Day 25, Friday, 1/31/03
We all had to be up early this morning with a 6:30 bags out. It wasnt too bad, though, because most people went to bed fairly early. Mel organized a trip to a pub the night before and those who made it out were home by 11:00.

So, we were all piled onto the bus for the last day of the tour. Im sad tour is over, but not sad the days of coach driving are over. We drove for a while, then had a brekkie stop at Maccas. Of course, being in the back of the bus means being in the back of the lines at food stops. It never makes sense that when we stop at places with only one option for food, we get thirty minutes and when we have tons of choices to get through fast and easy, we have two hours. This time, we had about ten minutes to eat and thats only because we left five minutes late. Judit had her first sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin.

When we got back on the bus, Mel turned on Crocodile Dundee. It was cool, because in the first part, he mentions all these specifically Australian terms (Billabong, Katherine, Darwin, Baramundi) and I knew what he was talking about. It meant a lot more than if I had seen it before going to Australia.

We stopped for lunch in a small town. I had fruit and ice cream (Healthy huh?). I love those Magnum Bars. We went into a mall and saw Saks 4th Avenue. Cory and I thought it was hilarious, but neither the Dutch or Canadians understood it. We wish wed have had a camera to take a picture for Corys mom though. We thought she would have gotten a kick out of it.

More driving. We played travel scrabble with Sam and Judit. We gave Judit some slack because she doesnt speak English as her first language and we were playing in English.

Finally, Sydney! We drove around the city for a little while in the coach before going to the place for our group photo. I realized that we actually saw quite a bit during our eight-hour layover a month ago. We kept driving past things that Cory and I has already seen. Such as the Opera House, the botanical gardens and the Harbor. Sydney itself is actually only 6 square kilometers. The suburbs are what make the area so populous. Being so small helps to be able to see everything.

We stopped at this point where you could see both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House to take our group picture. We actually took lots of little groups of people pictures as well as the big group one. It really was a beautiful spot.

After the picture, we went to the hotel. The Travelodge on Wentworth Avenue. The Hotel itself is nice, but the neighborhood wasnt the greatest. We went up to drop our bags off, change and meet everyone downstairs in the bar. I think Ive lost weight on this trip because my jeans keep falling down and I forgot a belt.

We met in the bar and started the goodbye process. Several of us were going to leave at 5:30 to get something to eat before Bridge Climb. We met Kennys friends who have emigrated from Scotland to Australia. One guy has lived in Oz for 7 years. He had a combination Aussie/Scottish accent. He was so hard to understand. Kenny was going to stay with him for the next two weeks. It was sad, but we were going to see most of the group tonight after the Bridge Climb at Stuffy Murphys.

At 5:30, we left to go downtown for the Bridge Climb. We took the bus, but swore we saw people walking faster than we were driving. We got down to the Harbour area and walked around for a while looking for someplace to eat. You know how it is when you have more than two people trying to decide on something, so finally, we decided to go to a grill on the second floor of a hotel. We walked in and were the only people in the place. Everything was nice with linen tablecloths and napkins and expensive food that didnt sound that great. In Australia entre means appetizer and the entrees here were all over $20. When we got up to leave, I dont think the people working were that surprised. We just didnt want to pay a whole lot of money for food that you cant pronounce and the descriptions didnt sound good either.

Anyway, we walked about five minutes down the road and found a little caf with burgers and sandwiches. Exactly what we wanted. We all had really good hamburgers without beetroot, because by now we all know to ask for them without it. Though, Sam says he likes it, but I guess everyone has their own taste even if its weird.

After dinner, we walked around for a while and slowly but surely made our way over to the Bridge Climb. We were a bit early for our 7:15 climb, so we were able to look around the building for a while. They had a wall of famous Bridge Climbers. The bridge climbing only started four years ago, which totally surprised me. I though it had been around forever. I think they got a lot of people to do it around the Olympics time. They even had the torch that had been walked across the bridge for the Olympics. It was fun to see all the celebrities, though they didnt have Matt Lauers picture up and I know I saw him climb it during the Olympic coverage.

We had a lot of safety precautions to go through before we actually got to climb the bridge. We had probably an hour worth of instruction before we started. I dont know exactly how long because they make you take everything off your wrists and out of your pockets. I even had to take my hair clips out. They say that from the height we climb to, even one coin falling out of a pocket could penetrate a windshield.

We also had to put on these gray (well, Sams was kind of pink) polyester jumpsuits that went over our clothes. They were very figure flattering. Then we met our climb leader who got us into these safety belts. These belts had a latch that would attach us to a static line for the duration of the climb. Then they attached rain jackets, fleece jackets, radios and earpieces. We could attach hats, gloves and hankies if we wanted. We also had to put on a head torch. Everything had to be attached to your body in some way.

After the attaching the 30 pounds of gear onto our hips, we started out the door. (Mind you, my pants were to big and I had no belt, so I had to try and keep them up with this heavy belt pulling them down ?) We had to walk out in public like this and down to the bridge. From the beginning, we made sure our group was together, because once you are hooked onto the static line, there is no way to get it off until the end. We had to be together to be able to be in pictures together.

The first part was the hardest because it consisted of four steep, long ladders. You couldnt start until the person ahead of you had finished their first ladder so you could never see anyone while you were climbing. I hit my knees several times while coming up. After that part it was just like climbing stairs, and not very steep stairs at that.

The view was absolutely breathtaking. Below you, you could see six lanes of cars rushing by, train tracks, pedestrian walkway and biking lane out in front of you, you could see all of Sydney lit up beautifully at night. We could see the Opera House and ferries travelling in and out. It was call the wow spot and it was true to its name.

At the top of the arch, there are two flags; one Australian and one for New South Wales. In between the flags is a light that blinks red. Its said you are supposed to wish on it as it flashes. One girl in our group was turning 21, so we sang Happy Birthday to her. We walked on a little way, then stopped and waited I though we were just supposed to be looking at the view, which was gorgeous, but then I realized the last couple in our group was missing. I looked back and he was prosing to her. Our climb leader yelled, She said yes! The group ahead of us called back wanting to know what was going on. So we yelled that he had proposed. Because everything had to be attached, he had a ribbon tied around the ring, then gave her the ring and transferred the ribbon from him to her. It was all very sweet, even if we didnt know them before an hour earlier.

So, then it was down the bridge. Our leader told us 16 people died building the bridge. People used to climb up the steel beams without safety equipment. One would heat up a rivet, pick it up with tongs, toss it to the other guy, who tries to catch it in a bucket while trying to hold on to the steel beams for dear life. If he catches it, he hammers it in. Its said 6,000 rivets are used in the bridge, while another 20,000 are at the bottom of the Harbour.

We climbed down to the bottom, got out of all our gear and looked at all our pictures. We ended up getting three.

It was definitely an awesome experience and Im very glad I did it, but it was nowhere near as difficult as Ayers Rock, which is kind of how they make it sound.

We tried to get a taxi back to the hotel, but they would only take 4 people and we had 5, so Cory and I decided to walk. It really wasnt that bad of a walk, only about 30 minutes, but it reinforced my opinion about not wanting to live in too big of a city. It was a Friday night, there were drunk people everywhere, and tons of traffic with honking revving engines and squealing tires.

When we got back to the hotel, we dropped off our bag in the room and went to try and find the bar where everyone was. We didnt know it would be so difficult, but the guy at the front desk told us wrong. When we finally found it, we thought everyone had left already, but it turned out they were all downstairs in the basement. It as already past midnight when we got there. We stayed for a little while and Cory had shots with Sam and Eric. I was exhausted from all the walking, as was Judit and Nanique was ready to get away from the noise. So, we said our good-byes. It was really sad saying goodbye to everyone that had become such a good friend in such a short period of time. It was all sad, though, and not something I enjoyed doing.

We went to our room by ourselves for our last night in Australia.

Grant, Cory and Jamie holding Amy in front of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House

The boys in Sydney

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