Thursday, 13 October 2011

Hitch hiking Tales: Part 1

I used to hitchhike regularly, as explained in an earlier post, the advantages being meeting interesting people, and not having to wait on a bus. If a bus was due in the next hour, it was always worth hitching: perhaps a lift would be procured and I'd get home sooner and cheaper. Here are some of my encounters from the lost art of hitchhiking...


I picked him up near Ballachulish, heading south from Fort William. "Thanks for the lift," he said. He was a bald-headed Buddhist from Kilmarnock. "What's meant to be is meant to be is my philosophy," he explained, "although that can be hard to accept when I've failed to get a lift and have to sleep in a ditch by the side of the road!"

I was heading for Taynuilt but made the short detour to drop him off in Oban. He'd been good company. His best lift ever had been from Chamonix to home. Expecting to take a week or so to get home, he walked to the outskirts of Chamonix and stuck his thumb out. Fifteen minutes later a lorry stopped. It was going to Glasgow. "Do you know what," said the driver two days later, "I've brought you this far, I might as well take you all the way," and dropped him off at his front door in Kilmarnock.


I'd walked through the hills from Kintail to Strathcarron and had hitched from there to Auchtertyre. One more lift should see me back at my car. An old green Volvo stopped and out stepped an extraordinary-looking man.

He was tall and dressed head to foot in black. Black shoes, black trousers, black shirt, black coat, black leather gloves, with a clammy, unhealthily pale complexion. He looked like one of the Addams family. At first I hesitated, my instinct being to refuse his offer. But then I saw a large black bible on the back seat of his car. He looked weird, but was probably harmless enough.

"Are you a priest?" I asked by way of conversation once we were underway. His head swivelled around and gave me an owl-like stare, his attention off the road for two disconcerting seconds.

"I do not hold with the scriptures of Babylon." Aha! A minister of the Free Kirk. He was going to a Free Church conference in Inverness. "Have you ever thought about God?" he asked.

"I grew up in the Church of Scotland," I replied, but now the hills are my church." I may as well have confessed to being a Catholic! He pursed his lips and gave me a leaflet, and attempted to make friendly conversation. It felt like the first time he had ever made small talk in his life. How did such a man become a minister? It was with relief I got out at my car.


I had a problem. I counted my money again. Re-counting had not increased the amount. Before leaving home, I had budgeted how much money I could afford to spend in the pub, and the night before I had spent it. But foolishly, in my calculations, I had only allowed for the fuel money for the journey up. I had forgotten to allow for the journey home. I had just a couple of pounds and a third a tank of petrol. However it was a fine summer day, I'd had a fantastic weekend in Torridon, and wasn't going to allow something small like this to bother me. Something was bound to turn up. I set off, driving slowly.

I saw them standing by the side of the road in Kintail, a couple with backpacks. They were delighted to get a lift: young, happy, and full of the joys of their holiday. They were Dutch and going to Glasgow and then home and we chatted in English all the way down the road. Just before Tarbet, with the fuel gauge reading empty, I dropped the bombshell. I'd happily drive them wherever they were going in Glasgow - but had no more fuel. Could they spare a few pounds? The woman said "of course," and started rummaging in her purse. In my rear view mirror, I saw the man's brow knitted with thunder. But they coughed up, we all got where we were going, and they had a tight Scotsman story to tell their friends once they got home.


blueskyscotland said...

I laughed out loud at the description of the Free Kirk man.
Great post.
Some freinds of ours in Skye went into a wee free church once on the island as they were curious to see what it was about.They were stil there several hours later as they thought it rude to leave sitting in the middle when it was just getting started.

Robert Craig said...

I hope it was a rainy day! I'd be distraught to be stuck indoors in Skye in nice weather.