In 1977 a 26-year-old Australian called Robyn Davidson trekked 1,700 miles from Alice Springs to the west coast, with a dog and four camels, Dookie (a large male), Bub (a smaller male), Zeleika (a wild female), and Goliath (Zeleika's son).
She had no intention of writing about the journey, but eventually agreed to write an article for National Geographic Magazine. Having met the photographer Rick Smolan in Alice Springs, she insisted that he be the photographer for the journey. Rick, with whom she had an "on-again off-again" romantic relationship during the trip, drove out to meet her three times during the nine-month journey.
The National Geographic article was published in 1978 and attracted so much interest that Davidson decided to write a book about the experience. She traveled to London and lived with Doris Lessing while writing Tracks. Tracks won the inaugural Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 1980 and the Blind Society Award. In the early nineties, Smolan published his pictures of the trip in From Alice to Ocean. It included the first interactive story-and-photo CDs made for the general public.
To this day, all she will really say is that being alone in the desert for nine months helped her to find out who she was, that she quelled a yearning for meaning in the middle of nowhere.
Mia Wasikowska & Robyn Davidson
Her journey is now featured in the movie Tracks. To play Davidson they chose 24-year-old Australian Mia Wasikowska. It's an observation shared by Robyn Davidson, who met Wasikowska early in Tracks' production process. "I was to go with her out into the desert to show her something about camels and here was this delicate person," said the writer last year. "I thought, 'Gosh, how is she going to muster up the strength that the role requires?' Yet she met the camels and very fearlessly got straight into it. The next time I saw her she had transmogrified into a sort-of version of me."