By the time I arrived at Highland Heather Lodges in Crieff, it was pitch black.
The drive had been treacherous.
The weather had taken a serious turn for the worse.
50 miles into the journey, so I now had to contend with heavy winds buffeting the van, as well as severely tired eyes and a belly full of rich food. Once more, I was paying the price for my overindulgence. I wasn’t the only one struggling on the roads that night, however, little did I know that I was about to cross paths with another traveller on their way to Crieff.
I’ve always been open to picking up hitchhikers, having spent a summer hitching on the roads of Europe. So when I saw a bedraggled young man accompanied by an even more scruffy dog, resolutely sticking his thumb out on the deserted road to Crieff, I knew that I had to pick him up. Other than the waiting staff at the restaurants, I’d barely spoken to a soul since I’d left Cornwall, so I was more than eager for the company and my new companions were more than eager for the lift.
Bartholomew was a strange chap.
Part Oxbridge graduate intellectual, part civil rights activist – his long straggly hair was pulled back in a tight bun, giving him the appearance of a weather-beaten Samurai warrior. His dog, an impeccably trained Cocker Spaniel called Nestor, sat stock up right next to his master as they both waited patiently for a metal chariot to deliver them from their current predicament.
Their own van, a huge Transit that had seen better days, rested in a ditch to the side of the road. Whilst swerving to avoid a rabbit, the unlucky pair had slipped on the wet road and veered their van off the road. Without a mobile phone, Bart had resigned himself to a long wait, so was clearly relieved to receive his salvation so swiftly – although it looked like he’d been waiting for days, it had not even been an hour yet.
The two clambered into the front of the van with me and we set off once more on the road to Crieff.
Whilst I drove, still wary of the fierce winds that were shifting the vehicle’s momentum, I quizzed Bartholomew about his journey. He had been on the road with Nestor for the past year. Travelling throughout Europe and England, he was a drifter – with no aim or motivation. An amateur chef himself, all his meals were prepared on a single gas ring, including the gourmet dog food that Nestor subsisted on.
We spent the hour drive to Crieff discussing French cuisine, fined dining and Brexit. When I dropped my travelling companions off at a garage we shook hands and I wished them all the best. Bart and Nestor were clearly gifted with a natural joie de vivre that allowed them to forgo the home comforts that most others (including me) could simply not live without.
As I fell gratefully into the embrace of my king-size bed at the lodge, I thought about those two getting to sleep in on their single mattress in the Transit.