Monday, 9 March 2009

Hello, Hello - We're At A Place Called Vertigo

Second (after spiders) on Justine's list of "things I don't like" is heights. So you'll have to ask her why, that afternoon, we were booked in to climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge! We arrived near the foot of one of the four pillars (which are purely there for aesthetic effect, by the way, and don't actually support the bridge) feeling both excited and apprehensive.

Once inside we filled in the usual "it's not our fault if you fall off and drown" forms and were then breathalysed (which is why we couldn't risk a quick drink on the bike tour). They obviously don't want some half-cut Englishman (i.e. me) running up their bridge and stealing the flags for a joke. In fact, health and safety issues were, unsurprisingly, taken very seriously. It took a lot of persuasion and assurances from the guy who set up the Bridge Climb company before the Australian government would allow anyone to clamber up the bridge. They don't want anyone or anything to fall off during a climb (not just for the safety of climbers, but also for the pedestrians, cyclists, trains and 6 lanes of cars - this is the busiest highway in Australia). So having passed the breath test, we had to remove anything which could possibly fall off (Jus even had to take out her hairgrips) and place all our personal items in lockers. We were given fetching blue and grey jumpsuits to wear and ushered through a metal detector (did I mention just how seriously they take this).

Around our waists went climbing harnesses with lots of buckles and hooks. To these, we attached what looked like medieval instruments of war, a mace or some-such thing, which cleverly would keep us attached to safety lines throughout the climb. Then we were furnished with radios and headsets so that we would be able to hear the guide. It was all incredibly well organised and efficient - everything clipped securely onto some part of our suits and was checked and double-checked. Finally, we were given handkerchiefs (in case we became emotional, or needed to sneeze) and even these were designed to be securely clipped to the cuffs of our suits. We went through a door back out onto the street and took the short walk up to the tower, which gave Sydney-siders who happened to be passing by a chance to point and laugh at us. With all our gear on we looked like the Ghostbusters.

Despite Justine's fear of heights she did brilliantly, helped out by our guide, and we climbed stairs and ladders, walked across maintenance gantries high above the street and eventually emerged onto the top arch. The view was spectacular and the clouds which obscured the sky earlier had all but disappeared, allowing us to see a fabulous sunset as we reached the summit. Official photos were taken and we had plenty of time to watch as buildings across the city and the boats in the harbour began to light up. We descended the opposite side in darkness and at the bottom all our gear was removed in the same slick manner. The whole experience wasn't cheap, but we're unlikely to ever get the opportunity to do something like this again and we're very glad we took it. Oh, and hopefully, Justine's fear of climbing the s tairs at IBM's Leeds office will be a thing of the past!

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