Meet Albert: A Bus to Show You the World

I’ve never pondered how long I could endure a bus ride, but I’ll tell you the answer is probably lands in the neighborhood of “not very”. For travelers seeking adventure in the late 1960s and early 1970s though, a mega trip was available for the taking. A double-decker bus dubbed Albert ferried passengers between London and Calcutta. If you wanted to press even farther, the bus was then put on a boat and continued on down to Australia before completing its journey in Sydney. From start to finish, you’re looking at a trip of over 130 days.

This incredible route was brought to my attention by Friend of Hooniverse Jim Yu, when he retweeted the above tweet. Jim is actually an avid bus traveler himself, so it makes sense for him to find this and freak out about it.

The story of Albert the bus actually stats down in Oz, not in London. Its first trip started in Sydney on October 8th, 1968. The trip to London took 132 days, with Albert finishing its wild route on February 17th, 1969. Then Albert turned around, to repeat the journey in reverse. Over the course of the next few years, Albert would ten more trips between London and Calcutta. The 10th trip overall saw Albert return all the way to Sydney, and the 11th trip was from Australia back to London to continue with more trips between England and India. There was a 16th trip planned, but the political and revolutionary upheaval in Iran in 1976 put a stop to that.

The cost, at the time, was 145 pounds to get from London to Calcutta. And once on the bus, guests could enjoy a reading and dining saloon on the lower level. The upper deck had a forward observation lounge, and each passenger had his or her own sleeping bunks. There were highlight spots along the journey, shopping days mapped out, and even music available if you wanted to throw a mid-journey party.

My favorite part of the bus though is the signage on the back:

[More images and Info found on High Road for Oz]

11 Comments

    1. I can’t make out if yer man sitting behind the the dude standing in front is using a giant mobile phone or about to stab him with a trowel.

      1. That’s the second Further, thrown together in 1990 and used intermittently after that, so “giant mobile phone” isn’t unreasonable, although my guess would be walkie-talkie. I’m pretty sure the “dude standing in front” is Kesey himself, based on what I remember from the one time I heard him deliver a lecture on the UO campus* when he was briefly a faculty member in creative writing.

        *Why, yes, I was born in Eugene and went to the University of Oregon…

        1. Threads like this normally provide me with many happy hours of googling, but in this I sense a black hole from which I may never emerge.

          I’ll give it a go.

  1. Maybe it’s because I’ve read “Heart of Darkness” and “In A Sunburned Country” in the past month but my interpretation of this bus is that it’s a Colonialist attempt to prove the British Empire hadn’t collapsed into a pathetic, embarrassing shambles. “Look, we still have the right of way to drive unmolested across every border between London and Sydney!”
    From High Road For Oz, “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; this at a time when other vehicles were all too often seen marooned at check-posts with neither body panels nor owners.”

    Apart from that, why did they have to eat kitty food?

  2. There are a number of successful reality series crafted around the conflict that erupts when a small group of strangers has to share a mansion or an island or whatever for a few weeks.

    Imagine what it must have been like to live in a $400, 400 square foot bus for 4+ months, with 13 other people, crossing three continents and an ocean at sub-35 mph speeds, without air conditioning or a convenient place to shower.

    On the other hand, last year I met a group of hippies who traveled around the country in a converted 1970’s city bus, surviving off of donations, scrounging, and occasional barter. I think their headcount was around 15, but the group kept changing when new people joined up or others left.

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