Walking human history
Paul Salopek is engaged in an extraordinary journalistic exercise: a seven-year, 48 000km walk to trace the human evolutionary path out of Africa down to the tip of South America.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Paul started his journey in Ethiopia in Africa's Rift Valley in January 2013, where the fossil record and DNA markers suggest that humans started heading out of Africa into Eurasia, some 50 000 to 70 000 years ago. Two years later, he has just entered Georgia.
Paul has called it an exercise in "slow journalism".
All along the way, he has been writing the stories of the people he has met, providing a very contemporary record of the hardships humankind still faces – from the many Syrian refugees he has encountered along the way to persecuted minorities, like the Alevi, an Islamic sect, one of whose members kindly offered to take care of his mule when he found he could not take it across the border between Turkey and Georgia.
When he first set off in January 2013, Paul described his planned route thus: "Pushed by population pressure or lured on by favourable climate shifts, some early wayfarers plodded west into Europe and probably wiped out the Neanderthals. Others turned right into Eurasia. That will be my route. (I don’t have sufficient knee longevity to add Europe to the schedule. As for Oceania, which humans reached by boat 50 000 years ago: I can barely dog paddle.)
"From the Middle East I’ll follow the ghostly tracks of ancient migrations through Central Asia to China, then angle northward into Arctic Siberia, from where I’ll take passage by ship to Alaska ... Finally, I’ll hike down the length of the Americas to Tierra del Fuego, the gale-whipped tip of South America where we at last ran out of continents, and where a callow 23-year-old named Charles Darwin began igniting this entire chain of rediscovery in the 1830s."
You can follow Paul's walk through the Twitter handle #EdenWalk, while teachers are encouraged to get involved through a unique online learning community.