Posted by: HitchHop | July 23, 2011

Day 8 – Farewell to the Inner Isles

Alarm went off at 7am, too early.  Felt exhausted…!!  Climbed out of tent to find the morning brought us perfect HitchHop Weather.  About 10 cows were roaming quite close to the tent.  I grabbed my camera, but as soon as they saw me, they started running away.  Obviously, camera-shy!  We had coffee, packed up and was ready to leave by 9am (see photo to left).

We were curious where the path led between the trees, so went to explore and found a beautiful spot looking over some water and some islands in the distance.  I wished I had my map with me to identify them, but had to just enjoy the view (see photo below).

We wandered down to the bay and saw a fishing boat leaving.  I got excited, thinking about what lifts we would get today.  We were planning on heading to Barra on the lunchtime Cal Mac ferry from Oban.  Nearly 6 hour crossing, I was looking forward to a sleep and some relaxing time.

We walked up to the Tigh-an-Truish Inn where we had been the night before, recalling the great time we had with Angus, Abby and friends.  Lars the manager of the Inn had donated a top prize for the HitchHop Raffle, a bottle of whisky.  Thank you all for a great night.

I began to read about the story of why the Inn was called Tigh-an-Truish:

After the battle of Culloden in 1746, wearing the kilt was outlawed, and anyone caught while wearing the kilt was certain to be executed.  In defiance of this edict the islanders wore their kilts when they were home.  However, if they had reason to go to the mainland, they would stop en route at the ‘Tigh-an-Truish’ and change into the hated trews before continuing their journey.  Loosely translated, Tigh-an-Truish is Gaelic for ‘House of Trousers’.

Opposite the Inn was a couple of wee unmanned ‘shops’ that sold photos of the bridge across from mainland to Isle of Seil and the surrounding area.  It boasted as one of the most unique and picturesque spots on the West Coast of Scotland.  We bought some for the next HitchHop Raffle and I bought one for my sister’s birthday present.

As I started to take a photo of the famous bridge ‘that crossed the Atlantic’, we heard a car in the distance, the first in about 15 minutes.  Brian shouted for me to get into the hitching position.  Sure enough the car stopped.  It turned out to be Angus’ (who we had met the night before) father.  Angus had bet HitchHop £10 that we could not get a photo of us in Barra wearing the full RNLI gear, driving the RNLI boat.  He said to quote his grandfather, Dr. Hill (who was the local doctor on Barra for many years) as a way to get locals to agree.  Angus’s father, said he would double this bet if we succeeded!  He told us Angus was away ‘Crogging’ today – apparently, the person who holds the sheep whilst they are being sheared..!!

It wasn’t long until we were back in Oban, with about 3 hours to spare till the ferry left for Oban.  We put our bags in the train station lockers (very cheap – and well worth remembering!) and headed to the nearest cafe for a bit of breakfast.  The cafe was full of older people and we were surprised that we were the only one with a shopping trolley bag (Thomas) with us!  Thanks for the raffle prize (displayed in picture)!

We started asking for donations for raffle prizes where ever we passed.  We had found over the last few days, that Oban was by far the most generous in donating prizes for HitchHop Raffles.

We visited our favourite shop in Oban, Kitchen Garden Delicatessen – where we stocked up on french bread, meat and cheese for lunch on the boat.  They also kindly donated a great raffle prize two days before – Chocolate Cluedo!

Then off to find a printers as all our business cards and postcards had run out.  We finally tracked down the only printers in Oban, next to Tescos.  They were able to photocopy one of our postcards and print 100 colour HitchHop cards in 20 minutes…just enough time to go to Tescos to stock up on some more food.

Thomas sat in the shopping trolley, which I found very amusing, as if he was a child sitting in the front.  I was told off by the security guard taking a photo, being told “No photos are allowed to be taken in Tescos”!

Time seemed to have flown by and we only had 20 minutes till the ferry left.  We ran back, to the train station to collect our bags and were just in time to get on the ferry before the doors shut!

On the ferry, our friend Andrew (Fiery) introduced us to his new friend Michael, he was also heading towards the Hebridean Celtic Festival.  I left them talking and went and phoned Norman from BBC Alba before I lost mobile reception.  Norman had shown interest in doing some filming of HitchHop once we reached the outer Hebrides.  Norman passed his colleague, Iain’s number onto me, which I phoned and spoke to his colleague Darren (who I strangely met a week later at a late night random tent at Laxdale Campsite – HitchHop Energy!).  Darren said Iain was off work for the next few days, sheep shearing.  I wondered whether he would be crogging!  I phoned and left a message.

As we sailed up the Sound of Mull, I became strangely sad.  I had become quite close to the Sound of Mull and its islands over the last few days.  I realised I had really connected with the whole of this area, especially during the trip with Cameron and Coastal Connections the day before.

I realised that HitchHop was now heading to the outer Hebrides and we would not be coming back.  I stood out the back of the boat, reflecting about the last 4 days saying Farewell to the Inner Isles.  It was all quite moving!!

We pointed out Big Stirk to, Andrew (Fiery), he found it hilarious that it looked so small, ‘how had we both stood on it?’.  He bought us both a pint, which I struggled to drink and soon fell asleep for most of the journey.

As we started approaching Barra, I started to notice the amount of small islands surrounding the island, wondering how many of them we would set foot on.  Soon the familiar image of Castlebay started appearing…and as usual it was a lovely evening.

With the familiar, Heaval Hill in the background, I was soon to be arriving on my favourite island.

There were quite a few people welcoming the ferry into Castlebay.

We stepped off on to Barra, number 28!  Only achieving 1 island today.

Iagan (John) MacNeil, a contact of Brian’s came up to us, he had been on the ferry.  He told us some of his family could take us out tomorrow to do some island hopping.  He took our mobile numbers and said he would be in touch.  He also took a great photo of us on Barra, island 28.

We walked round to our usual camping spot at Ledaig, round the edge of the bay and pitched out tents.  The weather was fantastic, perfect HitchHop Weather!

It wasn’t long, till we headed along to the Castlebay Bar for a few beers and tunes.   The sun was just starting to set over the bay, a perfect view.

Andrew (Fiery) was already in the bar, talking to people he had met the year before. Soon we were talking about HitchHop and my infamous tricks as Jim the Magician.

I started chatting to Barra locals that we had come to know over the last few years, including: Carrie MacNeil, Louise the Bar Maid and Bread.

With a live band playing, we soon were dancing and meeting lots of new people.  Andrew Huggan (Fiery) played a few great tunes.

As always, it was a great night at the Castlebay Bar.  Thanks to everyone that we met.

Then back to the tent.  I was wanting to make the (usual) fire, near the tent, to sit around.  But couldn’t find any wood, realising there are no trees on the island.  And really was too tired.

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Posted by: HitchHop | July 22, 2011

Day 7 – A Day of Island Hopping

When I awoke, I concluded that I got a lot better sleep in a tent, than in a dormitory of a hostel.  Mainly due to the temperature, it always seemed soo hot in a hostel.  But also the disturbed sleep from others in the dorm moving around.  I guess in a tent, you have your own space, which you’ve created.  Maybe also sleeping on a top bunk, makes it very disorienting!

Despite this, we did not get up till about 8am and had a lazy morning.  We headed down to the RNLI Station at 9.30am to see if we could island hop with them.  Phil Higson liked the idea of taking us out to some islands, once the RIB was fixed.  We were kited up in RNLI coats, life-jackets, etc….and were soon heading out into the Sound of Mull with David in the RNLI RIB boat.  He reckoned there were quite a few islands we could get to.

First, island was Big Stirk, which in fact was very small and mainly a group of rocks in the Sound of Mull.  David said that Little Stirk might also be visible on the way back, depending on how far the tide had gone out.  I wondered, how big Little Stirk was and whether we would both fit on it, going on the size of Big Stirk!!  Just when we were getting back into the boat, my mobile phone started ringing!  It was our friend Andrew (Fiery).  It was bizarre speaking to him in a small boat in the middle of the sea!

Next island, was Sligneath Mor.  This had lots of seals on it, which dived into the water as we got close.  And then watched us as we climbed onto their island.  Their heads poking out the water.  I realised that seals are very curious animals.  Behind was a circling flock of birds.

Next island, was Oransay, a lot bigger than the last two.  We had already done 3 islands in 30 minutes.  As we headed towards the next island.  We entered a rain storm.  I pulled my hood up and braved it, but it soon had passed and we were back in sunshine.  Risga was the next island.  And then Glenboradale Island (next to Glenboradale Castle).  And finally Carna.  We clocked up 6 islands in about 90 minutes.

As we headed back towards Mull, I realised how amazing this trip was.  How you couldn’t create a holiday like this.  It really was a holiday of a lifetime.

         

Back in Tobermory we were so chuffed that we had been to 6 islands in one morning!!  We thanked David and Phil for all their help and went back to the Hostel.  Ewan, Caroline and Laura were amazed that we had been to 6 islands already.  When we discussed what should we do now, Ewan, suggested we took the rest of the day off.

It was really tempting to just lay back, relax and enjoy our success.  We were both feeling really tired!  Brian, suggested HitchHop needed to keep moving.  We bid farewell to Ewan, Laura and Caroline as they headed towards the bus stop to head back to Oban and a thunder-storm started.  Heavy rain, it was nice being in the hostel.  As usual, we both had a look at our handy Cal Mac Ferry timetables and decided that we would go back to Oban and see what came our way.  Maybe we could go to Lismore?

Just as we were leaving the hostel, our friend Andrew Huggan arrived.  We knew he was staying in Tobermory tonight.  We were tempted to stay, but decided to head towards Oban.

On the way up the street we decided to try and get some more raffle prizes, Thomas was nearly empty!!  We went into a few shops and got some prizes.  In the Balamory shop, the woman asked us where we were going next (seemed to be a common question in Tobe!).  We said we were heading back to Craignure and catching the Cal Mac ferry to Oban.  She was horrified that we were not trying to get a boat from the marina.  She suggested asking in the pub, MacGochans near the marina.

We went into MacGochans and asked about anyone going to Oban.  The man behind the bar said, a guy called Cameron had been in about an hour ago having some lunch, he was going to Oban this afternoon!  They tried to find his phone number, without success, but suggested asking next door.  They didn’t know.  I asked back at MacGochans and they said he had a 12 seater RIB Boat.

We headed down to the marina and it wasn’t long till we found the RIB and Cameron.  He was happy to give us a lift and was leaving in 10 minutes!  We ran back to the pub to collect our bags and a few minutes later we were heading off to Oban in a small RIB / Ferry…Result!!  It was only 20 minutes ago that we were in the hostel wondering where to go next!!

We were laughing to ourselves, if we got to Oban before Ewan, Laura and Caroline, their faces would be so funny!  The last time they saw us, we were half asleep in the hostel, thinking about taking the rest of the day off!!

The journey was amazing.  I sat out the back, stretched out and relaxed enjoying the amazing views as we headed up the Sound of Mull to Oban.

Brian sat at the front, talking to Cameron and looking at all the navigation equipment.  This really was a day of island hopping!!

Cameron told some of the other passengers to look out for seals.  We all got our binoculars out and saw some on a near island.  Then one guy, spotted a White Eagle!  I tried to look, but no joy…

The journey took about an hour.  Such a memorable time.

Back at Oban, Cameron said his mother would take us down to the private island Eriska in her car.  And then he would take us along to Easdale..!!  This was amazing and so generous, clocking up 8 or maybe 9 islands in one day!

The journey to Eriska was about 25 minutes.  Heather told us all about the island and hotel, where lots of famous people stay.  Brian got excited, recalling his goal of wanting to get a photo with someone famous during HitchHop.  Heather and Cameron knew the owner of the island, Beppo and not long after pulling up at the Hotel for a photo he came out and we told him all about HitchHop.   A quick photo and we were back on the road to Oban.  As we drove away from the hotel we noticed people playing crochet, it all seem surreal.    Island Number 7!

A quick change of cars from Heather’s to Cameron’s and we were heading south towards Seil.  Cameron said people usually wild camped near the Tigh-an-Truish Inn on the Isle of Seil.  He stopped off for another photo, island number 8 of the day!  And I went into to find out about camping.  That was fine, we could camp out the back.  We dropped off our bags and Cameron drove us down to Easdale Island.  He waved us off as we headed down towards the where the boat went to the island.  What a generous person he was.  Thank you so much to Cameron and Heather from Coastal Connections.  It had all been a whirlwind since we had left Tobermory!

Easdale Island is of particular interest to me, as it is where my ancestor came from.  I once visited over 10 years ago, and was looking forward to going back.  As we headed up towards the boat across to Easdale we saw people from Seafarer.  We had been told by a number of people to speak to them about island hopping.  I spoke to Tony, who turned out to be the owner and he said he could take us out tomorrow.  We explained that we needed to go to Barra tomorrow, he said he wasn’t going that far!!  However, the conversation helped us do a quick bit of talking with the people running the boat and we were soon hitching across the water to Easdale Island.  When we arrived, we had an hour before the next boat back.  We didn’t walk far and came across the Puffer Bar, Tearoom and Restaurant.  Brian, has always wanted to visit.  So we sat down with a pint and ordered some food.  We enjoyed a relaxing hour in the comfortable setting of the Puffer Bar, chatting to the barmaid, Beth who had lived on Easdale all her life.  She told us 67 people lived on the island.

Not only is Easdale famous for its slate quarrying by the Campbell’s, but also for the World Stone Skimming Championships.  We managed to get a t-shirt donated for the HitchHop Raffle before we left.  Then back (hitching) on the boat.

We hoped to get a lift back to the pub where our bags were, but there was no traffic.  It was a lovely walk for a good few miles.  Until a camper van stopped and gave us a lift for the last few miles.  We picked up our bags and headed up the back of the Inn and pitched our tents.  There were hundreds of midges, but we were getting used to them and putting our tents up quick!

Back down to the Tigh-an-Truish Inn for a few beers and chat with the locals.  We met a great gang of people, including Abby and Angus.  And soon were heading back to our tents to rest our weary heads!  A long day, but 9 islands in one day!  Bringing our total to 27.

Over the last few days Brian had got be to recite each of the islands, in order.  It was like a ‘I went to the shops and bought…’ game….here goes:

“Day 1 – Bute, Cumbrae & Arran.  Day 2 – Hamilton Rocks, Pladda & Holly Isle.  Day 3 – Islay, Eilean Mor, Mackenzie, Orsay (which I never could prononce!).  Day 4 – Jura and Danna.  Day 5 – Kerrara, Eilean Doh, Coll & Tiree.  Day 6 – Mull and Calfe.  Day 7 – Big Stirk, Sligneath Mor, Oransay, Risga, Glenboradale, Carna, Eriska, Seil and Easdale” !!!

Posted by: HitchHop | July 19, 2011

Day 6 – Where shall we go tomorrow?

We awoke to torrential rain in Tiree – we were glad that we hadn’t stayed in our tents.  We had breakfast in the hostel.  Troy who had offered us a lift the previous night, if we wanted it, was awake.  I phoned Ian Skippinish and he told me the booking on his RIB had fallen through, so he was not going out.  But he had enjoyed our company.  We accepted Troy’s lift and headed up the road to the ferry.  It was still raining heavily when we got on the boat.

We slept most the way.  I fixed Thomas, adding a survival blanket to his inside, creating a new inner lining.  I found some more safety pins from people on the Cal Mac ferries and added new tape to him.  He was looking a lot stronger and hopefully would survive the rest of the trip.  The boat was very quiet, so we spaced ourselves out.  Brian slept most the way.

As we passed Tobermory, Mull – we saw lots of yachts in the bay.  Maybe we could hitch a lift if we went to Tobermory?

Back in Oban, we discussed where to go now – Colonsay? Easdale? Mull?  We studied the ferry timetables for a while trying to work out a route.  If we went to Mull our options would be kept open, giving us options to go to Iona…Tobermory…Mallaig.  So Mull, was decided upon.  We went round Oban visiting shops for raffle prizes, we got quite a few donated.

We caught the next ferry to Craignure, Mull.  On the ferry I spoke to passengers trying to find a lift to Iona.  Quite a few people were going to Tobe (local name for Tobermory), but less to Iona.  Two different people were going to Iona, but only 1 space in each of their cars.  We would have to travel separately.  We decided that HitchHop was an adventure we wanted to share together, so declined the lifts.  An Iona local said it was a long way to Iona and although we may hitch down OK, we may find it harder getting back, before night-time.  We decided to leave it to the HitchHop Energy.

We got off the ferry and tried to hitch to Iona.  No success.  We decided to go to Tobe.  We waited 20 minutes.  A German family pulled up and asked where ‘HitchHop’ was!!!  They had read the banner.  They were heading to a few miles out of Tobe, so we jumped in.  I slept most the way, Brian chatted….it was my late-afternoon lull.

We walked into Tobe collecting raffle prizes along the way.  Thanks to everyone who donated prizes.

We arrived in Tobe just before 5pm.  I ran down the street to the RNLI Station, hoping someone would still be about and ask if they knew anyone with a boat.  Brian went along the pier looking for more raffle prizes.  As I ran through Tobe with my rucksack and Thomas following, the clock started chiming 5pm…was I too late?  Phew…the RNLI office was still open.  Graham was there an RNLI volunteer down from Orkney.  He didn’t know any locals with boats.

We checked into the hotel and asked the hostel warden, about locals with boats.  No success.

We sat down with the ferry timetables to work out ‘where next?’.  We could get a ferry early in the morning from Tobe to mainland.  Then hitch through Skye and down to Barra.  We both agreed that we wanted to get to Barra by Friday evening, to find someone to take us out on Saturday.  We knew a few people in Barra, so hoped we would have success in doing some island hopping.

It was a dilemma on what to do.  Hitching to Mallaig and through Skye could take a long time.  We still were not any further deciding where should we go tomorrow.  There was an island opposite Tobe.  It would be good if we could get out to the island this evening, so we would be free to leave Tobe early in the morning, if need be.  We decided to head down to the marina and investigate.

We walked past Tobermory Visitors Centre and spoke to Tim.  As we launched into explaining HitchHop, he had read about HitchHop and said he was expecting to see us at some point!!  We asked Tim’s advice on where we should go tomorrow, he definitely advised Mallaig, as it opened up options to Egg, Rum, Muck, Skye, etc…He also seemed confidant to get us to Calfe Island (the Island opposite Tobe) – we told him, “tonight would be good”.  He said he would see what he could do.  A flurry of phone calls occurred.

I realised that the first stage of getting people involved with HitchHop until they were phoning people they knew with boats, usually took about 15-20 mins – as they processed the idea of HitchHop and became part of it.  For Tim, this work was already done.

And sure enough it wasn’t long until we were running down towards the marina to meet Barbara Weir who was just coming in on her boat.  We had a great chat on the way to Calfe Island, a quick photo and back to Tobe.  Thanks Barbara and Tim for your help with this.  Barbara had suggested we walked around the Marina trying to find a lift for tomorrow.  We tried this, but didn’t have much success finding anyone to engage in giving us a lift.  It made me realise that the initial 15-20 minutes of people hearing about HitchHop was crucial in laying the foundations, before we then asked or they began engaging in finding us a lift.

We continued to discuss the dilemma of where we should go tomorrow.  Going to Mallaig would make it harder to get down to Barra without doubling back on ourselves.  I also feared that if time was tight, we would rush pass islands, without setting foot on them.  Also, hitching across mainland maybe harder, especially if it was raining.  There was also the option of Colonsay.

We went back to Tobe hostel and cooked dinner and finally decided, if we didn’t get a better offer tonight, we would go to Mallaig in the morning.

We decided to have a HitchHop Raffle in The Mishnish pub.  Thomas was getting full with all the raffle prizes!  We set up a poster and sold tickets.  Joan at the bar was really helpful.  We got delayed selling tickets, as each table of people asked what HitchHop was and where were we going next.  This gave us the chance to state that we were unsure, enquiring if they had a boat we could island hop with.  Some did, but none going our direction.  Then David, a volunteer with the RNLI said there maybe an opportunity of taking us out in the morning in the RNLI RIB.  The boat needed repairs and he also had to clear it with Phil, the coxwain.  But it should be OK.  He would be able to take us to 3-4 islands around Mull.  Perfect, we decided to take this and not go to Mallaig.

The HitchHop Raffle was a great success, raising about £70-80.  One prize, was a 5 minute magic show by myself (Jim the Magician).  We had such a great time doing it, too.  Thanks for everyone we met and supported us.

We were soon getting into the atmosphere of the pub.  The Hostel shut it doors at midnight, which was probably a good thing, as we would probably have stayed out a lot late otherwise.  Back at the hostel we met Ewan, Caroline and Laura.  They had been in the pub and experienced the raffle.  We stayed up for about an hour chatting about HitchHop, mental health and jobs.  I also did a few magic tricks.

We didn’t need to be at the RNLI Office until 9.30am, so we were getting to have a long sleep in the morning.  We went to the dorm, trying to not make too much noise, scrabbling around in the dark.  I finally got comfortable and Brian asked where was Thomas?  Damn – I had left him outside the room!  Although it wasn’t long till he was next to the bunk bed and we were all sleeping.

Posted by: HitchHop | July 9, 2011

Day 5 – The Magic of HitchHop

After breakfast Brian and I sat with the Cal Mac ferry timetables to consider the options for the next few days.  Lots of different choices, we decided to catch the 2.45pm ferry to Coll and Tiree.

We were quite late leaving the hostel at 10.30am.  And popped into Oban FM up the road.  We met Alan Campbell who gave us some possible island hopping leads, Robbie at Oban RNLI was one of them…he would know of anyone with a boat that could help us.

Then into the studio for the Alan Hunter 40s, 50s & 60s music show.  We came onto the radio after Max Bygraves!! The interview was broken up by music tracks and lasted about 20mins.  Thomas our Tartan Travelling companion Trolley bag was with us too and got a mention. 

We headed along to Oban RNLI and met Robbie and others.  They suggested the wee ferry to Kerrara would be an easy one.  The ferry was due to leave in 10 mins.  We jumped into Robbie’s car and round to the pier.  Robbie explained to the boat skipper what we were doing and we were let on.

Kerrara is where Oban marina is based.  We had about a 30 minute wait and got talking to Sue who runs it.  She explained the ferry we got over to the island is operated by the marina for people mooring their boats there. She suggested we asked the ferry to stop at Eilean Dbuh on the way back to Oban, also known as Cow Island, as cattle used to swim behind the boats between this island and mainland. 

We nearly missed the ferry, but just made it…the ferry briefly stopped at Cow Island, just enough time to run up the jetty to the island for a photo – number 14.

We wandered round Oban for the rest of the day and caught the 2.45pm Cal Mac ferry to Coll and Tiree.  A wee sleep, some food and wandering around the boat, The Clansman.  The layout seemed different to when I used to travel on it in late 1990s…it turned out it had been re-fitted.

After two and half hours we reached Coll.  The ferry was stopping to let passengers on/off then continuing to Tiree.  We decided to run onto Coll and back.  The ferry master, was reluctant to let us do it.  But with a little bit of HitchHop Magic he allowed us.

The actual island of Coll began quite a way along the pontoon.  We ran all the way along the concrete walkway to the actual island, touched the Cal Mac office wall and ran back, clocking island 15…just before the ferry left.

Then onto Tiree, another hour of travelling.  I started talking to other passengers, guessing they lived in Tiree and could help us with our hitch-hopping.  They were shocked we hadn’t sorted out any accommodation.  Especially as “it was a small island” and “Judith the hostel women’s daughter, Rachel was getting married on Friday, so the hostel would  be full”. We had a good chat with Rubina, who quoted “you come to Tiree for a day and stay for a week!”…we vowed she would not see us the following night on Tiree.  Although we were unsure if that would be the case!

The main advice was to head up to Scarnnish Hotel and camp near there and the toilet block.

We got off the ferry completing 4 islands in one day…adding number 16 to our total.  And headed to the Scarnnish Hotel…

The weather was starting to change, wind and rain. A local told us the weather would be getting worse through the night.  Would camping be wise? Fellow beer drinkers said the hostel maybe full due to Judith the hostel owners daughter getting married on Friday. I phoned from behind the bar and there were spaces.  Iain in the bar agreed to give us a lift in a ‘wee while’.

We were told there was mobile reception at the back of the hotel, if you stood on one leg with one arm in the air.  Brian tried it out and it worked.

It wasn’t long till people were making suggestions of other islands we could visit.  Fiona the barmaid began a flurry of phone calls, “maybe Ian Skippinish was going out in his RIB tomorrow.  He could take us to Mull”.  She tracked him down on his mobile, by coincide he was just driving past the hotel.  We run out and he tried to phone Angus his business partner, but there was no mobile reception.

He agreed to give us a lift to the hostel where there maybe better mobile reception.

We climb into his landrover.  He apologised that there were 2 dead sheep in the back, as we put our rucksacks in.  Thomas came in the front.  There was one and a half seats for Brian, Thomas, myself and Bob the Dog.  Ian couldn’t change out of 3rd gear because there was enough room to reach the gear stick.  Brian and I couldn’t stop laughing, at the most funniest HitchHop lift we had had…!!

Ian was possibly going out on his RIB tomorrow morning and would happily take us to Mull, but the booking was not confirmed.  We bid him farewell at the hostel, he said he had enjoyed our company.  We were to phone him in the morning @
8am.

The Millhouse hostel was a converted barn and more like someones home than a hostel.  We met Judith who told us all about Rachel’s fast approaching wedding and then cooked dinner.

We later had a HitchHop Raffle with Robin, Rachel, Troy, and some others.  Then to bed.

It really started to begin to feel like HitchHop was being propelled along by a magic force, we didn’t know what we were doing tomorrow, but just trusted the path HitchHop was taking us on.

Jim

Posted by: HitchHop | July 7, 2011

Day 4 – Relying on the Good Will of Others

One whisky for the road, seemed like a good idea at the time, especially as Graham at Port Charlotte Hotel was insisting.  Yet as the alarm went off at 6.45am I started to regret our whisky activities.

Discussions from the previous night had led us to decide to go to Jura for the day.  Originally we had thought we could leave our tents at the campsite and give us the luxury of hitching without the rucksacks and Thomas a rest.  But we realised that if we were offered a lift to Colonsay, for example, we would need our stuff to carry on island hopping.  So we pack up and got a lift with Christine, who worked at the campsite and her daughter, Nicola who was returning to Glasgow following a weekend in Islay.  It was bizarre to think everyone we had met over the last few days were going back to work after a weekend away.  Had it only been 3 days since we left Glasgow?

At Port Askaig, we went to the RNLI office.  Thomas got injured going up the steps, the First Aid Kit did the trick and soon he was back on his feet.

We met the two David’s and asked whether they knew anyone going out in a boat.  No.  But se had a good blether.  They suggested tracking down Nicol in Jura.  We took some photos and bid farewell, heading to catch the Jura ferry.

The traffic waiting for the boat including a tractor.  We both got excited – “maybe a lift on a tractor?”.  We hope to get lifts from all 3 vehicles on the HitchHop logo, as yet we hadn’t been successful on any.

The only vehicle that joined us on the boat was a large lorry, filling the whole boat.  I gave the HitchHop Chat, but the lorry driving was dropping off the load at Jura, then back to Islay.  He said if he saw us later on the road, he would give us a lift.

It was a long quiet road to Craighouse, when we got off the boat.  We waited for the next load of traffic off the ferry.  It was perfect HitchHop Weather, blue skies and sunshine.  We just lay back and enjoyed…

First car off the ferry stopped, Alison and Sandy.  We had a good chat. Alison thought she recognised me…it turned out we had met last summer, when I was ‘Jim the Magician’ at the Edinburgh Festival, magic busking the queues.

When we arrived at Criaghouse we had coffee with Alison and Sandy at the Antlers cafe.

Whenever we arrive in a new area it’s almost immediate that people start staring at the t-shirts, whether it is on the ferry, in a hostel, pub, cafe, village…where ever.  And we always go through a similar discussion.  The first question people ask is “What is HitchHop?”.  We must repeat the same thing at least 50 times a day…

We usually initially answer, turning our backs, so people can read the rest of the t-shirt and the HitchHop catch phrase ‘How many islands can you set foot on in the space of two weeks?’.

We soon hand out a flier, business card or postcard, depending what we have to hand and whenever possible put up a poster.  We started HitchHop, 4 days ago, with 250 business cards, 100 postcards, 400 fliers and 60 posters.  We are starting to run low.  We also publicise Heb Fest, distributing  their merchandise too.

We often get asked questions like…

  • Why RNLI – do we volunteer with them?
  • Where have we been?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • How many island are we hoping to get to?

The final question allows us to return the question – “how many islands do you think?”.  This often leads to long discussions and you can see people continue the question to their friends and family long after we have left.

The discussion usually ends with suggestions of other islands, we could visit.  How we could get there and who we need to speak to.  Most people get pretty animated on helping us get to more islands, getting involved in HitchHop in their own way.  Giving us names and phone numbers to try.  Or often making phone calls for us.  In an attempt to help us on our way.  It really brings a magic to HitchHop.

Although we do repeat ourselves so many times.  I love the conversations and lovely to meet so many great people, as we spread the HitchHop word.  It really seems to stimulate great discussions.

The first 30 minutes in Jura involved this same routine.  Sandy owned the only RIB in the bay.  So the ‘Search for Sandy’ began.  He could be leaving any minute, so a mad flurry of activity began…

Firstly we tried the shop…No success…Next the Jura Hotel…Nope – “try the distillary”…Nope…we didn’t know what Sandy looked like…so now I started asking every man if they were Sandy…Still no sign of him…Look, someone was at the harbour…we ran there, hoping he didn’t go out in the boat, before we arrived…No, he wasn’t Sandy…back to the Antlers, for more suggestions…and what Sandy looked life.  Where Was Sandy?

A stranger approached us in the stop, telling me we are wanted in the cafe.  How did he know what we were?  I got excited.  Had Sharon found Sandy?  I ran to the Antlers, to meet him, but he wasn’t there.  Instead she had been in touch with Nicol, the same Nicol, David had mentioned at the RNLI.  Nicol would take us to the mainland at 4pm.  It was 11.30am.

We spent the day in Jura enjoying the sunshine, people and place. Wow, amazing views…a perfect way to spend the day.  I went for a swim in the sea.

At 4pm, we hitched a lift to Tayvallich, about an hour in a wee boat, with a few others.  Lesley had offered to take us a bit up the road, she was inspired by the idea of HitchHop and wanted to find a challenge to do herself.  Her car was quite small, but Cameron and his son, Robbie offered a lift instead.

Cameron told us of another island, Danna.  Which was the opposite direction to the way he was going.  He happily drove us to Island of Danna to bag another island, bringing the total to 12.

It really made me realise how much Hithchop relied on the good will of others.  Time and time again, people would go out their way, to help HitchHop happen.  Without everyone’s help, HitchHop would not work.  I found this really touching, that strangers were helping us out.  And felt a great gratitude to everyone who had helped us.

I noticed that a wave of tiredness always hit me late afternoon with HitchHop.  I slept in the back of Cameron’s car, with my sunglasses on to hide the face. With Thomas beside me, I was happy.

He dropped us in Kilmartin, the main road to Oban.  Although actually a very quiet road.  A car pulled over, a whole family got out and were keen to hear about HitchHop, taking photos.  Suddenly, my phone started bleeping.  I had mobile reception and internet access.  For the last 2 days I had become annoyed with Brian’s pre-occupation with his phone as I had no reception.  NOw I was doing the same!

We set ourselves up in the hitching position and it wasn’t long till we were heading up the road.  The lift wasn’t far and we were dropped at Kintraw, near a big marina.  Next to a giant wooden finger pointing the way. 

When we got out, I was horrified to see a massive hole in Thomas’ side.  All his belongings were falling out.  The First Aid Kit came out and we safety pinned his side and then added masking tape (Brian’s bag had ripped earlier and he had purchased some!).

Second car that passed, took us all the way to Oban Backpackers.  Ian, the driver, gave us some useful Oban information.  The weather forecast for Tuesday was heavy rain, staying in a hostel was the wiser choice.

With a computer at the hostel I was able to add photos to the blog and publish Day 3.

After Dinner Thomas helped us with some fundraising and then we headed along to the Skipinnish for a beer and a ceilidh.  We met all the hostel guests who were on a Haggis Tour of Scotland.  Before bed we had another Ten Minute Warning HitchHop Raffle.  We really enjoyed meeting everyone at the hostel and wish them well on their travels of Scotland.

We went to bed at 1.30am, chuckling to ourselves that we seemed to be the oldest in the entire hostel, but were the last to bed.

Jim

Woke to perfect HitchHop weather…blue skies and lots of sunshine.

By 10.30am Brian, Thomas and I were heading up the road to the ferry.

Thomas quickly gained his name on Day One and has become a third member of HitchHop.

You will often hear one of us saying “come on Thomas” or “not long to go Thomas”.  As he follows us along the road.  I worry for his wheels, as they seem a little wobbly.  If they break, we couldn’t leave him behind.  We will just have to carry him.

I’ve already become quite fond of Thomas…he usually follows me as we walk on the road.  Mostly sits next to me in cars or even on my knee!  In fact, thinking about it, I think I prefer him to Brian.  He doesn’t answer back, people are always talking about him and is very photogenic.

But before you get any funny ideas.  My friendship with Thomas is completely plutonic.  He shares a tent with Brian!!

Thomas has become a key member of the HitchHop team.  He carries our food, merchandise and our extra belongings.  His two pockets are handy for Heb Celt Fest brochures to distribute as we go.

Like everyone who’s part of the HitchHop team, Thomas has a key role to play when we are hitching.  He carries the HitchHop banner and holds the RNLI flag.  Thomas has become one of us.

A quick stop at the SYHA, to put up a poster and we got our first lift of the day to the ferry.  Once on the on the ferry, I picked out the cars that looked empty and remembered the owners. Once the ferry was on the move, I asked all the car owners for a lift.  A new way of finding lifts and it worked!!  Ian and Sheena, ‘Professional Tourists’, as named by their children, were going to Islay and offered to take us to the Port Charlotte campsite.  Which amongst other things, had internet access.  At last, with no mobile reception for 24 hours, our social media-ing has ceased!!

At Kenacraig, waiting for the Islay ferry, we chatted to Susan, who worked in the Cal Mac office.  She had some good suggestions for getting to more islands.

The ferry left at 1pm.  A wee sleep, some food, chat to Cal Mac staff, leaving some HitchHop flyers, etc…And we were on our way.  Clocking our 7th island, Islay.  Ian and Sheen were a lovely couple and good to chat to.  As we headed past the sign to Finlaggan, Ian asked if we had ever been to Eilean Mor.  An island in a loch.

“Funny you say that”, said Brian, “we were hoping to get there for another island”.  They were up for it and before we knew it we were on our 8th island.

Eilean Mor was where the Lord of the Isles ruled over Argyl and the Hebrides in the middle ages (13th & 14th century).  This island was where the MacDonalds met to set rules, resolves disputes, etc…A really peaceful, magical place.

The photo was myself and Brian jumping in the air.  Although Sheena didn’t capture us in air.  We are wearing our Heb Celt t-shirts.

Next stop with Ian and Sheena was the mini market for some food and then to Port Charlotte to the campsite.  We bid farewell to Ian and Sheena and set the tents up.

I could feel the sunburn on my neck, obviously too long in the sun.  So we had two choices…Get a loan of a laptop to update the blog or find some more islands.  The latter was chosen.  We hitched down to Portnahaven, with Liz, who went out her way to take us down to the harbour.

We looked about and saw a rib boat coming in.  By the time we reached where it had landed, there was no one about, except Ben, a young lad in a van.  He suggested Neil could take us out tomorrow…”quite late” at 8.30am!!

We looked about for Neil asking locals, explaining HitchHop and putting up posters.  And ended up in the pub.  Neil was not about, by Laura the owner made a flurry of phone calls as we supped on a pint.

Ashley and Alistair could take us out.  Amy, the young barmaid, protested that she had never been to lighthouse Island.  So into a small boat and across to Mckenzie Isle, 9th and then to Orsay, 10th and into double figures!  This really felt like HitchHop, talking to locals and relying on the good will of others.  It was a superb feeling and I realised HitchHop really was becoming a trip of a lifetime.  Going to places others really don’t get too!

Back to the pub, we got a round for the lads.  We started chatting to Neil and his wife, Heather who gave us a lift back to the campsite.

Thanks to everyone in Portnahaven, we had an amazing few hours!

We cooked dinner and headed to the Port Charlotte Hotel and met Graham the owner for a couple of beers before bed.  And of course, a whisky nightcap.

Brian (who’s phone was getting the occasional signal) read out a great tweet from Twitter, from Fi, saying 2 guys in the Claghaig Inn in Glencoe, were talking about two crazy men hitching up the hebrides…the HitchHop word is definitely spreading…!!

Posted by: HitchHop | July 2, 2011

Day One – Bute, Cumbrae & Arran

My alarm went off at 5.10am, I finally got to bed last night at 3am, functioning on two hours sleep became increasingly hard as the day progressed.

We arrived at Glasgow Science Centre at 8.30am and embarked on the Waverley at 10am, what an experience the journey was.

Nick James, head of Save The Waverley Campaign, gave us a guided tour.  All inside had been restored to its original interior, dating back to the 1940s.  The Waverley is the worlds oldest operating sea paddle steamer.  The boat headed up the Clyde, so interesting to see the area from the river.

As we passed Yoker, my friend Patrick waved at us.  Stoppingng at Kilcreggan and Dunoon, we finally arrived at our first island, Bute.

We were met by a local newspaper reporter, Craig, who took some photos and found out about HitchHop.  The article was later published and posted on our Facebook site. 

We then headed to Bute FM and did a live interview.  Then we ran to the ferry, just in time, to return to the mainland.

It wasn’t long till our first ‘land’ lift to Largs arrived, by John.  A quick ice cream and then the ferry to Isle of Cumbrae, a 5 minute ferry journey.  Our next lift was with Sam, to Millport.  What a lovely place, a large bay by the sea.  The sunshine, people playing on the beach, we took a break and relaxed. 

The lift back to the ferry port didn’t take long and soon we were back in Largs.  A walk to the main road.  It was 5pm on a Friday, rush hour, no one was stopping.  We stood for ages and I started to get tired and fed up… We were starting to imagine a night in Ardrossan.  When, finally after 1 hour 15 mins, we got a lift.  Leaving us with a few miles to the ferry terminal.  We got a final lift by Jim, who showed us some sights around the area.

With 90 mins spare, we had a beer.  Then onto the 8.30pm ferry to Arran.  Some food and a wee sleep, we arrived. 

A number of people said they had read about HitchHop in the Arran Banner, the local newspaper.

Laura gave us a lift to Lamlash campsite.  Where we got eaten alive by midgees.  Tents up, at last can rest.

An amazing first day. 

And then when I tried to publish this, no mobile reception!

Jim

With over 6 months of planning HitchHop is about to begin….

HichHop will get underway at Glasgow Science Centre on board the Waverley at 10am – Please come and wave us off.  We will be there from 8.30am.

Both Brian and I were working this evening and it seems there is still lots to sort out till we meet at the train station at 7am tomorrow morning..!!

Today we announced on Facebook and Twitter are starting point and first lift.  HitchHop will begin on the Waverley en route to sunny Bute on board the Waverley, the world’s oldest sea-going paddle steamer.  We chose the Waverley as our starting point to raise the awareness of it.  The iconic day trips “doon the watter” could soon be a thing of the past as the Waverley faces a funding crisis.  Reported in the Evening Times a public appeal has been launched to raise £250,000 of funding.  Check out the article: http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/features/editor-s-picks/cash-call-for-the-waverley-1.1107594

Over the last few weeks of spreading the word of HitchHop, Facebook now has 121 HitchHop followers and Twitter 269 followers.  Over 25,000 people have read one of HitchHop wall postings!!  There are also about 60 readers of this blog.  Please keep spreading the word.  In the last few weeks, Good Luck messages have been coming in.  Thank you for everyone for these.  Thanks also for all of you who have sponsored HitchHop.  Please keep spreading the word: www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/HitchHop.  We still have quite a way to reach our target.

Thank you also for everyone who has been posting messages and articles on their websites.

And so, as the few minutes tick before midnight, when I will need to post this blog to keep in time with the blog calendar.  HitchHop is soon to begin.  Brian and I seemed to have done a crash course in learning how to use social media sites.  But also, mostly on computers.  Now we need to learn how to do it all on our phones.  We still are unsure of this, especially posting photos!

I still need to re-pack after unpacking it all and reducing everything I am taking (thanks Nic for this advice!).  We are both really tired, but now functioning on adrenaline and excitement.

If you are about tomorrow in Glasgow.  Please come down to the Science Centre from 8.30am to see us, it would be great to see you.

Otherwise, I look forward to writing Day 1 of the blog tomorrow.

Jim

Posted by: HitchHop | June 29, 2011

2 Days till we start HitchHop!

There’s only 2 days to go till we start HitchHop….and panic is starting to set in with everything we need to do and continue working in our jobs!

HitchHop Posters are starting to appear across Scotland in Edinburgh, South Queesnferry, Ullapool, Stornoway and even a Cal Mac ferry.  Check out the picture of the HitchHop poster in this shop window in Stornoway.  Keep a look out for the posters and let us know if you spot one.  Or even take a photo of it, like this one and post it on a HitchHop social media site.  We would love to hear from you.

As we continue to promote HitchHop before the start, the other major task is preparing for it practically.  Brian and I had long discussions about tents.  Following the storm we experienced last year in Barra, where 2 out of the 4 tents in our camping party were destroyed, it would be disastrous if a tent got destroyed during HitchHop.  But of course, we have to make sure we keep everything as light as possible.

I packed my rucksack this evening to see what would fit it.  With sleeping bag, thermorest, tent, cooking equipment, First Aid Kit, waterproofs and all the extra little bits.  There doesn’t seem to be much left for my clothes!  A friend recommended to unpack it all and then half everything I was planning to take.  I may just need to do this…!

Brian and I have finally decided on where we will start HitchHop and will announce this tomorrow, so look out for that post on HitchHop social media sites.

And of course keep spreading the HitchHop word…

Jim

Posted by: HitchHop | June 27, 2011

Have you seen the HitchHop Poster?

image

Only 4 Days to go and HitchHop posters are starting to appear across Scotland. Have you seen this poster?

Distinct with HitchHop and RNLI logos, you cannot miss them.  In addition, they have Facebook, Twitter and WordPress images.  And for those of you with Smart Phones, a QR code to scan.

And not forgetting the HitchHop catch phrase.  How many islands can you set foot on…

But most importantly, the website to sponsor us. 

So keep a look out for the HitchHop poster and let us know if you see one.  Or even better, take a photo and post it on a HitchHop site.  It would be great to hear from you and know where it was spotted.

Jim

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