It does NOT feel like it’s been only four days of travel… Seems like I met so many people, seen so many beautiful landscapes, and meandered through the shadows of many deliciously lovely mountains…
So after a couple of weeks with my cousins, who helped me see local sights, and took care of me as best as they could, it was time to move on. It’s extremely nice to have family in far away lands. It helps one transition through environments, mentally and physically. For all they did for me, I thank them from the bottom of my insane heart.
The day before I left I bought about £9 worth of food. Keep in mind most of that was spices, curry powder, stock cubes, etc. That was an initial cost, which will be much lower now that I only have to buy the actual food! 8 tortilla’s, a little bag of couscous, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of honey have taken me through 4 days of travel, with about under half to spare.
After my goodbyes, and a helpful ride a bit north, we parted ways.
As soon as my first lift stopped for me outside of Perth, that feeling of utter bliss began to run through me once again.
Allan, the disabled man, (some kind of accident. He didn’t talk much about himself) drove me to Crieff.. Uneventful, but I told him he was special because he was my “first lift of the trip!” He clearly didn’t understand my excitement. But of course, not many do, unless they’ve hitched themselves!
From there, Chris, the very happy and charismatic mental health professional, picked me up. Turns out he was on his way to Oban, on the West Coast, to walk to Glasgow I believe. Interesting guy, who travels with no money (once he has begun his walk), and either wild camps, or is offered room and board in exchange for, well, his experiences. A weird idea to some, but not everything in this world is about money, eh? I reckon we could have talked for many hours, but soon enough we parted. The bittersweet reality of hitchhiking.
Next up was a former scientist, turned Anglican priest, named Ursula.. I was definitely surprised at this one. I asked her about that transition. “Faith,” she replied. Knowing that conversation could easily go a number of ways, I didn’t chase it.
Luckily for me, Ursula was very knowledgeable of the area. She told me about the Glen Coe massacre, which I had seen depicted on a painting in Glasgow (and which I told myself to find out about… I love how things like that happen). She told me of the mountains we passed, and of the hill/mountain walkers that seemed to be obsessed with them.
At the coast I was picked up by surveyor Geoff, who was also randomly travelling, albeit by car. We talked of wind turbines, and the upcoming mountain Ben Nevis. He dropped me off at the foot of the mountain, and I was soon trudging along a river to find a place to camp.
So after setting up camp, eating a small meal of couscous (not bad once you throw in a myriad of stuff. It’s also quick to cook, and for about a pound stirling you get 5 or so meals, if not more!), I was heading to bed, ready to wake up early for the Ben Nevis climb….
I was fortunate enough that some kids decided to start partying maybe 15 feet from my wild camp. Overly drunk, they sang and shouted till around 3am, even when it started to rain. They sang some top 40’s, but cut in with “Rule Britannia” and “Flower of Scotland” at random intervals. I know… Weird mix. They even had a bloody ipod dock! It was one of those times where all you can do is wait. If I wasn’t hiking up a mountain the next day, I might have joined in for the drinking. Oh well, if it hadn’t of happened, that night wouldn’t have been very memorable, eh?
The next day I debated whether to climb the mountain. The weather forecast was bad, and on a few hours sleep, I wasn’t bursting with energy. In the end I decided that even if I only went half way, it’s better than simply taking the easy route by leaving! So after a couple packs of porridge, off I went.
The hike was pretty brutal, and it’s apparently common to take a break every few minutes due to the steep incline. It was well worth the view however.
Nearing the 3/4 mark, the rain began. At first it was hardly noticeable, as I was boiled with sweat. So I carried on. Soon enough, that rain turned to ice, and the wind really picked up. At that point I was around a couple of hours into the hike, soaking wet, with around an hour and a half left to climb. I saw others turning back, people with actual rain gear. I could have made it to the top, i’m fairly certain of that, but the weather was continuously getting worse, the day was getting late, and since people have been known to die on the mountain, I decided to turn around… I didn’t exactly want to get a cold or anything for my further adventuring, anyway.. The mountain beat me that day, but it will always be there, and one day i’ll be back!
I’m somewhat convinced that by forgetting to bring McDuck with me, that the Universe decided to punish me by throwing clouds at me as I neared the summit.
On the way down I met Ben the American. Also ex military. We descended together, talked about religion, politics, Carl Sagan, and many other random things. After a couple of beers, he went for his hostel, and I went in search of a comfy bush to sleep in.
I soon found an excellent spot, next to the river in Ft. William, and near a friendly Gypsy camp. There I met Dave, the “you smoke hash?” man. As much as I like wild camping, it’s comforting when there are others either nearby, or in the distance. Hearing the clanking of camp equipment, or the smell of another fire.. It’s good to know that even when the weather is horrible, other people are out in the elements with you.
That night I made an awesome couscous curry, and slept like a baby.
The next day I headed north. Mike, the former army Signals man, drove me up to Inverness. He basically told me stories the entire time, about how he used to train SAS men in athletics, and trained military sports teams in major competitions. Back in the day, he was APPARENTLY a crazily fit man. A bit eccentric, but definitely enjoyable.
After walking through Inverness from south to north, and feeling sick from the smells and crowds of even this relatively small city, I was extremely happy to leave.
Two red transit van rides later from “rock climbing man” and Mickey, as well as a ride from “running lady,” (It’s hard to remember all the names… So I rely on what they tell me about themselves to make up a name for them. Or something that describes their personality) I was way up in the wilds again. As I hitched from a gas station, a lovely lady came out of a restaurant and gave me a piece of cake! Thank you, random lady.
Next was Steve.
Steve was interesting, and gave me a ride all the way up a back-road, leaving me 20 miles West of Thurso. We talked about politics, religion, travel, roughing it, Scottish clans, and how much he hated the Duke of Sutherland, “the bastard,” as he said every time he mentioned, or I mentioned, his name. He gave me an armful of fruit and half a bottle of cheap whiskey before he took me to a lovely forest for the night. It was absolutely pouring, but the trees took me in and shielded me.
After a lovely sleep under the protection of massive pines, I headed east, for the ferry to Orkney. One ride from nuclear plant Andrew (… he used to work in the recently shut down nuclear plant), and wind-farm man (he set up wind-farms! Being that i’m interested in renewable energy, he informed me on the basics of how they are built, used, the pitfalls, etc.)
On reaching the ferry, I was invited to drink whiskey with some East Indians on their way to Orkney. With a relatively empty stomach, it gave me a nice fuzzy feeling as the ferry cruised along.
And finally, two more rides, one from two happier-than-happy Orkney girls, and one from glass-artist Amy, I arrived at my friends house, where I am at presently. Whew.
My wait time for hitchhiking averaged half an hour. This is greatly reduced from two years ago, where two hours wasn’t unheard of. What have I done differently? Is it the people, or myself? I have no camouflage clothing this time, I don’t wear sunglasses – could that be it? I even have a beard this time, and I figured that might make it harder… I’m really not too sure. But it’s going quite well, and i’m extremely satisfied.
There is a sort of magic in hitchhiking. It’s odd, and hard to explain. You never know who is going to pick you up, but when they do, many of them tell you their life stories, or fill you in on local politics, lifestyles… anything. You get to stick your head in their little bubble for a brief period, before suddenly and abruptly leaving it, likely never to see them again. Whenever I step into or out of a vehicle, I can’t help but smile. Every single ride is an adventure, whether it be short or long distance.
The feeling of having the road as your home is one of great freedom. I don’t feel stressed, unhappy, angry. Happiness can be found anywhere, and it all depends on your frame of mind. Even when i’m starving, sore, boiling, dehydrated, I am still in an overall good mood.
On and on!