Three friends who made a 378 mile journey and a 4,602ft climb to the top of the highest mountain in Scotland with no money or transport were blown away by the kindness of strangers.
Steve Hodgkinson, head coach at Instinctive Martial Arts Fitness, on Stockwell Gate, in Mansfield made the life-changing journey with Stuart Jackson and Martin Waugh to raise funds for Project Peru.
The guys set off from the gym on Sunday, October 25 with no idea how if they would be sleeping rough or standing in the rain for hours on end.
Steve, 36, said: “I can’t believe how well we got on, we had a big orange sign that said Ben Nevis and people were so kind to us.”
The first car to stop gave them a lift to Wetherby, near Leeds, after that the trio were waiting eight minutes before a Range Rover picked them up.
“The couple were going home to Newcastle so gave us a lift there, they were amazing. When they realised we had no food the woman gave us sweets crisps and even some cans of beer as they had just been shopping.
“She even gave us a tenner to get some real food with.”
Steve opened the gym last year and wanted to help others and liked the work of Project Peru which is a charity that provides food, clothes, shelter, education, health and fun to children refuge centres in the desert shanty town of Lima.
He is heading out to Peru in February and plans to fund an adventure playground for the children, so far he has raised £1,000 but needs around £3,000.
“The hitch hike has made me realise how incredible people are,” he said, “we were waiting for two hours for our next lift and were cold and wet. “Then a car pulled over and we asked if we could get to Carlisle but he was heading to Stirling in Scotland and would take us there.”
The driver then took the hitch hikers on a tour of the town and bought them a coffee.
With some left over change from the £10 the group took themselves to a chip shop but after hearing about their journey the staff let them eat for free.
A free nights accommodation was organised in a hostel by their friend, Kay Booth, who rang ahead and blagged the beds for the evening.
In total they manage to hitch seven lifts to get them to the foot of Ben Nevis.
Steve said: “The climb was hard, and we were very hungry but we passed loads of friendly people who gave us something to eat.”
The top of the summit signalled the end of the hitch hiker challenge but on the way down the group were aching and sore and Stuart dropped his bag and his camera smashed.
Steve added: “This journey has made me re-evaluate my life and restored my faith in humanity.
“It was an emotional journey and we still have a long way to go to reach out target for Project Peru but I am so pleased we managed to finish the challenge in good time.” The online giving page for the hitch hikers is still active, to donate visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/steve-hodgkinson