Climbing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge
Hannes was our Rotary Club’s Swedish Youth Exchange student who had been in Tumbarumba for nearly 12 months, back in 2012/13.
Before he left for home, we took him on one last road trip. We have taken him on many weekends away during the year as part of his exchange family and district exchange commitments. It’s been a great year for us having him as part of our family. As we have three daughters and have had lots of female youth exchange students in the past, Hannes became my first, and only, son!
Our last road trip was 1350 Kms over 3 days!! He has just about become used to our driving long distances for weekends away – but not quite.
We were on a mission – we had planned to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb with one of his other host families a few weeks ago but unfortunately that couldn’t happen so with one thing and another the only available weekend left was his last full weekend in Australia. Our Rotary Club had given him the climb as a farewell present & he was very excited about the opportunity to climb this icon.
The Mathematician and I decided to climb with him despite my issue with heights, bridges and generally all things the bridge represented. We were both looking forward to sharing the experience with him. His current host brother & good friend came with us on our final road trip. I was outnumbered by the boys which I must admit I’m starting to get used to and even enjoy.
We left for Sydney on Friday afternoon after school. It was Hannes’ last ever day at school in Australia. He didn’t have his wallet as it was in his school bag which was still in a friend’s car. This wasn’t an unusual event for Hannes as we’ve found he usually forgets something! It rained most of the four and a half hour drive and the boys slept a lot of the way. We stayed with friends in Sydney who were wonderful hosts, feeding us and making us feel very welcome.
Rain, rain go away!
It was still raining when we left for the drive into the city the next morning and we hoped it would stop in time for our climb. We left the car near the airport and caught the train into the city and walked through the beautiful Queen Victoria Building, down George St to Circular Quay & The Rocks. It was really wet but we still managed to take lots of photos.
Despite the rain we enjoyed looking around the old shops, markets and harbour area before making our way to the Bridge Climb, via the archeological dig at the youth hostel. The boys found this a very interesting site & it was lovely to see their interest in the history of Sydney.
The nerves kick in!
By the time we checked in at the Bridge Climb it was raining quite heavily & I started getting a bit nervous. We were booked onto the Express climb at 12.50 with 4 blokes from Melbourne who had come for a football weekend away with AFL & NRL games scheduled.
One of them was really nervous, much worse than me, which I was quite pleased with. I was the only female in our group and stuck close to George our guide. We completed forms, were breath tested, fitted with the delightful grey onesie suits, rain pants & jackets, gloves, hats, hankies, radio headsets & everything had to be attached to us. We were advised to remove our jeans & jumpers before getting into the suits, which was good advice. It was all very professionally managed. We couldn’t take anything with us like cameras or phones and even went through a metal detector before being attached to the cable.
Up, up and away!
Off we went…through the tunnel & out into the rain. It was quite exhilarating stepping up onto the ramps and walkways that were a part of the bridge and had been built, without many safety precautions, all those years ago. I tried not to look down too much but obviously needed to watch where I was putting my feet.
The rain continued to fall and there was a fair amount of water rushing down the bridge frame. It was quite an easy walk using steps, ladders, mesh walkways & timber walkways. We had to duck our heads in certain areas and I’m glad I wasn’t too wide as it was quite narrow at times. All the way along George our guide was telling us stories about the construction, history and pointing out the views in case we forgot to look out at them.
The views were amazing and the rain didn’t worry us that much once we were wet we were wet, so we couldn’t do much about it. We could see for miles and as we got higher the views got better. It was weird walking above the traffic and popping out at one stage near a passing train.
We had photos taken of our groups and Hannes had a photo taken in amongst the bridge structure. Hannes made a video message (in Swedish) from the top of the bridge & had it emailed to himself to share later.
I was very pleased with how I coped & think I was much better than the younger guy from Melbourne who looked definitely green around the gills at times. The climb took us about 2.5 hours and when we got back we were presented with a group photo and certificate of completion. I had arranged for Hannes to have two extra photos so he looked through the shots & chose 2 good ones and had them put onto a cd to take home.
It was a great day and we all enjoyed the experience immensely.
After all that excitement!
After all the excitement we went to the Australian Hotel, one of the oldest pubs in Sydney, and celebrated with pizza and drinks. Rayden had the coat of arms pizza which Hannes wouldn’t eat – kangaroo and emu! We then retraced our steps to the car and drove 2 hours south to Nowra for the night with family.
Overnight the rain had stopped and it was a lovely Sunday morning for the 3 hour drive further south to Narooma. I went to the Rotary District Changeover while the boys went exploring around the beaches and enjoyed the beautiful day.
They found seals, an Aussie shaped rock, sandy beaches & had an interesting time with a local elderly lady who took a particular liking to them all, especially Hannes.
We left Narooma at about 3pm and drove for another 3 hours to Canberra for the night with Sour daughter. Rayden left us in Canberra as he was staying with his father for a few days. We enjoyed Sarah’s freshly baked biscuits before going out to a great Indian restaurant in the city. We went past an outdoor ice skating rink and nearly talked Hannes into going skating. We rescued two little kids who had been locked out of their party and after all the excitement we all slept very well.
The next morning we left for the last leg of our road trip back to Tumbarumba. I dropped Hannes to his host mother, as he had to get his presentation ready for Rotary that night, and I went to work for the afternoon. The things you do!!
It was a total road trip of approximately 1350kms and it was a lot of fun sharing in Hannes’ last weekend.
We will miss him!!
The good thing about having Rotary Exchange Students become part of your family is that you can visit them when you go travelling the world! We definitely plan to visit Hannes in the future.
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Everyone has a story to tell! Deb is a young-at-heart & active 60+ blogger/retiree, after being made redundant from her 22-year career managing education programs in a men’s correctional centre (jail). She now spends her time reading, blogging, riding her ebike and travelling. Deb was awarded a Bravery Award from the Queen when she was 17 after a tragic accident – a definite life changing moment! She is married with 3 grown-up daughters & has 4 grandchildren. She never imagined being Granny Debs would bring so much joy to her life! You can read more of Deb’s story here
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