KY was the one who suggested pre-Easter break that we should go to Lake District, one of the more renowned northern destinations to travel to on vacation. Two weeks into Easter break, it was getting obvious that if we didn’t just up and go, we would probably end up never making the trip a reality. So, on Wednesday, I received texts from my friends saying they were buying train tickets to Lake District for tomorrow. So I did the same. And the next morning, at 9:16AM, we were heading for Windermere, Lake District.
The night before, I came home at 3AM after spending the day with Rumin at Trafford Centre after picking up my US Visa from Moseley Road. Then, as per my daily pre-sleeping ritual, I spent an hour on my phone before realising it was 4:30AM and started to panic and in turn, the panic made it even more difficult to fall asleep. By the time my alarm rang the next morning, I was pretty certain I’d barely slept for more than two hours.
Rumin, KY and I headed for Manchester Piccadilly first the next morning since we live nearest to the station and waited for the remaining seven (Yee Lin, Nicole, Ash, Jia Yang, CC, Ernie and Ze Kai) to turn up before heading for Platform 14. It was already past 9AM so we started rushing — and it was exactly this rushing that led to me hearing yells of “NO THIS IS THE WRONG TRAIN” as soon as I stepped on the platform and seeing CC attempting to stop the closing doors of the train with his hands. And failed. Still in my half-asleep state, I turned to look at the sign next to the railway track which announced that the train that had just left, the train that CC and also, I later on found out, Ernie, had wrongly boarded, was a 9:06AM train to London Euston. The Piccadilly station workers noticed our shocked, and quite frankly, amusing, predicament and advised us to call CC and Ernie to get off at the next Oxford Road station and board the right train heading towards the direction of Glasgow.
We couldn’t really stop cracking up with laughter after that, all the way to Oxford Road station. The trip hadn’t even started and we’d already lost two of our members.
We were reunited at Oxford Road, after which the two-hour journey to Windermere commenced. I forced myself to take a nap despite being in a rather unideal position for napping because I knew I would probably be filled with regret if I didn’t once we reached Windermere. I barely caught a few winks from the discomfort and okay, maybe also excitement at going on a trip with my friends for the first time in the UK, and before I knew it, we had reached Oxenhulme where we had to change trains to Windermere. Half an hour later, we finally reached our coveted destination.
The first thing to remark once we got off was the weather. I was highly apprehensive the previous day when I checked the weather app and was told that the lowest temperature would be a negative integral. However, it didn’t seem to be the case in reality as we were, thankfully, greeted by a clear, azure blue sky, glorious sunshine and warm heat against our skin.
KY, designated tour guide of the day despite his repeated protests that it wasn’t like he had been to Windermere before, devised a route for us to take that involved ferry rides and AN 8 KILOMETER WALK, something I paled considerably after hearing about. But I refused to be a bad sport and was convinced that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I imagined it would be with my friends around. And so it began.
It was a roughly one-hour walk from the train station to Bowness-on-Pier, which was exactly what its name suggested, a pier. We bought 10 ferry tickets to Ambleside and had the opportunity to sit at the very front of the upper deck of the ferry.
The view was breathtakingly spectacular.
Our initial plan upon reaching Ambleside was to have lunch before going on the next ferry. So we entered a posh-looking hotel restaurant complete with a bar with golden-lighting, embroidered sofa sets and framed paintings hung on walls and was led to a waiting room to wait as they set out a table for 10 of us. Halfway through waiting and looking through the menu, it was brought to our attention that the last ferry to Wray Castle was leaving at 2:40PM, which was 40 minutes from now. Deciding we didn’t have enough time for a proper lunch meal, we quickly and sheepishly informed the waitress that we had a boat to catch and then quite literally bolted out of the restaurant. It was comforting to know that we would probably never step into the same premises again.
In place, we had a mini picnic at the tables by the lake, snacking on sandwiches and fruits we’d bought prior to the trip.
The trip continued: a 15-minute ferry ride to Wray Castle.
It was getting sunnier and hotter when we found an ideal spot for a photography session by the road that lasted for at least an hour, living up to our Asian tourist stereotype of being obsessed with taking vacation photos. It was quite the literal materialisation of Best Coast’s song The Sun Was High (And So Was I).
After that, it was time to finally, reluctantly, embark on our 8km journey along the lake.
The commencement of our embarkment was a lie. At the beginning of the trail, we stopped so many times to take photos, throw pebbles and climb stray boulders that overlooked the lake because it was just so beautiful. I am no good at describing sceneries and frankly, I usually can’t care less about sceneries but I think it was probably the fact that this was my first time on a trip out of Manchester with so many friends, and it’d been a long time since I was out of the predictable and monotonous hustle and bustle that the city of Manchester constantly provided us with. The sun was out, there wasn’t even any need for coats. The sights before me were sights that could previously only be seen on postcards or National Geography documentaries. Or maybe it was even the fact that I was kind of delirious from lack of sleep. But I felt so happy and contented, being able to take in this picturesque place with my own two eyes and be there with my friends. There was barely anyone around either, so it felt like the entire place belonged to us. It felt like we were in an insulated bubble, a world of our own, untainted by anything foreign or unbelonging. The recurring theme of that day was perhaps the word “~feel~”, complete with the tildes, implying that we were all like-minded when it came to basking in the ambience we were in. At one point I told Ash that I felt like we were in a music video.
It was, in all the true sense of the word, a getaway.
Once we got past the initial excitement of being in a setting that looked fitted for a medieval movie shoot, the 8km loomed ahead of us more glaringly. All too sudden, the scenery got repetitive to the extent that I was starting to feel more trapped in the aforementioned bubble than I was enjoying it. The pathways became sporadically interposed with muddy puddles that did damage to our shoes. Every few meters, we would chance upon a wooden sign that informed us of how much distance we had left. When we reached the sign with “2 1/2 miles” (of 4 miles/8km) carved on it it felt like the highest form of mockery towards my feeble stamina. We hadn’t even been halfway through the forest yet and I was already starting to feel all my cultivated energy from the previous high-ness dissipate at an alarming rate, as it usually does whenever I participate in marathons, rendering me with a guaranteed title of top five from the last place. But I could still feel consolation and gratitude for the fact that at least it wasn’t freezing cold, and at least it wasn’t as windy as the name of the district might have suggested.
As the sky began to darken slightly, Jia Yang suggested we might as well play a game to create an illusion of time passing by faster, and it worked. We played Contact until the pier where we were supposed to take a ferry back to Bowness came into a sight, and I had never felt more relieved. Our chance of survival wasn’t yet guaranteed, as Ze Kai reminded, but I was still elated to see ugly, concrete buildings and tar roads. It felt like a return to civilisation.
The ferry was a short ride and upon reaching the other end of the lake, we were told that we still had to walk another 2km to reach Bowness. My feet were screaming and frothing at the metaphorical mouth but in light of the 8km we had somehow managed to successfully conquer, 2km almost seemed welcomed.
Upon reaching Bowness, we hailed two taxis (after Ash and Yee Lin were unsuccessful in their attempts to hitchhike a ride for 10 of us) to the train station and the prospect of being able to be stationary and not having to walk was so blissful. Our train departed at around 7PM and everything after that, the two train changes we had to take etc was a huge blur as accumulated fatigue finally caught up with me. The night ended ideally though; as I like to always say, every good day ends with a dim sum dinner/supper.
I pretty much passed out the moment my head hit the pillow that night but it wasn’t without a heart bursting with good spirits and gratification from an enjoyable trip with lovely company.
*Photo credits to their respective owners among the 10 of us