Tracks is a cult classic, recently republished, about a woman's solo walk across 1700 miles of the Australian outback. I learned a great deal about camels, Alice Springs Australia, the mentality of Australian men, Aborigines, and Robyn Davidson from this book. It is a book about life on the frontier, self reliance, being a woman in an ultra-macho culture, about tourism in the outback and the savage mistreatment of native peoples of the outback. One of the most interesting and to me edifying aspects of the book was in Davidson's accounts of the treatment of Aborigines and her encounters with them. She struggled hard to see the other in people very different from her. One side of prejudice is ignorant hatred that sees the Aborigines as near sub-human completely without redeeming qualities existing only to be exploited and treated as vermin. On the other side there are the well meaning who try to help them and to see into their culture. The first mistake is to seem them as "all alike" when they are from many tribal groups, sometimes opposed to each other. Many tribes have been forced onto lands with groups to which they have long histories of conflict.
Camels were first introduced into the Australian outback early in the 19th century. Many escaped captivity and they thrived and greatly multiplied in the outback, an ideal setting for them. I admit I never until I read tracks saw Camels as having much personality but Davidson taught me a lot about camels. They are hard to manage, very bonded to their herd, and each has their own personality.
As Tracks unfolds we see a spiritual journey unfold as Davidson tries to learn the skills needed to trek the outback with Camels. Her preparations take up the first third of the book and were fascinating. We meet a lot of interesting people in Alice Springs (Alice Springs is a very touristy town where people go to experience the outback.
All in all a fascinating journey and an excellent book. There is a new postscript in the Bloomsbury edition. I highly recommend this book.
Robyn Davidson is an award-winning writer who has travelled and published widely. Her books include Tracks, Desert Places,Quarterly Essay 24: No Fixed Address - Nomads and the Future of the Planet and, as editor, The Picador Book of Journeys andThe Best Australian Essays 2009. Her essays have appeared in Granta,, the Monthly, the Bulletin and Griffith Review, amongst others.
I hope to read more of her work.