Epic Global Trek Afoot in Djibouti
A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's epic journey across the world included a stop at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, to document the trajectory of human story from its pastoral roots to today's rapidly globalized world for a project called "Out of Eden."
In January, Paul Salopek, a National Geographic fellow, began a 7-year journey on foot in Ethiopia to retrace the path human ancestors took around 60,000 years ago.
"The idea is to start at the cradle of humankind, the Rift Valley of East Africa, and use fossil evidence and genetics to retrace this big journey that all our ancestors undertook across the world," said Salopek. As it turns out, Camp Lemonnier lies within the exact geographic location the earliest human ancestors who populated the world used to migrate out of Africa, prompting National Geographic Magazine to request permission to embed Salopek and photographer John Stanmeyer with U.S. service members here.
"The journey has two primary goals," said Salopek. "One is storytelling - the most important one. I want to see how a long journey of seven years, of 30 million footsteps, of more than 30 countries might change and hopefully improve the way I communicate stories."
The second goal is education, he said.
National Geographic Magazine has created a website, www.outofedenwalk.com, to chronicle Salopek's journey and invites school kids from around the world to follow the epic global trek and communicate through the website.
Salopek said visiting Camp Lemonnier and the surrounding area has been a "significant pausing point of the walk out of Africa."
"It's illuminating that the militaries of the world - the U.S., Europeans, Japanese and local African militaries - are collaborating [here] to make each others' lives better," said Salopek. "One of the reasons why we became a planetary species and other earlier cousins did not was we had this notion that cooperation is better than conflict.
Salopek said he was impressed with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's "remarkable sense of mission" and described his visit with senior leaders as "illuminating."
"If we collaborate, we can get more done than if we fight," he said. "So I think this notion that peacemaking, building bridges, is what interests me and what I'm covering here."
From Africa, Salopek's historic journey will continue into Asia, across Alaska and through the Americas until Salopek reaches the southern tip of Chile.
For more on "Out of Eden," log in to www.outofedenwalk.com.