Dervla Murphey’s account of her 1960s cycle tour from Ireland to India.
“This house reveals what some might call the poverty of Afghanistan but what I prefer to call its simplicity, since poverty denotes a lack of necessities, and simplicity a lack of needs.”
“Mohammed’s mother is a tremendous character–one of those old people who make the young realize that old age is not something to be dreaded, when it can give such mellowness and balance and contentment to a human.”
“I think it’s fair to say that the modern Muslim, even if he is an uneducated peasant, shows less prejudice towards other religions than we Christians do, with out persistent tendency to brand any religion not our own as ‘ignorant superstition.’ This Muslim tolerance makes it all the sadder that politicians so often artificially stimulate religious differences for their own ends.”
“But if was worth it all to rise gradually from that fertile, warm valley to the still, cold splendor of the snow-line, where the highest peaks of the Hindu Kush crowd the horizon in every direction and one begins to understand why some people believe that gods live on mountain tops.”
“It follows that every [Afghan] passenger comes when it suits him, so that it can take up to six hours to fill a bus. Afghans are equally vague about distance: a truck driver who goes from Kabul to Mazar once a week won’t have the remotest idea how far it is; he just knows that if he keeps driving long enough, and if Allah is willing, he’ll get there someday. Personally, I find all this most endearing after a lifetime of being tyrannized by the clock.”
“The fact is that the further you travel, the less you find you need . . . it’s a good life that teaches you how little you need to be healthy and happy, if not particularly clean!”
“But, of course, here one is merely another human being, if an exceedingly odd one, and it’s taken for granted that one will help if necessary, just as when one needs help it is unfailingly given without stopping to consider inconvenience or cost.”
“The suffocating sensation frightened me until I realized that the illusory feeling of repeatedly coming to the point of death was simply the mountain’s way of teasing novices.”
“By now the thunder had ceased and when the wind dropped the overwhelming silence of the mountains reminded me of the hush I felt in a great empty Gothic cathedral at dusk–a silence which is beautiful in itself.”
“As we began to free-wheel, I reflected that this was a delightful road to follow, with all the characteristics which thrill a wanderer’s heart.”
“I’ve been long enough in the East to have forgotten how to feel impatient, so I enjoyed the cozy peace there in the heat while outside the blue sky faded to cold green.”
Read Full Tilt: From Ireland to India, by Dervla Murphey.