Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Lake District trip

This weekend was my first official Harlaxton trip! I decided to wait until the Lake District trip because I can get to most places in the UK by train and so the only places I can't get to are those with road access only (Americans reading this blog may be shocked to hear that I can't drive. it's not that I don't want to, I just don't need to in this country: Evansville was a big shock to someone who's used to being ten minutes walking distance away from everything!)

As you can see from the first picture, it's a totally different landscape from lovely flat Lincolnshire: a land that inspired the works of Wordsworth, Wainwright and Beatrix Potter, amongst others. I was really looking forward to wandering the hills and clambering up things, essentially living the life of a goat (or a lakeland sheep!) but with better accomodation (food there was excellent). We spent the first day doing just that, although there was some trail based confusion (ie. there was no trail, just hunderds of possible-paths!) and so we're still not sure how much we walked. Or route was supposed to be 6.5 miles from Ambleside to Rydal and back but it took us at least six hours of solid walking: clearly we got a bit distracted along the way!

We did see some fantastic views and lots of really cool natural twists in the landscape, like this massive cave. Harry Potter fans beware the water in the bottom of this cave was extremely likely to bear Inferi: it was full of shallow, greenish, algal water with many glimpses of bone-like branches... very scary, if you discount the two ducks happily paddling around in it! Christine and I are hard core, we wanted to touch the back of this cave so we clambered in, leapt dramatically from rock to rock and edged to the back, praying that the floor wouldn't give way. Yes, we did make it to the back of the cave, only to turn around and find Alayna balanced precariously on a rock at the enterance, feeding the ducks. "I'm not coming any further," she cried. "Caves freak me out!" I can't blame her: it was a pretty scary place!

Now, on the next day a lot of people went to do activities like kayaking, rock climbing, scrambling up waterfalls etc, but I was too late to sign up so I spent the morning climbing a tarn near the hostel. It was a bit more civilised than the previous walk with actual tarmac paths, so I turned back and wandered through the woodlands at the begining of the trail: much nicer than farm roads and excessive sheep! I hear from everyone that the arranged activities were brilliant; wet, cold but brilliant. I wish I could have joined them, but my solitary ramble was great fun and I got to sit and draw for a while too, without boring anyone else. Later that day we took the river boat cruise to Bowness which I would highly recommend people do: take a cruise earlier in the day than we did though, as we only got an hour or so in Bowness. it's a really pretty town with lots of cute shops and ICE CREAM: I got raspberry ripple and apple pie in a chocolate waffle cone ;). I don't have any Bowness pics, but here's one of our hostel from the cruise, which moors up right next door.

Later that night we decided, after much umming and erring, to do the Polar Plunge, or Lake Leap at about 10pm that night. To paint the scene it was ridiculously dark, the water was black, it was raining and it was . You couldn't see much further than a few feet in front of you, and we didn't actually know how deep the water was at the end of the Jetty, only that other people had managed to complete this feat and had survived. trembling with anticipation (fear? cold?) we went down to the jetty itself, handed over cameras, possessions, clothes, a list of loved ones etc., linked hands, and... leapt.

Now, anyone that has known me for a while knows that I have two major fears: falling and drowning. It's not heights as such, just any sensation of wobbling, being off balance: even ice skating and skiing turns me into a crumbled wreck (this is the main reason I wasn't rock climbing with everyone else!). Luckily I'd never had to face my drowning fears until the moment I hit the black waters. The shock of realising I was in the lake was enough to throw me completely off, but when I got to the edge of the jetty and realised I couldn't get enough grip to heave myself out... words cannot express my natural panic levels, but maybe this charming video will help you out.

I should probably emphasise at this point that neither Harlaxton College nor the Youth Hostel itself recommends jumping off of the jetty... however, everyone who took the plunge that night will tell you it was a life changing experience. After getting out I can say that I've never felt more alive: your senses are fired up, you're awake, and you're really, really warm from the adrenaline.

Sadly it was soon time to say good bye to the Lake District. On the way home we stopped in Keswick, another lovely town with lots of really nice shops and cafes. This is a view of the Lake which we also spent some time frolicking on the shore of: naturally (this being England) the weather had cleared up and the sun was shining because it was the day that we had to leave!

All in all the Lake District trip may be one that seems less exotic than Paris or Stonehenge, but it has to come highly recommended. The experience is so different to living in Lincolnshire that it was like visiting another country for me, just no language barrier, no weird food, no massive dangers outside of lake leaping of course! I only wish it could have been longer!

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