Bridge and Tunnel Girl (Australia)
“Please remove all jewelry, loose articles of clothing and accessories. Please make sure there is nothing in your pockets. No cameras will be allowed. You must wear closed-toed shoes. Put on your jumper, fasten your safety harness, and sign this form stating that if you fall into the harbour, we basically don’t care.”
I’m about to experience one of the “must dos” here in Sydney — the Bridge Climb. At a whopping $130, it’s a little, er, steep, in more ways than one. But I heard it’s worth it and doubt I will be climbing many more bridges in my life. (And if you want to climb at sunset, you have to pay nearly $100 more!) Wow — they think they own Mother Nature, I guess.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was built in 1932 and is the world’s largest (but not the longest) steel arch bridge with the top of the bridge standing 134 meters above the harbour, and is fondly known by the locals as the “Coathanger.”
When the Bridge opened, more than seventy-five years ago, a horse and rider paid three pence; a car paid six pence to cross. Now horse and riders cannot cross, but you can bicycle or walk across the bridge for free. Cars cost around AU$3.30 for a southbound trip; it is free to go northbound. In 1932, the average annual daily traffic was around 11,000 and now it is around 160,000 vehicles per day.
Preparing to Climb
The whole climb operation ran like a well-oiled machine. One of the first things they actually do is a breathalyzer test! Alcohol readings over 0.05 will exclude you from the climb. Yeah, I’m thinking it’s probably because you do not want to be stumbling onto the top of a 450-foot high bridge. I’m also assuming one of the reasons the climb is so expensive is they must have a huge liability insurance policy, so having tipsy climbers probably isn’t in their (or your) best interest.
Then the climbing crew herded twelve of us from room to room gathering our specially-made bridge climbing suits, harnesses, headphones and radios. We then clipped on various accessories like rain shells, handkerchiefs and fleeces (in case it gets cold at the 900 foot summit!). After a small demo of what we needed to do on the bridge we were on our way.
On the Bridge
The whole experience lasts three hours. It’s a surprisingly gentle walk, and perfectly safe, as long as don’t have a problem with heights … because it is very high. We went up several ladders and then ascended the eastern arch of the bridge. We were literally walking on the top of the bridge.
Most of the areas we scampered across were formerly only accessible to bridge workers. Halfway into the tour it started to rain (of course!) and as we donned our special “bridge climb” rain gear, we reached the “summit” of the bridge.
This was pretty damn cool. In between raindrops, we had amazing 360-degree views of the harbour and the stunning Sydney skyline.
Looking down, you could see the rush hour commuters whizzing by to get home after a long day’s work. Every few minutes the bridge would rumble with the sound of the commuter train that also crossed the bridge. We snapped some photos, crossed over the top of the bridge and began our decent down the western arch. Again, when I say descent, we were literally just walking down steps, so it was not like we were scaling the bridge or repelling down its side — this was all very tame, but all very cool just the same. For more info: www.bridgeclimb.com
Lisa Lubin is a former TV producer who quit her job to travel the world (literally). Her travels are captured in her blog: llworldtour.com; visit the world through her eyes.