Day 3: Gates Orientation Camp

Once again, jet lag woke me up very early in the morning, so I had an early breakfast. This was acceptable, since by half past seven, I found myself out on Queen’s Road awaiting the bus to Ambleside. We slowly accrued on the side of the road as groups of people we kind of knew, but soon the busses arrived ready to ship us off to the North.

The bus ride was long; divided up into three sections. We took a morning tea and lunch break at “services” stations, places accessible only from the highway yet are indoors and as busy as a food court at a shopping mall at Christmas. Lunch was provided at the second stop, a series of sandwich packs.

We were requested to sit next to somebody different through each segment of the trip. Being next to someone for a few hours means you can engage in quite deep conversation about a particular topic, especially compared to the rough greetings of the previous day. Oddly enough, each of the people I sat next to on the bus were all Californian.

The bus ride was slow, along the highway with little variation in countryside for most of the journey. There were sections of heavy congestion, so we inched along the highway at minimal speeds, and there were places of free flow. After 4 hours of driving, we turned off the highway and along a series of increasingly narrow roads (down from 6 lanes to 2) which wound through the hills and into the countryside: this was the lake district proper. The flat rolling hills turned into steep slopes which turned into mountains. Each of the mountainside was scattered with stone walls segregating the landscape into small segments. Each field was different, some had cows, others had sheep, some were ducks, some were goats and some were grain.

An hour or so later, we caught a glimpse of a large lake, which grew in size as we approached. Then the bus stopped: this was Ambleside. We filed out of the bus, collected our bags and milled outside the youth hostel, where we were given a welcome and induction talk, before making our way up to our rooms. The rooms were typical YHA dorms, as many bunk beds as possible, with other furnishings around that.

Not more than a few minutes after arrival, a number of scholars wanted to dive into the cold lake from the jetty immediately opposite the hostel. About 20 brave souls tried this feat, where another 20 or so watched from near the shoreline, and a few more gazed on from the door of the hostel. Once they were thoroughly frozen, they retreated into some warmer clothes, and we started on a quick walk around the centre of the town. Ambleside is what one would imagine as a quintessential English village with narrow streets and stone buildings, with stone walls along the roadway and the fields abutting the village, with a small stone church and ancient ruins.

After the walk, we chilled in small groups around the benches in front of the hostel until dinner time. I was served a beef stew, which felt homely yet still foreign. It wasn’t long before were again being marshalled outside the building for our departure to the local church for the so-called “Fun Fun Night”. What it turned out to be was a series of rather active games aimed to embarrass and amuse, such as tying a balloon to one’s leg and trying to pop everybody else’s, or blindfolding everyone and asking us to arrange in height order. The activities were followed by more mingling with a few drinks and fruit. There was some loud music, so I mingled near the doorway with some others who also didn’t want the music or had hoarse voices because of all of the socialising. We came back to the hostel in small groups and diverged into various relaxing activities before bedtime.

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