My excellent Conversation with Paul Salopek
Here is the transcript and audio and video, here is the summary:
Paul Salopek is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic fellow who, at the age of 50, set out on foot to retrace the steps of the first human migrations out of Africa. The project, dubbed the “Out of Eden Walk,” began in Ethiopia in 2012 and will eventually take him to Tierra Del Fuego, a distance of some 24,000 miles.
Calling in just as he was about to arrive in Xi’an, he and Tyler discussed his very localized supply chain, why women make for better walking partners, the key to crossing deserts, the most difficult terrain to traverse, what he does for exercise, his information prep for each new region, how he’s kept the project funded, why India is such a good for walkers, which cuisines he’s found most and least palatable, what he learned working the crime beat in Roswell, New Mexico, how this project challenges conventional journalism, his thoughts on the changing understanding of early human migration, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: What’s true is true. How is it that you crossed the desert? You’ve been through some of the Gulf States, I think.
SALOPEK: Yes, I’ve been through several deserts. The first was the Afar Desert in north Ethiopia, one of the hottest deserts in the world, and then the Hejaz in western Saudi Arabia, and then some big deserts in Central Asia, the Kyzyl Kum in Uzbekistan.
You cross deserts with a great attentiveness. You seem to want to speed up to get through them as quickly as possible, but often, they require slowing down, and that seems counterintuitive. You have to walk when the temperatures are congenial to your survival. Sometimes that means walking at night as opposed to the day. It means maybe not covering the distances that you would in more moderate climates.
Deserts are like a prickly friend. You approach them with care, but if you invest the time, they’re pretty inspiring and remarkable. There are reasons why old hermits go out into the deserts to seek visions. I was born in a desert. I was born in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, so I’m partial to them, maybe even by birth.
COWEN: Do you find deserts to be the most difficult terrain to cross?
SALOPEK: No, I find alpine mountains to be far trickier. Deserts can be fickle. Deserts can kill you if you’re not careful. Of course, water is the most limiting factor for survival.
But alpine mountain weather is so unpredictable, and a very sunny afternoon can turn into a very stormy late afternoon in a very quick time period. Threats like rock falls, like avalanches, blizzards — those, for me, are far more difficult to navigate than deserts. Also, I guess having been born in the subtropics, I don’t weather the cold as well, so there’s that bias thrown in.
COWEN: What do you do for exercise?
Recommended, interesting throughout.
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