Every adventure is filled with highs and lows.
The highs can be incredible – reaching the top of that mountain pass was an example – making the day turn into a breeze and having knock on effects the next day too.
But a few days ago I found out just how low the lows can get – a cruel reminder of how the world is a dangerous place where our actions affect not only is, but others around us too.
This was a bit of a wake up call, and a bit of a shock. So far you will have heard part of the story from Siobhan, but here is the full story, lifted straight from my journal. I wrote it not long after being dropped in Lillehammer by the police van – so I apologise if it makes little sense – I think I was still in a state of shock. The language may be a little bit fruity too… I apologise but I think it makes more sense to keep the swear words in because it was a very sweary kind of day…
Day 79 – Thursday 20th October- Tretten to Vingrom…
Title in Journal- “Oh Fuck…”
So today has been one of those days which made me think I still need to think more about the consequences of my actions.
This morning I lazily made the decision to run through a tunnel – rather than run around and add 3km to my journey. The tunnel was well lit, had a walkway and there were no signs (I’m sure there were further back) on the entrance to say no walking, so I thought why not and went for it.
For the first 3km, I did not regret the decision at all – making good progress through the tunnel. It was a little scary at times – but less so than others I have risked running through because of the wide walkway and decent lighting. The traffic was also lighter than it had been in the last meaning that there were times when I could take one headphone out and sing at the top of my voice (I’d recommend doing this at some point… Maybe in a walking tunnel though).
However, it all seemed to be going a bit too well and just as I passed the 1km to go marker, a police van slowed up in front of me, lights flashing.
They pulled up just in front of me and a male and female officer walked towards me and stated, “you must come with us“.
I (obviously) obliged and climbed nervously into the police van – strange, I thought to myself as I did so, I’d always imagined my first ride in a police van to involve a lot more alcohol and one of my best friends Madeleine…
At this point, although I knew I was going to be told off, I thought it would be harsh of them to punish me too badly, so just prepared myself to give a charming account of what I was doing and blame my ignorance in the fact I was young and foreign.
Just after I climbed into the back of the van (followed by the female officer) I was asked to produce some ID. Obligingly I started digging in my bag, feeling the van slowly pulling away as I did so. Just as I found the card there was a huge BANG outside that made both me and the officer jump out of our skins.
Immediately the police car stopped and I was instructed to stay in the van as all the officers jumped out.
It soon became clear that what had happened was that the queue behind the police car had been unexpected by a vehicle driving through the tunnel, who then hadn’t had time to stop before ploughing into the back of the last car in the queue.
Immediately after realising there had been an accident my stomach dropped to the floor and I felt ill. Tears started to rub uncontrollably down my face and I closed my eyes as my head started to throb. I sat and waited, feeling increasingly like I was about to chunder, as we were joined by two ambulances and to my absolute horror what looked like a fire vehicle (turns out these were highway maintenance).
For around 2 hours I watched them work seamlessly as a team – feeling incredibly ill and cursing myself for making such a lazy and careless decision, crying with both shame and guilt. Although I am not religious in the slightest I found myself grasping my hands together and praying, pleading that the people involved would be okay.
Thankfully noone was hurt seriously in the collision. Something which flooded me with relied when I found out, I had spent the last hour or so contemplating whether it would have been worth continuing with my own life if I had taken that gift away from someone else. I don’t want to exaggerate and that is honestly how I felt. It’s a little haunting to look back at and to know you honestly couldn’t contemplate life being worth living even for a moment.
Those two hours sat in the back of that police van in a Norwegian tunnel were two of the most painful hours of my life. The notion that my carelessness could cause suffering for others was too much for me to handle. I had led to a tunnel closure, two police vans, two ambulances, two written off cars, two people who had to go to hospital for checks, two tow trucks and the two highway maintenance workers to aid with the clear up – all through one lazy decision.
I’ve put this down as the most painful and traumatic experience not only of the trip but of my life. Had I the option of experiencing this day, or the day of the emergency gastroscopy again, I’d take the gastroscopy hands down.
By the time the accident had been cleared away, I had cried all the tears I had left and simply sat dazed. The police officers came back, explained everyone was okay, that the accident was not my fault (although let’s be honest it kind of was), and that they would be driving me back to the station.
I had forgotten all about being in trouble – a concern over the welfare of the other people had taken over that thought. I started to worry about just how much trouble I would be in and the drive to the station felt like an eternity.
One of my main thoughts here was that part of the purpose of this trip was to help other – a right pigs ear I’d made of that point today. In all honesty I felt like I deserved to be punished.
However, on arriving in Lillehammer, I was dropped off and told I was free to go and shown the way to the bus station. I didn’t want to a state there and then that I had no intention of getting a bus, but followed his directions nonetheless and ended up in a cafe at the train/bus station. I saw myself in a mirror here and noted how pale I was – deciding to grab something to eat before carrying on, and sitting down to write as a way to deal with some of my emotions.
The whole morning felt a little like a blur now and I feel emotionally exhausted.
I felt a heap of respect for the emergency services having seen the way they came together as a team and efficiently dealt with the mess that I had caused.
As I reflect I know that I will not be walking through any more tunnels. I made that promise to the officers and I intend to stick to it.
I also made one other promise that day and that was to always think about the wider consequences of the decisions I make. If I am not the only person at risk from chances I take, I shouldn’t be taking them. I felt like that morning my laziness had caused me to act as a bit of a selfish twat and I don’t intend on feeling like that ever again…
Easier said than done maybe. But one thing to take from this is that every action has a consequence. It’s our job to make sure we consider all of those consequences before we act.
Something which I failed to do this morning, but will try to do every time in future.