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The Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal by Dervla Murphy

Book name: The Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal

Author: Dervla Murphy

Format: ebook, print

Genre: Travel writing

Publication Date: 1967

Rating: 4/5


I first read The Waiting Land just before I went to Nepal in my GAP year in 1989. Back in the days before the internet, there wasn’t much information out there and GAP years were still not at all common at that time.


I was frankly relieved to be able to find out anything about where I was going.


The Waiting Land describes Dervla Murphy’s lengthy stay in Nepal volunteering at a refugee camp for displaced Tibetans.


She is a professional traveller writer, having written about (amongst other expeditions) journeying across Cameroon with a horse named Egbert and having also travelled in Ethiopia on a mule.


Dervla Murphy flies into New Delhi from Ireland and then travels across to Nepal by land. She then travels by plane from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the second city, where the camp is located.


I was going to take an identical flight in 1989 to begin volunteering at a local school in Pokhara, so, when I read this description, I was fascinated.


The conditions in the refugee camp are hard, but the descriptions Dervla Murphy provides of the resolve and dignity of the Tibetans she comes to know well are uplifting.


She has quite a dry prose style and avoids any idealisation of the refugees she helps. This makes ‘The Waiting Land’ a much more credible narrative than many books of its kind.


The Waiting Land is really about people: Nepalese and Tibetan and westerners visiting Nepal. But it is also about the landscape and the politics of the country. Dervla Murphy had a canny grasp on the Nepal on 1965, when she visited.


There is enough background to be interesting, and she always writes a splendid description of the physical terrain she encounters. I liked that mix of the three elements very much.


For me, The Waiting Land was a guide to what I might expect when I touched down in Pokhara a few weeks later.


For the tourist, and Nepal remains an immensely popular destination for wildlife, culture, yoga retreats and of course trekking, it offers a deeper portrait of those living in the country for a long time.


For the armchair traveller, whose interest in the country is every bit as welcome, it provides a glimpse of a different culture and peoples. The Waiting Land has much to offer any reader, regardless of the reason for their interest in Nepal.


Re-reading The Waiting Land for the purposes of this review, I was taken back to the Nepal I knew in 1989 and visited a second time as a tourist in 1990. Warm people, cultural diversity and tolerance and a stunning physical environment make this a wonderful country to visit.


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