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Fiery Rednut up to no good

Thumbing it

UNITED KINGDOM | Friday, 11 August 2006 | Views [1017] | Comments [3]

I packed my rucksack in tandem with a father and son packing their things for another day mountaineering. We got chatting and I explained what I’ve been doing, where I’m going etc etc and that I was going to try to hitch hike for the first time that morning. They offered me a lift down to the main road, but I had to say goodbye to the Germans. I was hoping that getting a lift would prove that easy later on. 

I strolled down the road into Glencoe for the last time and said my goodbyes to the girls. I was nervous. I had never hitch hiked before, but I was keen to see how it would go. After reading Kerouac and chatting on some hitchhiking websites I thought I had a decent idea of how o get a lift. So I found a good spot near the end of town with plenty of room for a car to stop. Plopped my bag down beside me. The girls walked past me and down into Ballahulish and I gave them one last wave before raising my arm and pointing my thumb out.  

Definitely weird for me. It’s amazing to watch the people’s faces as they drive past you. You can see them making an assessment of you in that five second flash as they drive past you. I was doing the same. I wasn’t long before I had a grin on my face. Probably because I had only been there for a few minutes. Not being the most patient of people I was wondering how I would be in an hour if hadn’t gotten a lift. No need to worry. Only 15 minutes in and a car pulled over. Shit. What do I do now?  

I ran down with my stuff and shook hands with a middle aged blonde woman. Threw my things in the boot and we were off. Sweet. We passed the Germans a little way down the road and I couldn’t resist reaching across the woman and beeping the horn. She looked at me a little strangely but when I waved to the two girls and they waved back she was cool. 

So my first lift was a good one. She didn’t look like Ivan Milat so I was happy for that. She talked for about40 minutes non-stop, which was good for me as I’m not the most talkative of characters. She loved Scotland and told me lots of things about the place I didn’t know, and some that I didn’t want to know. She was a single middle aged mother who lived on the Isle of Skye and a really cool woman. But she lost a bit of respect in my books when she told me that for her daughters 14th birthday she took her on holidays. They went to Prague for a long weekend and she took her daughter out clubbing and then sat around smoking weed for two days. Yeah that’s heaps cool lady. Anyway she was giving me lift so I didn’t say anything. 

So after declining her offer to go and stay her on the Isle of Skye I got dropped off at Kyle of Lochalsh. I ambled on down the road and found another spot to stick out my thumb. Had a bite to eat and waited for about 40 minutes this time. Not bad. 

Colin the policeman was a nice guy. Father of two, long distance kayaker and at one time in his youth a hitch hiker as well. He told me all about the police force in Scotland and also a lot about long distance kayaking. We also pondered on the myth of the Loch Ness monster as we drove up along the side of the Loch.  

We arrived in Inverness just after lunch and he dropped off right at the door of the youth hostel. He gave me his phone number and told me if I wanted some good food to give him a ring and his wife would cook up a nice baked dinner. Ok cheers, see you later. No I am not your long lost son. Nah but he was cool. 

Three days later, very, very hungover standing on the side of a main road on the outskirts of Inverness. Around 8 or 9 in the morning, the icy wind blowing in across the harbour seemed to find its way to my skin through every tiny hole in my multiple layers of clothing. Yep I was freezing my tittles off and had been out there for an hour with the only sign of my getting a lift being a car full of teenagers pulling over and then speeding off again. I wasn’t thinking of leaving but I was thinking what I would do if I did leave. Bus? Train? Hang on a second, my saviour had arrived. And he goes by the name of Farquar MacDonald. Yes I was Scotland. 

As I threw my stuff into his car I noticed a trend beginning to appear. So far, in my vast experience hitchhiking, all the cars had been dirty. Papers, bags, water bottles, food wrapper etc etc everywhere. I wondered if it was saying something about the type of people that pick up hitchhikers or if it was just my luck. 

I looked into the back seat and noted that Farquar was a musician. He had a violin case in the back seat. So we got talking about music, likes and dislikes etc. I found out that he plays the fiddle and the bagpipes, but he produces music that is a blend of traditional Scottish folk with music from across the world. As he reached across me to grab one of his CD’s I noted the large tobacco stain on the end of his finger. We listened to the whole album and it was probably a lot more interesting for me than him, but I loved it. It was the first time I had heard traditional Scottish fiddle lead into a hard breakbeat, nice. We got talking about the history of Scotch whisky as we were driving through the heart of whisky country. Driving through the vast yellow field with large distilleries plopped in the middle kind of reminded me of driving through the vineyards back in the Hunter Valley. 

We parted ways at Fochabers as I headed for the coast and Farquar continued down to Aberdeen to play a gig. I wanted to see the Scottish north coast and I wanted to see the ocean again. I had enjoyed the north of Ireland when I was there four years earlier and was hoping to have a similar experience. 

I found a quiet place by a river and sat down to have lunch. While spreading nutella on bread with my pocket knife I felt relaxed and enjoyed the sound of the wind through the trees and the water rushing over the rocks. I was also happy that I had no idea where I was, no idea where I was sleeping, no idea how I was getting there but I knew those questions would be answered by the end of the day. And the following day a whole new set of questions would be asked. 

Standing outside Fochabers waiting for a lift and it didn’t look good. There were no good spots to wait, there were not many cars coming by, as it was Sunday and the ones that did were old rich people. Some old people are still good value though. As I found out with the guy that stopped to give me a lift. He was just an old codger on his way home from a quick 18 holes. We didn’t talk too much. After introductions and pleasantries we didn’t say another thing until goodbyes and thankyous. Good on him for stopping though. 

I got dropped on the corner of two main roads, from which I could look down the hill and out over the ocean. To my left in the distance was the old guys village, the right horizon was dominated by a small town that was my destination. In the middle was the largest pig sty I have ever seen, and ever care to smell again. The thing reeked. Had to be more than a few hundred pigs in there and those suckers really do roll about in the mud and make things stink. 

Down the hill was a golf course that ran parallel to the ocean along the shore. I found a seat looking down across the grass and out over the blustery North Sea. Threw my bag down and soaked up the harsh conditions and admired the resilience of the few golfers that were out for a round. Not long before the coastal chill set in and I collected my belongings and set off again.  

My only map was one I picked up for free at the last hostel, and it was a map of all the youth hostels in Scotland. So with the vast information to gain from this I packed it deep inside my pack and just followed my nose. It wasn’t long before I found myself on the national cycle way which snaked it’s way around Scotland from village to village along the quieter back roads. It was signposted at each turn with mileages from place to place given. So it was 7 miles to Banff along the cycle way or shorter along the main road, especially if I hitched. But I was feeling good, the sun was shinning and as the route moved away from the coast it was a lot warmer. 

I made my way through vast fields of grazing sheep and cattle and wound my way between old farmhouses. Just as I left a small village after stopping for afternoon tea my phone rang. That is weird I thought, no one has this number. So I picked up and it was the mate I was meant to stay with in Aberdeen. Nice! We chatted for about ten minutes and I got the all clear to stay down at his house anytime in the next week. So my high spirits were bolstered even higher. 

I ambled into Banff fairly late, around 7pm, and that chilly wind hit me again as it blew in across the historic harbour. It was a quite old town that was once based around a vibrant sea port, however, it has dwindled into tranquil tourist town. As I walked through slowly looking for signs to accommodation two youngish people did laps of the main street, beeping their horn each time they passed. I’m not sure the purpose of this but did it about 25 times, no joke. Probably looking for something to do in a place where exciting things aren’t really hiding around every corner, could have given me a lift the bastards. 

After searching high and low for somewhere cheap to stay, I came to conclusion that it was time for a little urban camping. So I set out to find a quiet out of the way spot where I wouldn’t be disturbed. Not so easy to do when every house looks into the bedroom of the next. I eventually found an old railway that ran under the road, a little bit out of town. So I climbed down and set about making some dinner just as it started to rain. 

After a surprisingly comfortable sleep, considering in was the tail end of winter and I slept outside in Scotland, I situated myself near the side of the road and hung my thumb out. And that’s where I stayed for the next two hours. Evidently the Banff locals don’t take to kindly to hitchhikers. It was also a Monday morning and most of them were probably heading to work. So back into town I moped to find a bus out that place. So I waited at a bus stop for another 40 minutes or so until I decided to go right into town and actually find out if buses really come to these bus stops. So to heighten my mood further, as I was halfway between bus stops, my ride screamed past. Awesome! 

No worries, a bit more waiting and I was on my way, somewhere. A little disgruntled by this stage I got off in a town with the hope of traveling to another town (which I can’t remember the name of), yes after that day I chose to forget the north east of Scotland. But this other town was marked on my high class map, and it apparently had a youth hostel, this was good news. 

Waiting around in un-named town for the bus to come along I began to feel rather apprehensive. After studying the bus timetables, destinations, origins, times etc I came to the conclusion that they were all a crock of shit. I had been sitting at this bus stop for 90 minutes now and this frigging bus isn’t coming. A father and son passing by me for the second time in an hour stopped and asked where I was heading. They informed me that the bus I wanted only came once a week, on a Thursday. Explosions inside my head began to occur, my rage was blowing gauges. 

At moments like this it’s good to have mates who are relaxed and welcoming. After a quick call I got the all clear to go to Aberdeen a few days early. So, luckily this festering pimple I was stuck in did have daily connections to Aberdeen, I was on the next. Copious amounts of beer drowned my sorrows in Aberdeen while I contemplated the last few days and waited for my mate to finish work.

Tags: Misadventures



excellent !!! bravo mate didnt i tell ya hitching was the shit! never know who you'll meet next....

think i might try it out tomorrow...

ciao amigo !!

  ben dwyer Aug 19, 2006 10:06 PM


Ha! How random...don't know how i ended up on this site but I know Farqhuar! His music is fantastic - you didn't get the chance to appreciate it! If you're still in Scotland go to Glenelg (on the mainland just south of Kylerhea on Skye) for the Drams in the Field festival (it should be on in the next month or so) don't know if Farquhar is playing this year but it should be fantastic! cheers, navyblue

  navyblue Sep 18, 2006 9:15 PM


Hey grez,

First time ive looked at your site! Took forever to read all the entries lol. Looks like you are having heaps of fun over there, lucky bastard.

Well we just finished in our Final Year Project so im off to get pissed!!

Cya man.

  Dave Nov 18, 2006 11:26 AM

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