Interview: Rick Smolan’s Journey Across the Outback

New interactive book brings together a National Geographic photographer’s vintage slides with film stills from _Tracks _

camels

camels

The camels were thunderstruck at the sight of the ocean. They had never seen so much water. They would stop, turn to stare at it, leap sideways, look at one another with their noses all pointed and ridiculous, then stare at it again, then leap forward again. _ Photo: Rick Smolan_
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

National Geographic turned Robyn down the first time she wrote asking them fro support. But Rick urged her to try again. Her persuasive letter convinced the magazine to provide the $4000 she needed to fund her trek.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Bub, Robyn's cheeky young male camel, was a natural clown, a creature driven in one direction by unbridled curiosity and in the other by a cowardly fear of his own shadow. Of Robyn's camels, Bub was the most easily spooked.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Robyn's three adult camels carried the supplies necessary for her, and their survival. Each morning she loaded 230kg of gear onto the animals, including hand-made water drums, tin trucks of food, clothes, tools, her swag and dog biscuits for Diggity. In the early days of the trip it took her over two hours to load the camels.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

The painted white line along Uluru rock is designed to keep tourists from falling off the edge.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Uluru rock is 348m high and 9.4km in circumference making it the world's largest single rock. It has a history that goes back hundred of millions of years. A sacred site for the Pitjantjatjara a Lowitja tribes for over 10,000 years, Uluru today attracts many Australians who regard a trip to the rock as a pilgrimage.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Robyn gave herself a day off to explore Redbank Gorge, 156km west of Alice Springs in the West MacDonnell Ranges. The gorge is so narrow that the only way to enter it is by swimming along the ice-cold stream, which is too narrow for a canoe or boat.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Robyn and her dog Diggity.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

When it's 43 degrees C in the shade in Warburton the dripping end of a pipe is the best place to hang out. The only danger is falling into the cattle watering hole below.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

Camels at sunset.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

The bottom of a camel's foot is covered with a smooth pad like a bald tire. The pad contains a squishy, elastic sort of bladder that allows the camel to glide effortlessly over and through the sand. On treacherous surfaces such as a rain soaked creek bed these pads become very slippery. Walking to Docker River through this rainstorm, Dookie slipped and crashed to the ground.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

One night at the beginning of the trip Robyn dreamt of an old Aboriginal man who became her friend and shared the secrets of Dreamtime with her. Months later, jus as she was beginning to feel the trip was empty and meaningless, Mr. Eddie appeared and traveled with her.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

The delicate branches of a young ghost gum glow orange in the fading desert light.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

The camels treated Robyn as the leader of their herd and, while she appreciated their affection, sometimes it felt like being nuzzled by a 650kg dog. Bub, the clown of the group, would come ostensibly to give Robyn a cuddle but, the minute she let her guard down, he'd try to eat her food.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

After a devastating three-year drought, the country west of Carnegie station was littered with carcasses, and those animals still living were down to skin and bones. Having survived the Gunbarrel Highway, Robyn had been hoping that cattle country would be more hospitable to her and the camels, but that wasn't the case.Rick Smolan
Inside Tracks

Inside Tracks

What appeared to be floating rocks in Hamelin Pool turned out to be Stromatolites, living algae considered to be one of the oldest forms of life on earth. The only other place they exist is in the Black Sea.Rick Smolan