I came across a book called “Honey Hunters of Nepal” in Kathmandu. The book documents the Nepali tradition of honey hunting on cliffs, describing how some hunters drop below the hives to light fires and smoke out the bees, while others secure bamboo ladder at the top of the cliffs, which the hunters descends to break off the pieces of honeycomb. The rich, sycophantic honey is collected twice a year to ensure the bees’ welfare and is highly sought-after in Kathmandu, making the hunt dangerous yet rewarding exercise.
One of the interesting parts is that these Himalayan Honey Bees are the largest bees in the world. They measure at an impressive 1.2 inches and nest at particularly high altitudes during the summer months. Also, besides another awesome thing I did not know was that these bees create a Mexican wave to warn the attackers approaching their nest.
Isn’t this pretty fascinating? This is just the beginning, there are more exciting things about the hunt and honey hunters.
Known as “honey hunters”, these brave scavengers are trained from generation to generation and they bring valuable proceeds from selling this honey to enthusiastic black market buyers in Korea and many other countries. The price of the honey fuels up to five times the price of normal honey. The life of these honey hunters is not easy, it seems easy from just the surface area, but if you see how the actual hunt takes place, you will know how crazy the hunt is. It’s actually a savage or fight for a valuable resource.
Now, you must be wondering what’s so special about this honey and why do these hunters put their lives into danger to collect the honey.
Getting to the honey is a mission in it, not only are the hives situated on sheer-faced cliffs that have taken the lives of many hunters, they also have to avoid getting stung too. The honey made by these bees is a product that comes from the nectar of poisonous flowers. This is probably what makes this honey-Red Honey or Mad Honey; medicinal, intoxicating and hallucinogenic. To some, this curious honey is considered highly medicinal, to others it’s known as “mad” and even “toxic”. Both neurotoxins and powerful natural compounds contribute to sickness in some and healing benefits in others, a truly paradoxical honey!
Red honey is in demand all over the world. In small amounts, the honey is intoxicating, giving a feeling of relaxation and a pleasant dizziness along with a tingling sensation. It has also been credited with treating a number of illnesses from curing hypertension and diabetes to improving sexual performance. It can also offer pleasant hallucinations. This is likely why businessmen from Asia are willing to pay handsomely for it. It isn’t something to lavishly drizzle on your morning breakfast, though, small amounts can be beneficial, but too much can be risky.
As if this whole thing was not dangerous enough, The Gurungs (honey hunters in Himalayas), are threatened by modern developments, especially tourism. The trekking agencies are cashing in a lot of money by buying off hunters to stage hunts all times of the year either to sell at market or just as s tourist attraction. This actually disturbs the local environment and bee population has already started to decline.
To make matter even worse, the government is seizing property off the cliffs from the local population and giving out harvesting rights to private contractors. However, the number of next-generation honey hunters is also declining as youth show little interest in learning these techniques and skills that have been a major part of the Nepalese cultural identity. This age-old Nepalese tradition may soon be lost. But if we must be thankful about anything, at least this one has been chronicled.
Here are a couple of testimonials, reported on the website Reddit, from people who tried their hands in this hallucinogenic honey:
- “It was weird. Ever taken a low dosage of mushrooms? It was a bit like that in terms of mindset, but with the visuals of a higher dosage… towards the beginning, I felt really nauseous for a while, and it felt like there was some heavy force on top of me. After a while, I finally threw up, and it was like that weight was lifted. It was smooth sailing from there, and it honestly felt pretty damn good.”
- “I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I felt hot and dizzy and couldn’t sleep at all…there was also this strange buzzing-roaring sound in my ears that sounded alternatively like bees and a large waterfall. Beyond that, there were no hallucinations, just extreme discomfort the entire night. It was actually not a pleasant experience at all.”
Different people, different experience, don’t you feel like trying Red Honey once?
So, guys, if you are ready to get intoxicated with a new taste of honey and also have an enthusiasm for trekking, pack your bags and get ready to trek in Nepal!!!