Covid-19 has shelved all plans for 2020. But travelling should not be stopped for any reason. Our mind travels fast and frequent than the body. So here I am going to share some mind-blowing travel stories for our mind. These stories are based on some unexplored facts. Talking about the facts, here today, I am sharing a bus route to you. A little over 60 years ago, this bus used to start from London for Calcutta in almost 72 days and went back to London again within the same time frame.
There are two popular stories about this epic bus journey. I would like to share both of them with you today. So open your minds. Take your favourite window seats. And get ready to roll.
Also Read Walk in the woods of Lamahatta…
The Indiaman Bus:
“In 110 days, Oswald Joseph Garrow-Fisher, the 40-year-old owner and driver of the vehicle known as the Indiaman, had piloted it from London to Calcutta and back. Five men and two women made the round trip.” These lines are from The New York Times article, 3rd August 1957, after the bus returned to Victoria bus station after completing the first trip covering 20300 miles in 110 days. Why Indiaman? From 16th to 19th-century large merchant ships used for trading between Europe and Southern Asia were called the Indiaman. This bus journey started for trading purpose.
Indiaman’s route and price:
The bus departed from London on 15th April 1957. The tickets cost was £85 for the London to Calcutta section and £65 for the return journey. Means at that time London to Calcutta cost around 7,889/- Indian rupees, which is pretty expensive given the year. It travelled across the mountains, desserts and green countryside between England and India. The bus through France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. During that long journey, at night the passengers either had to stay in hotels or camp outside, where there were no hotels. The bus reached Calcutta on 5th June and returned to London on 2nd August 1957. It was 16 days behind its scheduled arrival time. One of the delays was the Asian Flu epidemic, due to which the Pakistani-Iranian border beyond Lahore was closed.
Calcutta’s prestigious newspaper The Statesman covered the arrival of the bus in the city and posted an image of it parked on the wood street.
The Albert Bus:
In the late ’60s, a Double-Decker luxury bus nicknamed ‘Albert’ started passenger service from the UK to India to Sydney. Apparently, it made 15 trips between India and the UK and about four trips between London and Sydney. Alberts first journey started was on 8th October 1969. It departed from the GPO in Martin Place in Sydney and arrived in London on Monday 17th February 1969. So it took apparently 132 days for this journey. Seems like an epic adventure.
Albert’s route and price:
In 1970, the bus took its third journey. But most importantly it took the Khyber Pass route via Afghanistan. The new route was much enjoyed by travellers as Afghanistan was becoming a popular destination. It cost £145 from London to Calcutta and £290 from London to Sydney including travel, food, accommodation. Post reviewing the fare one can imagine this trip was not meant for poor.
In 1976, with political tensions rising in Iran, ALBERT’s travel through Iran being considered impractical so it had to be rested in England. It was 16th number trip. Over the years ALBERT made more than 150 border crossings without ever being held up for serious scrutiny, nor was a bribe ever proffered to smooth the passage. High Road For Oz goes on to say that all the trips numbered 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, ran right through to Sydney. The trips numbered 12, 13, 14 and 15 operated between London and Kolkata. On arrival in India, the bus made stops in Delhi, Agra, Banaras and Kolkata.
The bus also had some extra ‘luxury services’ like a reading and dining room at the lower deck, individual sleeping bunks, fan heaters to keep passengers warm and aesthetic interiors to make the bus feel like home while on the long journey.
The route taken by the Albert Travel bus was – England, Belgium, West Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, West Pakistan and India. In India, the bus travelled from New Delhi to Agra, Allahabad, Banaras and finally, Calcutta.