Universities across the UK have been running ‘Jailbreak‘ challenges to raise money for charity for over a decade now. They follow a simple premise: get as far away from the starting location as possible, without spending any money, in a given time period (normally 36 or 48 hours). In my fourth and final year of university at University of East Anglia (UEA), I took part in a Jailbreak, raising money for Cancer Research UK. This weekend the 2014 Jailbreak is running and I am feeling very nostalgic, wishing I could do it all again…so I’m going to blog about it instead!
Teams from various universities have made it as far as Australia, the US, Dubai, China and an array of countries across Europe. My housemate and I set out to reach Edinburgh – perhaps not so exotic, but as final year students we needed to know we could make it back to Norwich for our 10am classes Monday morning!
We set off from the UEA square, early Friday morning. The night before we had called all the Norwich taxi companies asking if we could swing a free lift to the train station. We shared our taxi with another team, and we were off! At the train station we joined a number of other teams begging platform attenders to help us out. Fortunately, most teams were heading for London – we were heading north and so hoped to catch a train to Peterborough. A kind train conductor called us over and snuck us onto the train and we made it to Peterborough by midday…Then things got tricky. It seems Peterborough is not the easiest place to get out of. We had zero luck at the train station so made a move for the bus station, where we were also turned away. Disappointed but not defeated, we found what looked like a main road, stood on the side and stuck out our thumbs.
Within minutes a police car pulled over. Oh God. We were about to be arrested. In Peterborough. But no! The friendly cop took pity on us after telling us we were standing on the wrong side of the road, and personally drove us to the major services. WHEY!
After a brief toilet stop, and bonding with an old man collecting money for Marie Curie, we positioned ourselves by the petrol station at the services, but to no avail…The closest we got to a lift was a young man who circled round twice to tell us ‘don’t get raped’…We plodded back to the main services building and stood in the doorway. Lots of people laughed at us, or looked confused. Then an elderly couple offered to take us up to Harrogate, in their Mercedes Benz! SCORE.
We reached Harrogate services in the early evening and decided to take a little break. I flirted and persuaded Costa Coffee to donate us drinks, while Livvy busted out her laptop to take advantage of the free wifi and plan the next part of our journey. The aim was still Edinburgh but we were unlikely to make it that evening.
We decided we’d only take a lift straight to Edinburgh, or we’d stay put for the night as my housemates parents lived nearby and could at least provide us with a bed for the night! Not long after repositioning ourselves near the doors, a man offered us a ride as far as Durham…we considered…My best friend was studying at Durham University and could most probably give us a floor to crash for the night (plus it would be great to see her!) I called, checked and we were off again, storming up north to Durham!
Upon arriving in Durham, we stopped for a quick refuel in Subway, took a couple of pictures which we sent back to Jailbreak HQ and continued on our way. After a brief walking tour of the sights of Durham (a castle!) we persuaded a taxi driver to give us a quick ride and we reached my friend’s halls of residence and crashed for the night. Bright and early the next day, we were able to get a free breakfast courtesy of Van Mildert College’s dining hall and set off again. After a long walk into town and up to the train station, we were very rudely turned away. We spotted a police car just outside the station and thought they might take pity on us again. (It was raining. A lot.) They gave us directions, but didn’t offer a lift. We slowly began to make our way back down the massive hill, and suddenly a car honked us – It had worked! The police were offering a ride to the services!
After two rides in police cars and we knew we had the best mode of transport by any jailbreak team so far! Unfortunately, these cops weren’t quite so useful as they dumped us on the side of a major road, near a roundabout, where cars were travelling 70+ mph and didn’t have time to stop even if they wanted to! It was raining. We were cold, wet, slightly miserable, and most definitely stranded somewhere outside Durham with very few options.
I spotted a highway patrol office of some kind down a side road and we went to take a look. A man was pulling out in his car and we waved him down and BEGGED for a lift to somewhere a little more convenient for hitching a ride. It worked! He took us to a petrol station (after telling some very racist jokes and speeding about 90mph…). We opted for a food regroup (this time no freebies unfortunately!) and searched for anyone who might potentially give us a ride a little further on our way. No luck. Things were not looking good in this quiet little services.
By now we were standing by the petrol station entrance, looking pleadingly at anyone going in. People were nice and friendly, but noone was heading the way we wanted! Finally a man in a van said he was driving to Edinburgh, but there was no room for us. By this point we were so desperate, even the white van didn’t put us off. We begged. We begged a lot. He shifted some things around and into the back of his van, and offered us a seat. That’s right. One seat. We would have to share…So I spent the drive from just south of Newcastle, right up to Edinburgh, sitting on the handbrake of Craig the Caterer’s van. Ouch. But we were moving, warm and had some music playing. Also, Craig the Caterer had good stories – he had a PHD in Childhood Leukaemia, and once won Come Dine With Me. Celebrity alert!
We made it into Scotland, then to Edinburgh where we parted ways with Craig the Caterer and headed to meet my hometown friend Tim for some lunch. Fuelled up we hit the streets of Edinburgh to do some all important fundraising. Dancing down the cold streets of Edinburgh with a charity bucket, we realised just how many people had been affected by cancer in some way. Loads of people were donating, from handfuls of coins to £10 notes without even thinking about it! We spent the evening with my housemates friend, where we would be staying the night, but we headed back onto the streets around midnight to stand outside the student’s union. Walking up and down the line to the club with our bucket, telling people we had hitchhiked from Norwich, everyone was so generous – and not just because they were drunk! Students were telling us their grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends had been diagnosed with cancer, before putting a tenner or so into the pot. We stayed out for just over an hour and raised almost £200! Incredible.
The next morning, at the 48 hour mark (since setting off on the challenge), we took our ‘final destination’ picture at Edinburgh castle. We did some sightseeing, before paying for and catching a train back to Norwich. Overall, the pair of us raised £404 with donations from friends and family, bake sale fundraising before the event, and street collecting during the 48 hours. UEA as a whole raised over £14,000 which is just incredible! Not only was it one of the best experiences I had at university, we were also raising money for charity which could really make a difference.
If you ever get the chance to take part in a Jailbreak, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Be sure to do your research and try and make some plans before the day of the event, but remember you don’t have the go to the furthest or most exotic location to have an amazing time!