Sydney Bridge Climb

Trip Start Jan 15, 2009
Trip End Mar 07, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, February 27, 2009

I got up early this morning for a unique hike--the arch of the Sydney Harbor Bridge!  You can sign up to take a guided hike up the catwalks of the Sydney Harbor Bridge to the top of the arch.  It is called appropriately "Bridge Climb".  It took 10 years and appoximately $20 million AU to install the safety equipment and get the appropriate approvals, permits and insurance to make it possible.  When I arrived, they gave me a medical form and a liablity waiver to sign.  Then they outfitted me and the rest of the group with our special jumpsuits.  You have to put your street clothes  and all personal items in a locker.  Then, they make you pass through a metal detector to make sure you are not trying to bring anything with you on the climb.  They are very serious about this, because even a loose coin dropped accidentally from the bridge arch, could wreak havoc on a car traveling on the bridge below.  After we passed through the metal detector, they outfitted each of us with a safety harness, a ballcap, a 2-way radio, and a raincoat.  Everything they outfit you with is connected to your jumpsuit with a tether so you can't accidentally drop it--they even give you a lanyard for your sunglasses.

After we were all dressed in our jumpsuits and outfitted with our gear, we went to the practice area.  This is a mock-up of the catwalks and stairs that you climb on the bridge.  Here we learned how to connect our safety latch and harness to the safety wires on the bridge.  We practiced connecting and disconnecting the latch and we walked up and down the stairs and ladders to show that we could navigate the bridge successfully.  After we all passed our practice hike, we turned on our radios and walked through a long tunnel in the bridge piling to begin our hike up to the bridge arch.  At first, we were walking in the superstructure underneath the bridge.  Soon though, we passed through to the superstructure at road level and began ascending a series of ladders to reach the arch.  I could see the cars whizzing by as I climbed the ladders.  Our guide was very good about stopping to let us catch our breath every so often.  She would give us a little lecture about the history of the bridge and how it was built during these rest stops.  She spoke to us over the radio, as it is hard to hear with the wind blowing.  Eventually we made our way to the summit of the arch at 134 meters above sealevel.  I must say, this was an easier hike than The Pinnacle in th Grampians!  The view from the top was awesome though!  I could see the Sydney Opera House, the entire Sydney Harbor and all the way out to the Tazman Sea .  While we were at the summit, we were being filmed by a Spanish television crew which were doing a travel program on Bridge Climb.  So if you watch Spanish TV, I might be on the program. 

The hike down was much easier than the hike up.  When we arrived back at the Bridge Climb staging area, we turned all of our gear in and changed back into our street clothes.  Then we were each given a group photo taken of us at the summit of the arch and a certificate of completion for the hike.  They were more than willing to sell you additional photos for a fee.  I bought a couple which I hae included here.  All in all, I found it to be a fantastic experience!  It is not scary and it is very safe with all the safety equipment they use, there is little chance of any accidents.  If you ever come to Sydney, I would highly recommend the Sydney Bridge Climb.

Next, I walked to an area called "The Rocks at Semicircular Quay".  This is where all the harbor cruise boats all dock and it is also the location of many of the touristy shops on the waterfront.  There is also a train station here as well. I got some lunch at a little cafe and ate while I listened to street performers on the sidewalks.  Then I did some souveneer shopping for a few minutes.  I am not big on shopping, so it wasn't long before I needed a break, so I signed up for a cruise of Sydney Harbor on one of the sightseeing boats.  They have all kinds of cruises, but I signed up for an hour cruise just around the harbor.  We cruised past the Royal Botanical Gardens , past the fancy homes at Manley Beach, and we also got a close look at the Queen Mary II which was in port today.  This is a beautiful ship and it is enormous. This ship is 1,132 feet long at its Beam: It has a draft of 32 feet It has a weighs approximately 150,000 gross tons and can carry 2620 passenger and 1253 crew.  It has a top speed of approximately 30 knots and its engines generate 157,000 horsepower.  It was built at an estimated $800 million dollars. It is truly a sight to see and there were many people and local tv stations flocking around to take a look at this vessel.  The costs to cruise on this ship are pretty high.  The most expensive cabin cost $250,000 AU for a single round the world cruise.  I think this is the closest I will get to this ship :)

When I returned to the pier at The Rocks, I walked back toward the Sydney Opera House and into the Royal Botanical Gardens. Although the flowers and trees there were quite beautiful, my goal was to see the bats.  The bats here are called flying foxes and are a type of native fruit bat found in Australia.  Most of the flying-foxes found here at the Royal Botanic Gardens are Grey-headed Flying-foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) and they can weight up to 1kg and have a wingspan of up to 1 meter!  I bought a ticket for the train that takes you on a tour around the botanical gardens and then I jumped off near where the bats were roosting.  I must say they are impressive.  They were also quite noisy!  They were squabbling with each other over roosting spots and were preparing to go out on their nighty flight in search of pollen, fruit and nectar.  I took some photos of the bats and then walked back to Semicircular Quay.

Back at the quay, I found a small, open air restraunt, where I sat down and ordered dinner. I had seen kangaroo on the menu at many places I have been in the last month, but I had never ordered it.  I decided to try it before I left Australia, so I ordered the Kangaroo Fillet with blue-berry sauce.  It came with asparagus and mashed potatoes.  I must say, it was very good.  The kangaroo tastes like a cross between venison and steak.  After dinner, I made my way back to the hotel and started packing.  Tomorrow, I leave Australia for New Zealand.
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