Hitch-Hiking through Scotland - The first Time
Endless widths, one feels being carried back for centuries. So we imagined Scotland. We were looking for independence and adventures. The destination the Loch Ness was. However, everything started many years ago at the interstate service area Stillhorn, where our hitchhike tours usually took always their beginning.
It was the last school day before the summer vacations. Instead of earnest
instruction just fun occurred. We had sent the schools reports by mail to
our parents cleverly (which surely was also better!) and a classmate, Holger
R., drove us with his VW beetle to the roadside restaurant Stillhorn. As
we expected - lots of other hitchhikers were there around due to vacation
beginnings. They all wanted to be taken along direction south. While I tried
to get a lift by thumbs, Michael K. took the chance, to say goodbye by telephone
to his various girl friends. On the way back out of the telephone box he
jumped against a gentleman in the age of the forties, which just from the
service area arrived and immediately asked him for a lift. Much to my friends
surprise the man agreed and then we drove after approx. 15 minutes in a grey
BMW into the direction of Brussels, followed by jealous minds of the other
trampers, which actually were standing since hours at this petrol station.
We had the uncredible luck of getting a direct lift to Brussels in a very speedy
car after a very short wait on the petrol station, which
was overtaken once only on the entire distance by a red Porsche. Our driver
was a member of the Belgian army, as he told us. In Brussels we arrived in
record-like time and then a middle-aged man, who obviously was a gay trying
to invite us, to accompany him in his apartment, took us along then. While
we were not pleased about his offer, he then saw two other young male trampers
by the roadside, which wanted in the opposite direction. After shortstop
and some words changed with them he moved on with us about a mile in direction
Ostende, told us to leave his car and drove back, looking to be luckier
at the other ones. Meanwhile we were getting tired and for sure we urgently
needed some sleep. However first we had to reach the ferry from Calais to
Dover. The passage was everything but comfortable, however with a good sleeping
bag one can sleep on an overcrowded ship on the floor. England welcomed us
exceptionally with perfect sunshine. All in all we got a super summer this
year. As we were told later on, there is a rumour telling every 7 years there
is a quite good summer in Scotland. I am convinced, that there is some truth
in this rumour....
From Dover we took the train. Indeed we were glad, not to have to hitchhike through London. After about one hour we arrived early Saturday morning at London. An aunt and uncle of mine invited us. Since it was too early to go to my relatives directly, we hang around on the street, swiped freshly delivered milk and roll, we set down on a wall next to a typical English garden and started breakfast with a good appetite. After a few minutes the owner of the garden appeared. Kindly, however he asked us to leave. Some times later we then arrived at my relatives, welcomed very cordially. After we had a shower, we had breakfast with the family and their children. Afterwards we drove with 2 cars - one of it was a thick Rover with 3,5 litres of machine - into a Safari park to the north of London. We climbed like 8 year-old young in gigantic oaks around, visited a small amusement park (merry-go-around) and had each quantity of joke. During the following days we messed around in London, we played tennis (the first tennis match of our life), discovered the Cider and got sunburned, for the weather was incredibly good.
I would have slept through the continuation completely and that had a reason. There is namely in Great Britain actually one thing, which really tastes incredible: Cider. It is a kind of german Äppelwoi, therefore apple juice with soda water and some liquor. A wonderfully refreshing drink, however caution! We had procured ourselves at the day before one gallon (approx. 4 1/2 litre) Cider and wanted to bring back the empty bottle before leaving London. Actually it was successful me, who drunk up the remaining 2 litres just before our departure, however about the continuation of our journey that day I can hardly remember. My relatives drove us to the M1 and I calmed down in the grass and fall asleep while Michi stopped a car meanwhile, woke me up and we went on in direction north - THE NORTH! Smoothly it went on after Carlisle. We got our Spirit oven out and there were beans from the can. Who does not like Heinz-Beans with tomato, has never been really hungry at all, in any case they fill up ones stomach. Unforgettable will remain for us, when we were watching well-dressed gentlemen with briefcase hitchhiking, obviously completely normal in England! While we were cleaning dish, we saw a blue van. That is in fact itself nothing particular, but a trained hitchhiker sees immediately, whether in a car is enough place is for the going along and whether the driver is one of these persons, who gladly likes company. So we met David. David in any case was happy and we stowed our backpacks in the back of the car. We were lucky, for David wanted to move on over Glasgow and then after Sterling, i.e. Scotland! David talked much on the next two hundred miles. In fact he had much to tell also, for he was an agent for lingerie.
After somewhat more than 100 kilometres we reached Glasgow, where I bought a large bottle of stranged-red lemonade. It tasted like sugar and water while David was the only one, who was absolutely pleased by its taste. Meanwhile the landscape had changed - the first mountains appeared. David laughed laughted at us: Save? Those are small hills only! When we arrived at Sterling, David brought us to a very beautifully convenient campsite at Stirling, which belonged to his friend. Although it was quite late already we still got a tent place at his friend, who arranged it somehow even, that we found at the next morning a bag with fresh rolls and two bottles of milk in front of our tent. Even after David had provided us already during the excursion honestly with drinks and snacks! Our stupid prejudice of stingy Scots, like most of his fellow countrymen likewise, thoroughly in confusion were blown! However, we started much too late that day and arrived in the evening in Aviemore, where we bought a delicious bag with fish and chips, of course with vinegar. Afterwards we went to the riverside. We got out our sleeping bags and spent overnight there. Since the river in the night submits the warmth stored over the day again, it was pleasantly warm. Naturally there are some mitches, however if one has a comrade thereby which attracts the mitches, it works fine (isn't it, Daddi?). At the next morning I had no mitches bite at all while my friend Michi got all of them. When studying the map a small place seem to call out our names. It lay hidden in the Midlands and could only be reached by a long, narrow street. On the other side there was a moor district. This place appeared to attract us magically and so we postponed Loch Ness to another year and went back to the Bridge across River Gary near Pitlochry. Actually this bridge ist eading at least 50 meters high over a river. A fantastic view, which in my opinion is much greater than the famous outlook at Queens View. Thereto namely we got a lift by a married couple with children. The short distance to Queens View the kids looked at us, as if we were aliens. We finally arrived, everything was quite nice, but otherwise nothing of interest. Exceptionally, one takes the steep descent to the River Tummel for a bath. Of course we did climbing down into the icy tides. Michi tried a couple of times to catch some trout with the hand, however after we were both blue like the water itself, we altered our menu for that day and climbed again ashore. We left this beautiful area continuing our trip. 40 kilometres were left to go on our way to Kinloch Rannoch and considering getting a lift we had bad luck. Even a driver with flat tire, whom we assisted with the installation of another tire, did not give us a lift, damned. For that reason we started to play a dirty trick on those motorists. We found out that the signs on the road were moveable and started to turn them just into the other direction. A sign, which normally showed in direction Kinloch Rannoch, now used to lead the traffic to a small village, which lay just a few miles up to the wrong direction. After we exchanged the positions of the signs we were highly amused about the stupid drivers, who came back in a bad mood some minutes after returning from the small village in which we had sent them. Finally got tired about this joke so we resumed our walk to Kinloch Rannoch - at least we walked slowly into that direction for the sun was burning quite hot. Unforgotten will be these endless, skilfully stacked up stonewalls we passed, our heavy backpacks, the heat and a married couple, that we finally met. They were nice enough, to get their car and to drive us along the last kilometres. We were very happy about it, for on one hand was was quite hot on this day, on the other hand each of us had to carry approx. 30 kg of backback. In any case I have learned on this day, that on the backside of the backpack no hard objects (like cans) may be stowed. Finally arrived, we dismissed from the friendly couple and went purchasing, to freshen up the reserves. Then we left Kinloch Rannoch, a small, pretty place, with 2 small shops and 2 pubs.
On our further way we met a man, who stood in a tent nearby the roadside. Beside him a brand-new Moto Guzi motorbike stood. He personally was perhaps 60 years old and invited us immediately to a tea, served in old cans, in which he obviously a few minutes ago stored some earthworms for fishing. Michi suggested to better drink the tea than to get into trouble with that man. Therefore we spent some time drinking tea with him. We were heavily impressed, in that way we would fashion our retirement age, too. Further it went on a small street to the south side the Loch Rannoch. From now on we stopped no cars any longer, since there were no cars and on the other hand now it was time to find a fine tent place. That kind of 'wild camping' is in Scotland no problem at all. Once only a forest ranger visited us. He limited himself to the reference, to leave behind everything so, as we found it, but that is self understood! Finally we reached our destination shortly behind Carrie and raised our tent under a beautiful, old pine, barely 3 meters from the shore. We could take the daily-required water from the Loch Rannoch, to purchase some fresh food, each time was almost 30 kilometres to walk to the next place and back due. Due to the various visits to the pubs we often came back very late to our tent. Today i still wonder, how we managed it considering our bad condition after the visit of the pubs each time, to bring all reserves unharmed to the tent. As already mentioned, cars here rarely passed, however one day, as we were again on the way home, a car stoped beside us. A window was opened, a smell of whiskey appeared and one of the four inmates called raging: "Are you English?" As we denied that question we could board and were driven up to our tent.
All those days were like a dream, fulfilled with the feeling of unlimited
freedom, which occurs quite seldom in life. The romantic evenings we spent
at the campfire, baked beans and grilled sausages, the noise of the jumping
salmon or trouts in the early morning, all these adventures impressed ourselves
heavily for the rest of our life.
Despite the truly long way home we have spent nevertheless many evenings in one of the both pubs of Kinloch Rannoch. There we got used to the ultimate kind of horror, such as the announcement 'last order, please'. One of the many funny storiess reminds us of an old, thin scotsman we met at "pub No. 2". We were already a few days around, had accustomed ourselves already a bit to the hard Scottish dialect and were therefore in the position, to do some kind of minimal conversation. In the course of our conversation with this Scottish "Oldie", he talked about his experiences during the war, mentioning he used to know a large German. Whether it was some kind of rough Scottish joke or simply only a misfortune itself, to demonstrate in any case he slammed at the attempt to show us the height of that German friend, heartily with his hand under my nose, which my friend found exceedingly funny! The weather remained dreamlike therefore we decided to swim through the Loch Rannoch (approx. 2 miles). Because we wanted to cross the Loch once only, we went to Kinloch Rannoch (I believe, the last part of the road we were taken along by a car). Then we would swim from the north side to the west. The plan consisted therein, to swim from the opposite side directly to our tent. At the corresponding place arriving we noticed a parking Austin lorry, which belonged apparently to a large family. As it turned out later, it was the family of the Bishop of Perth and some friends of the children. Both of his daughters were very attractive and, considering their ages, fitting to us. How usually we came immediately into conversation and told also about our plan, to pass the Loch by swimming. The Bishop himself wanted to accompany us with his boat. (Everyone called him by his pre-name, so we did, too.) Although we had refused heavily this request at once ('Really not necessary, we are very good swimmers'), he consisted on his project. First of all we had planned to undress ourselves up to the underpants, to bundle and to tie up, so that they would not hinder us on swimming. Conditionally through the presence of those lovely femaleness and because we were no convinced of our optical attractiveness of our underpants, we jumped fully dressed into the water. Michi wore among others his beloved, extra-large, grey pullover, which after short time led to the genuine problem, that the clothes were as heavy as an anchor. The first 200 meters of our trial must have worked exceedingly impressively. We crawled like sprinters and were using breaststrokes practises. After that indeed we got more slow from minute to minute and I noticed that my leg was starting to get lamed after about 10 minutes or so. To be fair, that was welcomed by both of us so we gave up our attempt and climbed into the boat.
The Bishop brought us back to our tent with the boat, inviting us to visit him and his family at his resident at Kinloch Rannoch. He and his family were living there in a house belonging of the church. This house was to be found in the centre of Kinloch Rannoch, shortly behind Mckeracher and McNaughton. Just because of the nice girls we already in the evening visited the Bishops family, immediately welcomed like members of the family. Of course we should stay for the night after meal - fish straight out of the Loch Rannoch. The next day we were driven to our tent to get the sleeping bags, clothes and necessities and then we finally moved into the Bishops house. However, there were no communications problems but lots of fun between young people as we were. We played games, talked to each other, told each other jokes, learned about each other and had a fine time we never should forget. Since I did not know that Michael Hare Duke was the Bishop of Perth I had a long discussion with him about god. Formerly I did not believe in god so we discussed until late night. What a patient man! Meanwhile my point of view regarding god has changed completely.... Generally, we had a crazy time, perhaps the most beautiful in our life.
Unfortunately time was passing much too soon and our fine Scotland trip reached its end. Meanwhile the weather had changed and it rained cats and dogs, which was a bad precondition for hitchhiking at all. Who likes wet trampers plus their wet luggage in his car? Thus we needed for the absurd distance to Perth a full day, which indeed also lay at our late start. Still I remember a small park ground, on which a telephone box was. Suddenly a car held and a man got out to phone. In the car his wife and a child were sitting. After the man had finished his telephone call, I addressed him and told him the sad story, that my friend and I would wait already since many, many hours, almost already since days and would have to go completely urgently in a families affair to London. The man himself was not sure of giving us a lift, but the other ones appeared to believe the sad story and finally we got a lift. I felt deeply troubled when Michi came with his luggage thanking the man and mentioned, that we stood already over an hour there...(done well, Michi!). Therefore we went on finally to Perth. There we arrived, always still wet and always a strong rain was falling. We went into a Fish and chips restaurant, which was going to be closed pretty soon, since it was already late. The further course of the night appeared to become awful for us. However suddenly someone turned to us, approximately as old as we, sitting amongst a group of friends of him at the table next to him and raised the question of all questions, namely: 'Any idea where to sleep tonight?' His name was Hugh and after we confessed being temporarily homeless, he offered us, in the cottage of the people of the other table, Will and Dempsey, to spend the night (they did call their dwelling ´Hacienda´ and that name really fitted!). Even our backpacks were taken off us on the way to our new promises. Hardly arriving there, our shoes were torn off immediately from the feet and stuffed to the faster drying with newspaper. We were offered immediately a hot bath in their comfortable bathroom and we were ourselves rather sure, that we were going to be robbed either or raped at least, presumably however both of it! After we had a bath and got dry clothes, there was time for an excellent dinner and the slowly adjusting comfortable warmth in our bodies became excellent by the consumption by one or two rolls with tobacco still. Everything was fine! Again we talked, we heard good music and everything was easy. It was a perfect evening!
Next morning, after extensive sleeping, we first of all went to the grocery, which was owned by the mother of one of our new friends. After that we went back to the Hacienda having breakfast extensively. Afterward one of our new friends lend the car of his mother and we were driven approx. 50 miles into direction of London. After a heartiest goodbye we were again at the road. It did not last long and after a couple of hours London had us again.
However this first journey was the prelude. Further trips should follow still and already a few weeks, after the boring days at the high school with all its nastiness, we already planned for the next trip to Kinloch Rannoch. After we had made a short side-trip with some girls to Majorca, it was time to go back to Scotland. This time a car and 3 girlfriends accompanied the excursion. The car was an old Taunus 12M P4 which Michi got somewhere. It abounded in defects, however the father of my girlfriend that time owned a gasoline station and managed it in weeks to work finally. We called the car 'Scottie'. Then we met with Beate, Chrischi and Charlotte, packed up in endless precision works all important and unimportant matters and off we went in direction Calais. After lots of 'tea breaks' we finally arrived, looking for a play to stay (since we missed the ferry), got out our sleeping bags and spent the night. In the next morning it went on with the Hovercraft-Ferry to Ramsgate. I still remember how hard it was for everyone to keep the eyes open at this early morning hour. After a short time of travel had we the pleasure, to visit London by car during rush hour. It was a disaster, however we reached anyway the northern part and one again we visited my relatives. After we had strengthened ourselves there, we went on over the M1 in direction north. As we crossed the Scottish border, it was already dark and a look at the backseat of our car procured Michi K. and me the assurance, that our ladies enjoyed the journey in a sleeping mode. We had taken cheer up both amply coffee and something to that, so that neither drivers would fall asleep nor his navigator. Nevertheless I remember exactly, that we surveyed sometime several traffic obstacles and they bowled through the Scottish landscape. Still today I admire Michi's capability, to bring us despite overtiredness up to our destination.
An apparent oversight will not get out of my head. It happened on the last 30 kilometres before Kinloch Rannoch. As Navigator I had constantly had a look at the map and announced my friend the distance. Normally there was never any problem, however this time I misinterpreted the map completely. We landed in the middle of the night in a small village and over a detour went on it then in direction of our goal. It must have been a chance of the fate. If one moves on namely the distance after Kinloch Rannoch straight ahead, so one passes a real 'hairpin bench', which goes rather steeply to below. If one considers the overloaded car (even an infloatable boat we had on the roof of it) and furthermore, that we were fully overtired meanwhile, so am I sure, that the detour has saved us. Personally even a good driver like Michi probablywould have missed the bench in the darkness in such situation .
We finally arrived, looking for the next possible place and set up our tents. Immediately at the next day we disassembled and looked for a better place. Who now however would have thought, we could lean back ourselves now comfortably, was wrong. Again and again both of us had to boil water at the fire for ordinary tea. Unfortunately the girls very often drank tea. If one drives to Scotland, one should pay attention already, whom to take along! Again this time the Loch Rannoch fascinated Michi and me to explore the Loch by boat. It was a perfect weather when we jumped into the infloatable boat and set up direction Rannoch moor, enjoying the calm, which surrounded us. Slowly the boat slipped over the lake and we paddled always further up to a small island, Eilean nam Faoileag. An old ruin which looked from extensive adventurous attracted us magically. We kept closed for it and landed finally on a little rocky island and appraised the ruin. Old walls, decayed wood and vast numbers of mitches were not what we were looking for. Suddenly we noticed that the weather changed and we climbed again into the boat.
After short time had we a genuine problem: a furious wind had emerged and the waves became higher. Wind and rain came additionally from the front and the journey became always more difficult. From minute to minute the waves hit higher and we already considered, if we should try to row ashore and walk home. I'm not sure whether we were unable to so or if we were too proud, arriving with the infloatable boat in hands at the tents. In any case we appeared hardly to come on further and concluded, that each one of us started to row with full power, until he almost collapsed. Then we changed seats and so it went on meter after meter towards the tents. After a couple of hours the environment of the landscape appeared familiar to us again. I remember however still exactly, that we mobilized once again more power, imagining, that our girl friends were waiting anxiously for us and certainly were looking after us. We pictured out already their joy, as we saw the tents in the far distance. However, much to our surprise nobody was to be seen! Had they gone to Kinloch Rannoch, to have a search operation started? What a big disappointment when we found all of them sleeping in the tents! As already mentioned before, not anybody is worth to be taken on such a journey.
Later on, I never have never met again even one of the girls, the same happed with my good old buddy Michael K. Since these days were unforgettable to be, I tried to find him - or at least his Email-address. It was a hard job indeed, lots of mails I send to different people asking whether they ever have been in Kinloch Rannoch. Finally, there was a mail in my inbox from Michi. With my current Mrs. I have done in the meantime wonderful journeys to Scotland. When our kids grew up, we have often been there again, but that is another story...