Walking Through a Landscape of Pain in the Caucasus

Slaughter still haunts Turkey and Armenia a century later.

Do landscapes cup the bitter essences of bygone human suffering?

Does mass atrocity change the delicate blue cast of shadows thrown, for example, by nodding steppe grasses? Or alter the flight of hawks?

And what balance of memory and forgetting can help traumatized cultures move towards healing?

These questions rose to mind as I walked roughly a thousand miles through eastern Turkey and the Caucasus, one of the most gorgeous—and war-haunted—corners of the planet. They are also questions I grapple with in the fifth installment of the “Out of Eden Walk” series of stories in the print edition of National Geographic, now available online. (Read the opening of the story ...

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Photograph by Nino Akhobadze

Walking Alongside the Daring and Creative

Georgian artists leave their daily lives behind to take part in a global foot journey.


Trail Gallery is an occasional feature highlighting other voices along the 21,000-mile trail of the Out of Eden Walk.

None of us walks the Earth alone.

True, the Out of Eden Walk project is “solo” in concept. I am retracing the global pathways of the African ancestors who discovered the world in the Stone Age by navigating my way, unaided by a team of field logisticians, across the planet.

But I hope it’s clear by now that I am rarely solitary. I like to walk with local people. They are my guides. They become my family. Most of them are daring and creative souls ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Rock Art Reveals Prehistoric ‘Serengeti’ in the Caucasus

When aurochs moved across the plains and "talking" drums rang out.
Gobustan National Park, Azerbaijan, 40°06'48" N, 49°22'43" E

Paul Salopek is walking the global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. His continuous 21,000-mile foot journey, called the “Out of Eden Walk,” is recorded in dispatches.

The boulders sit on a hillside above the glittering mirror of the Caspian Sea.

They are made of limestone, these weathered, bone-smooth rocks. They are the color of chalk. Some are shaped—partly hewn—into oblong surfaces: into tympanums. Hammer them with a fist-size cobble: They produce a strange, haunting, almost metallic gong that carries far on the desert winds. Archaeologists believe they are Stone Age signaling drums. Their ringing comes ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Striking East From a True Frontier

After 3,100 miles on foot, closing in on Central Asia.
Near Gobustan, Azerbaijan, 40°04'58" N, 49°20'47" E

Paul Salopek is walking the global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. His continuous 21,000-mile foot journey, called the “Out of Eden Walk,” is recorded in dispatches.

After staggering down the lonesome Shirvan Highlands for days, my guide Rufat Gojayev and I wash up against the barren shore of the Caspian Sea.

Every 100 miles on the Out of Eden Walk, I have been taking multimedia recordings of the landscape. This particular “Milestone” denotes the 3,100th mile covered since my first step in distant Ethiopia. It seems utterly unremarkable—a featureless, wind-polished desert outside the Azeri town of Gobustan. Yet ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Blink: Saintly Light

A Sufi saint may lie in this 15th-century cliff-side mausoleum.
Maraza, Azerbaijan, 40°31'57" N, 48°56'31" E

Legend said a Sufi saint, Diri Baba, still lay uncorrupted in the tomb outside Maraza. The vault floated high on the side of a cliff. It dated from the 15th century. The late sun banked through the old stone latticework. It was tangerine colored. This was probably intentional. It was so quiet. The imam was gone. When I closed my eyes, I could almost make out the Caspian’s breathing, wave upon wave, 40 miles away.


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Readers Help a Georgian Infant Get Lifesaving Surgery

Little Alex’s aunt says he’s safe and healthy in Germany.

Last May, I came to know a child in Tbilisi, Georgia, whose tiny body was killing him. I met him while taking a trailside break from a walk through the world.

Alex Nikolaishvili was just five months old at the time. He was the nephew of an Out of Eden Walk guide named Eka Nikolaishvili. Alex was undersized and hot pink. He wouldn’t eat. He had trouble breathing. A medical exam at a local children’s hospital revealed serious defects of the heart and lungs. The doctors said the baby probably would die without specialized thoracic surgery. He would likely die, they added bleakly, even with it. I wrote ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Blink: Shepherd’s Trail

Following grass roads in the Caucasus
Near Lahich, Azerbaijan, 40°49'26" N, 48°26'09" E

It was a range so craggy they’d named it Mikh Tökan Dağlar: “Nails Fall Out Mountains,” meaning horses lost their shoes there.

We argued about the route. The grass united us.


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Visiting a Couple Locked in an 1,800-Year-Old Embrace

A surprise valentine from antiquity in Azerbaijan
Old Gabala, Azerbaijan, 40°53'27" N, 47°42'22" E

Paul Salopek is walking the global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. His continuous 21,000-mile foot journey, called the “Out of Eden Walk,” is recorded in dispatches.

The hand is what draws your attention.

It belongs to a man. It rests, gently, on the woman’s face. The couple lie on their sides—the man on the left, the woman on the right—facing each other squarely. The woman’s knees snuggle up above the man’s. Their eyes appear to be locked. It is a gesture at once familiar, universal, and almost painfully intimate. Yet their eye sockets are empty. Their fingertips tumbled ...

Photograph by Nilesh Bhange, National Geographic Your Shot

Sharing Your Vision of the Human Journey

The Out of Eden Walk project wants to see your photographs.

In the third year of what likely will be a nine-year trek across four continents, I am struck by the persistence of a single question from readers, students, walking partners, barkeeps, shepherds, fellow reporters, baffled police officers in nine countries and, yes, even long-suffering editors demanding my copy: What keeps me motived on a slow foot journey that, at times, seems to have no end?

The answer depends on the day of the week—and the hour of the day—you’re asking.

But at least one reason has grown ever clearer: You.

I’ve described the “Out of Eden Walk” as a 21,000-mile-long conversation with complete strangers, stretching from ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Blink: Winter’s Parquet Flooring

Frozen paths in rural Azerbaijan
Gebele, Azerbaijan, 40°58'36" N, 47°51'33" E

Every footfall destroys a masterpiece.


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."