After waiting about two hours on the edge of Stirling I’m starting to get why last night’s host prefers not to hitchhike in the UK. It’s pretty ridiculous: the only other time I’ve had to wait this long in the country was when I left London. I’ve got some distance to cover, but it really should be possible to do it in a day. A couple of people do offer me rides, but everybody seems to be going the wrong way. So I leave the service station and go to the entrance of the motorway. Luck would have it that there’s a pretty good place for cars to pull over. Still it takes a further hour for a car to stop, and even then he’s only going to the north of Edinburgh. I really don’t want to get stuck there and was hoping for a ride further south, but as desperate as I am I concede.
It’s almost five, I’m tired, not very happy and about 14 kilometers north of a good spot to hitchhike further south from. I decide to just walk to the center of town, find a hostel and continue on further tomorrow. The next day goes better, but not a whole lot. I have to wait a while again to get out of Edinburgh and then I get a succession of short rides with varying wait times. I don’t know if it’s just bad luck but it’s very different from hitchhiking in the highlands.
As the sun sets I get dropped off in the town of Jedburgh by a guy who used to be in the French Foreign Legion and who gives me some survival tips just in case I’m ever in trouble in a forest. It looks like it’s going to rain, but it’ll be too dark to hitchhike soon. As I consider my next steps a guy with two dogs walks up and asks me if I’m hitchhiking. His next question is if I want to stay at his place. It’s a split decision. He looks friendly enough but what really influences my decision is his dogs: they’re friendly and calm so I figure their owner must be all right too. And he is. He and his wife are South African emigres who live in the rectory of a church. He tells me that once, traveling through the US he himself was invited to stay at a stranger’s home and he’s paying back a debt of sorts. A beautiful home with interesting people makes for a good evening. And I’m glad to be sleeping in a bed instead of in the rain.
The next morning I walk around the town and it turns out to be a pretty interesting place with an old abbey and a museum dedicated to former resident Mary Queen of Scots. By the early afternoon I say my goodbyes, walk to the road, stick out my thumb and after about 10 seconds a car stops: two Syrian refugees who are heading to Newcastle. I try to ask if they can drop me off where the road splits to Durham. But they’re not having it and insist on dropping me off at Newcastle’s central bus station and I’m kind of relieved at the easy prospect of just boarding a bus, at least for a short while, instead of having to depend on luck and my wits.