Staring death squarely in his ugly face - for real





Pictured: my caravan on its side with my car facing the wrong way in the fast lane


About two months ago while driving in Spain, I had a close encounter with death.

I was on the A44, a major road, driving a Kia Sorento and towing a caravan.

The caravan  was something of a monster, being 7.5 meters in length. (American readers, that's approximately 25 feet). Internally it resembled a small, luxurious apartment.

I'd just enjoyed a great holiday in the Sierra Nevada and was  looking forward to spending a week in the Picos mountains.

About thirty kilometers north of the city of Granada the highway curved slightly, then descended to a level plain. This plain stretched an immense distance before giving way to mist-topped mountains. It was a breathtaking sight.

No sooner had I marvelled at it than I felt an odd sensation - a sort of wobbling at the rear of the car. Sensing that the caravan had become unstable, and that reducing my speed might be the cure, I squeezed the brake.

The wobble was immediately transformed into a wild snaking which pulled the car this way and that, and, within a second or two, before I could react, the caravan jack-knifed, dragging the car into the fast lane, and turning it through 180 degrees, so that it ended up facing the oncoming traffic.

The central reservation of that portion of the A-44 dips into a ditch, perhaps for drainage purposes.

The caravan slewed to the edge of the ditch (I didn't see this of course; I had to infer it from what happened next) and dropped sideways into it.

The car seemed minded to join the caravan, rearing up on two wheels at an angle which may have been 45 or even 60 degrees. I stared from the side window down into the ditch, feeling the car toppling inexorably into it.

It seemed obvious it was going to fall on its roof, and that all all 3.5 tonnes of it would come crashing down on me and my wife, with fearsome consequences.

I rated our chances of survival as pretty slim.

As the car teetered at a crazy angle, making up its mind whether we should live or die, my wife squeezed my arm.

"Are you okay?" She asked.

That question tells you all you need to know about my wife: she was going through a scary and traumatic experience which would, in all probability, end in her death, but was concerned for my wellbeing rather than her own.

"Yes I am," I said, omitting the crucial information that I believed this state of affairs to be purely temporary.

She knew this of course - and she wanted to reach out to me one last time before we both got killed.

The car juddered, then went back onto four wheels.

But we were not out of danger.

We were stuck in the fast lane facing the wrong way. One vehicle would see us off if it collided with us - which it surely would.

I opened my door, we both leaped out, and scampered to the relative safety of the central reservation.

The hours that followed were pretty crazy, but hey, we're both still here to tell the tale.

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