Lost | 2016

The concept is simple: who can be the first back?

Lost is another charity event run by my university society Raise and Give (RAG) and unlike Jailbreak where the aim was to get as far away from university as possible, this time it was what team could race back the quickest from the same starting point would be the winner.

The event started at midnight where we were told to meet at a university building to be blindfolded and put on a coach to then be driven to an unknown location and be dropped off where the race would begin.It is worth noting that the same day, my teammate and fellow flatmate had literally just finished our exams. As in, finished at 6pm that evening and at 11.58pm we were blindfolded on a coach heading to...somewhere in the UK. No matter, we wanted an adventure and this was going to be it.

We had enjoyed Jailbreak so much this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something similar without going abroad- as we had so much planned for the up coming weeks- and to give back to charity.

With Lost, there were challenges to be completed along the way (if you chose to do them) and these would knock off time from when you got back to university. So there were two ways to strategically win Lost; either race back as quickly as possible and not do any challenges OR take a longer time do challenges but hope enough time could be taken off by doing the challenges and therefore win. My team mate and I decided to do the latter, we wanted to have fun and realised we could do a few of them on the way back as they wouldn't be too time consuming.

The energy on the coach was one of excitement yet tiredness. The curtains had to be drawn as soon as we boarded and everyone was encouraged to get some sleep as we were told we had a 6-8 hour drive ahead of us. Naturally, being told to do something can often force people the other way so many people were awake chatting and trying to figure out where we were going. It became pretty clear quite quickly that we were heading east towards the south coast and away from the west country but that was all we could gather from the front window. After a while, people seemed to be settling down but others, like myself and my team mate, could not get to sleep on a coach and decided to pop in some headphones and jam out to some classic Jonas Brother's.

Before we knew it the driver was announcing that he was required to take a break and we could get out, stretch our legs and possibly grab a drink from the service station. The issue was wherever we stopped we would be getting a pretty good idea of where we were in the country but alas, this couldn't be helped. Desperate to get off the coach we had been cooped up on for hours, everyone rushed off and into the nearest Starbucks. There were massive signs everywhere telling us we were at: South Mimms Welcome Break service station.

I had no idea where we were near but I did spy a sign that said we were on the M25 so I knew we had to be near London. However, my team mate knew exactly where we were as this was a service station that she had stopped at en route to her home in Essex. Lo and behold, after we had refuelled on coffee and headed back onto the bus we soon started seeing signs for places in Essex. This didn't put a damper on our spirits because who knew how much longer we had to travel!

A short while later, our bus driver announced that he couldn't get down a lane to where he was meant to drop us off so we would just have to get off down this little lane as it was the best he could do. As we gathered our things, curtains were being pulled back and everyone was trying to guess where we were.
"I know exactly where we are, I'll tell you when we get off", my team mate whispered to me.
I was excited that she knew but disappointed at the same time as it wasn't truly a lost experience if she knew what to do and where to go.

We had arrived in a small village of Kirby le Soken just off the coast in Essex.

My team mate had gone to a spa just down the road a short while before so she knew the area roughly and we soon took off towards the train station at Kirby Cross, hoping someone there would give us a lift out of the area. We knew we had to be quick because so many other teams were in the area and were our direct competition. After stumbling across some ducks (who we took a selfie with as per one of the challenges) we had arrived at a very empty and quiet station. We tried to decide wether to wait for a train, hop on and hope not to be asked for a ticket or to go looking for a car to take us somewhere. Luckily a choice was made for us as an elderly man approached us asking what our t-shirts meant and what we were doing. We chatted for a while and he was driving to Colchester to run some errands and offered us a lift! It seemed like luck was on our side so we said yes and hopped in.

Keith was a very kind, retired older man who dropped us off at Colchester train station where we then appealed to the staff behind the ticket counter to give us a free ticket into London. We had to wait a little while so her boss could approve it and although that was frustrating, about an hour later we were ecstatic that we managed to wangle a free ticket and were soon sitting on a train leaving the Essex countryside behind us.

Whilst on the train, we tried to come up with a plan. The idea of being in central London with no money and no means of transport was super daunting and we knew it would be harder to charm staff into giving us free things in the name of charity. Deciding to immediately go to the people with the power to authorise free tickets in the offices we were soon turned away. Not yet feeling disgruntled, we optimistically went to the underground to ask about a ticket to help us get around or outside of central London. Again this was a bust as the officials kindly said no and everyone we approached were using their travel card or had an oyster card.

We only had one option; we had to go by foot. Our aim was to get to London Victoria coach station to talk to the bus companies there about a coach back to our university city or as nearby as we could. Unfortunately we were quite far from where we needed to go still and the old saying of "if you don't ask, you don't get" kept ringing in my head so we tried to flag down cars. We had a few taxi drivers who pulled over thinking we were customers and after explaining what we were doing, laughed at us and then drove off when we asked if they would take us somewhere for free.

Luckily, we decided to try just one more car and when a black cab pulled up I cursed inwardly as I didn't think I could take being mocked again. Instead, a lovely man named Chris said he was going on his lunch break and would drop us off a bit closer to where we wanted to go. We immediately climbed in as we wanted to stop walking and were happy to have a bit of rest time and soon got chatting about our lives. Chris was such an interesting man and as we were driving along my team mate and I told him about some of the challenges we could do with one of them being the trolly push at Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. Before we could make up our mind Chris offered to drop us off which was another twenty or so minutes away. Truly an angel in disguise.

After we (sadly) said goodbye to Chris as Kings Cross and profusely thanked him we ventured past the crowds and joined the queue to don a scarf and strike a pose. This was lots of fun and at this point we had heard that a team wasn't far from university already so we knew we wouldn't win and just have fun with the day. Posing with the trolly, having a scarf on with our house on it (Hufflepuff pride) and chatting with the staff really was such a highlight of the day. We grabbed a quick coffee to refuel and headed towards a pub outside to do the next challenge. If we were going to do these, we had to commit to try and shave some time off our total. The challenge was to ask a pub to let you pull a pint for your team mate and finish it. I volunteered to drink so now all we had to do is convince the barmaid to let my team mate to go behind the counter. As bizarre as she thought the situation was it was a quiet day mid week, there were about six people in the pub and I think she didn't  care too much as we were going to pay for it. I did drink the entire pint but lets just say...my team mate does not have a future career working behind a pub.

I must admit I felt a little tipsy as we left the pub to walk to Victoria coach station and that probably was a blessing in disguise as it took over an hour to get there. We had made a couple of stops to complete a few more challenges, we went into a graveyard to find a famous person and went into a museum for free however by the time we got there all we wanted to do was get back to uni as soon as possible. The late night, lack of sleep and no time to relax between finishing exams had caught up with us and with no idea of how much longer we had in the competition we were pretty desperate. Unfortunately for us, the staff at the coach station did not care and could not help us in anyway which was understandable if not disheartening.

Our last attempt before trying to flag down another car was to go back up towards Paddington station (as it services the South West) and beg for a train ticket. Another long walk later through Hyde Park we put on our biggest smiles and marched straight up to the counter to win them over. If we couldn't get a ticket all the way, we knew all we needed was to get out of London where the chances of someone picking us up would be higher. We chatted, showed our letter of validity so they knew we were legit and told them our story of the day. Luckily, the lady behind the counter was feeling generous or could here the edge in my voice and issued us two tickets all the way to our university city. It was the best possible outcome and I almost cried out of relief and happiness.

Whilst on the train back we had a few hours to nap and reflect on the day before we had to go back to RAG HQ on campus. The positives of Lost were; a fun challenge, the excitement of the unknown, having to think on our feet, the challenges, all the people we met and the stories we could tell now. Lost is such a cool concept and really tests you as a person and how you work with your team mate. It's tough for sure and on the flip side, the things we didn't enjoy were minimal and personal to us at the time such as the travelling as it was through the night, having to be polite to people who were rude to you and how tired we became. These things are so insignificant compared to the experience and the feeling when we realised we had hit our target for raising money for the charities we were doing it for in the first place was amazing. Naturally we didn't win but we did come in the top five out of all of the teams that competed so it wasn't too bad!

Lost was definitely a lot of fun and as always I was so happy to have my team mate (and best friend at uni) by my side through it all as I know I couldn't have done any of it without her. Who knows if we will attempt it next year but it's cool to tick it off the list of things I wanted to do whilst at university. It further confirmed how much I love the society RAG and that it was without a doubt the best decision to join it.

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