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Full Tilt

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Like a lot of people when I was ten I had plenty of ‘ambitions’ – flying to the moon, meeting Norman Wisdom, driving a steam train, getting a kiss from a young lady called Lesley who sat opposite me in primary school. Well apart from the kiss the rest just passed me by in that strange thing called life.


Not so for Dervla Murphy, in 1941 on her tenth birthday she received a bicycle and an atlas and soon she had planned to cycle to India. Twenty two years later she achieved that aim, cycling through Europe in the coldest winter in living memory and onto Persia (Iran), Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India.


Murphy is an intelligent and entertaining companion, one who ‘engages sympathy from the start by her qualities of tact, charity and courage.’ One can’t help admire her tenacity and ability to overcome ‘enough difficulties and dangers to satisfy the most dedicated traveller.’


Included in a list of the kit she carried with her is Nehru’s History of India and Blake’s poems (Penguin edition), a 1.25 automatic pistol (which she had need of), four maps, 6 notebooks and 12 pens. The whole trip lasted from 14 January to 8 July 1963 and her total expenditure on the trip was £64 7s 10d.


Over the years Dervla Murphy has travelled round Ethiopia, trekked the Andes with her eight year old daughter and a donkey, Madagascar, Cameroon, various places in Africa and this century now in her seventies she has spent time in Siberia and Cuba. But this is the trip that started it all and is one of my favourite travel books.

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Don't know how I missed this thread back in 2010 - or maybe I didn't but as we had lost the original thread on the book the first time the board disappeared I didn't feel inclined to re-post my comment.


Having just come across my original brief remarks from 1994 in an old book-diary I thought I'd just copy what i wrote then.


Travel book, 1963.

Ms Murphy fulfills an ambition held in secret since she was 10 & cycles from Ireland to Delhi. Has a wonderful/horrendous time in areas that have since suffered dreadfully from man's inhumanity to man - eg. Afghanistan, Azabijahn & Yugoslavia** - in all of which places she was treated wonderfully.

An interesting book & thought-provoking in view of subsequent events.

Silly woman could not do her own bicycle repairs.



Sadly, that last comment is my abiding memory of the book.


**I said these notes were from 1994!

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