Reader & Media Reviews:
UBUNTU: One Woman's Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa
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BRAVERY AND INDULGENCES: ROAD WORTHY GIFTS JUST FOR HER
By Tony Davis - 8/12/2016
Put the woman in your life behind the wheel with Life & Leisure's top motoring picks for her this Christmas.
She rode a motorcycle solo across 19 countries in Africa, taking the time to climb Kilimanjaro, raft down the Zaire River and survive bursts of malaria along the way. Yet Ubuntu: One Woman's Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa reveals something about Heather Ellis that's even braver still (you'll have to read the afterword to find out about that).
Growing up in rural Australia, Ellis developed an early fascination for motorcycles and an intense curiosity about Africa. She eventually combined the two and tells a tale that is at times verging on madness. She reveals how she would accelerate past soldiers toting AK47s at military checkpoints in the Congo to avoid paying bribes or exposing herself to other dangers. As she dryly observes: "Bullets were expensive and scarce, and as the soldiers had to buy their own, it was unlikely they would shoot me."
Simply told in strict chronological order, Ubuntu is a thoroughly traditional piece of travel writing. Ellis has brutal candour and does a fine job of communicating the feel of Africa and the growing bond with her Yamaha TT600 over 15 months and 42,000 kilometres. She calls it "a big bore single-cylinder thumper of a motorcycle with a deep, almost primeval sound that says power and strength".
Ellis survived the sand, mud, parasites, hucksters and civil wars with a mix of guile, luck and horsepower. But she also found plenty to reaffirm her faith in humanity. As she puts it, leaving the Mauritanian dock for Europe: "Africa and its people had looked out for me."
The author later tried to ride the same bike back to Australia from Europe, via the Silk Road, and is working on that story now. In the meantime, you don't need to love motorcycles to be inspired by this tome, and even to decide to crisscross a continent on your own (though perhaps not that one!).
Ubuntu One Woman's Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa (published by Nero), by Heather Ellis, $29.99.
9/12/2016 Heather, everything Tony Davis mentions is so very accurate. You deserve huge kudos for your determination to undertake the adventure but also write about in such a way that it makes me happy envious that I didn't do something similar when I was younger. This is, in my opinion, an excellent book to read. I'm so overwhelmed to know the person behind the story, albeit briefly. Congratulations!" Ashley John Walker