climbing the bridge

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Year 2000. On that November Australia was playing the final of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup against New Zealand. I was in Sydney in a professional assignment and that week I had a colleague from Sweden visiting me for some printing tests.

We decided to meet at Fortune of War, the oldest pub in Sydney and located at the Rocks, for a dinner and a beer. This place was just two stones away from the hotel where he stayed. As agreed I met him at 7pm in the lobby of the Holiday Inn but because the jet lag Per was having a nap and I calmly waited and listen a female pianist playing Chopin Nocturnes to entertain guests in the lobby lounge.

We made our order after sitting in a table close to the backyard’s terrace of the pub. The game had meanwhile started and the emotions were running high as it always does in any game of any sport between Australia and New Zealand. The pub started to be packed by noisy and happy Australians cheering for the Kangaroos. After dinner we decided to stay in the pub but move closer to the main lobby where we sit in benches against the wall with our draft beers in hand while watching the game, more for the fun of it than anything else because none of us really knew much about rugby rules.

While watching the game we also talked about business and pulsed the coming tests. We then reminded each other that the day after we had an appointment to climb the Harbour Bridge and the rules about alcohol were very strictly, zero tolerances! So we refrained from drinking according to the flow as the game progressed with an Australian team doing no favours to New Zealand. Drink moderately, we agreed.

A rather young couple approached us and tried to find a place in a crowded bench we were sitting. They excuse a little to fit their buttocks and accommodate until they find it comfortable. They started to chat by asking where do you guys come from and so forth. They were already a little happy and they want really engage conversation and we gave the thread in the same way. After more or less half an hour they asked if we would like to come to their home and have a drink. I and Per look puzzled to each other. It was almost 10pm  and we have no idea where they were living! We hesitated but they insisted in a such interesting way that refusing would sound very rude, I guess. We just made sure they were not driving and they weren’t or else we would not follow!

They did not say much about where they were living but mentioned something about Bondi beach. They took a taxi and we took ours with instructions for them to follow each other. They were effectively living at Dover Heights close to Bondi in a hilly area so their house was built on the hill side of one of the roads closed to the beach. They bought the house, a couple of years before, in very bad conditions because that area was once a neglected area for worker families, but they renovated it to its glamorous days applying original peaces and designs as much they could find. It was indeed a wonderful house with a small private garden. Our host took us to the cellar located in the foundations of the house with no entrance from inside the house. We entered from a small door located in the left side but we had to crawl because it was really small, it was not meant to be used often but to store extra stuff seldom used and also food in the old times when refrigerators did not existed. What a cellar! This underground was fresh all year around, he said, there was no need for air conditioning control. When he mentioned it we thought he was making it over and exaggerating, perhaps a pile of bottles, the most. It was a real wine cellar with a good range of pretty good wines, mostly from Australia but also Europeans which Australians keep more as a collection rather than to drink it. He let us choose the wine while explaining the characteristics of their preferred ones, which were Australian Syrah (as they say). He recommended one specific brand, Clonakilla, from Canberra region which brand they had three bottles from 97. We brought 2 of them up. A good dry red wine combining well with cheese being prepared by his wife up in the kitchen.

Meanwhile they have invited a gay couple that were actually the ones in charge for the renovation of the house in matters related to carpentry. No doubt they knew the job. They stayed on for a drink too. One more friend came, a female, which was a family’s friend but also taking care of all fabrics matching the old times according to the old furnitures they were buying in old stores and auctions. The music sound volume was increased, the wine opened and the food put on the table. In a space of half hour the mood started to change and that because the alcohol. Some people should know themselves and avoid drinking. The host’s couple started to ask me and/or Per to dance and we gently refused. She started to show unhappiness and husband seemed not like her request too and started to argue. She was obviously drunk and could no longer stand without bumping into the furniture, left her glass fall into the floor, the arguments were high, the gay couple also intervened but the host didn’t like it either, the lady that arrived the last started to argue with the gay couple apparently because an old mirror she gave them to repair was talking to long to delivery back and we look at each other embarrassed. Meanwhile our hosts start dancing a slow from years 70 perhaps trying to repair the situation but she fall into the floor and started to cry loudly. We felt the situation was getting out of control and would better off. Meanwhile it was almost 2 o’clock in the morning and have forgotten we have that appointment on the Harbour Bridge…. with the amount of alcohol we have ingested since our dinner it would affect the alcohol test and eventually failed. This would mean we would lose our rights on tickets that had cost 250AUD each because they were still capitalising from the Olympics pick and summer was approaching! The Bridge Climbing organisation regulations were clear, if the alcohol tests did not passed, they had no liability to refund the ticket, not even a coin of it.

I asked the wife’s host to borrow an onion. She got surprised and seem to wake up from their drunk status.  When I was younger I have learnt from elder people that the onion together with water would help to cut the alcohol effect down because it would accelerate its digestion quicker. True or false we had no choice but try. We did it and left in a cab back to our places.

At 7.30am we were entering the lobby of one of the main pillar’s bridge where we went through the whole climbing process preparation. We watched a video about the safety during the climbing, we listened warnings about details such as not to attempt foul the instructions, wearing a special equipment with no pockets, nothing should hang in our cloths, no cameras, etc, etc. After changing our cloths we would go for the alcohol test. We were nervous about he result. I believe if someone was looking at us they would feel our hearts bumping! But after we blowed the testing device… all our anxiety was gone, we passed with zero alcohol!!!

Since we could not carry our personal camera this photo is an official photo taken by the organisation and converted from analogue to digital. The climbing itself is a fantastic experience. The views of the city landscape are amazing and unforgettable. If you visit Sydney I recommend you to do climb the Harbour Bridge.