Reliving the Epic Adventure of a Bygone Era
In the annals of travel history, there exists an extraordinary journey that captured the hearts and imaginations of adventure-seekers, wanderers, and free spirits of the 1960s and 1970s. The longest bus route in the world, spanning over 10,000 miles from London, England, to Calcutta, India (now Kolkata), remains a captivating tale of exploration, discovery, and the indomitable spirit of wanderlust. Welcome aboard as we delve into the fascinating story of the Hippie Route – an iconic adventure of a bygone era.
The Birth of the Hippie Route
In 1957, the journey that would become a legend commenced when the first bus from London set out on a remarkable expedition. Operated by Albert Travel, this pioneering bus service embarked on a unique odyssey, winding its way through various countries and cultures. The maiden journey, which began on April 15, 1957, would culminate in Calcutta on June 5, a staggering 50 days later.
The Route Less Traveled
The route from London to Calcutta was a winding path through some of the most captivating regions in Europe and Asia. The bus traveled from England to Belgium, leading to an adventure across West Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and finally into North Western India. Upon entering India, it continued its journey through New Delhi, Agra, Allahabad, and Banaras before reaching its ultimate destination of Calcutta.
A Journey of Comfort and Leisure
What set the Hippie Route apart from conventional bus services was its extraordinary attention to passenger comfort. The bus was equipped with reading facilities, separate sleeping bunks for all passengers, fan-operated heaters, and even a kitchen, making it more like a mobile hotel than a simple mode of transportation. Passengers could relax in a forward observation lounge on the upper deck, enjoying the breathtaking landscapes as they passed by. Entertainment was also on the menu, with a radio and music system for parties.
Moreover, the journey wasn’t merely about reaching the destination; it was about savoring the adventure. The bus made stops at tourist hotspots along the way, allowing passengers to explore iconic locations such as the Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna River and the spiritual city of Banaras. There were opportunities for shopping in exotic cities like Tehran, Salzburg, Kabul, Istanbul, and Vienna, providing passengers with a truly immersive experience.
From Road to Home: The Albert’s Second Act
As with all great stories, the Hippie Route had its twists and turns. The original bus eventually met with an accident, rendering it unusable for its intended purpose. However, its journey was far from over. British traveler Andy Stewart stepped in and transformed the double-decker into a mobile home with two levels. Renamed “Albert,” the bus embarked on a second epic journey, this time from Sydney to London via India, on October 8, 1968. It took a remarkable 132 days for the bus to traverse the vast distances and arrive back in London.
Albert Tours, a company based in England and Australia, operated on two key routes: London–Calcutta–London and London–Calcutta–Sydney. The journey to Calcutta once again featured all the modern facilities and comforts that had made the Hippie Route famous.
The End of an Era
Tragically, the era of the Hippie Route came to a close in 1976. Political conditions leading up to the Iranian Revolution and escalating tensions between Pakistan and India resulted in the discontinuation of the bus service. It is estimated that the Albert Tours completed approximately 15 epic journeys between Kolkata and London, and London to Sydney, before the service was permanently laid to rest.
The Hippie Route will forever remain an emblem of the adventurous and carefree spirit of an era when travelers embraced the open road, discovered the world, and celebrated the journey as much as the destination. While the iconic bus service may be a thing of the past, its legacy lives on in the hearts of those who embarked on this extraordinary odyssey, making it an unforgettable chapter in the annals of travel history.
As we look back on this remarkable journey, we celebrate the spirit of adventure that continues to inspire travelers to this day, proving that the allure of the open road, the promise of discovery, and the camaraderie of fellow adventurers are timeless treasures that transcend generations. The Hippie Route remains a testament to the enduring wanderlust of the human spirit.