Hallucinogen Honey Hunters – Hunting Mad Honey – Full Documentary


In the heart of Nepal, lives a tribe of honey hunters, the Gurungs They are the last humans before a Eight thousand meters mountain peak, and their village is surrounded by a thick jungle, its secrets is a mistery to all but the locals One month a year, giant hymalayan bees , the biggest bees in the world, forage poisonous flowers, giving to honey medicinal, aphrodisiac and hallucinogen properties. the Gurungs take outrageous risks to collect the honey from the cliff side hives , but they’ve developed an almost mystical rapport with the bees, wich enable them to work without any protective clothing. The precious liquid has to be eaten with great care to avoid serious intoxication my name is Raphael Treza, i’m going to meet the tribe to try to find out more about this magic honey the Gurungs sell the honey at a little market, they’ve told me how to find their village. On the way, I met Deepak and Kumar, two friends who are in contact with the tribe. They’ve proposed to come with me to act as translators. The gurungs are almost cut off from the outside world, they live two days walk from the nearest road originally from Tibet, in the middle ages, they came to this valley, dominated by one the highest mountains in the world 150 villagers live here including elderly but very healthy people and a good number of children who attend the village school hives of domesticated bees, which are more docile and twice as small as the wild bees are built into the walls. the honey can be collected from inside the houses. the bees have even colonised some rather unusual places. the Gurungs are almost entirely self sufficient , they cultivate vegetables, corn and rice. the village mill turns the cereals into flour various wooden objects are carved and sculpted with a kukri, the emblematic Nepali’s knife. The villagers raise goats, cows and sheep, who’s wool is used to make clothes some of which will be sold at the market Some also fish and hunt for deer using riffle loaded with a ramrod and they stay on the look out for bears which could attack their flocks or the village children Men and women of all ages regularly work on communal tasks like here for the building of a new path. maoist dissidents who took control of the valley make sure everyone takes part in the work necessary for the developing the community The gurungs are reserved and discrete but their good humour and joie de vivre is infectious At dawn, the village gets ready for a honey hunting trip two men prepare the ropes required for climbing the cliffs They set out to join the rest of the team The hunters meet up: Noba Kershing, the oldest hunter Nandala and Dale as they leave the village, a surprise guest shows up A member of the maoist guerilla from a neighboring village who says he comes to ensure we’re not going to take honey from comunal hives at first he wants to stop us from going his presence here is also a publicity exercise he wants to be sure the young nepali’s communist logo on his t-shirt appears in the film discussions are a little tense but calm Finally, the young maoist agrees to let us leave Kershing cuts some young bamboo stems which will be use to make a ladder. At midday, we arrive at the bottom of the cliff The men prepare a camp And a team sets out on reconaissance on the cliff face, a black mass can be made out, and so the honey hunt can begin Deepak: – how old were you when you started hunting for honey? Kershing:- i began when I was twenty and I do it every year, today I’m sixty today so It has been forty years, my father and my grand-father did it before me so I was always curious about it d: – And what’s the first thing to be done? k: First of all, there’s a ritual called the pujah pujah is a Hindu term, refering to a religious ritual, where incense is burned and prayers are offered The Gurungs are Buddhists, but have retained a form of animism in their relations with nature they invoke certain spirits, in this case a forest spirit to whom they offer the life of a cock ,a sacrifice that will guarantee a successfull honey harvest Kershing: we do this ritual to avoid problems misfortune and accidents We have to summon the spirit of the forest, because it has a soul and we don’t want to offend it We pray twice, once here and once down below we’ve had the same traditions for a long time everywhere we go, the traditions are the same When we hunt the honey the bees don’t give in easily, it’s a real combat it’s a bit like we were taking their children We make this offering to be protected and so that no one falls Deepak: so what effect does this honey have? Kershing: The effect of the honey? [laughs] you’ll see The sacrificed cock will also serve as a meal Noba prepares it, while the others make the rope ladder rungs fitted into ropes made from braided bamboo they’re then fixed using bamboo shoots the hunters prepare bundles of green leaves which they will light to smoke out the bees The ladder is drenched with water so it’s not damaged by the flames The meal is ready, a cock curry and the team is soon ready to begin hunting Nandala has choosen a solid root to fix the ladder a safety mecanism is connected too A wooden structure is installed, to hold a wicker basket for filtering the honey The hunters will split up Kershing will climb the ladder and cut holes in the wax using sharpened bamboo spatulas Lukba, Nandalal and Dale will stay on the top, and will ensure the coming and going of the honey baskets. They have to light a fire to protect themselves from attacks by the bees Noba will descend to the cliff base to smoke out the hives Kershing performs a final ritual as he lays out leaves on the ground We follow Noba when we arrive, the bees adopt a very specific behaviour: defense waves: raising their wings in turn, they create a kind of wave around the hive a visual alarm signal to any predator or imprudent invader Before they attack, Noba lights a fire , the smoke rise along the cliff face despite the smoke, the bees were aggressive and tried to get into our clothes. Their legs’s are unbelievly powerfull As we have neither gloves nor a mask, the hunters has warned us: in the case of an attack, we must not move, the slightest gesture only provoques the bees Kershing climbs up just wearing shorts and a t-shirts, his confidence is astounding his mystical rapport with the bees is clear as he finds himself facing a furious swarm A flamming bundle of leaves is lowered and Kershing is trying to divert the bees attentions The bees see the smoke as a sign of fire and the hunter’s presence becomes for them a secondary problem for them Deepak is being stung on the head , and decides to move away According to him , being stung by a Himalayan bee “Apis Dorsata Laboriosa” is no more painful than an ordinary bee’s sting kershing would sometimes remain immobile for several minutes to make the bees less agressive to keep his hands free, he has attached bamboo stakes to his arms A basket is lowered on a rope he pushes it under the holes in the wax , and using the stakes cuts out several kilos of honey, which fall into the basket then the team members simply hold the basket until the cliff top the harvest demands perfect coordination but the tribe history has been marked by several fatal accidents each cliff bears the name of a dead hunter, inscribed on the rock Kershing drops a block of honey, it falls on my feet surprised, I slip and fall, but fortunately the vegetation breaks my fall Kershing climbs back up, he hasn’t been stung We try to climb back up too It’s a good harvest And Everyone is safe and sound A shepherdess has joined the group. She carefully tastes a peace of wax filled with honey she knows the toxicity varies according to the seasons. I’m invited to taste it too The innitial effects are immediate, the honey contains diterpenic alcohol a toxin that causes inebriety, similar to the effect of absynth Deepak seems to appreciate it And invites me to take a second taste but I’m too busy filming and decline, plus the dose suggested by the hunters is only 3 teaspoons The honey has soothing qualities, and the Gurungs use it as an aphrodisiac They consume a spoonfull every morning as it helps for their immunity systems hence the name of “honey for a long life” or “immortality” although a higher dose can affect the vision and even induce hallucinations the filter enables impurities such as dead bees to be removed A few blocks of dried wax are taken to feed the animals others are left in place when they reach a waterhole, the men wash off the sticky honey it’s a moment of respite before the long walk back to the village The hunters can’t delay any longer as evening is approaching rapidly Dale brings up the rear, when there’s a problem Deepak feels ill, and can’t walk any further Dale: What’s going on? kumar: He doesn’t feel well, he can’t walk Dale: how come? kumar: because of the honey Dale: How much has he eaten? k: A good handful D: that’s too much, I’m going to get the others Deepak is nauseous and cannot longer stand up Suddenly, he has convulsions and loses consciousness Kumar decides to carry him, to try rejoin the group an analysis of the honey, reveals it comes from a «ponticum» rhododendron who’s red flowers contains “grayanotoxins” these gives the honey it’s toxicity. although the bees themselves are not affected Deepak: “everything spinning” a honey overdose can cause Cardiac and Respiratory irregularities, some of which are proved fatal Deepak is suffering from paresthesia, unusual sensations in his fingertips, a woman from a village arrives and learns what has happened her name is Yamu Nandalal and Noba gave their material to shepherds and come back to help Deepak Nandalal: “I will carry you on my back” the men don’t appear to be worried, and take the situation with good humour Deepak starts vomiting again the men have to leave, as at night the forest becomes a hunting ground for bears and tigers in ancient times, Greek and Roman armies suffered the same fate as Deepak After stealing honey from a Turkish village surrounded by rhododendron they became drunk, and some fell over and lost their minds the honey became known as “red honey” or “mad honey” We reach the village Deepak will be treated with medicinal plants The next day, Deepak is better, and gets away with just a nasty headache before leaving we eat local dried and braised game meat We leave the gurungs, filled with respect for these simple discrete heroes Deepak and kumar take some honey, which they have promise to consume with moderation English version by Daniel Narolewski

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