Orientation Day 2: Gorge Scrambling and Kayaking

Despite a late night the previous night where I had been first into bed, the second day began as the first out of bed to help manage the morning chaos. When I got up, Pedro was managing a few people in some morning yoga, a few people had gone off for a morning run, and a few of the new scholars had gone out to jump into the lake again. Personally, I headed for the breakfast bar to get some energy to get me through the day.

Almost all of the morning activities we departing at around the same time, so with a bit of coordination behind the scenes between Emma and I, we all met around the front. I had printed off some signs indicating to the new scholars which groups to congregate in. This morning, there were people heading out from the hostel to go kayaking, people heading out on a bus to Dove Cottage, people heading out on a bus to rock climbing and gorge scrambling, and people staying around Ambleside and heading to the local Sunday services. Personally, I would head out to the gorge scrambling; it was an activity that I didn’t do the previous year. Each of the activities had two returning scholars who were nominal leaders, and so I would be taking a back seat during the daytime activities.

Once everyone was all assembled, we headed off in the busses. Our bus took us down a cadre of narrow, winding roads, stopping frequently to squeeze past oncoming traffic. After about twenty minutes drive, plus a short stop for some sheep to move off the road, we arrived at a small car park and offloaded from the bus. There, we met with the activity supervisors from Distant Horizons, a local activity company. The rock climbers headed off in one direction to the cliff face, and the gorge scramblers stayed around in the car park. We were given gumboots, helmets, buoyancy aids and waterproof clothing which we all put on and headed up to the gorge.

The three instructors lead us up the rushing gorge, essentially wading up the thigh-high torrent. There were several narrow, steep sections which we went up one by one, and a few fallen trees to roll under or climb over. We trekked up single file, stepping carefully through the wet stones. There were two larger pools on our route, the first, each of us were instructed to stand at the edge and fall gently backwards, entirely submerging ourselves beneath the water. The second, we could stand on a ledge and jump into; it was so deep that, with out buoyancy aids, we could not reach the bottom. As we scrambled up the gorge, a few passers by looked at us in amusement as the trekked up the easy path, but we didn’t care. One of their dogs even came over for a few pats.

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When the time came, we exited the gorge and wandered back down the path to the car park. We dried off, and changed into our drier clothes. However, we had to wait around on the bus a little while as the rock climbers came back 15 minutes after they were supposed to. In the end, it didn’t matter, as we made it back to the hostel with plenty of time to spare for lunch, which had been laid out already in the dining room of the hostel.

After a few small tasks were completed, we reassembled after one o’clock for the next activities; almost all the same except the bus that went to Dove Cottage would instead go to a nearby brewery. I went out on the kayaking trip, so we met the instructors on the waters edge by the hostel. We were kitted out in buoyancy aids, rain jackets and kayaking shirts, and were shown down to the kayaks. Each fitted two people, so I was partnered with Frances. She sat in the back, and I sat in the front. Our group kayaked down along the river, with a few boats near the front, and Rebecca and Erica steaming off ahead. It took some time for people to get used to the kayaks, and we soon began the exciting game of flipping up peoples rudders out of the water.

After kayaking down the lake, we went across to the far shore. Pulling the boats up, we were all set to walk up to a castle. However, Rebecca insisted that she wanted to keep kayaking, so there were two boats that stayed out on the water. One of the instructors stayed down by the boats, while I led the rest of the group up to the castle. It was a 160 year old private house made to look like a fairy-tale castle. There was a guy from the National Trust who was happy to tell us the story of the history of the castle. For all of the new scholars from the New World, such an old castle was very exciting, even if it was young by European standards.

We wandered back down to the boats at roughly the same time Rebecca returned. We got back in the kayaks and headed back across the lake all the way up to the hostel. We packed up the kayaks onto the trailer and headed up to the hostel. Over the next little while, each of the other groups came back from their activities, and the hostel got busier and busier. There were quite a few minor tasks to do for various people before and during dinner.

Our evening activity was a pub quiz. A few days before Orientation had started, the pub that we had booked pulled out for a number of reasons including capacity issues and creative control over the pub quiz. This meant that Max had gone into a frantic mode to try and find a new venue. He had tried a number of different options, but somehow managed to get in touch with the Ambleside Rugby Club, who agreed over Facebook to host us with about 24 hours notice. A few people went up early to help set up, and Emma and I congregated with the new scholars to lead them all up.

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It was a 15 minute walk up to the rugby club in the fading light. Inside, all of the tables had been set up and people were buying drinks at the bar. I settled down with my group A, featuring Andrea, Emma Knowles, Sarita, Jennifer and Kerry. There was about half an hour when people were buying drinks from the bar, before the quiz started. Olly, Pedro and Callie were asking the questions. The first round was on a number of firsts, the second round was on numbers 0-10. I didn’t know any of the questions beforehand; I had not been involved in the prep at all. After a short break, the third round required listing elements starting with the letters “B” or “G”, countries containing the letters “B” or “G” or any ten charted Bee Gee songs (B and G standing for Bill Gates). The first incorrect answer in the list invalidated the remaining answers. Our group was fairly confident with this, we got most of the countries except for the two Congos, and missed Bismuth, and wasn’t quite confident enough with the Bee Gee songs, but still managed to get the best score for this particular round. The final two rounds were picture rounds, before the results were tallied and announced. Listing from the bottom up, it took ages for our group to be called. Eventually, it was announced that we had come second; later we found it it was by half a point.

Some people went home after the pub quiz, while others stayed around milling about. I took it upon myself to start tidying up the place in the background, and by the time that midnight rolled around, it was time to leave. We packed up the rest pretty quickly, but the rain was coming in hard now. Everyone was fairly wet by the time they got back to the hostel. I hung out with a few people in the social rooms, and briefed with Emma on the plan for the next few days, before taking a few quiet moments to myself and heading for bed.

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