Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback

by

Robyn Davidson

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback can help.

Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback: Chapter 10  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Davidson leaves Warburton on her own, expecting that she’ll be completely alone for about a month. She feels a little nervous about having to rely on her survival skills, but she is also physically fit and feels prepared for the difficulty. Rick drives along her route ahead of her and leaves some water barrels along the way for her. After a few hours, she decides to leave the track and cross the sandhills. She notices once again that her awareness of the land is completely different than it was at the beginning of the trip and relishes the “openness and emptiness” that used to frighten her.
As she approaches the most demanding leg of her journey, Davidson has successfully integrated her sense of her own independence with her ability to rely on others. Rick’s aid here is crucial, but so is Davidson’s belief in her own efficacy. At last, she comes to see that interconnection and independence can actually strengthen each other, rather than working as opposites.
Themes
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
 As she continues noticing all the nuance and interconnection of the desert’s many forms of life, Davidson begins to perceive the land itself as “an animate being of which [she is] a part.” She recognizes her previous feelings of madness as an attempt to reject this reality, which she now realizes she has no choice but to accept. Davidson walks on, loving the feeling that she is part of something limitless and perfectly balanced. Although she often talks to herself or the camels and Diggity, she finds that she is not at all lonely.
Along with Davidson’s balanced sense of her relationship to other people, this phase also marks her hard-won acceptance of herself as part of a natural order, rather than a maker of an external order. She gives herself over to the complex chaos of the land and finds that it actually makes sense to her in a deep, unprecedented way.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order Theme Icon
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
Racial Tension and Oppression Theme Icon
Related Quotes
After many miles of crossing the dunes, Davidson decides that the terrain is rough enough that she should return to the track. She falls into a new routine and enjoys every new geographic feature she sees, in part because so much of the desert is completely the same. At one point, she finds a dust bowl and joyfully joins Diggity and the camels in rolling naked in the dirt, laughing and thinking about how the modern world has forgotten what it feels like to simply play. The next morning, she leaves her clock behind on a tree stump near the dust bowl, calling it an “insidious little instrument.”
At this point, Davidson understands that she can rely on tracks and other external markers as much or as little as she wants; she is now free to choose her own path without worrying about what is technically right or wrong. Her abandonment of her clock shows the completion of this transformation in her thinking. Similarly, the fact that she shares her joy with Diggity and the camels reflects her newly positive understanding of connections with others.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order Theme Icon
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
Davidson continues along the track, thinking about how unacceptable she must look to outside society, and how meaningless conventional rules of female attractiveness are. She tells herself to remember these lessons, yet worries that she will forget them as soon as she leaves the desert. Suddenly, four wild bull camels appear from the landscape. Davidson dreads having to kill them, but shoots anyway, not knowing what else to do. Her gun jams and she fights back panic, running in circles to avoid them and throwing rocks to frighten them away. Eventually, all four get bored and wander back into the desert, leaving Davidson still frightened but relieved that none of them actually attacked.
Through discovering that she is able to deal with the wild bull camels without killing them, Davidson shows a marked transformation from her earlier belief that only controlling a situation—in this case, with her gun—can lead to a successful outcome. Here, her success comes instead from relying on her own intelligence and understanding of the natural world. Her strength in this moment underscores her ideas about how silly notions of female weakness are, further developing the idea that conventional femininity is only a social construct.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order Theme Icon
Racial Tension and Oppression Theme Icon
Get the entire Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback LitChart as a printable PDF.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback PDF
Although Davidson knows that she should be wishing for protection from such dangers, she thinks that night that in reality, she wouldn’t switch places with anyone back home. She enjoys relying on her wits and having her abilities truly tested. She writes letters to friends at home, which she doesn’t send and rather likens to a diary. Davidson includes the full text of one letter, which rambles freely from one detail of her daily life to another, expressing both the challenges she faces and her joy at dealing with them. The letter also describes encountering a peaceful heard of wild camels and finding a beautiful claypan area that looks different from any other place she’s ever been. She expresses some loneliness and longing for creature comforts, but she is also overwhelmingly happy to be having the experience she is.
By using her letters to friends as a form of diary, Davidson shows that she has at last become comfortable bringing others into her experience; writing to herself and writing to others no longer seem like substantially different acts. Her overwhelming joy at getting to know the world around her, even when it is dangerous, also highlights how much she has accepted the need to embrace her role in the deep order of nature.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order Theme Icon
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
After the letter concludes, Davidson reflects on the ways that the letter both expresses her complete joy during this part of the journey and also obscures how hard things really were. For example, the herd of wild camels actually frightened her camels and led two of them to get lost for several hours, and she also describes getting lost in the desert and needing to have Diggity guide her back to camp. Davidson notes that Diggity has always seemed like more than just a dog and that she considers her a close and beloved friend.
Davidson’s later reflections on the letter she wrote during the journey show that her connections with others are still not without complication. Even when essentially writing to herself, the letters constitute a kind of performance that does not totally reflect Davidson’s lived experience. This tension foreshadows the pain she later feels upon watching the outside world try to interpret her trek—especially since even her own interpretations don’t feel wholly authentic.
Themes
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
One day, a car drives down the track, the first Davidson has seen in a long time. It turns out to belong to a white man trying to break a driving record, and he wants to camp with Davidson. Eventually he leaves when she is rude to him, but she is irritated at the interruption and his assumption that she wants his company. As she gets closer to her next stop, Carnegie, she wonders about her habit of walking naked and feels genuinely confused about how she will ever be able to relearn rules of social etiquette.
This interruption from a white man, who has nothing to do with the reality Davidson has discovered in the desert, reintroduces some of the complications that Davidson felt before leaving for her trip. She wonders how she is supposed to behave as a woman, and she also realizes that her comfort with others depends on their good intentions and comfort with themselves. This incident also hints at the difficulties to follow on her return home.
Themes
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
Racial Tension and Oppression Theme Icon
Davidson arrives in Carnegie to find it abandoned, the surrounding landscape destroyed by overgrazing cattle. She is depressed at the devastated land, but soon encounters two friendly young men who offer her food and company. After resting with them briefly, she decides to head for a station called Glenayle, which means following a route that she has heard is especially difficult. She knows that she and the camels all need a rest and also worries that the camels might not be getting enough food. Zeleika is especially skinny, as she nurses the greedy Goliath almost constantly.
The devastation Davidson sees on this stretch of land shows that for the natural world to maintain its inherent order and wisdom, it needs to be preserved by people who understand and appreciate its value. This crucial balance underscores the wisdom of the Aboriginal people and the ways that white oppression can interfere with it.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order Theme Icon
Racial Tension and Oppression Theme Icon
One night, Diggity chases and catches an elderly kangaroo. Davidson considers eating it, but remembers Eddie’s warning and decides not to. Soon thereafter, she arrives at Glenayle and stays for a week with generous hosts, who live happily despite their lack of resources and the harsh landscape. With the help of her hosts, Davidson plans out the next stretch of her trip, to a town called Wiluna, and feels slightly disappointed that it will be the last one she completes totally alone.
Even as Davidson mourns the approaching end of her solitude, she is completely grateful for her hosts at Glenayle. This relatively uncomplicated perspective on accepting help from others shows how far Davidson has come in her understanding of her own independence and how others might relate to it.
Themes
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
Although the countryside that follows is rough, it is also beautiful in what Davidson calls “a fossilized primordial sort of way.” She worries about Diggity because of the poison baits in the area, which are set to kill dingos, but she does not make the dog wear her muzzle, which she hates. Eventually, they reach a gorgeous view of a mountain range and sand dunes, a place Davidson calls “the heart of the world, paradise.” She thinks back over how far she has come during the trip and hopes that she can remember everything she’s learned about rejecting structures and habits in favor of freedom and loving engagement with others and the world at large.
The complete sense of balance that Davidson describes in this section brings together all of the disparate themes that she has grappled with so far. Through her calm acceptance of both the land and its people, she sees her place in its order clearly, without worrying about the racial and gender-based tensions that have plagued her throughout. Still, Davidson worries even now that she will not remember these lessons, which again foreshadows how difficult it is to remain sane within a nonsensical societal context.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order Theme Icon
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
Femininity and Society Theme Icon
Racial Tension and Oppression Theme Icon
Just as Davidson feels that she has generated a true sense of magic, she learns what she calls the “most profound and cruel lesson of all.” One night, she rations Diggity’s food instead of shooting fresh game for her, and Diggity sneaks away from camp and eats a poison bait. Davidson is stricken as she witnesses her beloved Diggity sicken and, eventually, she has no choice but to shoot her. Davidson feels so panicked and devastated that she thinks she is dying too, and awakens the next day feeling completely numb as she says goodbye and continues walking.
Diggity’s sudden and painful death illustrates both the value of Davidson’s new perspectives and their fragility. Her recently discovered strength allows her to cope with this devastation, but the incident also shows her that nothing can solve the essential pain and danger of the world. This moment bridges the gap between Davidson’s ecstasy on the trip and the pain she experiences elsewhere, showing how the two are deeply linked despite their differences.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order Theme Icon
Individuality and Interconnection Theme Icon
Related Quotes