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 Veena Schlegel 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!
Their experiences were varied and unique. Sometimes they were met by innocent interest and open-hearted generosity, sometimes by infuriatingly deliberate stonewalling, sometimes by suspicion and hostility. They needed to keep their wits about them and be very patient. It was usually a smile and a calm centeredness that got them 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.
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