So, at 10am on November 2 until 10pm on November 3, George Creasy and I had a challenge – to travel as far away from Warwick University campus as possible within 36 hours without spending a penny, in aid of AICR (the Association for International Cancer Research).
And guess what? The Baker Breakers have officially jailbroken. We made it all the way to Poland!
For those of you who can’t be bothered to read the detailed account, here’s a team ‘Jailbreak breakdown’:
- Miles travelled (as the crow flies): 659
- Team money raised (total): £465.99
- Personal money raised (total): £300.99
- Points received through completing extra challenges: 344
- Donations collected along the way: £30
- Lifts taken: 10
- Place: 7th out of 70 teams
- Countries travelled through: 6
- Modes of transport taken: 6
- Free meals: 4
- Eggs broken: 0
- Money spent: £0
So the adventure started with us having to protect our Jailbreak egg (which we affectionately named Paul Hollywood) and then set off in competition with the other 200 people taking part in Warwick Jailbreak. The taxi drivers on campus were no way going to give us a lift so we headed to the Tesco at Cannon Park, as we knew the area would be very busy. We asked a couple of taxi drivers and one of them said he’d drop us at the roundabout heading onto the A45 to get us in the direction of the motorway – fantastic. Another team also jumped in the cab with us, who were called #YOLO (I believe they made it to Dover in the end).
We had our first try at hitchhiking along the A45, where we very quickly had a guy in a smart car pick us up (clearly our signs ‘2 Dover 4 charity’ and ‘please, we’re awesome’ were working!) and take us to a petrol station right next to the M45. He apologised for not being able to take us further and gave us a £20 donation too – what an awesome man!
The competitive part of Jailbreak was stepped up a notch when we were stood with two other groups at the petrol station (a group of four from Hong Kong dressed in zebra onesies, and a pair of guys) and the pair of guys who were just in front of us got a lift first, closely followed by a nasty driver who gave us the middle finger. However, just as we were becoming impatient a car came past with another team inside (the Lost Disney Princesses, who got to Dresden in Germany) – and he picked us up too! Neville, a retired teacher, was on his way to Uxbridge so took us all the way down the M45, M1 and to the Cobham Services on the M25. We had completed our first major leg on our way to the channel!
Cobham Services were hugely busy so we were feeling positive, and we decided to attempt completion of our first challenge – to get a free meal. We went to KFC and explained what we were doing, and they gave us some chicken and chips! The people at the counter we spoke to were really welcoming and encouraging, which was great too. After a quick break we headed outside to start hitchhiking again, and we were awkwardly standing there with our signs when a girl came up and asked us if we wanted a lift to London, which was really thoughtful although we decided to turn it down, as closer to Dover would have been more useful. There were a group of hilarious Welsh people behind us who started shouting “Dover! Dover!” and cheering us on which made us more lively – and within a few minutes a man wearing a high-vis jacket walked past and said “No, but I’m going to Ashford”. We ran straight after him and grabbed a lift in his lorry all the way to Maidstone services, which was a massive help. The driver’s name was Frank and he was telling us how he was glad that we were supporting such a charity as AICR, as his brother is currently suffering from cancer. It gave us a boost to be reminded that we were raising money for a cause which affects so many people.
Maidstone Services was where things started to turn – it was very small with very few people in, and then two other jailbreak groups turned up, including the group wearing the zebra onesies. I did get to complete one of the challenges and hug a policeman though! The darkening sky and pressure from the other groups drove us to asking every lorry driver we could find if they were heading to Dover (no luck there), and then us lingering in the car park to do the same. After about half an hour a man called Paul came up to us and said he was travelling to Folkestone – would we like a lift to some services there? We gratefully accepted and he took us down the road with another generous donation of £10.
Folkestone Services were much the same with a bigger lorry park, and again we had no luck with the lorry drivers as they were either staying in the park overnight, or couldn’t understand us. The weather took a bad turn and it started to bomb it down with rain, and we decided to head over to the petrol station to ask people for lifts who were just nipping through for fuel. Most people said that they were not going to Dover (one man probably would have taken us, but he had a full car) until suddenly we asked a man who responded: “Dover? I’m going a lot further than that, mate…” and then went into the toilet. When he came back, he said he only had one ferry ticket – we begged him to at least take us to Dover to get us that bit further. We jumped in his lorry and had a good old chat with Lee, who was driving all the way to the border of Lithuania/Latvia to build his holiday home!
When we got to Dover, he got out of the lorry and went to the ticket office, and came back saying he’d edited the ticket to put us both on there. We were officially going across the channel to Dunkirk! We took the opportunity of a two-hour ferry ride to complete some more of the challenges. Lee had bought us a meal each on the ferry tickets which was incredibly generous (we got to go in the Drivers’ Lounge!) and two drinks to go with it. We got random people to sign our T-shirts, and wear SmartyPants too.
We arrived in Dunkirk at about 8pm GMT, and Lee said that if we kept him awake and spoke to him, he would keep on driving – so that’s exactly what we did, and George and I took turns to sleep. We got to Belgium very quickly and drove past Antwerp, and then touched upon Eindhoven in the Netherlands. We then hit Germany – which is huge – and realised Lee had driven us through five countries! He was great company, too. We went past Essen, crossed the beautiful Rhine bridge and through Hannover, then Magdeburg, and went by Frankfurt.
However, when we were around 30km away from the Polish border, at around 8am, disaster struck, and Lee was pulled over by the police. Apparently you’re not allowed to drive a trailer through Germany on a Sunday, and he had to stay put in a car park on the side of the road until 10pm that night (conveniently, when our challenge ends). We thought we were going to be truly stuck, but then the police said they’d give us a lift to the Polish border – result! A ride in a police car!
The Polish border was when things started to get interesting, as we were hitching a tough crowd. We tried posters and then realised that most people wouldn’t be able to understand them, so ditched that idea, particularly after an English van driver with a few empty seats heartbreakingly drove straight past us. Eventually, after around an hour of hitching in the pouring rain, a German couple took us to a local market.
The local market was typically Polish but also very small – making it almost impossible to hitchhike there. We gave up after a while and headed into a hotel for help, and they told us to walk half an hour to the local town, Slubice (I even attempted to speak German, which the receptionist completely ignored and spoke English instead). We made the walk – Poland is freezing, by the way – and found ourselves in a very pretty but quiet area. We decided to aim for the next closest city, Poznan, and asked a few taxi drivers if they could help, but they declined. Instead we tried hitching on the road, and when this failed after a while one of the taxi drivers clearly wanted to remove us from the area, so drove us for five minutes down the road.
From there we began to hitch on the main road again, with no luck for around half an hour. Then we became aware of an empty minibus up ahead which had stopped at the side of the road, so we went and asked the driver where he was going. After a brief conversation in German (he could speak no English) we figured he was going to Berlin, and that he was willing to take us. Time was ticking and we thought we could make it no further into Poland (we had been in the market and Slubice for over three hours) and we decided to take his offer of a lift.
We posed outside the Brandenburg Gate with the Boar in our SmartyPants, and decided that Berlin was pretty cool, and wanted to see more of it. We booked a hotel for a couple of nights and a flight back to London on Tuesday. After some advice from my fabulous friend Kat Price who spent a year abroad in Berlin, we visited the Alexanderplatz, the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Tiergarten with a hidden cafe inside called ‘Cafe am Neuen See’ which sells the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The trip had turned into a proper holiday and we had the best time ever – Berlin is incredible. The pilot on the aeroplane even let us sit in the cockpit for a charity photo, which ticked another challenge off of the list!
To conclude this blog post, I would strongly encourage any of you reading this to take part in Warwick Jailbreak next year – or if you can’t, get involved with anything similar when you get the opportunity. Not only does it give you the chance to raise money for an absolutely fantastic cause, you will have the opportunity to travel, meet people and visit countries you have never been to before. And even if you don’t get that far, you also begin to recognise how generous and charitable people can be, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.