All entries for Saturday 19 November 2005

November 19, 2005


So the days of pestering friends into sponsoring and wildly speculating about where we might get to were over, Jailbreak was happening. 34 teams gathered in the Piazza ready to get as far as they could from Warwick University in 36 hours without spending any money on transport. Andy and I had originally planned to try and get to Birmingham International and attempt to get a plane from there, or failing that to hitch down to Dover. However speaking to Jamie and Emma, another Jailbreaking pair, we decided head straight for Coventry and get the National Express coach to Dover.

We got a lift to Pool Meadow bus station with Jamie’s granddad, and spoke to lots of representatives of National Express, all of whom sympathised but were unable to help us, so we walked to the train station. The staff at Coventry station were again very sympathetic, but claimed they were unable to let us through the ticket barrier. We eventually got out of Coventry when a station staff member told us that she wasn’t allowed to let us on the rail replacement bus, but had something to check inside and the bus would be unguarded for a few minutes. We walked onto the bus and began the journey to Nuneaton, an impressive 9 miles from Coventry.

At Nuneaton things began to move more quickly, we went to Asda and managed to get given some cardboard and a marker pen in order to hitch, but then decided to keep going on the trains for a while. We caught the train to Leicester, and then to Cambridge, where Andy became very excitable and spent a happy five minutes “hiding in the bikes” at the station car park. Can you spot him?

We then caught the train to, Bury St. Edmunds, and then a bus to Ipswich, then a train to Manningtree, where we spent half an hour in the village pub which was attached to the train station, and then went on to Harwich International ferry port. We had decided to avoid London because we thought it would be a nightmare to get out of, as it turned out another Jailbreak team had arrived three hours before us via London. The port manager had gone home so it was very hard for us to get tickets, but eventually we had some success on the phone, and ten hours after Jailbreak had begun we were on the ferry to Hoek–van–Holland.

The ferry ride was fun and the first real chance for us to move around a lot on the jailbreak, Andy and I got several free shots out of a man who thought we were going to buy an overpriced bottle of vodka. We didn’t. The other two teams on the ferry had ambitions only to get to Amsterdam to “do things that aren’t legal in the UK”, but while we enjoy busking without a license, streaking, and carrying concealed weapons as much as everyone else, Andy and I wanted to get further than Holland.

After speaking to a few people who wouldn’t help us, I approached a man reading the Daily Mail and asked him if he was English, “I bloody well hope so” he replied in a south London accent, and told us his name was Steve and he could take us to Hannover. Steve had a very expensive car, paid for by the army apparently, and he drove us for about four hours to a service station outside Hannover where he told us we would be able to get a lift to Berlin in the morning with lorry drivers. We slept for a couple of hours at a table in the service station, and then started trying to hitch. Unfortunately because of German labour laws the lorry drivers weren’t allowed to drive on Sunday, something we learnt after four or five attempts to hold a conversation in German with varying degrees of misunderstanding.

Eventually we managed to get out of the service station with a crazy moustached German guy. I asked if he was driving to Berlin, he replied that he was going to Dresden, and I asked if we could come. The man (who’s name we forget) drove an incredibly expensive car at 150 miles an hour down the autobahn, this was by far the fastest either of us had been in a car before and was very scary. My ability to understand German has deteriorated a lot in the five years since GCSE, but from what I understood of the next four hours conversation the man earned lots of money from “closing down businesses”. He had also driven all the way from Spain in three days and was on the way to meet some colleagues who kept switching the location. After buying us a Burger King he left us at a service station about ten miles out of Dresden telling us he had to go and “do some business”. A couple of hours later we managed to hitch out of the service station to the centre of Dresden with a hippy in an old VW camper, he was an architect at Berlin University and was generally a dude.

Andy and I got to the centre of Dresden with about 9 hours left, but were very tired and thought that even if we did manage to hitch out somewhere we would probably fail to get back into a city and we didn’t want to spend another night at a service station, so we called it a day. It has to be said that despite popular belief Dresden is actually really beautiful, it has suffered from sixties architecture but the centre is lovely.

After a few hours exploring we caught the train to Prague, where we met three American backpackers
who said things like “I love writing philosophy when I’m really stoned man, like the other day I was really stoned and I was like what’s it all about man?”, and “Hey dude have you seen the film ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’? I was watching it the other day and I was really stoned and I was like this is awesome man”. On arriving in Prague Andy and I decided against furthering our acquaintance with the Americans and headed straight for the airport.

At the airport we realised that our cheapest flight would leave in 24 hours, so we booked it then slept on a large marble surface.

We woke up in the morning to find ourselves surrounded by a dozen Finnish girls using the marble as a table to fill out their flight details. Words cannot describe quite how surreal this was. Andy and I decided to spend the day in Prague looking around and trying to find some cheap tourist tat for Hazel’s and Ruth’s birthday. We didn’t find them anything, but did have a good time, and had lunch which was our first meal for 24 hours in a blues café. When Prague got dark cold and miserable we went back to the airport, got our flight into East Midlands, and then my dad drove us back to Coventry.

I think that Jailbreak (like the time I spent the night at Stonehenge) is one of those experiences that I have very fond memories of but wouldn’t want to repeat, particularly the lack of sleep and food was a bit annoying, but the good bits were awesome enough to make it a very happy experience overall. Plus we raised £200 for Cancer Research UK so it’s all good.

November 2005

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