National Geographic fellow Paul Salopek is retracing our ancestors’ ancient migration route out of Africa and around the world — on foot. The latest leg of his 21,000-mile, multi-year journey took him across the stunning and bitterly cold mountains of Central Asia, through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Salopek saw this time was remarkably different than the one he covered at the beginning of the American war there, he tells the PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan on Tuesday’s broadcast.
“It’s a wild, pristine, almost unknown Afghanistan to the outside world where people are carrying not guns but shovels, where men are digging holes not to plant [improvised explosive devices] but to create traps for snow leopards, and women aren’t wrapping their faces in purdah (a curtain) except to bake bread in smoky ovens,” he said.
You can catch up on his previous explorations here:
Last June, Salopek described how someone had dug up his resupply cache and stolen his water. “Local shepherds would probably never do that. They know how valuable water is. So I don’t know who took it. My walking partners at the time and I had to resort to using the satellite phone to call in for help.”
In 2016, three years into his journey, Salopek was reflective: “I think these long solo passages, these kind of adagio passages, if you look at the journey as music, will hopefully allow me to reflect on where we continue to walk.”
In November 2015, Hari Sreenivasan joined the walking team in the country of Georgia, where the discovery of a skull of an ancient ancestor of modern man told the story of their point in evolution.
“You have got to be crazy,” a local Georgian man said when Salopek told him he had walked from Africa, “and there was laughter around that table.”