Dervla Murphy: 'Most people in the world are helpful and trustworthy'


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The Independent Online

One of the best parts of a journey is the preparation I love reading up on the political and social problems of a place, and then re-reading some of those same books when I come back: sometimes you won't agree with the picture presented; other times, as when I went to Siberia, I've found it exactly as I was told it would be. I don't read travel books, though; I'm not keen on them.

I regret that the old Tibet was not there for me to travel through By the time you could go in as a tourist it had been so wrecked by the Chinese that I didn't want to go; the whole culture had been fractured by the Chinese invasion.

Most people in the world are helpful and trustworthy – based on my own experiences of human nature when travelling in fairly remote places; though I'm not suggesting that would always apply in a city of 15 million people.

Nothing dared, nothing gained It's one of my life philosophies. That's why I get so irritated by the health and safety regulations you see now. I don't know how people live with it. And who are these maniacs imposing them on us? What sort of lives do they lead?

Travel hasn't changed me When I return [after a trip abroad], I resume my Irish home life. I have one cat and three dogs, so I get quite a welcome. Where I live, in West Waterford, is a beautiful corner of Ireland and I'm very happy here.

My worst habit is never cleaning the house Last time my daughter was here she was quite horrified; there are cobwebs that are yards long and inches thick.

Having my bicycle stolen in South Africa was like losing a friend That probably sounds absurd, but I'd covered a lot of distance from Nairobi down to the Cape and up again [while researching for her book South from the Limpopo]. When you travel that far, you form relations with it.

I'll miss smoking my Café Crème cigars I loved the flavour but I'm having to give them up in old age as I've a tendency towards bronchitis. I still drink a lot of beer, though.

Dervla Murphy, 80, is an Irish travel writer (