Read Desert Places by Robyn Davidson Online


In 1992 Robyn Davidson traveled through a year's migratory cycle with the Rabari, pastoral nomads of northwest India, whose grazing lands and trading and pilgrimage routes are quickly being destroyed by new political boundaries, atomic test sites, and irrigation. Sleeping among five thousand sheep and surviving on goat's milk, flatbread, and parasite-infested water in a laIn 1992 Robyn Davidson traveled through a year's migratory cycle with the Rabari, pastoral nomads of northwest India, whose grazing lands and trading and pilgrimage routes are quickly being destroyed by new political boundaries, atomic test sites, and irrigation. Sleeping among five thousand sheep and surviving on goat's milk, flatbread, and parasite-infested water in a landscape of misery and haunting loveliness, she endured exhaustion, malnutrition and disease. But she gained an understanding and the trust of a fiercely courageous people with a disappearing way of life.Displaying a writer's acute eye for detail and a traveler's keen appreciation for the beauty to be found in the earth's most desolate landscapes, Davidson explores with ruthless honesty her own desert places even as she immortalizes these "keepers of the way" and a culture about to die. Fans of Bruce Chatwin, Peter Mathiessen, and Mary Morris will find themselves enthralled by the passion and beauty of this account by a woman traveler who "may be one of the great adventurers of our time" (The Boston Globe)....

Title : Desert Places
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780140267976
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Desert Places Reviews

  • Andrea Blythe
    2019-06-16 14:36

    Robyn Davidson has the tendency to envisage a romantic ideal trip, like journeying in the desert with the nomadic peoples of India, only to slam up hard against a solid brick wall of reality. Davidson thought it would be as simple as contacting a group of Ribari (one tribe of India's nomadic people) and convincing them to let her join them on one of their sojourns. She quickly learns that its easy to dream the trip, but pulling it off was a fumbling, frustrating process of continued disappointment. Many Ribari don't trust her, afraid that she might be a spy for the government and many of those who do are not making nomadic journeys at that time, either for reasons of poverty or prosperity. When she does connect with a group of Ribari, who do claim to trust her, who offer to take her with them, Davdison finds again and again her hopes dashed as the plan falls apart just days before she is meant to start her journey. Again and again over the course of over a year a blooming hope of finally bringing the trip to fruition is stomped into the dust, and she finds herself on numerous occasions considering giving up the plan entirely. But Robyn Davidson has a tenacity and a courage that should astound anyone and eventually finds a tribe to take her with them. Again there is no romance in this, because the road is rough and Davidson is isolated by her inability to communicate with those who have welcomed her. The lack of communication means false starts and improper handling of gear. She doesn't sleep because of the sheep pressing against her cot and falls into helpless exhaustion. She is stared at where ever she goes, pointed out and hounded as the white stranger, the white, European alien. And despite her loneliness, she is never alone, always surrounded to the point that she longs for the open deserts of Australia, where she was allowed the solitude to reconnect with herself. Cultural confusion abounds. As just one example, many of the Indian people she meets cannot understand why a rich person like her, who has the immeasurable wealth to afford car, would want to walk along the ground like peasant, while Davidson could not grasp the complacency of the cast system, which required her to sit idle and be served instead of doing things herself. However, Davidson also becomes family with the group of Ribari she travels with. They bring her into their world, welcome her, and care for her. She does the same for them. Do not yourself approach this book with your own romantic ideas of India, of bright colors. This is not an easy book to read. It a brutal journey, both physically as well as emotionally. Davidson is so beaten down by poverty and red tape and physical sickness and irritations big and small (from a horror of a camel guide to her own camels trying to kill her), that she comes to a state of alternating absolutes -- both hating and loving India with deep and virulent passion. But just as there are moment of outrage and ugliness, Desert Places also contains moments of joy and laughter, beauty and compassion, of generosity and kindness. If Davidson were a hair less of the fantastic writer she is, the book would not work, but fortunately she's wonderful and the book, though full of rough edges laying in wait to snare, is too. If nothing else, it will certainly make you think.

  • Max Carmichael
    2019-06-10 16:06

    Australian lady thinks it would be cool to migrate with nomads of the Indian desert. So she spends months intruding on, sampling, and harassing impoverished villagers, thoughtlessly exposing them to increased exploitation by outsiders, in order to find just the right noble savages for her precious dream. She doesn't bother to learn the local languages because she views the desert as a menu of cultures from which she can pick just the right a la carte experience, and it would be wasted effort to learn the language of the people she doesn't pick.I had to stop reading when I reached the part where one of these traditional villages finally has the courage to reject her, and, outraged, she gets the state government to force them to become her hosts.Mind-bogglingly narcissistic and selfish, Davidson suffers from either inexplicable naiveté or profound cultural blindness.There's a belief commonly held by the middle and upper classes of affluent nations that travel leads to open-mindedness, tolerance, and a better understanding of how people in other cultures live. Davidson certainly gives the lie to that. She represents a society whose wealth and power come from its imperial legacy of exploiting labor and resources in the "third world." World travel and tourism, and the supposed learning experiences that come with them, are just an updated form of that exploitation, a privilege and luxury available only to a minority of the world's population. In reality, the poor who don't travel typically live more responsibly than the rich who do.Where did she get the idea that this kind of expedition is morally acceptable? Hopefully they're not teaching it in the Australian schools.

  • Darlene
    2019-05-31 16:27

    Whew! I am glad to be finished reading this book. Not that the writing was poor or that I hated the author. Quite the opposite. Having just finished Robyn Davidson's 'Tracks' about her trek across Australia, I wanted more. So when I saw this book was free with Kindle Unlimited I grabbed it. And as tortuous as the book was to read, I am glad I read it.If someone were to ask me where I'd least like to go to visit, India would be at the top of the list. Too many people, too caste-set. But before you get on a high horse and tell me what for, I will allow that I never would have wanted to go to Alaska either. But I loved that trip so much! There isn't a day I don't think of the beauty and wonder of that cold world. So if the opportunity came, I think I would go to India. Just to see for myself if I could be won over.But this book didn't help my prejudices resolve. In fact, it all became worse. With each chapter, I was more and more depressed for the author. This was not her favorite trek. As a woman, a feminist, India isn't a place to show your independence. Robyn is both and thereby found her way blocked at every turn.Look, I wanted to give this book five stars. The writing is that good. But how can one rate highly a book that makes one miserable? The saving grace? Camels! I have learned to love these creatures through Ms. Davidson's eyes. Okay, up from three to four stars. Let India's rich, corrupted men see that lack of a star as a judgement of them. I challenge them to prove otherwise.

  • Elly Sands
    2019-06-27 13:26

    Maybe because I spent a month in India many years ago that I found this book so very interesting. I could relate to many of the authors observations. The kind of love/hate relationship. Hate is a strong word perhaps frustration would be better.I vividly remember the streets filled with the chaos of people, cows, carts and traffic and the incessant noise not to mention the bathroom situations. The most unsettling experience I had was being surrounded by Indian women touching my hair and pulling at my clothes to feel the fabric but then followed by their kindness of giving me their silver bangles. It's a country of seeming contradictions, at least through American eyes.The author really immersed herself in the life of the nomadic tribe she traveled with. Everyday was another challenge. Sometimes I wondered if she was crazy or courageous to put up with all she did. Well I hung on her every word and truly relived the shock and wonderment of India.

  • Katie
    2019-05-30 16:16

    Desert Places was an unexpected find. I randomly chose it from the World History shelf at the library because "the cover looks interesting" (I actually said that to myself. . .). After reading the first few pages, I was not sure I would finish but then suddenly I was hooked and by the time I reached the last 30 pages I began to read it extra slowly, as I did not want for it to come to an end. An incredible insight to the daily lives and special occasions of a nomadic people of India as observed through a Western perspective. Also, an astounding story of the trials of world travel, the challenges of language barriers and cultural expectations (or lack of) and the personal joys and sufferings of traveling through the desert landscape. One of my favorites!

  • Sashi
    2019-05-29 13:33

    Suggested by a colleague at work. Funny at times, heartbreaking otherwise to realise how we (Asian Indians) can be perceived by others. Very interesting, about an Australian woman travelling with rabari tribes in Gujarat. Unlike most travel writers, she doesn't cover up the truth about India--she tells her experiences in a very feeling way. I am sorry she had to go through what she did. Lets face it, India is like that. But the author still has fond memories and affection for India, which is very commendable if you ask me.

  • Rosalie
    2019-06-27 11:31

    This is a fascinating memoir of traveling with nomads in Northern India. By the end, she writes, "How do you write about failure?" Her migration with the Rabari/Raika was riddled with obstacles and hardships, but the account is rich in detail about this fading way of life. Her main message is one of social justice, full of a simmering rage that life, both human and animal, is not protected equally across class/caste boundaries.

  • Elithiya
    2019-05-30 16:25

    i love this woman.

  • Ray Foy
    2019-06-10 10:16

    What distinguishes the travel writing of Robyn Davidson, for me, is her uncompromising insistence on describing the world in all its stark reality. She examines places, people, and events as she finds them, without bias or cultural judgment; also without romanticizing. In Desert Places, however, she admits to having a difficult time maintaining that credo.Ms Davidson established herself as a traveler of note when, at the age of twenty-seven, she crossed the western Australian desert, alone, leading three camels. She recounted the experience in an article for National Geographic and also in her book, Tracks (which was made into a movie). Fifteen years later she made a similar journey, but this time traveling in India with one of the world’s last nomadic people, the Rabari. Her purpose then was not so much self-discovery as observing, up-close, a life-style quickly vanishing from the earth.She sold her idea for writing about the Rabari to a magazine based on the slant of a desert journey with camels, nomads, and moonlit oasises. She knew that pitch was overly romantic, but it made the sale. Though a seasoned traveler, she didn’t realize the level of hardship she would have to endure. Not so much the hardship of a desert trek—living outdoors, thin rations, wild animals, bandits, etc—but that of operating within an alien culture.Ms Davidson has a keen interest in tribal peoples and learning about the life of the Aborigines was a prime motivation for her Australian journey. A similar motivation prompted her Indian trip, but in living with the Rabari, she found much more of a language barrier. At least most of the Aborigines spoke English. With the Rabari, she would go for weeks communicating with only a few words and gestures, and consequently feeling very isolated.And then there were the cultural differences that stumped the logistics of her trip. Used to being very independent and in control, she balked at the Indians’ insistence that she be served and seek modern comforts. She struggled with them over being allowed to drive herself, whether by jeep or camel. She also struggled with being a foreign attraction. Everywhere she went, the curious locals surrounded her, watching everything she did. Gangs of children followed her. Washing and toilet needs became problematic. Her descriptions of all this convey her stress, but still come off as entertaining and even thoughtful.In the fifteen years since Tracks, Ms Davidson had become an accomplished travel writer. It shows in the quality of her writing compared to her first book (which is by no means, “bad”). Or maybe it’s not so much the quality of her craft, as in the depth of her insights. Life will do that for you in fifteen years. She does describe beautiful locales and engaging, hospitable, even loving people. Still, it is evident that her time in India (many months) overwhelmed her with the cultural isolation, the political corruption, poverty, disease, and the general wretchedness around her. In one passage, she makes a poignant metaphor for that wretchedness with a description of the prevalence of human excrement: Around the rim of the dam, twists and curls of excrement slowly leeched disease into the water…Shit is rarely mentioned in the tourist guides to India. Nor are those public loos in which faeces fill the corners and line the walls as far as the ceiling in such positions as to beggar imagination…omnipresent, human shit.That repulsive prevalence impressed her as a picture of one of the two, coexisting, worlds she came to see clearly. Her struggle with that duality is a continuation of her experience in Australia. In both adventures she found the safe, comfortable world of air conditioning, cars, and bathrooms, existed together with one of insufferable heat, walking, and human wastes of all sorts. Her Indian journey occurred mostly in the latter. It is a testament to Ms Davidson’s courage and desire to understand, that she remained engaged with her quest, seeing it through to the end. She returned with a picture of the despoiling of the natural world—our beautiful home—that makes a simple travelogue seem pointless. We see in her prose, profoundly, the destruction of a people who don’t fit in a civilization of Wal-Marts, for-profit “healthcare,” and military-industrial complexes. It is a touching picture of what is all but lost.I consider Desert Places a valuable piece of travel literature because Ms Davidson does not romanticize the world she finds. Rather, she seeks honestly to understand what she experienced and not gloss over any of the ugliness that was a big part of it. She achieved insight, but at the cost of suffering. She found beauty, but had to dig deep.I think the same is required for anyone seeking to find understanding in their own deserts.

  • Sally Edsall
    2019-06-11 14:09

    Ms Davidson is a tough woman, who for some reason sees the need to put herself into the most excrutiatingly isolating situations.I found the book fascinating, and was overwhelmed at times by the sense of being so alone within a country where there is the most confronting closeness of human being with human being. This is an India I know i would not be equipped to deal with.i was a bit critical of her at first that she always had her friend, the wealthy Indian upon whom to fall back, but I doubt whether she would have been able to approach completion of her task without him. The need to retreat every so often from the sheer hard grind of trying to accomplish the task she set herself. I know i would have had to find a 5 star, deep-bath resort long before Davidson welcomed the comfort of a barely basic hotel room with hot water!The lives of the rabbari as presented to us through Davidson's eyes (and god knows they are hardly likely to be presented any other way!) is fascinating. I know the attraction of the 'exotic' can lead to patronising people, but davidson never does that, and does not allow her (dare i suggest, midle class, western, educated?) readership to get too comfortable with their own views of the world.

  • Barb
    2019-06-17 13:10

    This book is Robyn Davidson's travelog of her trip in northwest India with the nomadic Rabari people. Like so many other tribes around the world, they are losing their nomadic way of life to the modern age. The life of the Rabari people is brutally rough, and Davidson's time with them was also rough. I liked her honesty about her trip, even though the extreme poverty in India was sad and shocking. But many beautiful and heartening events are sprinkled though out the book. And I also thought some of her metaphors were amazing. It is definitely worth reading.

  • Sara Gray
    2019-06-27 08:31

    With this book, Davidson has been added to the list of my favorite authors. Stubborn, pithy, compassionate and insightful, this book records her time hanging out with the last migratory nomads of India in the early 1990s. She doesn't shy away from listing the harshest truths of living in India--its extreme poverty, corruption, and despair--but she also keeps well aware of her own position and privilege within its system. It's a gorgeous book, if hard to read at times due to what she puts herself through to finish her assignment.

  • Christy
    2019-06-26 12:27

    Travel, as a mountaineer once described mountain climbing, is “the conquest of nothing.” It is an absurd activity, and this you fully understand after reading Robyn Davidson. Tourism is part of the commodity logic of a market system; it has a clear and circumscribed place in that scheme of things, but travel the way Davidson does it is a kind of existentialist, degree zero activity, from which, however, you can actually learn something, because she is a good, vivid writer with neither false pride nor phony self-deprecation, willing to strip away layer after layer of her own illusions to try to get at whatever truth the experience has. What you learn in this book has a lot to do with the phenomenon of privilege without power, the sheer freakishness, that is a white woman’s experience when she tries to insert herself into the rigid hierarchies of poor, patriarchal worlds. But you also learn something about how extreme cultural and economic difference have stretched human solidarity almost to the breaking point of a completely insane each against all, and exhausted the natural world, and yet both continue to hold, so tenuously, the possibility of repair and renewal. And, in clear and compelling detail, the very particular way this unfolds in a tiny slice of the vast, complex societies of India. Yes, all that’s in here. You should read Robyn Davidson if you want to take a trip to somewhere very real.

  • Christine Busuttil
    2019-05-29 13:12

    I bought this book straight after I had read Tracks as I had so enjoyed being with Robyn on her arduous yet adventurous and uplifting journey through part of the Australian outback.I had also spent eighteen months in India ,a month or so of that in Rajasthan when I was in my early twenties.I was particularly interested in her impression of India and more details of Rajasthan. However before I started reading I had ,like Robyn ,not taken into account the fact that taking camels across a desert area in a country you had grown up in does not mean you are equipped to do this in another cultural area.I had always said that having travelled overland very slowly gave me time to adapt to the different ways and environments of various areas,she went straight there and was shocked ,worn down ,and confused.India is a very male dominated society particularly in rural areas.Almost three quarters of the book is about her coming to terms with how this part of the world functions battling daily against people and circumstances ,not helped by the fact that the person chosen to assist her was greedy, bigoted, egoistical ,full of himself ,and totally ignored everything she asked him to do.When finally circumstances allow her to take on two other men towards the end of the book I started to feel her confusion and frustration slip away and the old Robyn return in her writing.

  • Dovofthegalilee
    2019-05-27 08:23

    It was a sin how long it took me to read this.I have no idea why I had such a block it turning the pages but I suspect it was due to her winging on and on about her hardships. Isn't that the whole point of this sort of travel? It's going to be difficult, Thesiger she is not. But something bigger is going on here and she says it several times- she was under a contract to produce material for a magazine and had it not been for that she more than likely would have quit and saved all of us the time.There remains an important issue captured here and that is the safety of women in India, at least in the northern parts of the country where we hear of rapes taking place against both nationals and tourists alike. Having visited there myself and numerous other impoverished countries it always makes me feel uneasy as these half wits roam the nights menacing innocent people. Take the author's account of waking up to find twenty men at the foot of her bed with heavy clubs and the smell of cheap booze on their breath. The speaker ranted that they didn't want any Christians in their country. She certainly was no Christian first off but where was the Hindu love and peace we all come to hear so much about? It's not so easy to find in India as it is in Boulder, Colorado!

  • Alix
    2019-06-03 08:25

    Davidson's travel writing is unlike the vast majority of travel writing out there. She writes frankly about sticky travel issues like cultural relativism and deeply ingrained prejudice. She addresses questions that have no real answers and acknowledges this. Strongly aware of her privilege she turns her critical eye both towards herself for being able to move so freely and for staying occasionally in hotels and towards Indian society in which she can get more medicine for a dog than a women ill from childbirth. Her writing is self aware, critical, understanding, and thought provoking. Unlike most travel books that glamorize and romanticize the journey, Davidson writes what those of us who have travelled for long periods of time in very different places know, that travel is hard, and sometimes you're miserable and hate everyone around you even when they've done nothing wrong. Some times all you want to do is get back to comfort. But for various and numerous reasons that Davidson discusses, we keep going, because we want to or we have to or because some part of you says 'but you must'

  • Tara
    2019-06-27 10:27

    I first read Davidson's "Tracks" book and loved it, so decided to try this one out, since I am also interested in India. This book quickly becomes confusing and often you can't tell what the plot is. It's probably because the author often found herself (frustratingly) waiting for the people to either accept her and allow her to go along with them into the dessert and having to switch groups altogether, and she has little control over what happens in 99% of her experience anyway. I struggled to read this book and had to force myself to stay with it, reading just a chapter a day. Her "Tracks" book was a quicker read and I didn't have to push myself at all to finish it.

  • Daren
    2019-06-02 14:33

    I dunno, the first part of the book was interesting, I enjoyed the middle section of the book in Gujarat, but the third part I found difficult to stick with.Written with a lot of honesty and emotion, it certainly shared the authors thoughts, balanced or not balanced - for me a case of sharing too much of the impulsive thoughts that were reversed the following day.It ends up at 3 stars, because, as I said i did enjoy the Gujarat section of the book, and that on its own would have been 4 stars.

  • Di
    2019-06-16 15:36

    I love this book for its honesty. Robyn Davidson battled illness, ugliness, incredible tiredness and a sense of absolute futility in the journey she undertook. At the end she is tired and spiritually downcast and the reader absolutely understands what brought her to this spiritual desert, but the book is full of hard wisdom about the struggle to survive, to make the journey (through life) with as much grace as one can muster.

  • Moira Eberle
    2019-06-26 12:24

    Romance vs reality. Everyone I know who has visited India has described it as the setting for both their worst and most amazing experiences in their lives. And lots of these people are veteran travelers. For me it just clarified my decision not to go anytime soon. I don't think I'm ready for such a transformative experience. I loved reading this book though and have enjoyed others by her. Feeds the itchy feet gotta go syndrome nicely.

  • Jodi Ralston
    2019-06-01 14:12

    I was really hoping this would be like the book Tracks, but I can see why it was not. The style and tone of the book matches the experience she felt, and it really fits well with what I feel about it all: basically it really showed her disappointment and hardship. It was a great book. I'd recommend reading Tracks first just because of that.

  • Paula
    2019-05-28 12:25

    BrilliantCompassion, hatred, empathy, violence, tenderness, beauty, filth, hospitality, abject poverty, riches beyond belief, avarice, disease, hope, despair...India through the eyes of a white women who moved through it all. I felt I was there with her.

  • Debbie
    2019-06-10 11:21

    If you love travel writing, read this book. I watched Tracks and was intrigued, but not convinced. After reading this book, I'm very anxious to read her own written account of her journey across the Australian Nullarbor. Her writing is exquisite.

  • Sharon Snider
    2019-05-28 12:06

    Interesting read about the caste system in India.I have read two books by Robyn Davidson. Both are an inside look about two countries I know little about. Amazing that she survives both expeditions.

  • Sphinx Feathers
    2019-06-01 11:21

    A well-written book about an experienced traveler's journey about India. I particularly enjoyed Davidson's word choice through the story as it created very imagery. Although sometimes sad, overall her journey seemed a lonely but enjoyable one.

  • Ginna
    2019-05-31 15:21

    I just adore this woman's writing. This story was sad in so many ways, but also just an incredibly well written observation of humanity, with a journey across a desert thrown in. One of the best things I've read in awhile.

  • Glen
    2019-06-13 12:31

    I remember being disappointed on this follow up to her outstanding first book. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it.

  • Jan
    2019-05-31 10:28

    I've been reading this a while. It was a slow read, but most non-fics are! Really enjoy this type of travelogue. Set in India and Pakistan

  • Velvetink
    2019-06-16 15:12

    pdf bookfinder

  • Caroline
    2019-06-26 16:12

    Davidson's amazing and true story of her year wandering with the Rabaris, a nomadic camel-herding people of India. This book was a little hard to read. She goes through some very tough times.