The fine art of bridge walking

You might think that walking over a bridge is just the same as walking on a road, the only difference being that there’s usually some water involved. Having crossed my fair share of bridges over the past two years, I can definitely say that strange forces are at play when you cross a bridge with mindfulness and an open heart.

The first significant bridge I crossed in the recent past was the one that leads the pilgrim from the French town St Jean Pied de Port onto the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James. I crossed that bridge in April 2015 and never looked back, so to speak. After spending five weeks on the road, walking almost 800 km, I can truly say that I am a different person from the one who gave those first cautious steps over the picturesque bridge in southern France.

More recently I have done frequent and spectacular bridge walking in Sydney, Australia. The one thing that struck me is that you leave things on this side of a bridge and find a totally different reality on the other side. Take the Anzac Bridge in Pyrmont, Sydney, for example. I walked the roughly 800 m of this spectacular bridge almost daily over the past months. You start close to the Sydney Fish Market where the bustling trade in fresh seafood never ceases to thrill. Wind your way up, up, up to the walkway of the bridge and do some heavy breathing on your way, as once you’re on the bridge the petrol and diesel fumes of the vehicles are not conducive to great gulps of fresh air. Down, down, down you go, past boat houses towards Blackwattle Bay. This is the most delightful walkway where you will experience Australians in all their poop-scooping, cycle bell-ringing, yoga-pants toting disciplined glory. No one puts a foot wrong as they walk their dogs and exercise their beautiful bodies within an inch of perfection.

Slightly crazier, but much more spectacular is walking over the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. My favourite route over the bridge started at Luna Park in Milson’s Point. Approaching this place of pleasure and amusement via ferry was always rather adrenaline-charged. The huge, but eerily creepy clown fronting the park sets the scene for a manic dash over the harbour bridge. Again, up, up, up you go towards the bridge walkway. Now you dodge selfie-taking tourists, joggers and dog walkers over the more than one-kilometre bridge expanse. Sadly, the sides are fenced to way above your head and security guards patrol the way to keep people from throwing themselves off the bridge when the world as they know it has become just too much to bear. The bridge takes you to the most historic part of Sydney, The Rocks, where Victorian-styled buildings, quaint eateries and swarms of tourists offer a different perspective from the one you’ve just left behind.

And then you get bridges that aren’t grand or huge, but that are so beautiful that you catch your breath. This morning I crossed one of these on a lonely farm track on my brother’s farm, Verlorenkloof, in Mpumalanga. I crossed this bridge with joy in my heart about a beautiful grandchild I have just met and the clear knowledge that I am home in the country I love. I know that I will again cross bridges in other places of the world and I look forward to that, but for now, I am happy to be here on this bridge less crossed.

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