Unfortunately, the road to Applecross was closed for several hours due to a severe crash that had occurred. My lift to the turnoff lived close by, so we stopped in at his place for tea and biscuits (this is the UK, after all.) I was delighted to find that he had two billy goats, for the purpose of keeping his lawn cut. They failed him, however, as they seemed to enjoy eating everything but the grass.
He let them out, and the pair were like puppies, following him around excitedly, coming over for pets and love, and of course entering the house and licking his rain boots. Who doesn’t like a good rain boot? They were freakin’ gifts from Scotland, these goats!
After an hour or so, my ride brought me up to where the road was blocked off, which was delightfully at a gorgeous viewpoint with many other cars and motorcycles stopped. It was an oddly beautiful experience; no one was upset at being stuck for hours. Everyone was making friends, smiling, taking pictures. We were all in good spirits.
Eventually the road opened, and I hopped into a car with a Spanish couple. When we arrived in Applecross, I stumbled upon several other tents camping on the beach. The sign said, “Camping not encouraged.” Well, they didn’t say it wasn’t allowed – this is Scotland, where wild camping is perfectly legal. I joined up with some others, and enjoyed the campfire that scared the midges away.
The following morning I made it up to Durness, at the very North West corner of Scotland. For the most part, I absolutely adore traveling alone. It provides me with an unparalleled sense of freedom; I can choose whatever road I’d like, oftentimes accompanied by new friends.
But sometimes it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Every day I’m met with a plethora of new friendships… that last the duration of my lift. Sometimes we exchange info, but nonetheless, I am back to it on my own.
This particular night, I was feeling lonelier than I had in many months. I went to the pub, sat at the bar, and ordered a melancholic beer. A motorcycling couple I’d met at the road block bought me a beer, as we’d run into each other in several towns. I hoped they’d come over and chat, but they did not. I sipped sadly on my free beer.
Three Scottish men riding their motorbikes around came up to the bar, and we began chatting. By the end of the evening they’d gotten me drunk, and we were all having a great night. I had set up my tent earlier, a mere few minute walk from the pub. I knew where my tent was, but I couldn’t quite find the path to reach it. This wouldn’t have been such an issue, except that there was a rather large cliff that one could quite easily tumble off of if not on the path. In fact, when I’d set up my tent, it had blown off the cliff in a rather comical series of events, and I had had to collect it, and carry it up the hill fully assembled while battling the wind.
I pranced back over to the bar. “Um… guys? Can one of you walk me back to my tent with a torch? I can’t find the path, and I’d rather not fall off the cliff.”
The next morning I hit the road again, and was picked up by a Polish guy. One of the motorcyclists had told me that if I could make it to Embo, their next stop, he would buy me five pints. Clearly he underestimated my hitchhiking powers. I spent the day exploring with my Polish buddy, when we saw the turnoff: Embo.
Then two motorcycles raced past us, with one stopped at the turnoff.
After yet another night hanging out and shooting the shit with my biker friends, one of them told me that if I could make it to Cushnie, the tiny town they lived in which wasn’t even shown on my map, I could stay with him for a couple nights. A warm place to sleep?! Awesome new friends to hang out with for another couple nights?! I was in.
That day of hitchhiking saw me wait less than one minute between each ride. I arrived in Cushnie in no time to hang out with the men again. Now understand, I use the term “town” loosely when speaking of Cushnie. I think village would even be an overstatement. It was just a few houses in the middle of farms and hills and wonderful isolated nature. Eric, the one whose home I stayed at, told me a brilliant story at one point:
One day, he was outside in the garden, and saw a car slow down. He figured it was a lost tourist who needed directions. I’m not sure exactly how you accidentally end up in Cushnie, but apparently it happens. Then out steps the man who needed directions: Kevin Spacey.
My second night in Cushnie, we all went out to the local pub. It was rather entertaining, as all of the locals already knew who I was – news spreads fast of a random pink haired Canadian staying in a tiny village.
Meanwhile, I’d received an email from Kieron, one of my first lifts in Scotland. He had driven hours out of his way to drop me off near the Isle of Skye, purely because we enjoyed each other’s company so much that the time positively flew by. Kieron was going for another adventure this weekend, and wondered if I’d like to come hang out again. I gleefully accepted, and he picked me up in the morning in Cushnie before adventuring through the beautiful hills of Glenmore, and dropping me off in Edinburgh… where he paid for me to stay in an absolutely lovely hotel that had views of the castle (okay, this was cool, but maybe not as cool as the Dismaland castle or the Disney Castle in Germany).
I spent a few hours the next day in Edinburgh, wandering around watching kooky buskers do everything from balance on a stick to blow the most giant bubbles you ever did see. (Check out this great guide on what do in Edinburgh in 3 days if you’re there longer!)
But as I walked I was having an internal debate. My favorite singer, Frank Turner, was playing two shows that were right in my path in a couple of days. They were both sold out, which broke my heart. I’d found one person selling a ticket, but it was four times the original price – ringing in at a whopping $200! Half of me wanted to bite the bullet, and buy the ticket. The logical side of me told me spending that much on one night of fun was absurd, and was doing the math of the cost of a hostel and the beer I would undoubtedly consume at the show. Eventually, logic won out. I hate when it does that.
No sooner had I decided that I must tragically miss the show, did I receive an email. A few days earlier, I’d sent an email to none other than Frank Turner himself. I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it, I just figured if I sent a slightly odd email about a pink haired hitchhiker who would rather love to see him play live, there was more of a chance I’d get to go than if I did nothing.
But I didn’t REALLY think it would work, I just like to throw it all out there to the universe.
Well, Frank and the universe provided. He put me on the guest list.
I kinda love my life.