Clunes Booktown transforms to a reader’s moveable feast

Bonjour: Jacques the French waiter was a colourful sight on Fraser Street throughout the weekend, dishing out plenty of "frivolité".

Bonjour: Jacques the French waiter was a colourful sight on Fraser Street throughout the weekend, dishing out plenty of "frivolité".

SOUTH Africa might seem a long way from the tiny, historic township of Clunes, but the two were brought together in a narrative sense over the weekend.

Ubuntu: Motorcycle and HIV spokesperson Heather Ellis spoke to a packed audience about her bike ride through South Africa and her deep respect for the country's understanding of human kindness. Pictures: Dylan Burns

Ubuntu: Motorcycle and HIV spokesperson Heather Ellis spoke to a packed audience about her bike ride through South Africa and her deep respect for the country's understanding of human kindness. Pictures: Dylan Burns

One of the weekend’s highlights was an author talk by journalist and motorcyclist Heather Ellis, who travelled on her own with nothing but a steel horse during the 1990s, experiencing “a thousand lifetimes” along the way.

Imagination: The hay-bale maze was as popular as ever, as scores of children attended the festival with their book-loving parents.

Imagination: The hay-bale maze was as popular as ever, as scores of children attended the festival with their book-loving parents.

Ellis spoke about her new book Ubuntu, which details her hair-raising experiences and moving encounters in the colourful African nation, with scores of readers packing into the Clunes Warehouse to hear the author.

Ubuntu, a South African concept meaning the bond of human inter-connectedness, was something Ellis experienced in spades while motorcycling the nation.

Books about books: Readers dug through hundreds of boxes. The festival is the country's biggest rare and collectable book trade event.

Books about books: Readers dug through hundreds of boxes. The festival is the country's biggest rare and collectable book trade event.

The Melbourne-based writer was diagnosed with HIV at the end of her trip.

“Everybody helped me all the time,” she said.

“African is a village… and I put my trust in the local African people.”

Ellis is writing a sequel to Ubuntu about her subsequent motorbike ride through Central Asia.