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Ireland to India by bicycle

Dervla Murphy in Barcelona in the 1950s. Eland Books

When Dervla Murphy turned 10, she was given an atlas and a bicycle, says The Daily Telegraph. The travel writer, who died last week aged 90, hatched a plan immediately – she would cycle from her home in Ireland to India. More than two decades later, in 1963, Murphy set off. The resulting book, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, made her “a publishing sensation”.

The trip was bonkers, says The Times. For 3,000 miles, Murphy pedalled her trusty bicycle (nicknamed Roz) across the world: through communist eastern Europe, mullah-dominated Iran and monsoon-drenched India. Her total budget for the trip was £65 (around £1,250 today) and she packed light: a .25 pistol and her diary. Someone once asked if she slept on a camp bed. “Good lord no,” Murphy replied. “The decadence!”

She was “unfazed by events that might have forced a lesser traveller to turn for home”. On the freezing Babusar Pass in Pakistan, Murphy gamely strapped herself to a cow to cross a raging river; in Romania, stranded in a snow drift, she shot at a pack of wolves that were tearing at her clothes. And she never tired of people either. She got “dead drunk” with the headman of an Afghan village and was followed around by adoring Iranian schoolboys clutching their copies of Jane Eyre. “Most people in the world,” she concluded, “are helpful and trustworthy.”