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Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule in Unknown Peru [Paperback]

Dervla Murphy

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Book Description

Sept. 18 2003
The eight feet belong to Dervla Murphy, her nine-year-old daughter Rachel and Juana, an elegant mule, who together clambered the length of Peru, from Cajamarca near the border with Ecuador, to Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital, over 1300 miles to the south.

With only the most basic necessities to sustain them and spending most of their time above 10,000 feet, their journey was marked by extreme discomfort, occasional danger and even the temporary loss of Juana over a precipice. Yet mother and daughter, a formidable duo, were unflagging in their sympathetic response to the perilous beauty and impoverished people of the Andes.

In this extraordinary adventure, Dervla Murphy is at her intrepid best, facing up to the terrors, horrors and joys of her journey along the mountain paths.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; New edition (Sept. 18 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719565162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719565168
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #630,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A tone of exuberance and generosity dominates the book ... The reader's admiration is boundless—Caroline Moorehead, The Spectator

This is the best account I have read of travel on foot in the Andes. The appreciation for scenery and people and the sheer enjoyment of the journey makes Dervla Murphy one of our outstanding travel writers—Traveller

This adventure is one of Dervla Murphy's best. She remains her humorous, modest, self-mocking self.—Daily Telegraph

There is nothing so dramatic as mountains rising sheer from the plain ... and Dervla Murphy responds with more than the routine rapture of the professional travel writer—Christopher Wordsworth, Observer

One of the most joyous, positive and poetic voyages - physical, spiritual and environmental—Irish Independent

Dervla Murphy is always an honest and endearing companion, so stout of heart and physique that she almost belittles her achievement—Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Dervla Murphy is one of the very best loved of travel writers. She was born in County Waterford and since 1964 has been regularly publishing accounts of her journeys - by bicycle and on foot - in the remoter areas of four continents. She has also written about the problems of Northern Ireland, the hazards of nuclear power, and race relations in Britain. The Times Literary Supplement called her 'an admirable woman - she has a romantic soul and a keen eye'.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun but caveat lector June 27 2008
By Jerika - Published on Amazon.com
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.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eight feet in the Andes Feb. 12 2000
By sarah murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Wonderful, uncomplicated and witty descriptions of the environment, culture, peoples and journey. Amazing courage to do what had to be done to get through. Made me want to travel mysel, instead of earning large amounts of money in an office. Truly inspirational.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone travelling to Peru! Sept. 2 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Although the thought of reading about Dervla Murphy's trip throught the Peruvian Andes did not greatly interest me because of the potential for boring day-by-day narration, I found Murphy's description and narration of her trip very enlightening. Murphy deftly ties together her story of her trip with historical facts and cultural observations of Peru. Although I did not always agree with Murphy's opinion of the Peruvian people, she gave me food for thought during my trip to Peru.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not at all boring, believe it or not Sept. 20 2004
By J. Bakelaar - Published on Amazon.com
It's a travelogue, after all, how good can it be? Very good, actually. The Misses Murphy are not only intrepid explorers (lunatic also applies, as Ms. Murphy herself notes), but excellent observers. I suppose that is why she gets published. "Eight Feet" is not only funny but educational, and cannot help but kindle wanderlust in the reader. Best read episodically (think every night before bed) because that is how it is written, one travels with them by sharing in the emotional triumphs and tribulations. While her nature descriptions are evocative, one really connects with the more human aspects of the journey. I can only try to imagine the rivers and mountains, and it took me half the book to grasp what 'puna' referred to geographically. Banks, thievery, and rumbling bellies are in abundance, however, and are what make this book worth reading. The same holds true for "Where the Indus is Young" and, I imagine, the rest of her books. When I've read them, I'll let you know!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The REAL rough guide to Peru! Feb. 12 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Dervla Murphy is definitely a one of a kind treasure. The vistas she conjures up in this book are breathtaking. The hardships she endured are more than most of would care to experience in our travels. Still, it's a great armchair experience!

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