Book Reviews

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

What Da cover Says: Shortly after her tenth birthday, inspired by an atlas she was given, Dervla Murphy decided that she would one day cycle to India. Almost twenty years later she set out to achieve her ambition on her bicycle, Roz. Here she describes her journey and experiences.

What I Says: It’s one of those sad things in life that so few people have heard of Dervla Murphy, I went around mentioning her to people at work and not one person knew her name and when I explained her achievements a couple of people didn’t believe me. If you want to get an idea of what sort of person Murphy is then this is perfect book for you to read, the introduction describes how she got a bicycle and an atlas for her tenth birthday and it was there and then that she decided she was going to cycle all the way to India, this is a crazy idea for an adult let alone a 10 year old girl…this book is her bringing that dream to light.

In 1963 Murphy was 31 years old and her bike was called “Roz”, she comes across as planning the bare minimum and also taking with her the least amount of stuff she would need. During the trip she was to face her fears about strangers, face wolves and fight the elements (extreme cold, insane heat, sand storms and the Monsoon). I found it incredible what she was able to endure, the lack of food in the mountains, the lack of water in the desert, the lice/flies/fleas/bed bugs and the intense smell in some of the areas, this is most assuredly not an adventure for me. By far the most interesting thing to come out of this book is the trip would have been impossible without the generosity of the people she met on the way, anybody she met was willing to chat and feed her and put her up for the night with nothing wanted in return. She met some very interesting people, both rich and poor and the treatment was the same no matter their station.

The book is not really your standard travel book, Murphy wrote a journal and this book is that collection put together with no further elaboration, it did take me a while to into this style, most of Europe gets missed out with the focus being on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each section has been written at the end of a long day’s ride and how much you get told all depends on how that day went, there is plenty about the scenery which from these pages sounded stunning, what is lacking is the people. She shares her overall opinion of the village but only really goes into detail about those she stayed with a few nights…I’m guessing this was mostly down to pretty much being a figure passing in the night as she had many early starts (another thing to put me off this trip…up at 4am to ride my bike, no thank you).

I think what Dervla Murphy achieved in this book was incredible, a woman on her own in these countries where you are only told the bad things that happen, it blows my mind what she did, I was constantly shaking my head at how well she handled each situation. She is one of my heroes no doubt about that.

I really do recommend this book, a great place to start and she has had so many books published, plenty more for me to read. You can get yourself a copy from HERE:

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