Mick’s Sydney weekend of wonder!
Our ACT blogger proves there’s a lot to squeeze into a two day trip to Sydney in part one of his journey to the NSW Capital.
Having been born in North Sydney and growing up in Western Sydney, my heart has always belonged to my city of origin. From the majestic harbour to the gritty city, there is certainly a lot of different aspects to Australia’s premiere capital to cover. Even though I live just down the road in Canberra, it was great to be able to spend a weekend in Sydney and soak up some of the tourist highlights. On a sunny early summer weekend, I endeavoured to discover just a little of what makes this city so great.
When looking for places to stay in Sydney, where you feel like you are in the middle of the action, your first stop should be Kings Cross. Famous for its night-life, bars and eateries and infamous for its history, ‘The Cross’ is the hub of excitement on any night of the week.
The Diamant Hotel is literally smack-dab in the middle of The Cross, right behind the iconic and heritage listed Coca-Cola sign that lights up every night and the ‘Cross’ intersection from which the suburb takes its name.
The modern and chic foyer give way to a classy hotel experience. Our accommodation was roomy, comfortable and contained a luxurious king size bed. We were even treated to a view, albeit between other buildings, of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Surely a treat on this side of town to see both through our hotel window!
My quick hotel check-in nap was short-lived as I needed to be at the south pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for my first adventure of the weekend, a Bridge Climb! I have marvelled in wonder at the ‘Coathanger’ for my whole life, never believing that anyone would actually get the chance to walk over it.
Thanks to the entrepreneurial endeavours of Paul Cave who persisted in starting a business that gives anyone the opportunity to climb this great Australian landmark, I found myself at the base of the south pylon, ready to tick something off my ‘bucket list’.
The nerves started to kick in a little as we entered the first room and were asked to sign indemnity forms. It turns out that in the 13 years of operation, not one serious injury has occurred on the bridge. Sure, there has been the occasional jet-lagged dehydrated tourist that has passed out on the arch, but from a safety point-of-view, the climb has a spotless record.
The preparation for the climb takes around an hour and is very thorough. We change into special BridgeClimb ‘Space Suits’ and are given a safety run down on the equipment used. Our guide, John, also took the time to learn all of our names as we climbed the ‘practice’ bridge before heading outside.
With the sun having just dipped over the western horizon, we stepped out onto the metal railings that connect the bridge with the pylons and subsequently to the start of the climb. Our harnesses are slid onto railings that exist all the way around the bridge, meaning that you are hooked on, with no chance of falling. When you start to walk on metal grates over the water and look up to see traffic zooming by you really know you are on the bridge. Exhilarating!
The following two hours on the bridge were memorable. A glorious night, combined with an exceptional guide made the time fly by. Stories of the bridge’s history, including how it was built (and how many died during this process!) plus info about other Sydney landmarks were communicated through our headphones as we trekked under, through and above the bridge itself. We stopped at certain points for photo opportunities (taken by fixed cameras. No personal cameras are allowed) but were given plenty of time to just relax and enjoy the view. In fact whilst the whole experience takes over three hours, I didn’t feel like I wanted to get off in a hurry. It’s the sort of experience that you realise you don’t get to do very often, so it’s worth soaking it up. It’s also not very strenuous. Senior citizens are frequent climbers and the arch itself is no steeper than the streets in ‘The Rocks’.
It has to be said that BridgeClimb run a slick operation. From an organisational point of view, the staff are exceptional. The reception staff, the bridge guides, the shop staff; everyone was seemingly happy to be working there and knew their stuff. I purchased a couple of my snaps from the climb and headed out into the warm Sydney night feeling happy and accomplished.
Check back for part two of Mick’s Sydney adventure including a trip to Taronga Zoo and his list of Sydney must-do’s.