The Road to Kathmandu became a pilgrimage in the 60’s for all the hippies who realised that the counter-culture was doomed back in the West. To make sense of their psychedelic revelations they guessed the answers must be in the East, in India and Nepal in particular.
The old route used to take travelers through Eastern Europe, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal and people came in clapped out VW vans, hitchhiked or walked.
These days the odd fool does it by hitchhiking, whilst others go overland by bus, train or maybe even drive their own motorbike. The journey takes you from Europe to Asia in stages and explains why travel in Asia today is so lame compared to the old days where you had to earn your stripes as you went instead of just jumping on a plane.
In the 70’s Afghanistan was the highlight of the journey with cheap hash, friendly people and mindblowing mountains. The Russians and the CIA put an end to that by engineering the war-torn hell that is Afghanistan today and most travelers now head through Iran’s southern border with Pakistan.
Visas must be applied for in advance and the Iranian visa can take a while but is these days one of the highlights of the trip. That is, until the armies of freedom decide to start bombing it in 2007 – whether the route remains safe is an open question, certainly you’d do well to wear a “Hang George Bush” t-shirt in Pakistan.
The trip could be done in around 3 weeks if you really went for it but it would be a shame to hurry. If you set off in August to avoid the worst of the summer heat you could spend a good few months along the way to really get the flavour of the route.
Check out Tom Thumb’s book on hitchhiking to India for an idea of what the overland journey entails.