JUL 08, 2017 03:27 PM PDT

Hunting hallucinogenic honey in Nepal


Called "mad honey," for the psychotropic effects that are a result of the toxins in the rhododendron trees that cover the hills of the Hongu Valley, this Himalayan honey sure isn't easy to get a hold of. This extreme 360 degree video footage (be sure to check out all the angles with the arrows in the top left corner!) documents photographer Renan Ozturk as he accompanies Nepali honey hunter Maule Dhan on a harvest, climbing three hundred feet up a bamboo rope past defensive honeybees to reach the hive, hacking huge hunks of it off in order to obtain the honey, and carrying it safely down to the earth, ensuring its viability for market. On the Asian black market, mad honey can fetch as much as $60-$80 a pound, more than 6 times the price of normal honey. But that's only part of the lure for Maule, who at 57 has been charged with this responsibility for 42 years. He says he uses the cash to buy the staples he doesn't grow himself, but considers the job to dangerous to continue for long. Maule was chosen to carry out this unique task by a spirit that came in a dream. His people, the Kulung, believe that Rangkemi, the guardian spirit of the bees, will protect him in his quest.

But Maule thinks that his quest may be nearing its end. His body is not as strong nor energetic as it used to be and the risk of falling and death during a hunt is high. But when Maule takes his last harvest, it may mean the end to a tradition, as no one else is interested or had the dream that gives them Rangkemi's blessing. While Maule says he prefers for his own sons to go to school to be educated, he seems disappointed that the tradition might end. "Children these days don't value he culture. If this continues, our culture is going to disappear."

Source: National Geographic
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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