Tracks is the long-awaited film adaptation of Australian Robyn Davidson’s memoir of the same name, which tells the story of her 1977 journey across thousands of kilometres of desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, with four camels and her pet dog Diggity. When we first meet Robyn, she is a restless and often grouchy introvert, not much interested in human friendship and itching to be alone, trekking the country. Adam Driver (from HBO series Girls and last year’s excellent Frances Ha) brings some laughs to the film in his role as the clumsy but likeable National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan. As expected, Robyn and Rick do get together, but Tracks is not a movie about their relationship.
Cinematographer Mandy Walker, who shot Ray Lawrence’s masterpiece Lantana (2001), does a fine job of acquainting us with parts of Australia that we rarely get to see at the movies.
At last, after so many years of stalled attempts to adapt Tracks, Davidson’s pilgrimage has received the big screen treatment it was always destined for.
Christina Mishell is our world-class photographer who adores capturing natural shots and Live music events. Enter your email to subscribe to our site and receive notifications of new posts (including competitions) directly to your email. In 1977 photographer Rick Smolan was traveling in Australia on assignment for Time magazine when he encountered an angry woman in the small town of Alice Springs. The woman was Robyn Davidson—the so-called “camel-lady” who undertook a 1,700-mile trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean on foot with four camels and a dog as her companions. When Davidson embarked on her ambitious walk across the Australian Outback she didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Evening temperatures in the desert often dropped below freezing, so a warm fire was a welcome way to end a hard day’s work. Along her trek, Davidson suffered multiple hardships, including dehydration, sick camels, the poisoning of her beloved dog, and intrusions by curious people who would simply not leave her alone. She eventually made it to the Indian Ocean where she took her camels for a triumphant swim. After walking almost 1,700 miles across the heart of the Australian Outback, Davidson and her camels arrived at the Indian Ocean. When the story was published, Davidson told Smolan she hated the photos in the magazine, and she was dissatisfied with the editing of the piece. Rick Smolan’s photo of Robyn Davidson was featured on the cover of the May 1978 issue of National Geographic. He says he was pleased the filmmakers stayed true to the details of the journey, including the mystery of Davidson’s motivations for her trip, as well as the nuances of their relationship. He says her scorn eventually led him to stop taking assignments and start producing his own photo books, including the wildly successful “Day in the Life” series, which have sold millions of copies worldwide. He adds that part of the modern day appeal of Davidson’s tale is that it would be almost impossible to do again today. Watch Rick Smolan talk live at National Geographic about his experiences in Australia with Robyn Davidson.
Also, hear more from Smolan and Davidson in this video interview from MediaStorm and purchase Inside TRACKS here.
Smolan is co-creator of the best-selling “A Day in the Life” series, which has sold more than three-million copies worldwide. I love both the beautiful film TRACKS and the National Geographic feature on Robyn Davidson. After suffering losses of loved ones, I too am ready to undertake my own trek to the ocean. I must agree with some previous comments about the film, the girl looks selfish and she has problem with herself. I had read and was so captured by the story and fotos in NG in 1978 and still have the article. Read your book years ago in Italy where I now live and loved it and have recently watched the film which made me cry. I can personally relate to her preference for the company of animals to people and the desire to get lost in nature; get away from city noise and the trappings of modern day life. Drove a Meyers Manx from Port Hedland, Wilnuna, Carnegie Station, Warburton, Broken Hill and Toowoomba to 1972. THE STORY IS ONE OF A DREAM AND A QUEST AND A YOUNG LADY WHO STRETCHES LIFE TO THE FULLEST , FIGHTING PHYSICAL AS WELL AS SPIRITUAL ISSUES–WE ALL CAN LEARN FROM HER JOURNEY. I loved this movie and Maybe without and maybe without Ricks Smolan’s help Robyn Davidson would not be able to make the journey. I’m concerned that the movie romanticized the event, although I have not read the book. A fantastic story, What a strong woman you are Robyn Davidson, such an inspiration for all women especially Australians. 2 hours of pure enjoyment, this movie is a must see, the beauty of the landscape, the agony of being alone, the friendship of the natives and endurance of the camels and man’s best friend, is truly amazing. So many times when watching movies I feel as though it”s putting holes in my brain,this movie fills the holes. I was first apprehensive to see the movie because I was afraid it would not live up to what I had read before. So many people do journeys in their life to get in touch with who they are and take time out of their day to day world to do it. But thank goodness there are those who do the journey who invite us with them in their re telling of their story. I am a lucky man – I still have not seen the movie but am ecstatically looking forward to it after recently having red the book, which totally blowed me away. Initially I was reluctant to watch this movie thinking it would be this slow boring thing, but as I have travelled the outback I was more interested in seeing the scenery across the country that part of the outback I hadn’t been however from the moment the movies started and in particular once the trek commenced I became riveted. From Alice to Ocean va ser el meu primer CD-Rom i em va canviar la manera com veia els ordinadors.
What an amazing story the movie was grwat and thank you Robin for sharing your journey with the world. Amazing book and amazing film.Thoroughly enjoyed both and a fantastic image of the beautiful outback of Australia. Your article opened an entire new world to me, one which I never dreamed existed and one which I could never enter. You've continued to travel since your epic camel trek, but has anything matched that adventure since? It depends on the context but if you are worried about losing water then walk at night, don’t walk in the day.

You have no formal training either, would you agree that we can teach ourselves anything we need to learn? During your trek, people kept asking you why you were doing it, what would you say to those who have a similar desire to go out there on their own, just because? Tracks does have unintentional feminist overtones, did you intend it to come across this way? As opposed to the people in the towns, the people in the desert were extremely friendly and welcoming weren’t they?
Oh yes, I go back quite a bit to see them particularly Eddie’s family [Eddie trekked through Ngaanyatjarra lands with Davidson, guiding her to water sources along the way]. Do you still see photojournalist Rick Smolan (played by Adam Driver in the movie) who documented your journey? You got to know Aboriginals during your trip and deeply respect them, what do you think of Australia’s current integration policy?
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Robyn Davidson astonished the world by walking 2700km across the Australian desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with four camels and a dog. Thirty seven years later her remarkable journey has been wonderfully captured in Tracks, a haunting film of a unique event which destined Davidson to be known for evermore as “The Camel Lady”.
Based on her best-selling 1980 book Tracks, the film took three decades to come to fruition, mainly because of the difficulty of translating the book’s meditative narrative into an absorbing motion picture. Australian actress Mia Wasikowska carries the film almost single-handedly as she trudges across the endless desert with her animal companions in tow. It must have been a daunting role to take on, requiring her to confront four snorting, roaring camels and to learn how to work with them, ride them, and load and unload their heavy packs. There were also conflicts about her deal with National Geographic – she needed the money to fund the trip but resented the magazine’s photographer intruding on her solitude.
She and her besotted photographer Rick Smolan (played by Adam Driver) agreed that he would leave her alone most of the time, just turning up every few weeks to get the pictures he needed. The stunning images of the vast and dramatic desert landscape are captured with spectacular flair by cinematographer Mandy Walker. Her close-ups of feet marching doggedly across the parched earth make a telling contrast with aerial shots showing the huge empty expanses of central Australia. The Starfish straight to your inbox!Sign up and receive the latest edition of The Starfish in your email in-box each week! It’s a movie that has been in the works for decades, and has finally been brought to the screen by American filmmaker John Curran, director of Stone (2010) and The Painted Veil (2006), with Mia Wasikowska playing the role of the 27-year-old Davidson. But during the course of her epic expedition across the Western Australian desert and bushland, we watch the young journeyer grow into herself, form new bonds and overcome old wounds.
She portrays the young Robyn Davidson as a wild-at-heart loner, whose tough exterior gradually lets up to reveal a modest but tenacious seeker, and – although she is reluctant to identify herself as such – a true adventurer.
As Robyn’s official cameraman and sometime-consort, Rick has a klutzy, fish-out-of-water charm, and although you can spot the romantic hook-up in the works from a mile away, Curran and screenwriter Marion Nelson don’t allow their film to be slowed down by a soppy love story. If this is a film about a romance, then it is the romance between a zealous young woman and the horizon; a love affair with aloneness and the Australian landscape. Although we spend almost all of Tracks following Robyn’s slow progress across the desert, the photography is always beautiful, and does indeed feature real locations within Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Perhaps it’s because, as well as being a tale of great courage and adventure, this is a story that feels far-fetched and larger than life.
The problem was, although Davidson had been training her camels and preparing for the trip for years, Smolan had no experience in the outback. While she initially resisted his presence, eventually they became friends, then started a brief romance. After making camp, Robyn Davidson would cook dinner and then listen to teaching tapes that taught her to speak Pitjantjara, the local aboriginal dialect.
At one point, when Smolan heard a rumor that she was lost in the desert, he high-tailed it from Asia to Australia to track her down, unwittingly leading a mob of other frenzied journalists along with him.
It was the end of her physical journey, but the beginning of her sharing her story with the world—first in the 1978 National Geographic article, and later in her best-selling memoir called TRACKS.
Smolan is married with two children, and has published a series of photo books with his wife, Jennifer Erwitt. I feel bad for her dog Diggity and wonder why did she even take her to a dangerous journey. It is a beautiful story about a courageous, young woman who chose to follow her dream in spite of the odds against her. Miss Davidson, you were a courageous young women, I hope you are well, thanks for sharing a piece of your life.
I wished she would have left her dog Diggy behind with friends, or family.lucky for Rick to stay with her during her trip. I’m concerned that young women who watch it will think they should be able to do same without proper covering for body and feet. My late mother loved stories from Australia and likely had the issue of National Geographic in which this story was published. I am very glad that I watched the movie and the accompanying additional interviews on the DVD. I particularly liked that they showed certain things ie snake on neck but didn’t overemphasize it. I have always been in awe of Robyn and what she achieved, the movie was great I have seen it twice and I agree with Robyn’s comments elsewhere Mia did a great job. What Robin did showed a lot of courage and fortitude to continue, amazing outback scenery stuff I hadn’t seen before the isolation that Robin endured was breathtaking ! De fet, aquest CD-Rom venia gratuitament en els Macintosh que estrenaven tambe els lector de CD-Roms. Instead, Tracks focuses more on the meditation on life part that, as far as I understand, is suppose to make you realize that life and planet earth are meant to be explored first hand.
Going to India and doing a project with nomads there, going on migration with them, that was hard, that made Tracks look like a piece of cake.
In that time, I trained the camels and developed so many skills that I didn’t know I had. Follow where the birds are going and look out for animal tracks, they’re usually looking for water.

I sort of dabbled at university, but it was in that era when life was so much more exciting. Particularly in the first third of the trip there were times when I was wondering what the hell I was doing, why I was doing it.
White Australians and post-colonial Australians have a great deal of trouble coming to terms with the history, the simple fact that the colonisation of that country destroyed aboriginal culture. Director John Curran, a New Yorker who has lived and worked in Australia for nearly 30 years, has produced a visually beautiful film which avoids sentimentality and is unmistakably Australian, with laconic outback characters, wit and humour.
It’s a terrific role for the young Australian star, who is quickly maturing into an impressive dramatic actor. Curran’s movie has resonance because it doesn’t lose focus or take on unnecessary subplots: it stays the course, and tells the story of a free spirit who is making this journey for herself and on her own terms. The film is well written and the performances are good, and – aside from some clunky exposition involving a rather unsubtle voice-over and an old compass with sentimental value – Tracks is a very well-made movie. Whilst those dazzling set lights have inspired Christina to dabble more into studio shoots, whether that be for fashion, family portraits, musician’s, make-up artists or her own storytelling. But she also needed money, so Smolan helped introduce her to editors at National Geographic who offered funding in exchange for her story. Smolan didn’t tell his editors about the affair—the relationship would have been frowned upon.
He reflects that traveling with Davidson—and having to make tough choices about covering and becoming involved in her story—ultimately changed his career. He is CEO of Against All Odds Productions, and lives in New York with his wife and collaborator Jennifer Erwitt.
Anyway the film reminds me of how we human love to hold on to things that hurt us, dramatizing them, how we’re addicted to suffering. I see one or two posters just don’t get it, they have probably lived sheltered lives in big cities and have never seen the Outback or Camels for that matter. Ell treball d’en Rick Smolan va estimular la meva carrera ja que em va obrir els ulls i em va mostrar un nou mont, el molt multimedia. Director John Curran (The Painted Veil, We dona€™t Live Here Anymore) and writer Marion Nelson brought to the screen Robyn Davidsona€™s book about her own experience through the Australian dessert. For the simple reason that I was on my own for that length of time, I think my head got rewired frankly. I was also meant to be a pianist, so I went to the Conservatorium for a while, but it was so conservative I couldn’t bear it. Although I would like the journey to be accessible to men and women, because I think it is universal. It’s about knowing your environment, taking the trouble to work out what that environment is and then doing it. In a situation like that [walking 1700 miles across the desert] either you kill the person and bury them in a sand dune or you learn to tolerate them. She snorkels the reefs at North Cottesloe daily (in summer!) and tries not to think about fins. But as he continued to document Davidson’s journey he became an inextricable part of her story.
Across the years I had forgotten Robyn’s story, but it all came back to me as my wife and I watched Tracks last night.
I admire your perseverance and probably some of your reasoning was fueled by a need to detach.
Stunning visual panoramas leave me in awe of this young woman who showed such courage, such resilience, such gritty determination. My heart broke for the little girl who lost her Mum family and best friend Goldie in one hit. I also felt her dislike of some of the Australians and their racist attitudes toward the Aborigines. Thus, Tracks tells the story of Robyn (Mia Wasikowska, Maps to the Stars), a young a girl who, back in 1975, took a 2000 miles journey through the Australian dessert with four camels, a dog and sometimes Rick (Adam Driver, Girls, This is Where I Leave You), a persistent National Geographic photographer.
One of the good things about not going through a very formal education, is that I never stop learning. It might be more important to women because it's a woman doing something that usually would have been a man.
Rick Smolan’s incredible original photographs (which eventually accompanied a National Geographic article penned by Davidson in 1978) show the real Robyn, Diggity and four camels Dookie, Bub, Zeleika and Goliath that made the pilgrimage “from Alice to ocean” in 1977. You can almost smell the campfires, imagine the silence, and conjure both the difficulty and the romance of the trek. To me it’s more a story of the people who found her and helped her, but they are not the star of the film. I was shattered and my face hurt from crying when you had to say goodbye to your loyal dog Digity. I’m consequently interested in everything and want to do everything and be everything. She understood why someone would do it, it wasn’t a mystery to her that someone would want to do such a thing. Often if people go through a very formal kind of education they see themselves as one thing. However, I remember when I went back to Australia a few years ago, there was this terrific little film called Samson and Delilah. She instinctively refuses any help, but then Rick (Driver) leaves behind the mailing address of National Geographic and she gives in. I'm not sure what her relationship with her family is or even how old she is, but somehow, the meditative aspect of the movie has began to sink in. Rick will appear a few times along the way to take photos and Robyn will have to write an article at the end of the journey. She will both love and hate his presence, though she'll refrain for expressing to many emotions at any point along the way.
In fact, the meditative aspect I've mentioned so far might have to do with the sterility (in a positive sense) of the Wasikovska's acting, which doesn't offer a variety of feelings that you could easily identify you, she almost allows the viewer to make his own decisions. The most intense reaction we see in her is when her dog dies and she has to shoot him (from a flashback we find out her dad did the same thing with a dog she had as a little girl).

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