Ten countries, 16 days, one bus full of intrepid travelers. Sound like the makings for a ridiculous reality TV show? Nope, it’s the Butterfly Bus (which just launched as BuddhaBus, but underwent a spitfire-fast name change to avoid religious offense): an “overland adventure” (in their words). Departing from London, the bus slogs its way to Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, China, in an extreme model of slow travel.
Traversing almost 5,000 miles, passengers along the way sleep over in Warsaw, Kiev, Moscow, Samara, Chelyabinsk, Kostanay, Astana, Lake Balkhash, Almaty, Korgas, and Urumqi. The bus company promotes itself as an eco-friendly mode of transport, touting two tons of spared carbon dioxide emissions compared to a flight from London to Urumqi. The inaugural bus is set to depart September 6 and will cost a hefty £795 ($1,600) one-way or £1,295 ($2,612) round-trip.
Of course, such an unusual journey comes with a few quirky requirements, like, say, transit visas for Russia, Kazakhstan, and China. Critics have been quick to line up against the ambitious launch.
But unless the coach travels at lightning speed, or extends its 16 days to 60, passengers will get to know the inside of their coach far better than the countries they travel through. The most regular breaks will be loo breaks, so they’ll become connoisseurs of service stations the world over, from the plush to the makeshift, as well as the vast tracks of roadside where it’ll be knickers-round-ankles relief watched on by grazing cows and companions who might get a laugh out of snapping your bare bum.
Environmentalist George Monbiot, on the other hand, offers a more positive evaluation, saying:
The carbon dioxide produced by one person on a return flight to China equates to over three years of sustainable emissions. But a coach carrying 40 passengers cuts the impact by almost 90%: coach travel is the most efficient kind of motorised transport.
The launch of the BuddhaBus is one of several signs that people are no longer just talking about climate change, but beginning to act on it.
You can hardly argue the virtues of that, but still, we’re skeptical whether 16 days crammed on a bus will be as Zen-like as Butterfly Bus claims.
What do you think? How far are you willing to go for low-impact travel?
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Photo: Urumqi, China. by Didier Marti