Every inch of space – from sidewalks to parks and outdoor restaurant tables – is occupied (they have been for the past 10 hours). In the bottom corner of the frame I sit with my family, counting down the minutes to the new year. The city is buzzing with anticipation, all eyes turned up to the sky, marveling at its smooth transition from purple to gold to green and then pink, and then all the colors together.
12 AM. 1st January 2017. Sydney Harbor.
1.5 million people gather to watch $7 million worth of New Year’s Eve fireworks from the Sydney Harbor Bridge. On any other day of the year, there might be thousands looking at the bridge, walking by it, or driving on it. But on said day, only about 250 people climb it. By climb, I mean reach the top of the bridge, where the flags are.
What’s the difference between looking at the bridge and being on top of it? When you are 134m above the bright blue water, and get over the fear of what’s below, you feel on top of the world. To your right is the Sydney Opera House, the one you see on postcards. To your left stretches Darling Harbor. As the wind blows through your hair, you take a mental picture from atop this incredible metal structure.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge is the source of many legends – the cutest of which is probably the story of Lennie: a 9-year-old boy who rode his horse over 1000 kilometres in solidarity, just to witness the inauguration of the bridge. Upon reaching Sydney, he, along with the city of Sydney, was met with a surprise – a rogue poticial group member rushing forth into the official ribbon and slashing it before the New South Wales Premier could cut it. As he was dragged away kicking and screaming, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, as we know it, was born.
Back then, technology, as you can imagine, was not very advanced. Men had to balance on girders and throw a total of 6 million hot metal rivets to each other. They had to reach over the precipice to catch them, and were met with grave consequences if they missed.
More than these fascinating stories about the Bridge, what makes it special is how it has become an icon. It may have been built for ease of transportation, but it has turned into a symbol. Anybody who sees a picture of it knows it’s from Sydney. Within the city, it acts like a compass; like the North Star.
Climbing this ‘North Star’, ascending an 85-year-old monument, comes with a huge rush. The wave of adrenalin that followed my ascent made my skydiving experience in New Zealand the year before pale in comparison. Despite instilling less adrenalin-fueled fear in me, the journey to the top of the bridge gave me a sense of serenity and bliss. The cars below me looked like tiny specks, the city around me contrasted with the blue of the harbor. Trains rumbled under my feet.
If you’re looking to conquer your fear of heights, or check an adventure off your bucket-list, the Sydney Harbor Bridge is waiting for you. And if that’s not enough, you might even bump into Ben Stiller, Gigi Hadid or the cast of Modern Family up there!