As you travel Africa, you will find the way of ubuntu – the universal bond that connects all of humanity as one.
At the age of twenty-eight, while sitting in a friend’s backyard in the remote mining township of Jabiru, Heather Ellis has a light-bulb moment: she is going to ride a motorcycle across Africa. The idea just feels right – no matter that she’s never done any long-distance motorcycle travelling before, and has never even set foot on the African continent. Twelve months later, Heather unloads her Yamaha TT600 at the docks in Durban, South Africa, and her adventure begins.
Her travels take her to the dizzying heights of Mt Kilimanjaro and the Rwenzori Mountains, to the deserts of northern Kenya where she is befriended by armed bandits and rescued by Turkana fishermen, to a stand-off with four Ugandan men intent on harm, and to a voyage on a ‘floating village’ on the mighty Zaire River. Everywhere she goes Heather is aided by locals and travellers alike, who take her into their homes and hearts, helping her to truly understand the spirit of ubuntu – a Bantu word meaning ‘I am because you are’. Ubuntu is the extraordinary story of a young woman who, alone and against all odds, rode a motorcycle to some of the world’s most remote, beautiful and dangerous places.
‘Most of us wouldn’t take a motorcycle solo through Africa. Or remember much about what we were saying, smelling, believing or hoping twenty years ago. Heather Ellis did that, and has written a remarkable book about it too. She tells her story vividly and honestly, taking us through fields, national parks, into towns and down red-mud tracks, meeting other travellers and working with locals, eating rice and fish, honing her self-belief and increasing our respect for her with every day on the road. This is a really fascinating and compelling tale, told well. For anyone who has ever doubted themselves, Ubuntu has a message: there is a way through, down a road you haven’t travelled yet.’ —Kate Holden, author of In Her Skin
‘No two big journeys are alike, and Heather Ellis’ could not have been more different to mine, but certain fundamental similarities seem to unite us all, from the prosaic –‘My bike was dangerously overloaded’ – to the sublime awakenings that such journeys engender. Hers was a great adventure into the soul of Africa, a thrilling story of endurance and self-discovery, told with care, intelligence and deep humanity. It is beautifully written and a pleasure to read. So read it.’ —Ted Simon, author of Jupiter’s Travels
‘In the 1990s Heather had an impulsive idea to ride a motorcycle through Africa and, through perseverance, made this come true. Her story is not just a very detailed, descriptive account of the countries she rode through but also of the problems she faced and overcame. It reveals her ability to communicate with people of all nationalities and walks of life, learn from them and find that if you have faith in the Universe, it will provide. Very well written and immensely readable.’ —Linda Bootherstone-Bick, author of Into Africa with a Smile
Heather Ellis has worked as a radiation safety technician, a motorcycle courier, a journalist for News Ltd and in communications for an NGO.