Intrepid traveller David Drake made it from South Wales to Shetland in under two days – without a penny in his pocket!
The 54-year-old, from Resolven near Neath, decided on his unusual trip to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), as his late mother, brother and grandfather and a surviving brother had all suffered from heart trouble.
Having already been promised sponsorship by people in his home town, Mr Drake’s aim was to “scrounge lifts” up to Scotland and then “maybe get on a plane or boat” to Shetland. He planned to visit 10 islands before beginning his return trip.
It was not the best of starts last Wednesday when he left home just before midday, as his local bus company refused to take him to the nearest train station at Neath. But he managed to find an alternative way and, thanks to First Great Western, was on a train in the early afternoon.
He changed trains at Crewe and Edinburgh and made it to Aberdeen at 11.30pm on Wednesday evening. Coming out of the railway station he headed for the nearby Jury’s Inn Hotel where he was told he could sleep on a bench in the foyer. But at 1am he was awakened and told that someone had not claimed their room and he could have it.
“It was a very good room,” he said, “absolutely luxurious. I’m told they normally cost at least £90. And not only that but my breakfast the following day was included too.”
On Thursday Mr Drake made his way down to the NorthLink ferry terminal where his good fortune continued.
“They kept me in a waiting room for 45 minutes as they needed to check things out. But I had a newspaper cutting and a a couple of collecting tins with me and once they realised I was for real the sky was the limit.
“When I boarded I was introduced to all the crew so that they would know me. Whatever I would like I could have. I got a couple of free drinks at the bar, an evening meal, breakfast and even a cabin.”
Arriving at Lerwick on Friday morning Mr Drake began his 10-island trail. As well as the Mainland that day he visited Yell and Unst and on Saturday he made it to Trondra and east and west Burra.
On Sunday he took the trip to Whalsay where he visited the Oot Ower Lounge and was given his lunch and a couple of drinks courtesy of owners John and Maggie Anderson.
“John even gave me a lift back to the ferry, but I suppose he was glad to see the back of me,” Mr Drake joked.
Speaking to The Shetland Times on Monday afternoon, he was still unsure how long he would be in the isles, as due to the ferry disruption it could be today or Friday before he began his return trip.
While he continued his stay he would remain on the collecting trail, and he had so far managed to fill three tins, one entirely with notes.
“The generosity had been amazing,” he said. “For instance, in Da Noost bar in Lerwick they filled up my tin in no time at all. They were very, very generous in there.
“When I was at Brae I told this chap I was intending to go to Muckle Roe and when he realised who I was he just said ‘Jump in’. His name was Jimmy Johnson and he drove me there and back again.”
Mr Drake said he was glad to have been able to prove his friends and the people at the BHF who expressed doubts about him completing the trip.
“It’s the first time I have ever done anything like this and I thought it would be a lot more difficult. But it’s turned out much better than I thought.
“I would like thank First Great Western, Jury’s Inn, NorthLink, The Shetland Times, the guesthouses including the Bonavista in Lerwick, Peter Leask of the bus company, the staff at the Viking Bus Station, John and Maggie at Da Oot Ower Lounge, Andrew’s Coaches, everyone who has contributed, all the sponsors back home and staff of the council ferries.
“They said the odds were stacked against me, but I’m here now and thank you all.”