The Person was in charge of the weekend's activities and duly told me he'd organised a SURPRISE trip on the Friday.
I won't lie, I'm not big on surprises at all. I'm a lady who likes to be in control. I have no problem doing new things, I just want to know what those new things are going to be.
I asked for wardrobe advice and was told to bring outdoor shoes, my trainers would be fine, but something sensible, and a coat. I started to worry a little bit. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a city girl. I like my amenities to be close at hand, and if there isn't a Tesco within 10km I start to hyperventilate. Jokes, jokes, I'm not that bad, I don't mind the country in small doses, but again, I like to be in charge.
I tried to make The Person yield the mystery information but it was to no avail. All I knew was that I had to get up early doors ready to get on the train.
Before we left, The Person put on his walking boots. My heart sank a little bit. This mystery location was definitely going to involve the countryside. But I put my faith in him and off we trotted. Normally the trip to this mystery location just involves a straight through train from Preston, but due to some engineering works, our mystery tour took on several diversions - in total 2 trains and a bus - so I got to see quite a few rural train stations along the way.
Train from Preston to Oxenholme, bus to Grange-over-Sands, train to Dalton-in-Furness
On the final train, The Person turned to me and asked me if I was excited. I replied that I was nervous, which was similar but not really the same thing. He asked me what would be something that I would be excited about. I gave it a little thought but I could really only think of one thing...
"The zoo" I replied. He looked a little bit crestfallen and answered "Oh....is there anything else that you would feel excited about?" I had a think but I couldn't think of anything...
The train rumbled on and I asked if the day would involve animals in any way shape or form. The Person replied "I can't say yes or no to be honest. There might be but I can't promise anything."
That did not make me feel better.
Getting off the train at Dalton-in-Furness didn't enlighten me any further, or make me feel any better. It's in the middle of nowhere, just two platforms, no ticket office, nothing doing at all. I had a sinking feeling...
The Person called a taxi to come and take us to the mystery location which further confused me, what the hell was going on?
All became clear when we got in the taxi driver and he asked us, "Are you going to the zoo?"
My eyes got very big.
"Are we going to the zoo?!" I asked The Person.
We certainly were. We weren't just going to the zoo though. We were going to the ultimate zoo. One that I didn't even know existed (you get bonus points if you've ever heard of this place by the way). We were going to South Lakes Wild Animal Park. Now I get giddy about anything involving animals, but had I known how exciting this day was about to be I probably would have completely hyperventilated and most likely dropped in a dead faint on the spot.
Want to know the main reason why?
Lemurs are pretty much one of my favourites (I think we all know that any kind of large cat is going to take ultimate precedence but that really is a given) so I was very excited to find out that South Lakes have a pretty large lemur population. But it gets better......these lemurs are wandering about free. You know as in, not behind bars. As in. Right next to you. As in. You could reach out and touch them.
BUT you must not reach out and touch the lemurs. There are several signs about warning you not to do it, you could get bitten and if they caught you touching them you would get thrown out. But seriously, when they're as close as they are it's hard not to. In fact, it goes against all of my natural instincts not to touch them. I'm an animal toucher I'm afraid - dogs and cats in the street, if it has 4 legs, I'm going to try and cop a feel. At one point I was gripping on to my bag with a vice like grip as I desperately tried not to succumb.
But it was hard. No I'm not zoomed in on this photo, he was that close.
Like other zoos, South Lakes has set feeding times for you to come along to and see the animals being fed, but unlike any zoo I've been to, you're allowed to feed the animals too. Even typing this out now is making me feel excited. Because I can remember feeding the giraffes...
...Which are huge by the way. I mean you know giraffes are big but I've never been this close to one before and it's not until their head is too big to get in shot that you realise the sheer size of these guys. They were actually pretty gentle when they were taking the leaves out of your hands, although you did run the risk of getting a lick from a very big tongue.
I have also fed Humboldt Penguins...
....Which are kind of smelly. That's what 12 tonne of fish will do for you. These guys were super gentle. You just dangled a fish above them and put it straight in their beaks. They get pretty mad if you don't appear to be supplying them with fish though, a few people had their cameras and their shoelaces pecked at.
We also fed the lemurs. They had grapes for dinner and were hilarious - all the animals know the score and know just what feeding times mean. They all lined up
mostly neatly along the barriers to be nicely fed. The lemur that The Person fed was incredibly cute and put their little lemur hand on his to take the grape from him. Mine was a little snatchier, but I loved him just the same.
We saw the jaguars and lions being fed, which involved the keepers hanging chickens off 12 foot poles and then letting the kitties in to clamber up and pull them down.
I could go on. And on. And on. And on. And probably on. But I'll stop there.
You get my drift. It was amazing.
And even more amazing is the attention South Lakes puts on conservation, they are ultimately geared towards the conservation of species of wild animals (a point which is somewhat hammered home in the talks they give - less info about conservation and more interesting facts about the animals would have been appreciated) and there are plenty of opportunities to either adopt animals or contribute in some other way to their programmes.
The Person wins the prize for best magical mystery tour ever.
And I even has a lemur of my own!