ certainly brought attention to the area. I would have loved to visit pre-movie in 1975, as I’m sure it would have been a different visiting experience. What am I talking about? I’ll explain later, but firstly I did some research and I turned up some interesting facts.
Do you realise it was named after Robert Hanging and James Rock who were part of the last known full bearded ballet troupe, who toured the area in the 1850’s? Apparently with the shortage of fabrics back then they used to dance in hessian bags, complete with the word ‘spuds’ written across the front.
If you’re slightly suspicious about my research, I located a couple of photos of the dancers to prove I’m being fair dinkum.
Amongst my findings was an old concert review from the pages of the now defunct ‘Daily Bogus’ which says,
“…such a delight to see the delectable dancing diva Derek Dangler being held aloft by partner Thomas Turnip, whilst performing the signature move of ‘spinning like a top’, which in turn creates a subtle whirlwind of hessian. It’s an intense performance for the appreciative crowd, who are reduced to uncontrolled sneezing due to the air being filled with small fibres from the dancers outfits…”
Wow, sounds like quite a show and I believe Rupert Murdoch was going to purchase the ‘Daily Bogus’, but turned it down due to its factual content, which goes against his usual journalistic desires.
I was even luckier to come across a colour photo that clearly shows the petite frame of the dancers of that age.
I believe the bloke above was named ‘Bread Belly’ (‘Double Bravo’ to his friends) after a lifetime love affair with dough.
Well, that’s your history lesson over with and don’t think you’re going to come to this site and not learn anything. What about our day trip? Well, we set out on a cool, sunny day and arrived in good time to observe the odd million cars in the car park.
This place can draw a crowd with many interesting accents thrown in. I picked out French, Japanese, a rare Swahili dialect and Vulcan at one stage, which shows how Peter Weir’s film put this place on the world map. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember the opening scene of Hanging Rock through the mist.
It looks fantastic doesn’t it? Can you remember the scene now with the Eddie Van Halen of panpipes blasting out on the soundtrack? It’s certainly an impressive sight to see these huge segmented rocks jutting upwards surrounded by a flat landscape.
The movie is eerie and I’m sure it would have felt that way to the first people who climbed and explored this mamelon made of solvsbergite, which is a form of trachyte and other stuff. It’s a little different now though, as Ben and I left the car park and began to walk up a paved path.
If no one was around, I’m sure I’d pick up a weird vibe about the place, but it was hard to get the Zen going when dozens of kids are running around yelling. I guess a lot were screaming in fear, as I saw a bloke walking down the path from the top, leading the biggest dog I’ve ever seen.
After surviving Fido, we continued on the path with the rocks looming up in front. I was feeling the trauma of the sun being in the wrong position to properly capture what I was seeing. This is the best I could do with the suns unconscionable glare in my face.
You should be aware of my ‘echidna strike rate’ by now. I can’t stop seeing them, but I didn’t think there was a chance of coming across any at this noisy tourist attraction. Famous last words?
Well of course, as high in the climb, I spotted one walking around a hollowed out log. I took a quick photo and was well on my way to get a decent shot when a group of people came up behind me, talking so loudly they could probably be employed as foghorns. The echidna quite rightly made a run for it under the log before his little eardrums burst and that was it, as I reckon there’s no way he was coming out until it was dark. I possibly missed a nice photo and this is the best that I could get.
Now, there’s an interesting overhang of rock, which the path passes beneath before continuing up. If you remember the movie, there’s a scene where Mick Fitzhubert goes through this spot. You don’t remember?
Okay, in order to jog your memory, here’s a screenshot. One notable aspect is his pants. I do believe he’s packing the tightest pair of pants I’ve ever seen. Then again, they’re similar in grip to the bathers I wore last summer, as the only pair I could find were a set I’d bought in 1983.
Now, I was going to recreate this shot, but there were a few things against me. Rampaging screaming children was one, and the other is there’s a whopping big handrail on the other side of the rock to the right of Mick. Oh yeah, he’s walking on a fairly natural looking surface, but today there are stairs. I gave up trying to take an epic photo due to an expiring mojo. Ben took a picture that sort of shows what I’m talking about.
A bit more walking and we made it to the top. There’s one thing I can say about the place and that is it delivers some nice views.
With the amount of yelling going on it was time to find some quieter spots. It’s a good area to explore by walking between different rocks until finding something that’s calmer on the ears. In these more mellow places though, one has to be aware of what’s going on nearby. Ben spotted some dodgy looking voyeur taking photos of him through a bush, so he took a snap of the offender for future reference.
There’s one spooky thing in the movie and that’s a series of shots of individual rocks, which appear to have faces on them. One appears a couple of times and stands out quite easily, so let’s have a look at it from the movie.
As you can see, not a lot has changed, which I guess makes sense seeing how the rocks are about 6.25 million years old.
I was looking for other faces, but instead of spooky, I was seeing the image of a fat bastard who was screaming for more food.
You know what’s interesting at the top? There’s a signposted spot where some bloke ‘T Scott’ engraved his name into a rock in 1866. Just in case you don’t believe me, I yet again bring photographic proof to the table.
I wasn’t sure what to think about this. In one way it’s quite interesting to imagine a bloke at the spot, diligently recording his name for us to gawk at a hundred years later. On the other hand though, he could be an 1866 vandal who went to quite a lot of trouble to leave his mark. Self esteem not that high Mr T? I’m not sure, but it did bring out some full throttle ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the passing crowds.
On my last visit, I remember standing there reading the sign thinking the name was engraved on an elevated rock. After a few mintues I’d reached the point of, “Okay, where is the bloody thing?” It was only then I realised I’d been standing on it the whole time.
Hey, hang on, the last photo shows a rock nearby, which ‘Fogs’ went to some trouble engraving back in 1982. Why doesn’t Fogs get some recognition? This was almost 30 years ago! What’s the graffiti qualification mark? A hundred years? Due to engraving jealousy I decided it was time to leave an inscription of my own and I was glad I’d brought a hammer drill with me, so I carved a small poem;
His name is Big Greg
He packs a big middle leg,
He writes for hiking fiasco
Which is hotter than tabasco
If you ever meet him say “Hi”,
especially if you’re in Dubai.
There you go. Pretty good stuff hey? That’s another literary classic, which I just jotted down in 21 seconds. With my skilful command of the English language, I find poetry way too easy and it’s almost criminal that I can tap out some brilliance, while others spend days struggling over a few words.
Hey, what’s going on? I just woke up on the couch. I hope my stunt double wasn’t writing whilst I was napping? Anyway, I’ll show you some more rocks whilst I get a cup of tea.
I did find a nice quiet spot to relax and lay down in the sun, whilst Ben went off for some crazed summit attempt nearby.
What’s interesting is we went our own ways looking around the maze of monoliths and I picked this spot to squeeze through. As you can see I picked an opening that suited the ‘larger gent’.
Ben being a lot thinner went for some half-baked, non-existent gap, which looked a little too painful for me, so I sat back and watched.
It was near this point that I was relaxing when I heard an echoing thud. It was quite loud and sounded a bit like a watermelon landing from a 1000 metre drop. I said, “What was that?” to which Ben replied, “It was my head”. Mm… That would have really hurt, but other than mild concussion he wasn’t too bad. I asked him a number of times if he was okay and he replied in a polite voice whilst I was taking a photo, “No, I’m fine.”
We took it easy after this due to his groggy state, but there was of course a few more pictures to take.
One annoying thing I noticed during the entire walk is the amount of rubbish lying around. I guess it’s going to happen when it’s mainly people sprinting up from the car park for a quick look and then returning to their cocoon. I don’t get though how someone can lug a can of drink up and then when finished just toss it on the ground. If you’ve carried it full, wouldn’t it be easier to carry when it’s empty?
That’s not all though, as at one point a skydiver whose parachute didn’t open landed nearby. I was on hand to capture the result.
It was a bit of a strange scene and at first I thought I was seeing things. After a quick swig of a fistful of Valium, I managed to focus again.
You know this trip is almost done? I’m sure something else happened, but at this point I can’t remember. I was ticking things off in my head, “large dog, sex offender in trees, smashed skull, Fogs, flattened skydiver, beards and ballet…” I think that’s about it? If not, I can always add a footnote in a few days time.
We then began the ten minute walk back down to the information centre.
The interesting thing about the place is it costs $10 to visit. I’m never sure about this charging business, but I stumped up the money so I could get my car out. You know what else? In the shop I couldn’t find a Hanging Rock fridge magnet, let alone a snow-globe. I was outraged.
The car park did provide the world’s friendliest kangaroo though, which was happily keeping the grass short.
What do I make of the place? It’s a unique formation of rocks that suited the movie very well and it’s great to see those shots from the film during the walk. In fact if I think about the movie I love how it offers no solution. Sometimes I find it disappointing to have a film tie everything up at the end and gift wrap it to you, so your brain can remain in neutral. As an example of that, how about Psycho? That silly wrapping up scene (before he’s looking at the fly!) is a bit of an insult to anyone who spent time working out what was going on and I can imagine the studio wanting it instead of Hitchcock. Maybe.
Anyway, I think Roger Ebert does a good review of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Peter Weir’s films in general in which he writes,
“…most of these titles deal in one way or another with outsiders who find themselves in places where they are not a good fit…at the bottom of his imagination must lurk the conviction that you’ll be right if you stay at home, but if you wander into other lands you may find that you have disappeared…” Not to mention also, “…the outback where modern logic does not apply and inexplicable things can happen…”
I’ve been spooked in the Australian bush before and at times I can get a really weird feeling and watching movies like Picnic at Hanging Rock certainly doesn’t help.
What don’t I like? On all the times I’ve been, it’s pretty much flat out with visitors. Rocks are worn, engravings are here and there, a bit of rubbish and not many spots to find for peace and quiet. It’s a popular spot, so I would like to have visited when T.Scott was busy engraving, as I’m sure it was a different world back then. Why not finish with a beautiful image from the movie? I can only imagine the work that went into staging this shot and having everyone in their designated positions.