October 22 - October 28, 2001
(Week 5 Continued)
Last year when Patty and I were in Sydney, I really was chomping at the bit to do the Sydney BridgeClimb. Her wise counsel prevailed. Obviously Patty is not with me this trip, and so I figure that I can do it and she'll never know! Actually, I had called to make a reservation (it's often booked months in advance), and because of the drop in tourism, had no trouble getting a climb spot on a "team". There was, however, a small problem. Absolutely no cameras. Well now, I have a vast audience to satisfy, and this posed a problem. The Friday before the Thursday I wanted to climb, I got the name and e-mail address of their Director of Marketing, and gave her my best persuasive selling formatted presentation (for any of you P&Gers out there!). What a great gal she turns out to be. I heard back from her on Tuesday evening (when I was in Coonabarabran), and she made arrangements for me to get a CD Rom with bridge and climb images, as well as getting shots of me as well. My "book" will surely take notice of this nice service! Well, I did say I "might" do a book of some sort, but she seemed more interested in the fact that I was doing a solo circumnavigation than any book.
Anyway -- Thursday morning I grab a cab in to The Rocks area of Sydney, where the BridgeClimb offices are located. I'm plenty early, so I decide to climb to the top of The Pylon Tower and get some shots before I suit up (and you do!) for the BridgeClimb.
The following shots were taken from the Pylon Tower, and I think I remember correctly that that involved nearly 500 steps by the time you completed the circuit, plus walking to and from the Pylon from the BridgeClimb offices. At one point I really was questioning just how smart that was to do prior to the BridgeClimb, but by that time I was committed, and more importantly, so were those artificial knees! Ah, youth!!! The day was a little overcast, but not bad!
Check out that tiny group of 10 people near the top, on the left hand side of the bridge! That's me in about 2 hours!
See what I mean???
These kids all came to try to learn why adults act this way!!
-- and these folks have the best view in Sydney of this madness!!
OK, enough of the preliminaries, let's get down to the task at hand. For openers BridgeClimb is the brainchild of a young Sydney entrepreneur by the name of Paul Cave. While he started work on this project, and getting licensing and civic approval over 10 years ago, it has really been up and running for just 3 years. I will tell you that from the moment you come in contact with someone connected with BridgeClimb, you are impressed. They are all young -- very young. Probably 90% in their lower 20s. They are all sharp mentally, and fit physically. My leader, Antony, was a dive and surfing instructor for 6 years before starting here 6 months ago. When you climb, you each have radios, and his factual commentary about the bridge, Sydney Harbour, and Australia history was incredibly accurate (at least based on the studying I've done) I was really impressed. The entire experience takes 3 hours. You are one of ten, or less, on a team, and you go through the one hour orientation, and simulation training together. That seems to be important, and in fact, probably is. Safety understandably is the watchword in every thing you do.
The team is taken to a room, and greeted by a couple of very impressive (and attractive!) young gals. But, while they're peppy and fun, they're also very serious about their role. For openers, everyone is given a breathalyzer test. Any indication of levels in excess of .0001, and the individual is not allowed to climb. ( People are advised of this when they make their reservations.)
I won't bore you with the whole thing, but in a nutshell, you're given a space type nylon jumpsuit, that is windproof, yet breathes, so that they strongly recommend (and I did not check anyone else) that men wear only their briefs, and women only bra & panties. There are no watches, or earrings. No rings, if they could come off. No hats, other than those issued, and they are on lanyards connected to the suit, as are lanyards for glasses. A handkerchief with an elastic wristband is given to you, and tucked up in your sleeve. Are you starting to get the picture? They don't want anything dropping from the 134 meter height!
My favorite shot, that I DID NOT TAKE!!
Some of the internal steps you both climb, and descend --great for artificial knees! I do remember one statistic -- when we returned we had taken in excess of 1400 steps, and a helluva lot of them were up!!
A pretty good shot of the exterior climbing! Guess I haven't mentioned a pretty important thing. You are not tethered in any way to other people. You wear a harness, and your own tether goes to a heavy steel cable, and clears connections about every 15', shorter on turns, or where climbing steep ladders. And there are many of those! The following schematic is one that Angela Slater was able to get for me. Not sure exactly what the #s are for, but it does show the track we followed. Guess #3 is the grated walkway we took from our room out to the main bridge. #4 is essentially where you do all the straight up climbing on steel ladders. This is really the toughest part of the trip, or was for me. Of interest, possibly only to me and my heirs, is that I was clearly the oldest of all the teams we saw, and Antony commented to me on several occasions (I was in the lead with him) that he was really impressed with my stamina. (Did you read that, Jake?) #5 is where we cross over at the summit, where they take pictures if you want them, and where those great Australian flags are flying! Guess #6 is just the path of descent. I know I was really feeling good about that time!!
As I indicated earlier, the whole experience is just in excess of 3 hours. One hour orientation, one hour up, and one hour back, and you're pretty well moving most of the time. Obviously they'd slow up if someone needed to, but that's also one of the reasons that they do a pretty good job early in the screening process of checking on your general health. It's very impressive!
Do I look tired? Isn't my tight little jumpsuit cute?
Great shot, but ours was in the middle of the day, not at sunset!
OK, Sports Fans, Fat Boy's at the Summit!
Now you can relax, Jake. I obviously got back down safely, or I wouldn't be doing this update, would I? However, my old body is going to relax now, and so don't look for any updates for a few days. Recovery goes a little slower after 45 (at least I think that's what I told the attractive young gal from Ireland who was with us on this climb!)
It was a great experience. Really well run by the BridgeClimb folks, and I'd recommend it to anyone coming to Sydney!
Partly due to my need to give my old knees a little break, and partly because I wanted a little time to take a break and catch up a bit on the Journal and Website, I spend Friday lounging at the pool, and relaxing in my room. Much as I've grown fond of Tony, and he's really been well behaved thus far, I think another day apart will do us both good! It's while spending this day of leisure at The Twin Towers that I meet another terrific person.
Cindy is a very attractive Maori gal from Tauranga on the North Island of New Zealand (Patty, remember Tinopai, and the island we walked around at Tauranga?). Anyway, Cindy is our housekeeper, and like many Australians I've met this trip, a Kiwi transplant. A really terrific, and impressive lady!
Also of interest, at least to me, is that the guy I snagged to take the pictures above, Cliff, and who was also staying at the motel is also a Kiwi transplant --- and what a story he has. Cliff started working at sea on longliners at the age of 15. Eventually he got to Australia, and was doing manual labor for a family where the husband was an investment banker in Brisbane. Cliff became fascinated with the business, and with the advice and counsel of his employer eventually worked his way into the business. Today, he represents a large debenture company, and spends about 30 weeks a year traveling throughout Australia, Indonesia, and other areas of Australasia giving talks on financial management. Based on my discussions with him, he's the real deal. A very impressive guy, a helluva nice guy, and certainly, a guy with a great story!
I had a long talk with Joe Fisher in Darwin today (remember Joe? See first half - Week 3) In Joe's book, "Battlers in the Bush", there is a picture of two US pilots who had both crash landed in the bush up in Cape York in 1942. Joe and his brother were able to get them out of the bush, and this was still a time when Aborigine tribes in that particular area were almost as much of a threat as the Japanese. Joe and Eleanor were speculating whether or not those two young (then) pilots might still be alive. I sent an e-mail to the best source of help that I'd know who had some wartime experience in that area, Chuck Lehr (yes, the same bloke who's made previous "appearances" in my fancy writings!). Incredibly (to me), Chuck knew exactly what squadron I was referring to, and indicated that if I could get a copy of the picture, he would try to get it to the, then, Commanding Officer, who he believes is still living. This would really be something if we could get to those pilots, or their families, with the message that one of the guys who pulled them out of the bush in 1942, is still alive, and a very sharp 83 year young guy. Joe is not into computers and e-mail, so it will take a little time to do, but as Joe said, "We've waited almost 60 years, another month or two can't hurt much!" Just another happening that continues to make this such a memorable experience for me.
I'm out of Sydney bright and early on Saturday morning, and it is a beautiful day as I work my way pretty easily through the city, and head south. The suburbs and coastal towns going south from Sydney are really beautiful. The activity is incredible. It's obviously Saturday, and you'd expect some, but the beaches are already seeing activity at 8 AM, and those who aren't biking (cycling), are jogging or walking, or playing "knothole cricket" (boys & girls!). I really think that Sydney is one of the most attractive large cities around. The central city is really attractive, and well organized, "The Rocks" area is pretty special, but the surrounding areas are also so impressive. Lawns and gardens are well tended, no matter the price range of the housing, people really take pride in their property, and their town's property. It's attractive, and impressive! Since I really don't have to be at a particular place at a particular time (I've not made any reservations), I really have the luxury of getting off the main route (Princes Highway), and take a more leisurely coastal route. The beautiful coastal towns continue, as do the cycling groups, who seem to all be taking MY routes! I divert one more time, this time through The Royal National Park. Beautiful! Still more pushbikes (I'm not kidding - that's what they call them - I guess to differentiate them from the many variations of motorbikes and motorcycles which are REALLY popular throughout Australia!). When I emerge from the Park, we are looking over The Tasman Sea
Then through the coastal towns of Scarborough --
-- and Wombero,
-- and then on to Molly Mook Beach!
Just one of a zillion along this coast! Next comes Ulla Dulla, a beautiful coastal town, with a terrific protected harbor!
Then I come upon Bateman's Bay, which looks to me like a place that I'll want to visit again. They have just finished their Surf Boat Marathon Race, a little sprint for these guys of 14 km, out from their harbor, into the surf, out to a mark, and return. This is a huge sport in this part of Australia. The boats are heavy, and the blokes who row them in tip top shape!
-- and it's not as though the coastal stations aren't still solidly in place as you move from town to town
A little stormy sky just before I get to Bega!
I wrap up Week 5 by taking a Sunday drive up into the Snowy Mountains, and then out to the Coastal town of Tathra
The quaint little town of Nimmitabel, on the way up to Cooma, and along the way I find the little "fix-up" I've been looking for ----
What do you think, Patty ???
It's gorgeous farmland, and all in the shadows of The Snowies
Then on to Tathra, a great LITTLE coastal village --
The whales, 3 different species, are out there playing, and I climb out on the rocks to get a good vantage point, but they sure don't cooperate, and hold their pose for a slow shuttered digital camera!
Ah, well --- at least I get a great late afternoon/evening Aussie sky as I return from Tathra to Bega, and wrap up Week 5 !
Next -- heading for Gippsland !