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Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge


New Year’s Eve and one of the best moments of my life: dusk was gathering and Pauline and I were on a little boat taxi hopping and skipping over green waves in Sydney Harbour. We skimmed past luxurious yachts packed with glamorous revellers in silks and satins, the waft of their perfume and cigars smoke drifting to us on a warm breeze. Further on, there were smaller craft packed with teen partygoers gulping down cheap beer, rocking with cheap laughs and looking forward to some lurid lusting .

Sydney Harbour Bridge, a green metal monster suspended by two huge granite pillars, suddenly loomed over us. Everyone on our boat fell quiet and simply stared above them, the way people do when they see great things. A few minutes later we had turned around towards Circular Quay, buffeted by waves and lost in thought.

Later that week Pauline bought us two tickets for the Sydney Bridge climb-at 7 the following Saturday evening we reported for duty. Apprehension had taken over as Saturday approached and I could not eat a morsel on the day itself. As we approached the climb’s starting point I saw any number of young weekenders drifting into the local pubs and restaurants. How I envied them that night-glorious food, cold drinks, and gentle leg pulling was to be their lot that evening-a date with unbridled fear was mine. Worse again, I was paying for the privilege. .

“You’ll be right”. Zak, our escort on the climb, was talking us through the drill in a training area as we changed into our climbing suits. “This clip here”-less a clip, more a hairpin-“is secured to a rail along the side of the Bridge. Just run it along the rail as you walk and you’ll be right”. “But Zak, what if the ring and the harness don’t support my weight? “ Don’t worry Tone’, you’ll be right ”.

It was a pleasantly cool evening but unfortunately it was also pitch dark. This made the first part of the climb- towards the foot of the bridge’s suspension -a nightmare. We were passing along metal stairs, ladders and runways suspended miles above Sydney’s highways and byways. Under our feet was metal grilling through which we could see a big drop to the ground. I also had problems looping my safety clip though the rails and most of the time I simply stared ahead and ground forward like some middle aged Frankenstein.

A hellish half hour later we began to climb the Bridge’s suspension. It was not quite tightrope walking but it was close enough to it. The climb’s pathway could only take single file so I hovered at the back of the queue, gripping my safety clip for dear life. Up and up we went and I stole the occasional glance over the side of the Bridge and out into the distance. All I could see were black waves in the Harbour and mocking lights winking from skyscrapers. Zak yapped away about all of the sights and sounds-every now and then he’d call out “y’alright  Tone?” just to make sure I was still hanging on.

At the peak of the Bridge Zak pointed out the Opera House where a fireworks display was in full swing. It was the first time I looked down over fireworks. An ocean liner cruised silently beneath the Bridge as we posed for the obligatory group photo. “Come on Tone’, give us a smile. You’ll be right.”  As he snapped away I just about managed a weak grin, as I realised our descent would begin in a few minutes.

My life could begin again.

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