Where Indus is young
In her 1963 classic Full Tilt, Irish writer Murphy recounted her seven-month bike trek from Dublin to Delhi. A decade later, the seasoned traveler returned to Asia with her six-year-old daughter, Rachel, this time determined to winter in Baltistan, an isolated northern province in Pakistan’s disputed Kashmir territory. In this memoir of that three-month journey, originally published in the UK in 1974, Murphy shares her and her daughter’s adventures along the disintegrating trails of the Indus Gorge in the Karakoram Mountains.
"The grandeur, weirdness, variety and ferocity of this region cannot be exaggerated," she writes of the sub-zero temperatures, harsh winds, whipping sand and the constant threat of tumbling rocks that they faced picking their way through passes on pony and foot. Her colorful journal entries weave together impressions of the Karakoram’s "craggy, glistening peaks," reflections on the people who inhabit them and the romantic joys of daily life: sipping tea, dining on chapittis (thin unleavened bread, translated in the glossary along with other local terms) and wandering through bazaars in search of goods and gossip. Despite a preface and prologue that situate her trip, any profound contextualization vis-à-vis recent tension in Kashmir or Pakistan’s role in the war on terror is absent.
Thus at times her experience feels surprisingly disconnected from the present, like when she bubbles with admiration for Pashtun culture or mentions her close friendship with Field Marshall Ayub Khan, a Pashtun and former military dictator of Pakistan. Her sumptuous descriptions of the mountain splendor and the obscure paths and cultures she explores, though, are appropriately timeless.
Dervla Murphy was born in Co. Waterford, Ireland, of Dublin parents and still lives there. Since 1964 she has been regularly publishing descriptions of her journeys – by bicycle or on foot – in the remoter areas of four continents. She has also written about the problems of Northern Ireland, the hazards of the nuclear power industry and race relations in Britain. The Times Literary Supplement called her 'an admirable woman - she has a romantic soul and a keen eye'.
Her published works include:
Full Tilt. Ireland to India with a Bicycle (John Murray 1965);
Tibetan Foothold (John Murray, 1966);
The Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal (London, John Murray/New York, Trans Atlantic Arts, 1967);
In Ethiopia with a Mule (John Murray, 1968);
On a Shoestring to Coorg: an experience of Southern India (John Murray; 1976);
Where the Indus Is Young: A Winter in Baltistan (London, John Murray, 1977);
A Place Apart (John Murray, 1978);
Wheels Within Wheels (Autobiography, John Murray, 1979/Wheels Within Wheels:
Unraveling an Irish Past, New Haven, Ticknor & Fields, 1980);
Eight Feet in the Andes (John Murray, 1983);
Changing the Problem: Post-Forum Reflections (pamphlet, Dublin, The Lilliput Press, 1984); Muddling Through in Madagascar (John Murray, 1985);
Cameroon with Egbert (John Murray, 1989);
Transylvania and Beyond (John Murray/Woodstock, New York, Overlook Press, 1992);
The Ukimwi Road. From Kenya to Zimbabwe (John Murray, 1993);
South from the Limpopo: Travels Through South Africa (John Murray, 1997);
Visiting Rwanda (Dublin, The Lilliput Press, 1998); One Foot in Laos (John Murray, 1999);
Through the Embers of Chaos: Balkan Journeys (John Murray, 2003).
When she isn't travelling, she lives in Lismore.