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The Magic Bus and the New Hippie Trail

Magic Bus!

The Magic Bus was a song written by Pete Townshend of The Who in 1965 and released in 1968. Although the song concerned a bus passenger (Roger Daltry) who eventually bought the bus in order to visit his girlfriend, the allusion was also to the overland hippie trail from Europe to India and Nepal that was considered by many young people in the 1960s and 1970s to be a rite of passage.

The Journey would inevitably include a combination of hitch hiking, train journeys and private travel bus; some drove the route in camper vans but few of those vehicles made the entire journey; many were abandoned en route. The legendary Magic Bus was a private bus that departed from Amsterdam for the hippie trail to India.

The Beatles in India Much of the allure was the mystique associated with the east and much popularised by the Beatles’ visit there in 1968. The general ethos was one of freedom and peace; some sought spiritual enlightenment whilst most sought adventure and excitement.

Although evocative of the Grand Tour of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that had been considered to be a rite of passage for rich upper class young men of that era, those who took the hippie trail came from a variety of social classes and were quite cosmopolitan, consisting mainly of western Europeans, North Americans (including many Vietnamese War draft dodgers), Australians, and Japanese. Some were hippies, but the majority were simply ordinary folk on a gap year.

Setting out from London and Amsterdam travellers would make their way slowly to Istanbul and then travel either north and reach India via Tehran, Kabul, Peshawar and Lahore or alternatively travel to Pakistan via Syria, Iraq and Iran, finally crossing into India at Ganda Singh Wala. The favoured Indian cities were Delhi, Benares, Bangkok, Kathmandu and Goa.

The hippie trail was brought to an abrupt end in 1979 by general political turmoil; in Iran there was an Islamic revolution; Lebanon fell into an era of civil war; and Russia invaded Afghanistan. Of course places like Goa remained popular destinations for the young, but no longer could they travel there overland.

Over recent years the availability of cheap long distance bus journeys has opened up new hippie trails, or at least the equivalent of them. Now you can take a bus all the way from London to Sydney in Australia and retrace much of the original hippie trail, and there is a bus route that follows the old Silk Road trade route across Asia and Africa. If you want to start your journey a little more modestly, then the iDBUS connects London with Amsterdam, Paris and Lille. Although the ethos of the old hippie trail may no longer be appropriate, every year tens of thousands of young people from the UK spend a gap year that often combines travelling to far flung places with voluntary work.

This is a guest post by Claire Sim a new Londoner, travel passionate and animal lover. She blogs about Pets and Travelling in Europe. If you want Claire to write you specific content, you can find email her here or contact her on Twitter (Claire_Sim).

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JOY TOUR and TRAVEL has been in operation since 1985. We are fully bonded and insured. We are specialists in many areas of travel. Our staff has traveled extensively to bring you first-hand knowledge of the world. It is our goal to provide quality travel experiences that are of exceptional value to our clients. We are an active member and Co-Owner of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP). This is your assurance that this agency meets the highest standards of financial stability. We have to meet certain criteria to be a member of TAP. TAP is 29 of North America's premier tour operators. We are also a member of (which allows us to get special discounts); the Greater Cincinnati BBB, Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN), which allows us to book international, as well as domestic airline itineraries

4 comments on “The Magic Bus and the New Hippie Trail

  1. yourothermotherhere
    August 23, 2012

    That was before my time, but I’ve read about it and it’s cool that it’s still there in one form or another.

  2. Richard
    March 15, 2013

    I did the route in reverse 77-78 took a changing.better times.richard day(ex magic bus courier)

  3. Torben Holleufer
    May 7, 2017

    I was also a courier on Magic Bus. It was late – in 1980 – and I originally was asked to be courier on a bus, which should have left Copenhagen for Katmandhu in the autumn of 1980, but which was cancelled due to the outbreak of the war between Iraq and Iran. The Iranian revolution was initially not a problem, but the civil war in Afghanistan was, and it meant that in 1979-80 The Hippie Trail went into Iran at Tabriz and via a.m.o. Teheran and Isfahan to Zahedan, from which one proceded south of Afghanistan into Balutchistan in Pakistan and onwards to India.
    So basically I worked for two summers as a courier between Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and at that time the main and most popular route was between London via Amsterdam to Athens. In A’dam we had a hotel, The Magic Inn, and another in Athens, Hotel California. I also did the Greece run several times.
    In my day, Magic Bus had stopped owning busses. Instead we had arrangements with various companies, like between A’dam and London it was the Grey Green, and on the European mainland it was mostly the Dutch BOVO. They were rather local from somewhere on the road to Leyden, and as we – I certainly was – were still hippies, they’d have to put up with dope smoking, general partying and lovemaking and so forth. Also often our route was not legal, and we had to improvise departure points, especially in A’dam.
    Magic Bus was great fun, and owner Greg Williams and the other legends were something else and true adventurerers.

  4. Mike Praty
    May 6, 2018

    I drove for the magic bus. With Bus owner,Gerald with a diesel Citroen 45 seater, Amsterdam Istanbul Amsterdam, with many unplanned stops in between. Wish I was 22 again, but the memories and picture slides bring back the trips like it was yesterday

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