Hannes is our Rotary club’s Swedish exchange student who has been in Tumbarumba for nearly 12 months. He is due to leave for home on 6 July & before he left, 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.
He tells us that from one end of Sweden to the other is abut 1200 Kms and he would never drive that far. 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. We decided to climb with him despite my being scared of heights, bridges and generally all things the bridge represented. Grant & I were both looking forward to sharing the experience with him. His current host brother & good friend came with us on our road trip. I was outnumbered by the boys which I must admit I’m starting to get used to and even enjoy.
We left on Friday afternoon for Sydney. It was Hannes’ last day at school in Australia. Hannes 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 4 1/2 drive and the boys slept a lot of the way. We stayed with Auntie Ruth & Col and they were wonderful hosts, feeding us and making us feel very welcome.
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. We walked through the beautiful Queen Victoria Building, down George St to Circular Quay & The Rocks. It was really wet but we 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.
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 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 the suits on 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.
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 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 him.
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 out onto a cd to take home. It was a great day and we all enjoyed the experience immensely.
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! We then retraced our steps to the car and drove 2 hours south to Nowra for the night with Grant’s parents.
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 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 Sarah & Ben. 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 back to Donna’s as he had to get his presentation ready for Rotary that night and I went off to work for the afternoon.
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!!