Ubuntu: One Woman's Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa
Unlike just a few years ago, there’s now a plethora of adventure motorcycling book titles to choose from. In some ways it’s unfortunate that many new authors have taken the easy route of porting their essentially unedited blogs, warts ’n’ all, into the Amazon Kindle format. Meanwhile, a few seem to be investing in the more traditional route, along with the blood, sweat and tears it takes to thoughtfully craft their tales into book form. Ubuntu is a stellar example of the latter category.
What drew a wanderlusting gal in her late 20s, living in a northern Australia mining town, to a grand overlanding motorcycling adventure? You might assume it came from months or even years of careful planning and preparation, or a deep contemplation of world travel, but aside from a lifelong obsession with Africa, the author claims it was nothing more than a beer-inspired whim. “It just came out,” she admitted, and so unexpectedly that she had no idea where it came from. With that kind of a set-up, you’d almost expect a less than exciting read, but as far as memoirs go, you can’t get much better than this.
Ubuntu originates in Bantu (Zulu) and means “the universal bond that connects all of humanity as one,” reflectively describing Heather Ellis’ overlanding experiences through Africa back in 1993–1994. That period makes her story a particularly fascinating one in that it’s original, and uninfluenced or contaminated by the many who’ve since made similar runs. Of course there was no internet back then, so she was pretty much on her own as far as how she’d do it.
Although Heather started off with a male riding partner, she ended up completing most of the journey solo. In my opinion, the separation marked the point where her story really dug in. Further, she did it the hard way, on a well-worn Yamaha TT660, along a route that included many of the continent’s less than savory, even hostile, locations. Overall, she spent over a year in Africa on a tiny budget, mostly camping and riding the back roads.
Much of this book centers around Heather’s evolving sense of serendipitous travel, where instead of looking for or fearing danger, she found overwhelming kindness. Not that she threw caution to the wind or was reckless, but she did keep fear tucked away and showed how allowing events to simply unfold often proved the better way. This is another theme we continually hear about, especially from the more seasoned “on the ground” overlanders.
For some travelers a journey like this may be more spiritual than physical, Heather’s accounting emphasizes just that. And she drops a bomb at the end of the book that makes it all come together, also helping to explain why it took her so many years to publish her story.
Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for Heather’s follow-up of her journey from the U.K. to Vietnam. I’m certainly looking forward to it! Heather-Ellis.com
Author: Heather Ellis
Publisher: Nero, an imprint of Black Inc. Books
Pricing: Paperback: $19.99 | Kindle $3.69
ISBN: 978163958202 (paperback), 9781925203882 (ebook)
ASIN: B017CPTMCC (Amazon)