Across Asia’s Mountain Wall

After pacing off 6,000 miles of trail out of Africa since 2013, the Out of Eden Walk journey continues. The new compass bearing: across the highest mountains on Earth. The western Himalayas.

From the ancient trading city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, I look back on 1,500 miles of walked Central Asia. Those days already have the sepia quality of a waking dream.

Fourteen months ago, on the vast prairies of western Kazakhstan: Three men—my guides Talgat Omarov and Daulet Begendikov, and I—pogoed in circles around our frightened cargo horse, waving our hats to fend off attacks by fierce wild stallions. (From above, I imagine a passing satellite capturing this silent, lunatic, pagan dance: Three dots revolving in a vast ocean of grass.) Ten months ago, in the middle of the Kyzl Kum desert of Uzbekistan: Swaying thirstily atop a red sand hill, I summoned help with a satellite phone; someone had looted our precious water cache. (At my boot tips lay ancient shards of broken water vessels, the relics of some other ill-starred Silk Road caravan.) Seven months ago: A strong-handed sorceress outside the cemetery gates in old Kokand rubbed cotton ash across my chest, banishing every imaginary ailment but the real one, loneliness.

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Human Journey

Meet the Author
Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s 21,000-mile Out of Eden Walk is a multiyear experiment in slow journalism. Moving at the beat of his footsteps, Salopek is walking the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age and made the Earth ours. Along the way he is covering the major stories of our time—from climate change to technological innovation, from mass migration to cultural survival—by giving voice to the people who inhabit them every day. His words, as well as his photographs, video, and audio, are creating a global record of human life at the start of a new millennium as told by villagers, nomads, traders, farmers, soldiers, and artists who rarely make the news. Join the journey at and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @OutofEdenWalk.