Robyn Davidson did a solo trek across 1700 miles of Australian Outback in 1970’s and wrote about it all in this amazing travelogue called Tracks! It’s an account of her intrepid adventure which is freaking inspiring!!
Robyn left her home in Queensland with 6 dollars, her dog Diggity and few clothes with a dream in 1975! And she wanted to do it with camels! To think and dream about something like this is so courageous in itself, leave aside the challenges that she knew or did not know about!
Robyn did not know a thing about camels and first few chapters are about her stay at camel ranches where she does every possible kind of work and learns ALL about camels! She faces harsh behaviour from the ranch owners, goes beyond her physical capacity to prep for the trip! Her perseverance is unparalleled!
Reader gets to know about the Australian Outback, the aboriginals, their history & culture and the discrimination they face in Robyn’s words. I could relate to it very well because of the two 1-week holidays I have done up north in last two years! The difficulties of life there, the fear of sexual assault against women, getting herself trained to be with camels, hostility and vastness of the desert ….nothing breaks the tough woman! She tries to fit in and survive in a world which inspite of being a part of Australia is quite different, back in 1970’s and even today!
After 2+ years of time she spent in the ranches working with camels, Robyn learnt how to nurse, feed and handle camels. She collected enough money to get four camels called Dookie, Zelly, Bub and Goliath and with Diggity, she sets out for the epic journey lasting eight months! Throughout the book, Robyn talks more about and to animals including her dog Diggity, the camels and a crow!! The portion of the book about the actual journey gave me goosebumps! There were days and days in a row where she did not see a single soul and she introspects! Those parts of the book are written very beautifully! There are lot of emotional moments, mostly related to her relationship with animals! Animal lovers would relate to them more.
She never wanted to get any kind of publicity, for this was her personal journey. But National Geographic heard about it, helped her finance the journey and one photographer accompanied her for some part of the journey! She was on the cover of May 1978 issue! An old aboriginal also travels with her for a short part of the trek! When Robyn finished the incredible journey, she was already famous as the ‘camel’ woman and the news of the camel woman would reach the place before her towards the end of the journey! No wonder!
Robyn is a great storyteller and the story itself is so stunning, captivating and awe-inspiring! In the end she mentions “The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision”
A sure recommendation!
P.S. The movie Tracks based on the book was released in 2013!!
“It seems to me that the good lord in his infinate wisdom gave us three things to make life bearable- hope, jokes, and dogs. But the greatest of these was dogs.”
“To be free is to learn, to test yourself constantly, to gamble. It is not safe. I had learnt to use my fears as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks”
“It’s important that we leave each other and the comfort of it, and circle away, even though it’s hard sometimes, so that we can come back and swap information about what we’ve learnt even if what we do changes us”
“Why did people circle one another, consumed with either fear or envy, when all the they were fearing or envying was illusion? Why did they build psychological fortresses and barriers around themselves that would take a Ph.D. in safe-cracking to get through, which even they could not penetrate from the inside? And once again I compared European society with Aboriginal. The one so archetypally paranoid, grasping, destructive, the other so sane. I didn’t want ever to leave this desert. I knew that I would forget.”
This was after the journey:
“As I look back on the trip now, as I try to sort out fact from fiction, try to remember how I felt at that particular time, or during that particular incident, try to relive those memories that have been buried so deep, and distorted so ruthlessly, there is one clear fact that emerges from the quagmire. The trip was easy. It was no more dangerous than crossing the street, or driving to the beach, or eating peanuts. The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision. And I knew even then that I would forget them time and time again and would have to go back and repeat those words that had become meaningless and try to remember. I knew even then that, instead of remembering the truth of it, I would lapse into a useless nostalgia. Camel trips, as I suspected all a long, and as I was about to have confirmed, do not begin or end, they merely change form.”