If you want to journey through Australia’s harshest terrain, Rainer the Cabbie urges you to pick up Tracks, the 1970’s autobiographical piece by Robyn Davidson, the book by his bedside.
The question I’m most commonly asked is ‘Why’.
A more pertinent question might be, why is it that more people don’t attempt to escape the limitations imposed upon them?
If Tracks has a message at all, it is that one can be awake to the demand for obedience that seems natural simply because it is familiar. Wherever there is pressure to conform (one person’s conformity is often in the interests of another person’s power), there is a requirement to resist.
So reads the postscript to the autobiography Tracks by the author Robyn Davidson.
Inspired after watching the film released in 2013, I decided to read about the great journey Davidson embarked upon, crossing the desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, on foot with the aid of camels, through two thousand kilometres of country that was barely discovered and untouched at the time.
The movie was epic in capturing the beauty of the Australian desert and described the trip taken by Davidson in detail but totally missed out on the personal journey undertaken, one that is impressive, courageous and refreshing in its honesty and integrity.
In Tracks, we follow Davidson’s arrival in Alice Springs, accompany her along a steep learning curve in the handling and caring of camels, her life in Alice acquiring this knowledge, the setbacks encountered and how she managed to prepare and set out on her trip against all odds.
In the end she manages to pull it all together, taking us on her travels through some of the harshest environment on Earth. The love she has for her companions – camels Dookie, Bub, Zeleika, baby Goliath and Davidson’s biggest friend, her dog Diggity – is legendary. They are united together on this trip not just by friendship, but also reliant on each other for survival.
Davidson’s description of the country she passes through takes the reader into this special environment, making one feel as though alongside her to share the wonder and beauty of this landscape. The special relationships she forges with the Aboriginal people and the sparse farming population she meets is one of special note. So is her take on outback redneck attitudes and behaviour.
Davidson’s observations on Aboriginal Australia, their way of life and the plight endured is very special, as is her relationship with “Mr. Eddie”, an Aboriginal elder that accompanies her for a section of the trip. Davidson may not be an anthropologist, but her insight into the cultural difference between “us and them” is worth more than anything I’ve ever read.
I give Robyn Davidson’s Tracks five out of five.
Not only is it a captivating read but her social observations and personal story make this book come alive like the Australian desert at sunrise.