In 1977, twenty-seven-year-old Robyn Davidson set off with a dog and four camels to cross 1,700 miles of Australian desert to the sea. A life of almost constant travelling followed. From the deserts of Australia, to Sydney’s underworld; from Sixties street life, to the London literary scene; from migrating with nomads in Tibet, to ‘marrying’ an Indian prince, Davidson’s quest was motivated by an unquenchable curiosity about other ways of seeing and understanding the world.
Davidson threw bombs over her shoulder and seeds into her future on the assumption that something would be growing when she got there. The only terrain she had no interest in exploring was the past. In Unfinished Woman Davidson turns at last to explore that long avoided country. Through this brave and revealing memoir, she delves into her childhood and youth to uncover the forces that set her on her path, and confront the cataclysm of her mother’s suicide.
In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Robyn Davidson about the challenges she faced in writing about her mother, her chaotic early life and relationship with her family, and the enduring curiosity that continues to inspire her nomadic lifestyle.
‘I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there’s no going back.’ So begins Robyn Davidson’s perilous journey across 1,700 miles of hostile Australian desert to the sea with only four camels and a dog for company.
Enduring sweltering heat, fending off poisonous snakes and lecherous men, chasing her camels when they get skittish and nursing them when they are injured, Davidson emerges as an extraordinarily courageous heroine driven by a love of Australia’s landscape, an empathy for its indigenous people, and a willingness to cast away the trappings of her former identity. Tracks is the compelling, candid story of her odyssey of discovery and transformation.
Robyn Davidson was born on a cattle property in Queensland. She went to Sydney in the late ’60s, then returned to study in Brisbane before going to Alice Springs where the events of this book began. Since then she has travelled extensively and has lived in London, New York and India. In the early 1990s she migrated with and wrote about nomads in north west India. She is now based in Melbourne, but spends several months a year in the Indian Himalayas.