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UBUNTU: One Woman's Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa

370 pages. Published by Nero (Black Inc. Books) April 2016

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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 – ‘I am because we 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.

Heather Ellis has worked as a radiation safety technician, a motorcycle courier, a journalist for News Ltd. and in communications for an NGO. She lives near Melbourne with her three children, and is currently writing the sequel to Ubuntu while working as a freelance journalist and professional speaker. And she still rides motorcycles.


'As my journey progressed, the many coincidences which I grew to accept as being a natural occurrence of each day, only fed my positive attitude. No harm ever came to me and so I did not expect it to. My intuition, no longer being constrained by conformity, was allowed to develop. I learnt to trust in it, and it showed me that I only need to believe and it will happen.'







    ubuntu book cover




Ubuntu: I am because we are'


'In the old days when we were young, a traveller through our country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or water. Once he stops, the people give him food at the table. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?'
Nelson Mandela



'One of the sayings in our country is ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do a ects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.'

Desmond Tutu