Dervla Murphy always delivers good travel stories, liberally dosed with history lessons. Despite all the decriptions of hardship, privation and poverty, Eight Feet in the Andes is lyrically written and exciting: makes you want to trek through the Andes eating stringy goat meat, which is saying something for the author's talent. However, she can overplay that "Look at me, I'm an eccentric gringo lady" hand a bit too often. (She also never seems to have mastered enough Spanish to know that she's using the masculine form of the word.)
The book is marred in places where Murphy can't keep her Western judgments or personal prejudices from coloring her descriptions. Sure, it's her perspective, but seeing her list homosexuality alongside violence and drunkenness as examples of "Indian" depravity is a little startling. Especially in the second half, there are repeated references to the "stupidity" and "low IQ" of the "Indians," and the "intellectual dishonesty" of the entire country. Murphy dismisses the value of literacy in the Sierra when she discovers magazine vendors selling soft porn, calls Peru "a nation of hypocrites," etc. It's funny how she condemns the 16th-century Spanish accounts of Indians as beasts and savages, yet makes similar observations herself and complains that Peruvians having the nerve to drive their trucks through the Peruvian mountains is a kind of "desecration." It's also not clear how she feels able to gauge the natives' intelligence when she herself makes it clear that she has never bothered to learn more than a few words of Quechua. It's definitely worth a read, but brace yourself for some of the more self-righteously arrogant spots in an otherwise broad-minded account.