National Geographic Society Newsroom

Sliding off the Roof of the World

The relaunch of the Out of Eden Walk in Central Asia has not been without hiccups. First, barely two days before departing, while chewing into breakfast in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I cracked a molar in half. (“I’ll try to get you to India,” the dental surgeon said, doubtfully.) Then mountain guide Sergei Gnezdilov fell ill with...

The relaunch of the Out of Eden Walk in Central Asia has not been without hiccups.

First, barely two days before departing, while chewing into breakfast in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I cracked a molar in half. (“I’ll try to get you to India,” the dental surgeon said, doubtfully.) Then mountain guide Sergei Gnezdilov fell ill with adult-onset chicken pox and had to abandon the trail, swollen in misery, for a hospital in the capital. Our first (and quickly retired) Kyrgyz cargo donkey bit a team member in the crotch. And after crossing the Tajikistan border, our second pack donkey escaped not once, but twice, in the same evening—the second time into an ice storm howling above 14,000 feet.

“Woooooo! Cool!” hooted Furough Shakarmamadova, pumping her arms in the air in triumph when at last we found our long-eared Houdini by hiring a truck to conduct a reconnaissance. (The donkey had trotted all the way back to the Kyrgyz border, a day’s walk away, and was detained by alert border guards.)

Read the full story, or explore more content from the Out of Eden Walk at outofedenwalk.org.

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Meet the Author

Paul Salopek
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 outofedenwalk.org and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @OutofEdenWalk.