The Ukimwi Road: From Kenya to Zimbabwe

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A brave and thoughtful Irishwoman, 60-ish Murphy (Transylvania and Beyond) specializes in treks through remote regions. Here she recounts a 3000-mile, four-month bicycle ride through southern Africa, at first seeking a “carefree ramble” but soon learning that most of her planned route included the region’s ukimwi (AIDS) belt.

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A brave and thoughtful Irishwoman, 60-ish Murphy (Transylvania and Beyond) specializes in treks through remote regions. Here she recounts a 3000-mile, four-month bicycle ride through southern Africa, at first seeking a “carefree ramble” but soon learning that most of her planned route included the region’s ukimwi (AIDS) belt. Thus, Murphy’s travelogue, which mixes her reflections on colonial legacies with well-etched encounters with border bureaucrats and generous locals, is shadowed by the specter of loss: a young prostitute, her siblings’ sole support after their parents died of AIDS, struggles to make her clients use condoms; an expat doctor agonizes over the dilemmas of notifying the HIV-positive. Given her encounters with troubled Africans as well as her views of ineffective Western aid workers, Murphy concludes-a bit simplistically-that it’s time for the West to withdraw, to leave Africans “to sort out their own future.” Despite that, this book-first published in the U.K. in 1993-remains resonant.

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