In 1977, Robyn Davidson set off from Alice Springs for the west coast of Australia, with a dog (Diggity) 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. Smolan 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.
Tracks won the inaugural Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 1980 and the Blind Society Award. The book is an international best seller, published in 20 languages and never out of print. It has now also been released as an audio book, narrated by award-winning Australian actress, Angie Milliken.
A 40th anniversary edition of Tracks has been released in Australia in November 2017.
Davidson’s desert journey is remembered by indigenous Australians she encountered along the way. Artist Jean Burke remembers Davidson in a painting called The Camel Lady which was produced for a Warakurna Artists’ exhibition in Darwin in 2011. Burke’s father, Mr Eddie, had trekked through Ngaanyatjarra lands with Davidson, guiding her to water sources along the way. Mr Eddie is mentioned in Tracks.
In 2013, a film adaptation directed by John Curran and starring Mia Wasikowska was completed. The film Tracks screened at the Venice Film Festival.