An extension of our New Zealand motorcycle tour in 2000, Judy and I spent ten days in Sydney, Australia. With too little time to see other long-admired, but distant Australian sites, we concentrated on doing one area well.
We quickly found a room through the Original Backpackers Hostel at their sister hotel, the Bernly, which was well-located, in the middle of everything at King’s Cross. The train station was up the block along with internet sites, cafes, bus stops, X-Rated establishments, and even a big grocery store in a shopping mall.
Week-long transportation passes gave us unlimited use of the trains, buses, and ferries. Those passes proved to be a great investment as we could get all over the city and outlying areas. Sometimes, we just hopped on a ferry to anywhere so we could explore new areas and catch cool breeze while we were at it.
There was plenty to see in Sydney. The city was to host the 2000 Olympics in the fall, and we visited several venues at the Olympic Village, including the Aquatic Center. Manly Beach, Taronga Zoo, and the Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbor were also on our list.
We toured the Sydney Opera House, that spectacular iconic building with many steps, heavy concrete work, and miles of glass and tiles. Those "winged" roofs are all tiled. While there, we overheard the symphony orchestra rehearsing. The next evening, dressed in our fancied-up motorcycle gear, we saw a musical called “The Sunshine Club.” The play told of the Aboriginal people enduring continued prejudice and segregation after they returned from fighting side-by-side with the white Aussies during WWII, similar to America’s black soldiers. But, it was a treat to experience an outstanding performance in the Drama Theater of the world-renowned Sydney Opera House.
No trip to Sydney would be complete without climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Yes, there’s a tour for that. Even though we stood atop the highest girders at the summit of the bridge, where the New South Wales and Australia flags fluttered in the wind, we were ultra safe.
The guides prepared us well. Before stepping onto the bridge itself, we saw a video about what to expect and were given a breathalizer test. The tour company provided a special one-piece jumpsuit, and after removing all jewelry and emptying our pockets -- nothing to flap, fly off the bridge, or catch on a protrusion -- we were almost ready. Then, the safety equipment: adjustable waist belts with a fail-safe latch that would hook onto and slide along the safety cable during the entire climb. Next we moved the length of a simulated section of the bridge so we could learn about the step climbing and how to travel along the cable with our tethered latch.
The climb would take us 1,439 steps. Our route traversed the approach span and catwalk, then over the north half of the bridge to the summit, across the bridge and back. We walked and stood above eight traffic lanes, two pedestrian walkways, and two train rails. Whenever a train crossed beneath us, we could feel the vibrations in the handrails.
The views were absolutely spectacular on this pleasantly-warm, breezy day, and the clear skies afforded us panoramas all the way to the Blue Mountains. Since no one was allowed to take their personal cameras, our guide would stop us occasionally and take individual and group pictures.
By the time we reached the summit, we were old hands at this climbing thing and were able to release the handrails from our clutches and walk spryly along the catwalk as we returned to our starting point. The Bridge Climb was great fun and, though the idea of it was stressful, it felt safer than some our street-crossing ventures.
Though our time in Sydney was brief, it was chock-full of history, new knowledge, adventures and sights, and encounters with unusual characters -- human and four-legged.
~ xoA ~