Books

17 February 2015

Tracks by Robyn Davidson, Australia, 1980


An extremely honest and beautifully written book where it is obvious that the author has a deep affinity, not only with the Australian landscape but also with the Australian psyche. Robyn's trek from Alice Springs in the centre of Australia to the Atlantic Ocean on the far west of the continent was 2735.88  kilometres; it was an amazing journey undertaken with only four camels and a dog for company. 
                                      
Having walked with one of my sons (no camels or dog) across part of Western Australia, a distance amounting to about a third of Robyn's trek, I fully understood her feelings of being one with the landscape and her all-encompassing need to be on her own. I also understood her reference to people in well-equipped 4WDs rushing through areas of singular beauty and yet missing it all because of a focus on the next photo or on being able to tick off one more thing from a long list of things to do.


To understand the landscape, it is necessary to be able to relate with it physically. You have to feel the sand and the small rocks and the prickly bushes; you have to be able to physically touch branches and grasses and feel the cold creek water numbing your legs. You have to be able to look around you at a circular horizon, knowing that, within that space, there is only you and the landscape.

It is indisputable that this was something that Robyn really wanted to do, in spite of the many hurdles and fears to be overcome. I felt that she was very aware of the importance of being able to push ourselves beyond our 'comfort zone'. If we do not challenge ourselves, mentally, physically and even emotionally, there is a danger of stagnation. 


By surpassing the limitations - the need for conformity - imposed upon us by society and fear of being different, we are able to find ourselves. Robyn does not suggest that everyone should traipse across the desert with a few camels and a dog, but she does suggest that we dare take that step beyond conformity.

As she writes in the very last paragraph: Camel trips (whatever form they may take) ... do not begin or end, they merely change form.

In 2013, Tracks was made into a film with the same name. Hear what Robyn thought of the film - an interview with the ABC.

The photos of Robyn Davidson and the camels are from www.smh.com.au

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