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Hitchhiking was a common mode of transport on the Hippie Trail

The hippie trail is a term used to describe the journeys taken by hippies and others in the 1960s and 1970s from Europe overland to and from southern Asia, mainly India and Nepal. One of the key motivations was the desire to travel as cheaply as possible, mainly to extend the length of time away from home, and so journeys were carried out by thumbing (hitchhiking), or cheap, private buses that travelled the route. There were also trains that traveled part of the way, particularly across Eastern Europe through Turkey (with a ferry connection across Lake Van) and to Tehran or east to Mashhad, Iran. From these cities, public or private transportation could then be obtained for the rest of the trip. The journeys were partly inspired by the 18th-century custom of the grand tour.

Contents

Typical route

Such journeys would typically start from countries in western Europe, often the cities of London or Amsterdam. Many from the US took Icelandair to Luxembourg, and passed through 'key' spots such as Istanbul, Teheran, Herat, Kabul, Peshawar, Lahore, Delhi and Varanasi (then called Benares) with Goa or Kathmandu being the usual destinations. Kathmandu still has a road, Jochen Tole, nicknamed Freak Street in memory of the many thousands of hippies who passed through.[1] An alternative route was from Turkey via Syria, Jordan, and Iraq to Iran and then east. Further travel to southern India, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), and points east and south to Australia was sometimes also undertaken.

The overland suffered from political changes at the end of the 1970s. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Shah was deposed by an Islamic revolution in Iran. Still, the travel organizers "Sundowners" and "Topdeck" pioneered a route through Baluchistan. Topdeck continued its trips throughout the Iran-Iraq war and later conflicts, but took its last trip in 1998.

With a loosening of immigration in Iran the route has again become somewhat feasible, although continuing conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan make the route difficult to negotiate.

Guides

Tony Wheeler, the creator of the Lonely Planet guidebooks made in his early days a publication on the hippie trail called "Across Asia On The Cheap". [2] He made this 94-page pamphlet of travel experiences gained by crossing Western Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and Iran from London in an Austin minivan they bought for $130. After having done these regions, they sold the van in Afghanistan and continued on a succession of chicken buses, third-class trains and long-distance trucks. They crossed Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia and arrived nine months later in Sydney with a combined 27 cents in their pockets.

The BIT Guide, an early stapled-together "A4 bundle" providing information for travellers and updated by those already on the road, warned of pitfalls and places to see and stay. The first BIT Guide was produced by the BIT Information & Help Service in London in 1970. The BIT guide reached its peak under the control of Geoff Crowther, who arrived at BIT in 1972.

The 1971 edition of The Whole Earth Catalog (The Last Whole Earth Catalog) devoted page 302 to the Overland Guide to Nepal. The guidebook company Lonely Planet got its birth when its founders published writings from their overland trip, driving from the UK to Australia. Paul Theroux wrote a classic account of the route in The Great Railway Bazaar (1975).

Two travel books Magic Bus (2008) by Rory Maclean and The Wrong Way Home (1999) by Peter Moore retrace the original hippie trail. [3]

Prior to the publication of Across Asia on the Cheap many travelers used the 375-page Student Guide to Asia by David Jenkins, which covered 24 countries.

Motivation

Many on the hippie trail were driven by the ideals of 'finding yourself', 'seeking God' and 'communicating with other people', ideals fundamental to the hippie movement. The bulk of travelers comprised Western Europeans, North Americans, Australians, and Japanese. Ideas and experiences were exchanged in well known hostels and hotels along the way, such as the Pudding Shop in Istanbul, or the Amir Kabir in Teheran. Many carried a backpack and, while the majority were young, older people and families occasionally travelled the route. A number drove the entire distance.

In the mid-1970s a number of operators attempted to commercialise the route. Some of the more successful at taking paying passengers included Transit Travel, AutoTours, Sundowners and Top Deck.

In September 2007 a new bus service, Ozbus, started between London and Sydney over the route of the hippie trail[4].

New trails

In recent years, due to the increase of budget airlines and low-cost flights, new "hippie trails" have been formed and have accompanied the original hippie trail of the '60 and '70's.[5] At present, new "hippie trails" are being formed towards North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, etc) and other destinations that are reachable by low-cost airlines. [6] In addition, certain other alternative trails such as the Banana Pancake Trail (used frequently by Western budget-travellers) are well on their way to replace the old hippie trail to Asia.

See also

Further reading

  • MacLean, Rory (2008), Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India, London, New York: Penguin Books, Ig Publishing  .
  • Dring, Simon (1995) On the Road Again BBC Books ISBN 0 563 37172 2
  • A Season in Heaven: True Tales from the Road to Kathmandu (ISBN 0864426291; compiled by David Tomory) - accounts by people who made the trip, mostly in search of enlightenment.

References

External links








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