Thursday, December 24, 2015

Odyssey in Oz: Day 1: The Sydney Bridge Climb

Day 1: Sydney Bridge Climb

An Austrian named Claus, a Singaporean we called "G," three English grumps, a Fin, a couple of Sweeds, and a girl from Texas. Together this group climbed 440 feet to the top of the Sydney Bridge. In the rain. Did I mention it was raining? It was raining. 

The Sydney Bridge Climb has to be the most well organized tourist experience I've ever been on. Think Disney world, complete with funny outfits, foreigners (although in this case, I'm one of them), and extrodinarily pricey photo ops. 

They begin by outfitting us in our gear: onesie suits, rain pants, harnesses, hats, hankercheifs, headsets. We do a practice climb, where we experience the ladders and assure our leader we're fully capable. We take one last stop for water and then we're off! Walking first across two wooden planks, 49 meters high and 250 meters long until we reach the botton the bridge's arches. We then ascend the real ladders, four sets of them, one of which guides you right through lane seven and eight of the highway. The summit is reached by a path of slightly inclined steel planks, bolted to the original structure of the bridge. As we reach the top, the wind (and don't forget, the rain, too) reaches about 60 kilometers/hour. I grabbed the handrails more than once to keep from blowing over. I even spread my arms--"I'm the king of the world!"--and giggle when G understands the reference. We stop for several photo ops along the way, all of which come out terribly, but I pay for anyway, (don't forget, it's raining!) until finally reaching the top. Lexi, our tour guide, explains that the bridge was built during the Great Depression, taking eight years, but only sixteen lives, which is incredible when you realize the men worked up there without safety wires, helmets, or scaffolding. It was just them, the wind, and the Good Lord's mercy. No thank you. 

The descent is slicker, but the rain stops, so we can finally look around without squinting. They finish us off by stripping us back to our street atire and collecting our souvenir dollars. 

The veiw at the top is stunning, and the feeling of being so high and so exposed is phenominal. I felt as secure as I do on the ropes course at camp, but completely out of body. As I write this, sitting in a cozy pub finishing off a margharita pizza slice and listening to the man next to me describe the greek system at his son's American university (a topic his drinking mate is not too interested in), I cannot believe I am here. The flight, wandering the city, climbing the bridge. The only explanation of why today feels so long is that the day had extra hours in it--which, as a matter of fact, it did. So it's now 4:30am Dallas time (9:30pm Sydney time), and I think I'm ready for another hot shower, some m&ms, and a good, long night's sleep. Finally. 

Slou joins me tomorrow, and I very much look forward to sharing this experience with her! Let's hope it doesn't rain again. 

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