The 1960s and 1970s had an immense impact on the world of cannabis. During this time, intrepid breeders travelled the world to develop some of the most significant strains ever created. The majority of these travellers took a single land route across Eurasia: The Hippie Trail. Before the Hippie Trail, indica strains were unknown in much of the smoking world. In addition, Kush and Skunk strains both trace their origins to the Hippie Trail. As a result, marijuana proliferated worldwide, embedding itself in the public consciousness and setting the stage for the cannabis space we have today.
The Hippie Trail – Key Points:
- Trade route used to transport cannabis
- Linked Europe to South Asia
- Used from the 1960s – 1970s
- Major route for famous growers
- Gave rise to indica in Europe and North America
- Birthplace of numerous strains including Kush line
The Hippie Trail – Routes
Running from northwest Europe to India and Thailand, there were several routes that comprised the Hippie Trail. It started in European cities like London, Paris, and Berlin. One of the most famous starting points was Amsterdam. Along the way, it passed through Istanbul.
Here, two different routes emerged. One passed through Iran, Afghanistan, and India before reaching Thailand. A southern route passed through Syria, Jordan, and Iraq before re-converging with the main path. One path diverged into southern India, passing through Kerala before reaching Sri Lanka.
Upon reaching the end of the trail, travellers would turn back to Europe. However, they usually didn’t return empty-handed.
The Birthplace of Indicas
The regions that the Hippie Trail passed through, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, feature hot, short, summers with tons of sunshine – the perfect environment for growing weed. The Hindu Kush mountain range, which lie in this region, is a landrace that helped to change the future of weed forever.
This area is the only place in the world that indica strains grow naturally in the wild. While sativa plants grow in equatorial areas with long growing seasons like Thailand and Mexico, indicas require the short summer and high altitude that central Asia provides. Prior to the Hippie Trail, indicas had never left this rugged and inaccessible region.
The first difference between indicas and sativas is how the plants physically develop. Indicas are short, stubby plants that grow to look like bushes as adults. The usually only take 12 weeks or so to reach adulthood thanks to the short growing season of the Hindu Kush region. That’s in stark contrast to sativas, which grow tall (sometimes up to 20 feet) and lanky.
Indicas also have different effects than sativas do. Sativas are generally known for having a stimulating high, complete with euphoric and uplifting effects. Smokers like sativas because they believe it can boost their mood, creativity, and sociability, and they’re great for parties and gathering.
In contrast, indicas provide sedative and relaxing highs. They’re the kind of strains that have smokers feeling stoned and couch-locked, with high body loads. Many smokers use indicas for relaxing at the end of a long day, or helping them sleep at night.
Itching for Indicas
Before the 1970s, indica strains were completely unknown to the world. Instead, all of the weed the average smoker experienced were sativa strains. For North America, most of these strains came from Central and South America, where farmers grow sativas naturally in the wild. Strains like Acapulco Gold and Panama Red were at the height of their heyday during this era.
However, that was about to change. Many smokers who experienced the potent effects of indicas for the first time brought indica seeds back home with them. After the Hippie Trail introduced indica strains into Europe and North America, many cannabis enthusiasts saw potential. Because indicas grow short and bushy, they’re much better-suited to clandestine indoor gardens than Sativas are. With more and more hippies bringing indica strains back from their journeys on the Hippie Trail, indoor gardens became a viable rival to the monopoly that Central and South American growers had on the weed market.
Although, while indicas did offer several benefits, they weren’t perfect. Legendary breeder DJ Short, who invented the infamous Blueberry strain, was an indoor grower who preferred sativa highs to indica ones. As a result, many resourceful breeders got to work, creating hybrid plants that tried to maximize the benefits of both plants.
Many famous strains were the result of cannabis hybridization. Notably, the “Kush” family of strains traces its direct lineage back to the Hindu Kush region. Strains like Bubba Kush, Master Kush, and OG Kush are direct descendants of Hindu Kush plants that were gathered from the wild.
The End of the Hippie Trail
There were two main events that put an end to the Hippie Trail in 1979. First, the Iranian revolution made the journey impossible. After the revolution, Iran closed its borders to most European and North American travellers. Since Iran sat directly in the middle of the Hippie Trail, it was now impossible to trek over land from Europe to India.
That same year, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the region descended into bloody conflict. This meant that much of the Hindu Kush region, the birthplace of indicas, became an inaccessible war-zone. With these two events, the Hippie Trail quickly died.
However, the Hippie Trail’s legacy is still felt today. The Hippie Trail helped breathe new life into the cannabis scene by inspiring breeders around the world to create their own genetics. It also signalled a huge paradigm shift in in black-market weed. By making indoor growing more accessible, the Hippie Trail democratized cannabis for a new generation of growers in basements and garages across North America and Europe.
Finally, it’s impossible to overstate the significance of indica genetics on marijuana. The relaxing and tranquil feelings that indicas provide are some of the most beloved aspects of cannabis for many smokers. Many of the most popular strains in the world today are indicas or indica-based hybrids. Although many smokers today may not even know it ever existed, stoners everywhere should spark one up for the Hippie Trail.