1,332 steps. No, I’m not counting the numbers on my Fitbit. This is how many steps it takes to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

My time in Sydney, in December of 2014, began with two very jetlagged girls (myself and my best friend) struggling through a grand total of 32 hours in airports and flights. The December heat of Sydney was a welcome break from the freezing temperatures of Vermont, where we’d come from.

Sydney is a sprawling city with diverse neighbourhoods, as well as diverse people. This became apparent as we went to have breakfast on the first day: Egg fried rice. This is a typical breakfast dish in parts of Asia, but I certainly did not expect it in Australia. This is due to the high rates of immigration specifically from Asian countries to Australia, where the cultures come together. This mix of cultures and customs is as classically Australian as kangaroos and boomerangs.

Day one started with a stroll through the lush, green Royal Botanical Gardens. The 74-acre park is the oldest scientific institution in the country. It contains a gorgeous garden, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, an Herbarium and Plant Sciences Building, rose garden, Australian Native Rockery, the Government House, and a cafe, restaurant and shopping area. Luckily, we did not see any of the creatures and creepy crawlies Australia is famous for. The park goes right up to the harbour, which gave us our first view of the Sydney Opera House across the water.

The blue waters lapped up against the classic Australian site as we made our way down the sidewalk around the harbour. The Sydney Opera House, built in 1959, hosts over 40 performances a week, ranging from classical musical performances to plays and musicals, to comedy shows. While we did not have tickets to see a show, we were able to wander around the inside of the building. I highly recommend not missing the Sydney Opera House, no matter how many pictures you’ve seen before.

By noon we were ready for a filling lunch by the water of traditional Australian meat pies from Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. Harry’s, with nearly 80 years of experience, uses an original recipe and draws Sydney residents and Sydney visitors alike.

Finally, we made our way to the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the afternoon. The bridge opened in 1932 to connect Sydney’s central business district to the north shore on the other side of the harbour. The day that started out foggy but became sunny just in time for us to climb the 439 feet to the top. At the base, we were given the standard Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb outfits and received a briefing on safety tips to climb hundreds of feet toward the sky.

The climb began pretty easy, under the bridge and in the rafters of the columns that hold it up. Every few minutes, our friendly guide stopped to tell stories of the construction, of the workers, and of the city, turning it into a full educational experience. Finally, we were on the outside of the bridge’s structure, making our way to the top point.
By this point, our legs began to tire. It was only a few hours earlier that we’d stepped off the plane. The jet lag, exhaustion, and realization that my friend and I might be out of shape set in. The views from the top, however, made it all worth it. From the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, you can see the whole city unfold around you - the tall buildings of the centre, the Sydney Opera House against the water, the little amusement park on the other side of the harbour. All of which was covered on either side by the blue of the waters and the blue of the sky.

Even though our legs were shaking by the time we came back down from the top, we promptly made our way to the nearest bar to reward ourselves. Most of the day, we’d been surrounded by tourists, so this was our first experience being around mostly Australians. We chatted with the bartender as he gave us suggestions on what else to see and do for our second day. Australians are very friendly, helpful, happy people. Also, they love a good pub.

The day finally ended with Indian food (surprise! Another taste of Australia’s multiculturalism) on the pier while the sunset over the water and over our extremely long first day down under.

Sydney Bridge