Inspired by childhood stories of Prester John and the Queen of Sheba, in 1966 Dervla Murphy bought Jock, an amiable pack-mule in order to treck across the highlands of this awesome, but troubled land. She wandered south from the Red Sea shore to Sheba’s Aksum, and upto the icy roof of Africa, the Semien mountains. From there she descended to the ruined palaces of Gondar and skirted the northern shore of Lake Tana before crossing the drought-afflicted high ranges to Lalibela. Having exchanged the exhausted Jock (named after her publisher) for an un-cooperative donkey, Dervla completed her journey to Addis Ababa. Her real achievement, was not surviving three armed robberies or a thousand mile trail but rather the growing affection and understanding of another race.
‘One of the supreme virtues of Miss Murphy as a travel writer – she is human. She needs her drink; she craves her cigarettes; she is capable of losing her temper; she smuggles things through customs. A more virtuous figure would be far less endearing’ – Daily Telegraph
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