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After getting a spectacular night sleep, I woke up to check out of the Novatel, and head to downtown Sydney, to check into the Diamant Hotel – Lovely place, reminds me of the W. The front desk woman was kind enough to not only inform me of the best restaurants in the area, but also “all the bars and strip clubs are right down the street.” OK then.
Grabbed breakfast at Bills, recommended to me by several people – While eating, was watching the weather, pretty sure that the rain was going to continue unabated, and my Sea Plane tour, and bridge climb would both be canceled.
As I walked back to the hotel after breakfast, it actually stopped raining for a few minutes! Was still cloudy with a really low base, so I didn’t expect much. But getting back to the hotel, I had a message from Sydney Tourism, informing me that despite any weather, both the sea plane tour and bridge climb would take place. I was happy to go, even though I didn’t expect much with the weather.
Upon arriving at Sydney Sea Planes, I saw a weird bright spot on the water in front of me – Having never seen it before in Australia, I wasn’t sure what it was – Then it hit me – It was a patch of sunlight! I was floored! Made my way to the dock, and boarded my seaplane! This might be fun!
Jumped on the Sea Plane, (with our typical Australian pilot from Oregon!) and we took off! Some photos from a really fun 15 minutes in the air:
Back on the ground, I started walking towards the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I then realized it was like, a two hour walk. I jumped in a cab. Got out around St. Mary’s Church, and walked the rest of the way. Gorgeous church, by the way. Went inside – Windows are tinted so it always looks like a sunset. Beautiful!
Passed the Sydney Hospital…
And then, walking down the hill, it appeared – just like it’s looked in every establishing shot of any movie ever shot in Sydney:
Of course, right next to it, the famed Sydney Harbor Bridge, built in 1932, one year after the Bayonne Bridge opened. Why do I bring that up? Because they’re the same damn bridge.
Walking past it, I found the Sydney BridgeClimb. Now let’s stop for a second and understand what I was about to do.
I was about to go into a facility, at the base of one of Sydney’s most famous landmarks. I was about to scale it, with seven other people. And I was somewhere in the neighborhood of the 2,500,000th person to do it.
Let’s think about that. Sydney is actually progressive enough to say “Hey! We can actually offer something no other city does. We can make it fun, affordable, and most of all, safe. We can do it in such a way that doesn’t impede the use of the bridge, doesn’t affect traffic, doesn’t endanger anyone, either climbers or passengers/cars/trains below. We can do this.
Stop and think about it. Can you imagine if I walked into Governor Patterson’s office with the same idea for the Brooklyn Bridge? Or the Verrazano? OMG, I’d be thrown out on my ass so fast, it’d make my head spin. Yet Sydney had the foresight to see past all the possible detractors, and take a chance. According to our guide, Bernie, (one of the best storytellers to whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening,) it took about ten years of convincing, but it happened, and it was successful, and they have a FLAWLESS safety record.
Something to be said for taking a chance, huh?
Some of the many rules of the bridge climb: Nothing in your pockets, nothing carried with you, nothing on your head, nothing you haven’t been given by them, nothing that’s not latched to your jumpsuit. No outside clothing. You get to wear your underwear and your sneakers. Everything else comes off, goes into a locker, and is replaced by a gray jumpsuit. What all the hot bridge-climbers will be wearing this year.
What can I say about the bridge climb – You’re wearing a harness that’s connected to a clip, that attaches to a cable that runs the entire length of the bridge. Essentially, from the second you leave the first shaft and make your way onto the undersides of the bridge, you’re connected to it. You’re part of the bridge. Nothing you do, nowhere you can go, will put you away from the designated path – you don’t have a choice. You’re carrying nothing, there’s nothing to lose, nothing to drop, nothing to forget.
It was the most freeing experience, short of skydiving, that I think I’ve ever had.
The entire climb was three and a half hours – it felt like five seconds.
Bernie, our guide, was spectacular. We were all wearing walkie-talkies with headphones around our ears, so he could talk to all of us at once. He told us everything about the bridge, it was never boring. He told us spectacular stories about the people who created the bridge – the builders – the riveters, the painters. He told us about the head architect – and – (how cool is this) – About a third of the way up the bridge, he stopped, and said, “Hey Peter – Just thought you’d want to know, since you’re from America – The Saints just beat the Colts, 31-17 in the US Superbowl.” I don’t know how you got your information that the Saints won the Superbowl, but I got it ON THE WALKWAYS OF THE SYDNEY HARBOR BRIDGE!
Upon finally making it to the top, Bernie pulled out his camera (tethered to his harness) and took photos of all of us, as well as individual photos. We sat on top of the bridge, next to the Australian flags, just talking – listening to Bernie’s stories, looking at landmarks, (Interesting fact – Want good sunlight when you buy your apartment in Sydney? Look for ones with NORTHERN Exposure. Makes perfect sense – My apartment in New York City gets such great light because of the Southern Exposure – and we’re on the other side of the world. Logic. I haz it.)
Anyhow – Photos:
And that was my day. Headed back to my hotel, thoroughly spent, but with a massive smile on my face. Tomorrow, I’m supposed to be taken “Canyoning.” I have no idea what that entails, but I’m sufficiently freaked out by it.
Off to sleep, live from Sydney, Australia, Day 2.