Activity Weekend
August 1998
Keswick, England
Keswick, Cumbria England (Northern Lake District)  Double click to see full image

FRIDAY

OK Gang, it's Alan here, and I suppose it's my turn to do a write up! Actually, this will be pretty easy, since I had such a great time. Just so you know, we're going to be doing an "ACTIVITY WEEKEND". I bet you don't know what that is. If you do, keep it to yourself, and don't spoil it for everyone else.

First, let me start off by saying that my cousin Nicky is over here for 6 months doing some teaching. She stayed with Heidi and I for a while, and it was great catching up with her. It was a little weird, because when I would think of Nicky, I would remember her as a little pesky girl. Nicky, if you're reading this, you are no longer pesky! It makes me feel old that my "little" cousin ain't so little anymore. Oh well, I'll let you know when the grey hairs start coming in. (they're here as per heidi)

Second, my best friend Mike was over visiting. He somehow finagled (that's how you spell it, 'cause I checked) a work trip over here. OK, OK, so I'll get on with the story. I was able to get off work early, and my lovely wife and cousin picked me up at the tube station. We went home and packed some thrasher clothes, and made our way up to Manchester to pick up Mike. Traffic really, well, it wasn't much fun. Apparently everyone and their dog was going through Birmingham, and traffic was very slow on the M6. When we finally got to Manchester, it was everything that I had heard. Basically a crummy town. If any Manchesterites or Manchesterese are reading this, forgive me, I probably didn't see your neighborhood (notice the cool spelling). I'm sure it's very lovely.

Anyway, we get to the hotel where Mike was staying, and guess what? No Mike! Heidi went in to look for him, and he was gone. I noticed an arcade, and thought, "Hmmm. Mike's been known to play an arcade game or two. Maybe he's there." I went over expecting to see Mike setting a new high score on Joust (am I showing my age?) or something. No luck. When I walked out of the arcade, guess who's speaking to my wife? Yep. Mikey. Now as a quick side note, I know that Mikey hates it when I call him Mikey, or Berger, but I'll tell you why I'm calling him that later in the story. So we introduce Nicky and Mike who actually met a LONG time ago, and we're on our way. We got the rundown from Mike about what he was doing work wise, and just started rambling.

First complaint: I had done all the driving to Manchester, so I had Heidi do the driving, with Mike and I in the back. Well, it was the first time for me in the back of my own car, and I have to say that it was uncomfortable. Therefore, I'm not riding in the back ever again. So tall friends/family take notice. YOU are riding in the back! End of complaint. Ok, where was I? Oh yeah, Our final destination was the area known as the Lake District, because, yep, you guessed it, it has lakes. Heidi had booked our B&B in a town called Keswick. Now if you have read our previous pages, you'll know that it's pronounced "Kez-ick", and not "Kes-wick". We got a bit turned around getting there, but finally made it. It's amazing how screwed-up you can get by changing a left to a right. Well, the B&B was awesome! It was probably one of the better B&B's that Heidi and I have stayed in. Since I'm not good at describing these types of things to the readers, I'll let my better half describe it. Go ahead Heidi.

For a very brief history of Keswick and a picture click here.

=== Keswick was a small quaint town and our B&B was a few blocks from the town centre. It was a 3 story building from the Victorian era and our room was on the 2nd floor. There were flower boxes hanging from each window and a lovely small garden as well. As you enter the building to the left was the dining room with about 5 dining tables and a cat basking in the sun on a table beside the bay window. Note it was not one of the dining tables. Further down the hall was the base of the stairs, to the left a living room with fireplace and cool furniture, and beyond the stairs was the off limits to tourist area (the owners living area and kitchen).

Our room was just perfect. As you enter the room we had a sitting area with a couch, chair, tv and a good sized bathroom with the softest fluffiest towels. Next to this room was the bedroom with an amoire a dresser and a big fluffy double bed with the finest linens. The entire room was decorated exactly as you would picture from the Victorian times. The burgundy floral textured wall paper, the molding around the ceiling. ======

See, I told you it was nice! This place was high class, because they had the UK equivalent of Ho-ho's in each room (I ate Mike's). So we kind of unpacked (basically throwing clothes all over the place). We relaxed for a little bit, and then went looking for food. Walking through town, it was apparent that it was a "outdoor" tourist shop. Tons of climbing/hiking/trekking/camping stores. When we finally walked through the centre (cool spelling again) of town some 15 minutes later, we decided to eat Chinese food.

The food was more expensive than Heidi and I are used to, but it was great! Mikey introduced me to a cool piece of food called "Lettuce Wraps". Basically you grab a piece of lettuce, and spoon some chopped pork and noodles into it, and fold it up. Sort of like a Chinese burrito. It was very tasty indeed. Thanks Dude. Well, after a great meal, we all went back to the B&B for a good night's rest. After all, we have a big day ahead of us.

SATURDAY

Heidi and I wake up, and get ready for breakfast. The weather looked like it was going to be crap, but it turns out to be a great day. We meet Mike and Nicky downstairs, and were ready to eat. For those of you who have not had the culinary experience of a "Standard English Breakfast", let me tell you that you're not missing a thing. That said, our breakfast was actually pretty appealing. Since you're probably wondering, here's a run-down of a typical English breakfast: * Bacon (or what we would call ham) * Sausage links (in the UK, cholesterol is actually a food group) * Fried Egg (usually runny) * Mushrooms (ER, YESTERDAY'S mushrooms) * Tomato (cut in half, and baked or some weird thing) * Baked Beans (no it's not a typo) * Fried Toast (yes, it's fried, and it looks nasty. I'm sure not eating it!) So our brekky was minus the baked beans, and visually it was fairly appealing. With one exception. [WARNING: if you are in the middle of eating, don't read this next part for at least a couple of hours.] When Nicky was cutting up one of her sausages, she said, "Yuck, a hair!" She then picked up the hair, and lifted the sausage too! Ewwww! It actually dangled there for a few seconds, swinging to and fro. Needless to say, that she didn't eat too much more of her breakfast. Can you blame her? You must have to really fry the hell out of a sausage and hair to get them to stick together like that. It was like they were molecularly bonded or something. I didn't eat my sausages, I gave 'em to Mike (Give it to Mikey, he'll eat it. He'll eat anything!) Well, we finished breakfast, and we headed off to start our ACTIVITY WEEKEND.

So you're probably wondering what an ACTIVITY WEEKEND entails. OK, I'll whet you're appetite. I'm not going to describe anything yet, but see if you can figure out what we're going to do. Our weekend was going to consist of the following: * Rock Climbing (OK, this is an easy one) * Abseiling (I've got you thinking, now) * Leap of Faith (that's what they call it!) * Assault Course (it's assaulting all right) * Ghyll Scrambling (10 bucks if you can figure this one out!)

climbing  Double click to see full imageSo we get to the place, and the tension starts to mount. We meet our guide Martin, who seems like a nice fellow, and we're off! Our first activity is the rock climbing. We get outfitted in harnesses and helmets, and off we go. To start with, I think Martin was a bit put off by us. We were joking, and goofing off a bit, but once he had our attention, we were model pupils. Yeah, right. He did the setup while we were roaming around, then he briefed us. I've got to say at the start that rock climbing is tough work. My appreciation for climbers has gone up immensely. He started all of us out on a fairly simple climb, that all of us did. You sure have to have a lot of faith in the equipment that you use. It didn't look so tuff until you're hanging on the rock from the tips of your toes and your fingers and you still need to figure out how to keep climbing. The rocks we climbed didn't look too high from the ground, but once you are up there it's another story.

OKAY.... it is Heidi now! it has been a few months since this trip and we have been negligent, once again, about keeping up to date with things. I will attempt to write the rest of this weekend for you.... After rock climbing we took a short break and then it was time to Abseil (repelling). This is when you hike up the mountain and then hook yourself up in a harness and then repell down on a rope using your hands on the rope for the speed control. Your legs positioned just right to avoid banging into the cliff and it is a must to lean back and trust the ropes. Right out of the good old OXFORD DICTIONARY "descend a steep rockface by using a doubled rope coiled round the body and fixed at a higher point." Whatever the exact definition it was a BLAST!

abseil Double click to see full imageWe were told the cliff was about 130feet high, but it felt like miles to me when I looked down and saw the little ants (people) walking along the path. Mike went first then Alan and then me. I was too petrified to be the first one down. The scary part was when you have to walk to the edge, turn your back and lean back into a secure sitting position and holding the rope for support. Once you start your way down it is fantastic. I have to admit my nerves were shot after this one. We completed this with great success and all were willing to have another go, but we're on a time schedule.

Next was lunch and The Leap of Faith was waiting for us. We weren't too clear what this was. We were told it involved jumping from a tree.....OH MY!

We arrived at this tree and there was a rope ladder up the side leading to a platform about 25 feet up. Just out from this platform was a trapeze bar dangling from some ropes. So we were supposed to climb the ladder, get on to the platform and then jump to the bar and hang. I must tell you the entire time we are wearing a harness and are hooked up to two different ropes controlled by the rest of our team and the guide. I didn't care if it was king kong holding the rope, it was still freaky. Mike went first and loved it. I can't remember the exact order, but everyone completed their mission except me. I made it to the top of the ladder, but just was petrified to climb on to the platform. Every muscle in my body was trembling, so I jumped from the ladder and it was a thrill for sure. The rest of the gang did it again and I opted to skip it.

It was now time to do the Mud Assault Course. WOO HOO! Now this was a riot. We started the journey clean as can be and ended up only being able to see the whites of our eyes and our lovely smiles. We walked over to a wooded area and here they had a full 'military style' assault course. We started by walking across a 10foot wide mud pit on a single rope with another rope about shoulder level to help us keep our balance. HAH! it wasn't so bad with just one person, but get the 4 of us on the same rope and all trying to keep our balance. Oh, and by the way Mike and Alan were typical boys and had to bounce on the rope and try and throw everyone off. So, we girls thought it was a great idea, needless to say we all went in the mud pit.

mudNext we ran through a row of tires on the ground. After this there was a net about 4 inches above a mud pit and we slimed on our bellies through the mud under the net. Then had to climb over some wooden horses only to find we had to land in freezing cold mocha colored water/mud pit. Next it was over the 8 foot wall and splat on the other side. Now we had to go under a bridge for about 6 feet on our bellies and the only part of the body that was out of the water and mud was from our nose up. We then ran back and did the rope bridge again. Loads of fun! We went back to the activity centre and used the outdoor showers with fresh freezing cold spring water and the temp outside was a crisp 55'F or so. You know that feeling when as soon as a drop of water hits you, your entire body tenses up.(It reminded me of  the IRISH SPRING commercials without so much fun and gaiety.) Then we put some on dry clothes, hopped in the car and headed for our next location a few miles away.

We drove the car down a small windy road into a small valley.  This valley was surrounded by the most pristine velvety green rolling hills. Along this narrow road was a little gravel pull out area for us to stop and park.  It was time to gear up in our helmets and warmer clothes and hike up the mountain to do the Ghyll Scramble.  We just went straight up like a heard of sheep, not much of a path to follow.  We hiked for about 20 minutes and then Martin said OK here we are.  We looked to our left and there was a little creek about 3 feet wide and a couple of feet deep.  We had to hop in and sit down in the water for a few minutes to climatise to the temperature (in reality it is to completely numb our selves from head to toe and down to the bones.)  I think we can all agree we were surprised that there wasn't a thick layer of ice on top of that water, 'cause it was COLD.  I think it affected the guys the most, as soon as their bum area hit the water there was plenty of moaning and groaning going on.ghyll scramble Double click to see full image

Now that we have absolutely no feeling left in our bodies, it is time to begin our journey down the mountain.  You see we aren't going to follow any normal footpath are hiking trail, no we are going to follow the creek, river, babbling brook, whatever you wish to call it.  We begin our journey in a single file line with Martin leading the way and Alan at the back for any clean up of broken limbs etc. Martin  would give instructions for each and every maneuver to Mike, then he would pass the information to Nicky, she would pass it to me and then I would pass it along to Alan.  You all remember the game OPERATOR?  Well, let's just say in this particular instance we had no room for mistakes in passing along the instructions.

At first it was difficult to move our frozen legs and get a good footing on the slippy slimy rocks below.The water was whooshing by about mid to upper calf deep and we had to duck to avoid getting caught in the tree branches dangling above the water. Are we having fun yet? (Yes, we did opt to do this activity and actually paid for it as well) One of our first instructions was to sit down on our bums and slowly scooch forward leaving our left leg out with a slight bend and lean to the right.  We were going down a slight water fall and had to be sure to lean with the flow of the water. Our left leg out was so we didn't bash straight into the wall of rocks instead of turning up the side of the wall with the water. What a complete thrill.  It only lasts a moment, but after banging a leg here and an arm there you get the trick of things and it is smooth sailing.

We spent quite a bit of time down on our bums. In one area we had to dive over a branch   head first and into a small pool then arch up so we didn't hit the rocks at the end head on. Another area it was about an 8' drop into a whirlpool.  We had to jump from the little cliff above into a circular whirlpool that had a diameter of about 3 feet,. It was surrounded by jagged rock walls on three sides and on big boulder on the other side. Martin went first and showed us exactly how it had to be done without injuring ourselves and how we had to rapidly exit the whirlpool so as not to get pulled under. It was Mike's turn to go first and Martin stood on the one odd boulder to guide us away from landing on it, but not too close to the wall either.  Mike jumped and it looked like he was inches away from bashing his head on the rocks.  Then Alan went and again it was too close for comfort.  Nicky and I decided to practice our climbing skills and somehow shimmy down the side without jumping.  I know me and I would not have been coordinated enough to have mastered that move. 

All was well and our adrenaline was definitely pumping. This little river was full of exciting turns, dives and jumps. It took us about 20 minutes to walk up and about 30-40 to get down.  We couldn't follow the river all the way to the bottom, because it was too dangerous.  We stopped about 3/4 the way down and had to walk the rest of the way.   Once we were completely out of the water, we then realised just how numb we were.   It was a bit of a challenge to walk at first, but once the muscles warmed up it was like your legs had been asleep and they began to tingle. 

As we were nearing the road, Alan made mention of me having some white stuff on my bum and went to wipe it off.  Hey thenbums began to laugh in a roar and could barely speak.   Then he did manage to mutter out that my pants had ripped and (I wasn't wearing undies cause they were all muddy) my white butt cheeks were glowing through the holes.   We then both went into a laughing frenzy and then noticed that Alan's pants were also split down the seems.  Then Nicky came over and she too had an enormous rip in her backside.  This was just hysterical and we all had a good laugh and of course had to take a photo.We were absolutely exhausted, went back to our little B&B and collapsed.  It was an early night for us and we just went out for a nice meal and relaxed.

SUNDAY

We were up fairly early and decided to commence our long journey back to London using the side roads, making stops where ever we wanted along the way.  We spent a few hours driving through the Lake District and it was glorious, the thick forest, green hills and crispy fresh air.  A must see if anyone makes it to this side of the world, nature at its best.  We stopped and at lunch in a small storybook kind of town. Then we ventured back on the side road and noticed a sign for a Castle, so we took a tour of the castle, but I don't remember the name.  At this point most of the day had gone by and we still had at least a 4-5 hour drive ahead of us. So it was time to go home.