If you look closely at the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge here, you can see two tiny groups of people near the flag. Those are bridge climbers, and I’ve wanted to be one of them since my first visit to Sydney in 2005.
I promised myself I wouldn’t miss the chance again, so we report to the Bridge Climb. We blow negative on a breathalyzer test, and suit up in pocketless jumpers so we don’t drop our personal belongings onto the hapless windshields below.
Climbing the first ladder alone, several hundred feet off the ground, panic rises in my throat. I swallow and wonder why I feel so edgy. I think:
This feels a little suicidal.
Ah, that’s it. The sight of my feet on a high rung, the sound of traffic and waves below, my only reference point for this scene is movies where the main character is feeling a little… desperate.
I take a deep breath, drag my eyes upward, and keep them there. I remind myself I am attached to the bridge by a cable, I have a firm grip on the ladder and no intention of letting go. I am putting this out of my mind.
Eventually I make it to our camera-widlding tour guide, and give him my best, “I am not concerned about plummeting” face.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb has been in operation for fourteen years, and the bridge at its pinnacle is thirty-six stories above the water.
Coming from San Francisco, a city with a couple of iconic bridges, being allowed to scale a bridge feels like an act of municipal bravery from another era. Our tour guide has been doing this for years, he has pose suggestions for us.
“Back to back! Cross your arms.”
“Look into the distance with your hand like this!”
“Pretend you’re holding up the flag.”
Gentleman knows his stuff. That is until we cross over the bridge itself and he instructs us to look celebratory while balanced over several lanes of heavy traffic.
This is me celebratorily clutching the guide rail and flexing my neck.
As it turns out, the ladder climbing and actual bridge crossing were the only nerve wracking parts, the rest was just gorgeous views, a wide climbing platform with rails, and doing the YMCA dance for passing cruise ships. It was beautiful, and felt totally safe, but also a little bad ass.
And then we had oysters at the Opera House Kitchen to celebrate.
Cheers to bad assery.
Bridges, you think twice about messing with us next time.