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KoalaYesterday was Australia Day, the day that Governor Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales in 1788. There were plenty of festivities on hand here in Melbourne, of course, but we decided to take the suggestion of an Israeli guest and go see Hanging Rock. It is to the north of us, about an hour by car. I have a little Hyundai for the weekend, which seems like a toy compared to most of those built in the USA, but it was able to keep up at the speeds people drive here. Once we slipped out of the suburbs, the landscape began to resemble what I imagined Australia to be– vast tan expanses of tan dotted with pale green trees. The area of hanging rock itself seems like an oasis; it has lots of trees and some water, although the ‘lake” in the center of the racecourse is looking pretty sad. The rock itself is an ancient volcano.

The hike up is steep, even on the asphalt path we elected to take instead of the stairs. Stephanie bounded up the stairs, of course. Near the top, the asphalt disappears and you find yourself on the uneven footing of the rock itself, which has very strange crevices and fractures that Peter Weir captured so well in the movie– “Picnic at Hanging Rock.” The atmosphere at the crest is very disorienting and it is not hard to imagine a gaggle of schoolgirls getting turned around. We were all a little uncertain about directions at the summit. Fortunately, there were hordes of other visitors and we were in no danger of getting lost. On the way up we came across a koala bear in one of the Eucalyptus trees, munching away, trying to ignore the crowd of annoying creatures below.

When we returned to the College I decided to see if we could get a copy of the movie. I found it at Blockbuster, not too far away, and we had a wonderful evening with our Israeli friends watching the mesmerizing tale of Hanging Rock. I was astonished to discover that it is 32 years old now. The film holds up remarkably well. It is an exploration of an event that supposedly happened at the turn of the century– the disappearance of three school girls and a teacher on an outing to Hanging Rock. A novel came out in 1967 based on the “event”. Peter Weir took the novel as the basis for the film. It never really happened, but it does make a fascinating story, because Weir’s focus is on everyone’s reaction to the disappearance. Visually, it is just stunning.

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