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The man who plans to trek 21,000 miles over SEVEN YEARS in epic attempt to trace the paths of our migrating ancestors
Paul Salopek will retrace migration of humans from Africa 70,000 years ago for one of the most ambitious reporting projects ever undertaken
He will walk from Ethiopia's Rift Valley to southern tip of South AmericaThe writer will create a 'family portrait of humanity' as he documents the people and places he visits along the way
15:25 GMT, 9 December 2012
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is preparing for one of the most ambitious reporting projects ever undertaken – a seven-year trek across the globe to retrace the steps taken by early man tens of thousands of years ago.
Paul Salopek will create 'a family portrait of humanity' as he documents the 21,000-mile journey over four continents, from the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia to the most southerly point in South America.
The epic route will follow the footsteps of early humans who left Africa 70,000 years ago and spread into Europe, Asia, Australasia and the Americas.
Epic: Map of Paul Salopek's 21,000-mile route (red), with the pattern of prehistoric human migration (white)
The experienced journalist, who will
take an estimated 30 million steps along the way, will cross the Red Sea
into the Middle East before traveling through China to Siberia.
He will cross the Bering Strait into Alaska and walk the western coast of North and South America.
Salopek, who sets off next month, will pass through some of the world's most dangerous political hotspots, including Iran and central America.
He will post regular multimedia updates on a website, wrote for National Geographic and film and record his changing surroundings and the people he meets – storing footage on an online database every 100 mile.
Award-winning: Paul Salopek has won two Pulitzer prizes in his impressive career as a journalist
But the 50-year-old, who will have with him only the equipment he is able to carry, is determined not to
allow his work to become a simple log of the trek.
He will consider
humans' prehistoric ancestry while documenting modern populations and aims to develop the real stories of the
people and places he comes across.
US-born Salopek, who also writes for the Chicago Tribune, sees himself as carrying on the ancient human tradition of the roving poet or musician.
He told The Observer: 'It's the old way of story telling: The wandering bard. I am curious myself to see how it all turns out.
'It is the notion of a questing story
which we find in all cultures, that you have to go away from home and
come back in order to truly discover what 'home' was.'
Mountainous task: Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley is the starting point for the seven-year trek
Salopek believes the mental challenges will be tougher than the physical obstacles. He face lengthy periods of solitude but will also be joined for some of the journey by his wife Linda Lynch, a visual artists.
The Out of Eden Walk, which is backed the Knight Foundation, Harvard's Neiman Foundation for Journalism and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, is the latest in a long list of daring reporting by Salopek.
His previous assignments include venturing 1,300 miles across Mexico on a mule, canoeing through the Congo and traveling to Sudan, where he was arrested for being a spy.
Salopek, who won a Pulitzer Prizes for explanatory reporting in 1998 and for international reporting in 2001, said: 'I have moved around my whole life. I am very good at moving through different cultural membranes and I feel that I have been unconsciously preparing for this for many years.'
Home straight: Patagonia where Paul Salopek will finish his journey after an 30 million steps