Thursday, October 1, 2015

A bird's eye view of Sydney.

A few weeks ago we read a Facebook article asserting that the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb was one of the top 10 bucket list travel activities in Australia. Since we'd done quite a few of the others (watch the sun rise over Uluru, drive the Great Ocean Road, snorkel the reef etc) and we were going to Sydney- and despite the fact that it cost A LOT and, as mentioned previously, I am seriously acrophobic, this became a MUST DO activity and Geoff booked us in for the last day of our holiday.

The Bridge Climb company is a very slick organisation. I don't know which entrepreneurial genius came up with the idea but I wish it had been me! Every 15 minutes from 9am till 9pm they escort a group of up to 14 patrons, (each paying $218 each - unless it's the special Cantonese experience or bridge karaoke! - that's more), to the top of the most famous coat hanger in the world.

The first 15 minutes are spent suiting up into the glamorous, bridge walk onesies, getting used to the harness that keeps you constantly tethered to a clever sliding thing and paying particular attention to to the special hooks that attach everything from your sunglasses to caps, beanies, polar fleeces, handkerchiefs and radio headsets, so that nothing falls down on the unsuspecting travelers below.

Then there's a few minutes practising how to go up and down the ladders - turn to your right, don't look down, face the wall, feel for every step, hang on to the rails! Our guide, Lisa, was lovely and we were lucky enough to have just 4 other people in our group so it was easy to ask questions and get help if we needed it. The actual climb, up and back, takes about 2 1/2 hrs with lots of stops to admire the scenery. It could be done much faster, but having committed that much money and energy, it was great to have time to savor the view. And what a view it is! On a clear day like yesterday we had a panoramic view of beautiful Sydney Harbour and the CBD and you could see far beyond the city boundaries.The frequent stops also gave me time to catch my breath. There are 1390 steps on the climb, half of which go up! There's also a little bit of climbing in and around the struts, and some more energy expended on the sheer exhilaration of being ON TOP OF THE HARBOUR BRIDGE.

In some parts of the bridge you can see through the 'floor' to the highway and the harbor below. At other spots, the trains hurtle past, above or beside you. It's a wee bit disconcerting but to be honest you are so high and so exposed that it all seems a bit surreal, and therefore, less frightening. At the very top you walk across a skinny little beam and have your photo taken. No drama at all!

There are plenty of interesting anecdotes included in the climb, including one about an Irishman who was the only person to survive a fall from the bridge and another about the engineer's wife who climbed the bridge in her high heels but to be honest I was too busy concentrating on putting one foot safely after the other to listen properly.

Included in the price is a ticket to the pylon lookout (usually $13 each), so we thought we better do that as well. The bridge climb was a wonderful experience; the pylon lookout not so much, so it was just as well we didn't pay. Maybe if we hadn't just been looking out on the world from the top of the bridge, the view from the pylon might have been worth the seven flights of stairs to get up there but it certainly wouldn't have been worth $13!

Much less impressive view from the pylon.
By the time we got down the 7 flights and back to our car park, unfortunately the dreaded Sydney evening commute had started and it took us a long time to clear the city. Consequently we made it only as far as Holbrook where we found a quaint little motel to rest our weary heads - and legs. The motel reminded me of somewhere on the old Route 66 in the U.S. Like many small towns there, Holbrook is dying now that the highway bypasses them and the several, 70's styled motels must be finding it hard to make a buck. Nevertheless, the 'Settlers' was clean and spacious, with a comfy bed and a friendly welcome from the manager.

Today we checked out the Holbrook submarine - yes, that's a real submarine with an interesting history that you can look up yourself because it's just a bit odd. Hopefully its oddness will draw a few cars in from the highway to keep the town traders viable.

After another 6 hrs driving today we were home. Thanks to some very good friends, our old dog was looking fine, the fish and the chooks were still alive and the cats were pleased to see us.

Time to get back to the real world for a few months before our next adventure.