Yes, that’s right, I have to head back to reality tomorrow. Reality meaning England, a full-time job, all of that. I did actually work most of this two week trip, but the last two days in Sydney have been almost pure goofing off. And I’m having a hard time remembering when, if ever, I’ve been on a solo, purely tourist adventure in the 8 years since my divorce. Sure, I have a day here and there to amuse myself when I’m on work travel, but this little 3-night stay in Sydney was different. And so I decided to make the most of it.
First stop, the Museum of Contemporary Art, located right by my hotel at Circular Quay, Sydney. The MCA is free, and as an added bonus I was the only person who wanted a guided tour (also free) when it was offered, so I had a fantastic, personal experience looking at the extremely powerful (and sometimes disturbing) photographs of Ricky Maynard.
Next, I took a ferry over to Darling Harbour to go to the world-renowned Sydney aquarium. You get pretty nice views from the ferry, and the harbour-front was lovely. I was not, however, one of the people trying to take photos of the fish and associated aquatic animals through the glass/plastic. So no fishy photos for me.
After grabbing some food post-aquarium (is no one else disturbed by the fact that they serve fish and chips in the aquarium cafe?) I then caught the Sydney tower at dusk.
Today, I had big plans, a reservation to do the “Bridge Climb” up to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. See the tiny people in this photo? Basically just little bumps on the top of the bridge?
Yeah, it’s not something you would even notice if you weren’t told to look, but both day and night, groups of 14 with a guide leave every 10 minutes to climb to the top of the bridge. Once you know to look, they are even easier to see at night, since they wear hats with lights on them. Little groups of lights moving up and down the bridge arches appear after dark. Regardless of whether you can make them out in this photo, it’s still how I spent the better part of my last day in Australia.
They ask you to set aside 3.5 hours for the trip, plus getting there well in advance. So it really did take up the majority of my day. I went for an early lunch, carbo-loaded, and then arrived at the base about 30 minutes before my 2 pm booking. It’s a remarkably efficient operation, as one would guess from the fact that literally millions of people have done the climb in the last decade or so. Your group is called in, you fill out information sheets and sign the waiver to let you go. In my case, your shoes are inspected and deemed unsuitable (I did not have my trainers with me, just my Keens, so I was issued a pair of trainers for the trip). You have to blow a breathalyzer test to prove you are sober. Then you get issued a jumpsuit for the climb, and start to suit up with a whole range of other gear. The jumpsuit has tons of metal loops on which to hook things. For example, since I wear glasses, I had to put them on a lanyard and attach them to my suit. It makes sense, you’re above 8 lanes of car traffic plus two train lines, so it’s of the utmost importance that nothing gets dropped! You have to wear a climbing belt, which attaches you to a wire line for the entire climb. But you also carry so much other stuff, extra jackets (fleece for warmth, and a shell for rain) in pouches, a radio and headset to hear the climb leader, hats, mittens, a hankie, a whole get-up. What you’re not allowed to bring comprises a long list, though. You can’t take your camera, but they take photos of you at various points on the climb (I bought two!). No watches. Soft hair binders recommended for girls but no bobby pins or barettes. In fact, you have to go through a metal detector to prove you’re not smuggling anything to the top. You leave your personal stuff in a locker, with a key (as you might expect) on a lanyard around your neck for the climb.
After getting all the gear on, you practice climbing with all the gear, on a little mock-up of the sorts of catwalks that you’ll be climbing on. Then you’re off. The actual climb was mostly stairs and ramps, and in most places it was designed to be not too steep. There were also frequent breaks for commentary and information from the tour guide, such that it was not so difficult or physically taxing that it would have required someone to be very athletic, although being generally fit and healthy is a definite advantage. I learned lots of great stuff and my geeky engineering self was in heaven. We were also particularly lucky, in that there were some extremely scattered showers in the area, which meant that our view from the top included a fabulous rainbow, arching over the Opera House.
I don’t know what more to say. There are two different routes to the top, and my big plan is now to come back and do the other climb, at night, next time fate takes me to Sydney. So that maybe I can see more of this.