I’m currently in the East Midlands (Pilsley, to be exact) and it’s absolutely picturesque.
The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind of amazing outdoor adventures all thanks to one of my amazing friends onboard the Pacific Aria (Amy!). I’m not sure how I’ve managed to meet up with nearly all my good ship friends, but they’re basically family now. It feels bloody fantastic whenever I get to reunite with them.
Amy’s friend Ben (also from ships) was gracious enough to drive us around on outdoor excursions and basically lead us on the most epic hikes and adventures I’ve probably ever had. Especially since this stuff isn’t what one typically imagines when you talk about England.
This is the first time on my trip that I’ve stayed with friends, done cooked meals with friends, and just had a sense of normality since arriving. I’m so thankful for everything they’ve done for me thus far – especially since I’m seeing a completely new part of England that I wouldn’t normally see without the general knowledge (and transportation) of a local.
From the minute they picked me up in Chatsworth yesterday, it’s been nonstop surprise outdoor excursions. Ben drove us through the Peak District National Park (only about 20-30 min from the train station) and within an hour, we were trekking up an extremely steep snow-covered mountain.
I’ve never done anything in my LIFE quite as incredible. This was better than all my adventures in New Zealand, and that says a lot.
I’m in love with England, and doing all this outdoorsy stuff in the past few days only solidified that. I’d rather live here than anywhere else in the world.
The hilarious part was that Amy never prefaced anything about Ben being an absolute daredevil and how we’d be clinging to cliffs and constantly doing crazy adventures. Next thing we know, we’re following Ben and trusting that the ropes tied around us would be enough to prevent us tumbling downhill. Every single thing we did was like a real-life version of the treks Frodo and Sam did.
We’re lucky that Ben is basically a trained outdoor instructor (much like everyone at REI) – he was even featured on Ninja Warrior UK. We have no reason NOT to trust him – it’s just learning to get more and more gutsy even while clinging to something hundreds of feet high off the ground.
We did a quick stroll through one of the villages (and looked at the Devil’s Arse cave), which became a snowball fight on the way back to the car. Being the loser Californian who never gets snow, I was the one at the disadvantage when trying to pack together snowballs…
The views atop the snow-capped peaks were stunning. There was a little cave-type cutout we hid in for shelter from the wind at one point, and the icicles dangling from the top were just beautiful. I’ve never seen quite a sensational view ever before.
He also drove us to Chatsworth (Chatsworth Palace was where “Pride and Prejudice” was filmed), Matlock, and Black Rocks – all beautiful towns that bordered Pilsley and within 15 min apart. It’s incredible how close everything is in the English countryside, because it’s definitely not like that back home.
Today was even more intense – Ben nicknamed it our “Bear Grylls Day.” Since he’s starting up a side business soon, he used Amy and I as guinea pigs to test out the adventures – abseiling, caving, and climbing. Everything I could have dreamed of, basically.
It was six hours of sheer adrenaline and adventure. I think we were doing Carl’s Walk (kinda part of Peak District?) the whole time. We were surrounded by towering cliffs, leftover snow, lots of trees, and plenty of small mines and caves that we explored (translation: squeezed into and crawled on all fours).
I had never abseiled before, so climbing straight up a cliff and then abseiling down was the coolest experience ever. My favourite part was when we abseiled straight down this huge rocky cliff and I attempted to copy his Mission Impossible side-to-side jumps (but ended up twisting around and just kicking and screaming so I wouldn’t slam into the wall). Looking down and seeing how high up we were was just SO AMAZING.
He led us through a super cool cave, far different from any of the ones I did in Thailand, at the very end of our excursion. We got covered in mud, drenched knee-high in ice-cold water (my feet have never been so cold in my life- they throbbed), and basically had to wiggle ourselves like worms under stretches where there wasn’t any other way to go forward. It was super fun. I quite liked how there weren’t any bugs in any of the caves (opposite of Thailand).
The only issue about the past two days is that we did so much that I could barely remember what we did – everything blended together and I couldn’t even pinpoint how many abseils and climbs and places we visited unless I looked back on photos. Signs of a successful few days?