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on 17 July 2001
Read this book if you are bored with the numerous bland accounts of Africa but crave a deeper insight into the real social fabric of the continent. During the course of her AIDS-ridden travels, DM interacts with an enlightening mixture of Africa's colourful population and develops strong, often controversial, views on Africa's future direction. Her book offers an alternative to the traditional western view of what is best for the continent by allowing African's to air their own ideas for solving their problems and why the West's 'obvious' answers are not always the right ones.
If you don't have an (informed) opinion on Africa before you read this book, you will afterwards.
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on 15 July 2010
This is my favourite of all Dervla Murphy's travel books. In 1992 she cycled through Eastern and South-Eastern Africa along a route she calls the Ukimwi Road, 'Ukimwi' being the Swahili for AIDS which was spreading southwards at that time.

Murphy has never been one to worry about political correctness or rocking the boat. She makes some very trenchant comments in this book about well-meaning westerners, especially NGOs: the way in which they fail to understand the societies they are working in, the way they impose their own values on the countries they have supposedly come to serve and the way they live lives far removed from the people they have supposedly come to work with.

Part way through the book she's forced to confront the fact that this is true - in a different way - of her too when an African woman contradicts her interpretation of the bride price system and challenges Murphy over her lack of sensitivity to African mores in regard to marriage and religion.

The book is not just about politics or even about the terrible suffering of AIDS-stricken Africans however, it's also about the speed with which Africa was changing even then. The solitary traditional hunter she meets in Tanzania seems like a ghost from another world. It's a book about people much more than landscapes and about the present rather than history.

And of course it's a book about travel itself and its effect on your priorities. Murphy scoffs at young backpackers laiden down with packs they can barely lift as they attempt to carry their world with them. She makes a point of taking the bare minimum, partly out of a more realistic grasp of what it means to carry a heavy load for months but also from a realisation that one of the purposes of going somewhere else is to get a better understanding of the life you're leaving behind for the trip - to identify what matters and what really isn't very important at all.

It's not perfect - she doesn't really seem to consider the fact that Africans who speak English may not be a particularly representative group and may have reasons of their own for supporting tradition, not least because they are likely to be part of the existing elites. But it's an extremely good, funny and vivid account of a truly amazing bike ride.
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on 23 November 2000
I lived in Africa for the first half of my life, and since I moved to England I have been eagerly devouring all books with an African theme in an attempt to recapture memories of my homeland. Never have I come accross such an accurate yet enjoyable read. She does full justice to a wonderful continent.A truly excellant book.
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on 13 December 1999
Dervla Murphy is a remarkable woman. To embark (and complete) this cycle ride is an amazing experience, especially alone and at a more mature age than the usual 20 year olds who have a go at this. The book reflects a more thoughtful person travelling through the country and is a very personal reflection of both the journey and Dervla Murphy's growing awareness of the ravages of AIDS in the region. What emerges is a very personal account of the journey which provides a thought provoking contrast to the tourist images of the area. Read this book if you want this contrast, consider carefully the conclusions which shine through, but also think carefully before you accept all of DM's opinions as your own.
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on 22 April 2010
I've never ready any Dervla Murphy before, but bought this as preparation for my own trip to rural Kenya (with small children in tow)and what an inspiration she is! Brought up tough, this 60 year old dismisses in a sentence the trials of tsetse fly bites, bed bugs, dehydration, bike collisions and the other misadventures which befall a lady cyclist traversing 5 African countries. She clearly relishes the hours of solitude and vistas of unique mountainous landscapes (although remains unable to mend a puncture even at the end of her journey! - There is hope for the rest of us unmechanically minded female cyclists!).

So long as she finds somewhere to chain her bike "Lear", a bed of sorts and some place that sells her beloved "Nile" beer (or local equivalent) at the end of a hot day's pedalling, she is content and draws out whoever she meets into engaging conversations. I'm not well informed about the political history of these countries but that didn't stop me enjoying the thumbnail description of each person she encounters and caring increasingly deeply (as she does throughout the book)about the issue of AIDS or "this slim disease". She meets some women supporting each other in the previously unheard of action of not sleeping with their husbands if the mas has come home from travelling infected, another woman setting up a hotel which is "free of temptation" for the men. There are pockets of feminism in the most unexpected places and DM delights in it!

She is remarkable and so are many of the women she meets in this highly recommended journey.
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on 17 June 2006
Dervla Murphy's view of Africa is a personal and controversial one, but she vividly conveys the very different atmospheres of the countries she travels through.

By day, Dervla enjoyed the space and solitude of rural Africa; even the toughest terain did not deter her although on one occasion it nearly claimed her. In the evenings she usually stayed in villages where she found the locals talkative and welcoming. Hours of illuminating conversation ended most days.
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on 18 March 2008
Dervla Murphy is like a Victorian explorer - she sets out alone and has no communication with the outside world. At the beginning the story is the journey. But as Dervla cycles into villages and towns blighted by AIDS, the story evolves into the myths people associate with the disease - and the inadequate response from government and charities. I was with Voluntary Services Overseas in rural Zambia, and this is the Africa I knew.
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on 14 March 2015
Dervla murphys books are all very interesting as she is not your average tourist. She brings in history of area as well as important issues at present. In this book she brings the aids issue forward but educates the Reader about African attitudes to condoms, males having lots of relationships whether married or not. It also reveals how people cope withe devastation of this disease. The book is also about the scenery, the cultural mores and relationships with people in such a vast continent.
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on 15 February 2000
A deeply moving story of true Africa and of the remarkable feat of one single woman. Deeply touching.
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on 26 July 2012
Having spent holidays in kenya, I thought this would be an ideal holiday read.It's intriging and educational.This lady is absolutely unbelieveable.

Definitely a book that could be read again and again. Unfortunately for me, it is now making its rounds through Shanzu.They will share everything!!!!
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