A Vanished Road is a travel story. It is an account of a journey overland through Middle Eastern countries to India in 1971. The world then was a very different place to the one it is today.
The countries I and five travelling companions travelled through – by train, boat, bus, local indescribable vehicles and sometimes on foot – were untouched and unspoilt by tourism and other international influences. Television was still a novelty in western countries; here it was unknown. For most of the local people, the hippies travelling through, breaking that later quite well-trodden trail, were the first westerners they had ever seen.
There were no maps or guidebooks. The only guide was the hippie grapevine and the pointing of a local’s finger. Toby and Marianne Wheeler, founders of the famous Lonely Planet guidebooks, traversed this road a year later – a journey which provided the inspiration for the beginning of their venture. English was rare, other languages unknown, so communication took place on a different level – via the heart, via intuition. It was always a guessing game!
Our experiences were varied and unique. Sometimes we were met by innocent interest and open-hearted generosity, sometimes by infuriatingly deliberate stonewalling, sometimes by suspicion and hostility. We needed to keep our wits about us and be very patient. It was usually a smile and a calm centeredness that got us through.
The journey was physically and emotionally tough and demanding but the reward was a deeply touching and life-changing experience which cannot now be repeated. With the events of the last few decades – tragic in the case of Afghanistan – this road, with its unique flavour, has vanished forever.