Sunday, April 4, 2010

Heaven or hell? Would I love this trip ... or hate every minute?

Looking for your thoughts, all you intrepid travellers out there ... would love to hear your comments, as I'm trying to make up my mind about some things.

I am stuffed to the gills from too much Easter dinner and am online researching some options for second-half-of-the-year trips (yes, thinking ahead for a change). As you may already know, I have long been a wanna-be hippie (I'm sorry I was born twenty-odd years too late) and have been reading about travels on the old "hippie trail" from Istanbul to Kathmandu or Goa through Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obviously, Afghanistan is out of the question at the moment. But I'm very interested in doing as much of the rest as I can. But here's the problem ... I really don't want to attempt it as completely independent travel. So I've been looking into options for tours in that part of the world.

There's some that will take me from Point A (Istanbul) to Point B (Kathmandu) but don't really follow the classic hippie trail. Going a more northerly route along the old Silk Road -- Tashkent, Samarkand, Ashgabat -- would be equally fascinating, but it's not actually what I'm trying to do. I would love to see all the other 'Stans one day, but that's another trip, I think, and not what I'm after at the moment.

There's a couple of companies that offer long-haul overland trips that include the hippie trail route, more or less, but include a lot more than that too -- London, UK overland to Sydney, Australia, for example, for anywhere from 4 to 8 months. Again, probably a very cool trip in its own right, but I don't want to be locked into someone else's itinerary for that length of time (and God forbid if there were people on the trip that I couldn't stand, I'd be stuck with them!).

There's one company, though, with a trip that might work. It's called OzBus, and they have a month-and-a-half trip from London to Kathmandu. Timing's not exactly perfect, but they have one leaving in early September that would get me to Nepal by mid-October. Website is here: They have a full London-to-Sydney option, too, but I'd rather have the time in SE Asia on my own to wander at will.

Worried, though, that not even starting SE Asia till mid-October would leave it very late to fit in all the things I want to do by the end of the year -- including western Oz, possibly NZ and a South Pacific island (have not yet decided which one). Unless I can convince my boss to let me come back another couple of months later, I might end up having to skip stuff or just whizzing through and not staying anywhere long. And the actual London-to-Kathmandu trip would be moving pretty fast, to cover that distance in 46 days.

But I have other ideas of how I could spend the summer -- trekking the Arctic (hey, why not hit both polar regions in one year?), say, or meandering around Newfoundland, Scotland and northern Ireland in search of my roots. Or, hey, a month in Africa somewhere (also like the idea of visiting all 7 continents in one year). So later timing (starting the trek to Kathmandu in September) might actually help. And realistically, unless I'm proposing to take next year off work, too, I can't meander along the Hippie Trail at a pace much slower than OzBus would move, and still get back home by the end of December.

Then there's the drunken-Aussie factor; oh, hush, I'm not saying all Australians are drunks, but what if the bus ended up being full of 21-year-old Aussies who just wanted to get loaded every night and didn't give a fig for the sights along the way? A month and a half of being the only one sober enough to get up in the morning might feel like a very, very long time.

But then, the original travellers on the Hippie Trail in the 60's and 70's probably did their fair share of substance-abusing (although drugs of choice were probably those other than alcohol), so it might actually be more authentic that way.

So anyway ... what do you think? Good idea or bad?


  1. Monsooooon... the Indian version runs very roughly June/July-ish through September, so for safety's sake you probably wouldn't want to be on the subcontinent much earlier than October. I'm sure Kathmandu is high enough that flooding isn't a problem, but still...

  2. The hippie trail sounds pretty awesome. I'd sacrifice Australia and New Zealand if you have to; they'll still be there, and they're safe to take on alone. Totally get your point about drunken Australians...have you checked other people's reviews of the tour? You might get a flavour of the type of travelers it attracts. My next vote would be Africa--again, the kind of thing people don't do very often; the kind of thing this year off seems to be all about. But really, I'd go with the gut factor: What do your emotions say?

  3. (this is really from Shelley, I just dunno how to make myself a profile yet!)
    I agree with Robin, go with your gut - and do the things that you can't do in a 3 or 4 week vacation later (or just extend your time off, if the pocketbook allows!). Maybe you can find reviews of the trip online to see what type of folks take it (might be drunken Brits rather than Aussies leaving from London, but perhaps that's not necessarily a bad thing :). I don't know much about Asia, but western Oz has a fair amount of empty space so you could see it in a shorter time if you wanted to...but at any rate, there probably isn't really a bad choice when it comes to where to do extended travel, so enjoy wherever your feet take you!

  4. Thanks, all, I'm thinking I will do it. Found a few disparaging reviews online, but they sounded like the kind of backpacker snobs who would disdain ANY sort of travel that wasn't completely independent and wasn't as difficult and dangerous as it could possibly be. From what I've read, October will be a perfect month to make it to Nepal -- temps are still warm (without being swelteringly hot), it doesn't rain as much as the summer, and the air is clear enough to have excellent mountain views. I would hit India in the monsoon, but I don't think there's any way for me to avoid that, since I don't want to leave India till later (I'll run out of time for the rest).

    Maybe I'll just talk to my boss and convince him to let me have another 6 months ... if I can make my funds stretch that far, that is!

  5. if the challenge is stretching funds, you could be a real hippie and make jewelry and sell it...or find a funky bar or cafe somewhere and stop and work there for a couple of months.

  6. I like the jewellery making idea (well, aside from my complete lack of artistic/craft-y ability) ... very hippie-authentic. Probably could cope better working in a bar, though. Hey, there's a plan for Oz ... stop and work at a bar on the beach somewhere.