Monday, May 02, 2016

THE WALKING MAN - Paul Salopek

"The man who’s walking around the world follows footsteps of old Silk Road traders" PBS NewsHour 4/29/2016


SUMMARY:  Three years ago, Pulitzer-winning journalist Paul Salopek embarked on a decade-long walk around the world, charting the path of the original human emigrants who left their birthplace in eastern Africa to spread across the globe.  As he prepares to follow the Silk Road from Central Asia into China, Salopek checks in with Hari Sreenivasan to reflect on his journey thus far and what lies ahead.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Last fall, we took you to the Southern Caucasus Mountains in the country of Georgia to meet Paul Salopek.  He is the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent on an epic journey he calls the Out of Eden Walk.

Beginning in the Great Rift Valley in Africa in 2013, Salopek is now three years into a decade-long walk around the world.  After our walk with Paul, he crossed Azerbaijan, and then, around Christmas, hopped a freighter across the Caspian Sea, toward Central Asia.

And Paul Salopek joins me again.

Paul, tell our audience where we find you now.

PAUL SALOPEK, National Geographic Fellow:  Today I’m in the port city of Aktau, Kazakstan, which is a very remote and isolated sort of starting line for the next Asiatic phase of the walk.

This is kind of where the Silk Road butted up against the Caspian Sea.  And you might be able to hear a little bit of surf in the background.  And it’s a very off-the-map place.  I mean, it’s about, I don’t know, 100,000, 150,000 people, an old uranium mining town under the Soviet era.

And I will be walking due east from here as the sun rises towards China.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  How long to get to China?

PAUL SALOPEK:  It’s going to be an interesting passage, if the weather cooperates.  I have some big mountains to go over.  Maybe as soon as this coming winter, but more likely springtime.

It’s about 3,000 kilometers away.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And these 3,000 kilometers are different geographically and topographically than what you have already covered, right?

PAUL SALOPEK:  Yes, they are.  They’re very different.

As you recall, the last time I reported in, I was in the Caucasus, which is a very, relatively heavy populated corner of the world, very rugged, mountainous, also a crossroads of the world, lots of different cultures, languages, ancient migration, ancient invasions.

What I have before me now is a pretty arid plain, a high plateau of dry, brittle grasses with very little water.  So it’s going to be more like an expedition this time.  Rather than walking from farm to farm, I’m going to actually have to camp out and look for water and go into survival mode on this stretch.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, how do you ensure that you have enough food and water?

PAUL SALOPEK:  I just last weekend purchased a cargo horse, a Kazakh horse.  These are very sturdy little ponies.  They can walk very far with very little water.  And I will be leading that animal, and it will be carrying part of my water and part of my food.

Also, I had to do something that I have not done since Saudi Arabia.  Over the last many weeks, I have had to go out and actually cache water, which is a very strange, a very surreal experience in this gigantic stage of open grass and sky.

Caching water means driving out to certain points along the proposed walking route and digging a hole in the ground and plucking in 10 to 15 liters of bottled water and then covering it up and taking a GPS coordinate.  And so going out there and planning a few mouthfuls of water in this gigantic, operatic landscape is very strange.  It’s kind of like a conceptual art piece.

Out of Eden Walk Map Room

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