Crossing Those Bridges

Trip Start Dec 03, 2004
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Trip End Nov 31, 2005


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Monday, August 29, 2005

Back in Australia after a month away! Don't worry, I've retained my abilitly to look right-first, left-second when crossing roads. Met up with Campbell at Central Station and we took my bags up to the hotel where his Dad was putting us up for the next two nights before lazing around the city---a bit of book shopping and catching up on things---and catching a flick before we had to rush down to the Rocks to get on our Bridge Climb tour (courtesy of my excellent mother).

The Bridge Climb has a very professional setup, obviously honed by running these tours every ten minutes, 363 days a year (the only exceptions are the day before and the day after the New Years celebrations so the workers can get up to put up and remove the fireworks for the big display).

They outfit you with a full load of gear: a very attractive blue and grey jumpsuit; a heavy waist harness that attaches to a cable running up the bridge by a metal ball; (by this point I began to resemble a prisoner, what wiht the jumpsuit and the ball-and-chain system on the waist); a wrist hanky for those runny noses at the emotional top; a radio system so everyone can hear what the tour leader has to say; and various clip-on bits of clothes for warmth in the wind up top including gloves, toques and fleece jackets.

The entry to the bridge is via a door into the rocks near the base, and then up some stairs and onto the first part, a metal walkway below the struts where the bridge is still over land. The walkway was narrow and the ground was visible below but it the railings and the cable clip made it almost impossible to scared of tripping. It was dark by the time we began but there was enough ambient light from lit-up Sydney that we didn't really need the headlamps they'd provided us with.

Then we had to climb up to the top of the arch via a series of ladders that went up between lanes seven and eight of traffic on the bridge. It was one at a time up the ladders for safety, which meant that with twelve people it took a while to get up the six or seven ladders we were climbing to the arch above. Once there the walkway was a wider, softly sloped area on the right-side of the arch, looking down over the Opera House, the lights of the city, Luna Park and its joyously rotating rides, the twinkling lights on the ferries and the serene darkness of the Botanical Gardens. What a view! It was a little chilly in the wind on top but we could overlook this because it was such a lovely place to be. The tour guide told us that the top of the bridge, when we got there, was twice the height of the highest tip of the Opera House. The water down below looked far away. We had snapshots taken of us all at the top (Campbell and I kept accidentally closing our eyes and ruining our pictures).

The tour guide told us all about how when the bridge was being made, the workers were crawling around on the steel girders and supports with no safety system, just using their natural balance to maintain their placement. I was glad for the cable and the harness at that point, especially after she told us the story of one worker who did fall off; he managed to twist himself around in mid-air to go in feet first, and dropped something to break the surface tension of the water before he went in, but when he was rescued his rubber-soled work boots had been bound to the bottoms of his feet by the presure of hitting the water and the leather of the boot-tops had shot up his legs and lodged into the top of his thighs and his groin from the force. They had to be surgically cut out.

The bridge has six million rivets holding all that steel together, which, we were informed, is twice the number of rivets on the Eiffel Tower. (Making it, in the guide's words, "twice as riveting!")

We crossed over the middle and came back down the other side, stopping for a few more shots of us with the city in the distance. After three hours, we came back down onto solid ground and removed our copious gear, exhilarated with our climbing experience. It's definitely worth seeing Sydney from that viewpoint.
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