Stolen land at Hanging Rock

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Hanging Rock is one of Victoria's most curious and prolific landscapes. Lying 70km outside of Melbourne proper, this once volcanic site has become popular with tourists and environmentalists alike, who trek amongst the fascinating rock formations. We spent a calm, chilly day walking amongst the rocks, reaching the highest pinnacle to reveal a fantastic view of the valleys and distant Macedon Ranges.

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Many people are familiar with the famous Picnic At Hanging Rock mystery, which has become a hugely popular attraction to the site. The park is definitely capitalising on the famous mystery of the young school girls with statues and informational plaques at the entrance. But aside from the fact that the story treads an ambiguous line between fiction and nonfiction, there is a greater issue in this area.

 

Hanging Rock, or Ngannelong as it is known to the traditional owners, has had its rich Aboriginal history obscured in the light of the Picnic mystery. These tribes of the Dja Dja Wurrung, Woi Wurrung, and Taungurung, were forced out from the area during the 19th century. It is another sad addition to an Australian history that is blighted by colonisation. Initially, I felt excited to be exploring an area so steeped in mystery. However, once I began my research on the landscape, I was unsurprised but certainly saddened to see another example of Australia's dark history in such a beautiful, natural environment.

 

This was important to keep at the forefront of my mind, as we trekked across the strange rock formations of the area. The rock was magnificent, towering and trembling with eerie beauty. Nothing made a sound at the top, no leaves whooshing in the wind, only silent, stoic formations, carrying a deep history. It was a beautiful and humbling experience, and the view from the very top of the rocks was well worth the travel.

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The landscape seemed elongated in all directions - the rocks are large, tall and thin, like some kind of twisted version of Stonehenge, while the view from the top is all flat, long horizon lines. As you ascend the mountain, massive tree trunks become scattered around the rocks, reaching towards the sky.

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There's something unquestionably thrilling about reaching the top of the rocks, like some kind of primal desire to fly, as we sat on the very highest outcrop, perched precariously above the landscape, and gazed out at the landscape. It was a beautiful region. We ended our day in the nearby town of Daylesford for dinner in a cosy pub before the long, starlit drive home. Plenty of time for reflection and contemplation of a history that begs to be heard again.

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The Dandenong Ranges Secret Lookout

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The Dandenong Ranges lie about thirty-five kilometres outside Melbourne proper. Filled with lush scenes of trickling waterfalls and secret gardens, these low mountain ranges were a beautiful spot to hike, climb, and take photos. We visited the iconic mountain range during autumn, which created a phenomenally vibrant seasonal colour palette of rich oranges, deep, warm-toned yellows, and fading greens, as we walked across a carpet of leaves.

We visited several gardens, including the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, which are known for the iconic bridges which criss-cross the central lake. Unfortunately, these bridges were being serviced when we visited, which we were assured was a rare occurrence. Still, the surrounding gardens were beautiful to traipse around it, as we discovered low-hanging branches shedding leaves, turning rust for autumn, and ornamental lakes peppered with lazy ducks meandering through the water.

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The RJ Hamer Arboretum is a must-see for any trip up to the Dandenong Ranges. Set seemingly apart from the otherwise overgrown mountains, this arboretum is stunningly vast, empty and peaceful, with charming gazebos to gaze upon the flat, sloping planes. As someone who thrives off of adventure and activity, I particularly enjoyed kicking off my shoes and frolicking amongst the rows of neatly manicured and enormously tall trees.

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Our last stop was a secret lookout, known to few but loved by those who have been there. Rather than paying a fee at the official SkyHigh lookout spot, there is a private outcrop on the mountain ridge that was once used by paragliders to take off across Melbourne. To get to this location, we parked our car after turning off at Ridge Road, and took the Kyeema walking track until we reached the paragliding platform, only a few hundred metres away. After walking through winding ridges upwards through the mountain, the paragliding site suddenly opens up into a large expanse with an unbelievable view of greater Melbourne, and far in the horizon, the washed out silhouette of the CBD. We arrived just before sunset, and the cloud cover made for an impressive view of shadows on the landscape below, and slats of sun filtering through the sky. A must-see during sunrise or sunset, this lookout capped off a peaceful and serene day in the Dandenongs.

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