First Step to Conquering the Fear

One day, I overheard a group of my friends excitedly discussing a unique experience they had: honey hunting.

It sounded like something out of a storybook with cooked tales. Climbing steep cliffs, navigating dense forests, and facing off with the wild bees guarding their golden treasure - all seemed unrealistic!

So after a few months, I decided to take a break from my mundane life and explore the life that was outside New York. I surfed about the potential destinations that I visited for a few days and rethought the mad honey hunting expedition.

At first, I dismissed it as It seemed a bit too adventurous for a regular guy like me. I'm not the outdoorsy type, and I adore the comfort of my room. On top of that, I hated heights!

But as the days passed, the idea lingered in my mind that I couldn’t shake off.

One day, I mustered the courage to talk to those friends who sparked my curiosity. They shared their own hesitations and fears before they went honey hunting for the first time.

The Journey To Nepal’s Mad Honey

The journey began with the click of a button as I booked my tickets to Nepal. Soon enough, I found myself on a flight to the enchanting city of Kathmandu. The Medicinal Mad Honey team came to pick me up from the airport and dropped me off at my hotel.

When I landed in Kathmandu, I was awestruck by its warm and welcoming vibrations. The bustling streets, adorned with vibrant prayer flags, led me to the heart of the city. I opted to stay in the hotel in Thamel, a lively area known for its bustling markets, diverse cuisine, and vibrant atmosphere.

The next day, I head out for the journey from Kathmandu to the breathtaking landscapes of Besishahar. There were a total of ten people, including the team and other adventures like me.

Only after an hour into the ride, I was amazed at the sudden change in atmosphere. The way to Besishahar was more calming and chilled than the hustling valley.

Upon our arrival, we were provided with snacks and there we stayed for one more night. Finally, we travelled to the honey hunting village.

Lamjung: The Mad Honey Hunting Village

The village was farther away, hidden inside a luscious forest. The Gurungs were warm yet amused to see us. There, we met some people from the tribe, who told amazing anecdotes about their honey hunting. And gave a sneak peek into their difficult yet content lives.

Mad honey is the common and ancient means of earning bread and butter for them. They are highly specialized in honey hunting, and they are fearless in taking a shot at their own lives.

Honey Hunters

For the honey hunters, their craft is not merely a job but a way of life passed down through generations. From a young age, they watch and learn from seasoned hunters, absorbing the intricacies of the trade.

The dedication to the art of honey hunting becomes a lifelong commitment, a journey where each climb up the cliffs is a step towards mastering the ancient techniques.

The honey hunters approach their work with a deep reverence for nature. This spiritual connection is not just a formality but a genuine acknowledgement of the delicate balance between humans and the natural world.

As I heard more and more about their unusual lives. It became clear that their dedication and respect for their profession were not just about extracting honey. It was a reflection of a profound connection with nature, tradition, and a commitment to preserving the delicate balance of the Himalayan ecosystem.

The Worship: Rangikemi

The day we reached the village was a day before honey hunting, which meant it was a day of worshipping and remembering their deity.

Before embarking on a honey-hunting expedition, they perform rituals that pay homage to Rangkemi, the bee spirit. It was apparent that the Gurung are quite spiritual when it comes to their profession.

Rangkemi, often referred to as the bee spirit, holds a special place in the folklore and spirituality of the Gurung community. It is believed that these benevolent spirits reside in the sacred Himalayan landscapes, representing a harmonious relationship between humans and nature.

The bee spirit is not merely an ethereal being but a guardian of honey hunters that assures them of safe hunting.

The ritual begins with a sense of mystery. In a small circle, we gather around sanctuaries and two bamboo containers, each holding a lively bird. Khem, one of the honey hunters, takes a kneeling position in front of the shrines.

He bows his head and rests his hands on his thighs. The shaman wears a waistcoat made of stinging nettles and wraps a bright band around his waist.

Moving gracefully among us, he chants in a language known only to him and the spirits. In one hand, he holds a bamboo rod, and in the other, a gourd filled with water. The rod consistently dips into the gourd, showering us with droplets.

Soon, the atmosphere is filled with some dancing and songs. My gaze shifts towards a man who is making the offering to the process.

When I asked why they worshipped the bee spirit, one honey hunter chuckled at my lack of knowledge. And told me that the bee spirit is everything – an integral part of their lives.

Honey Hunting Adventure: My First Expedition

As I set foot on the rugged trail, the anticipation of my first honey hunting adventure overwhelmed me. The seasoned guides, clad in traditional gear, led the way with a confident stride that made me feel a mix of excitement and nervousness.

The Hike

The journey began with a brisk hike through the dense forest. We travelled at the towering trees, their branches forming a natural canopy above. The air was thick with the scent of earth and wildflowers. My heart pounded with a blend of curiosity and a touch of apprehension.

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Client;

Locating the Hive

The honey hunters skillfully tracked the honeybees, reading the minute signs. I couldn't help but feel a surge of awe as they pointed out tiny clues – a buzz in the air, a dance of bees, leading them deeper into the heart of the wilderness.

Scaling Heights

The real challenge came when we reached the cliff side where the hidden honeycomb awaited. With each foothold and handhold, I ascended with the adrenaline coursing through my veins.

My fingers grazed the rough surface, and my eyes darted between the rock and the ground below. The distant hum of bees grew louder, a constant reminder of the reward awaiting me.

Harvesting the Honey

As we reached the hive, protected by a natural overhang, we witnessed the mesmerizing dance of bees. The Gurungs expertly used smoke to calm the bees and get them out of the beehives without harming them.

When a group of hunters, typically five or six people, goes on a honey-collecting mission, they work together like a well-oiled machine.

So, picture this: there's a team of folks, and some are up on a hill keeping an eye out. Meanwhile, there's another person on a ladder trying to collect honey from a hive.

The ones on the hill pass down tools and baskets to the person on the ladder, making the whole process synchronised.

Some of them stay on top of a hill, giving them a good view of the area. Their main job is to help the hunter who's up on a ladder, making sure they collect honey smoothly and efficiently.

The experienced and fearless climber stood at the foot of the towering cliff, his eyes fixed on the nests clinging without any safety to the cliff's edge. The handcrafted ladder he held was a symbol of his resourcefulness and skill.

I was amazed to see their swift movements and balance, each step ensured safety and stability.

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Client;

He needed to position the ladder as close as possible to the nests to carry out the conservation efforts.

With a steady hand and unwavering focus, he lowered the ladder over the cliff's edge, inching it down to the optimal position.

The Big Celebration

Back in the village, we celebrated the successful expedition with a spoonful of honey. The honey definitely was unusual as the taste grew on me gradually.

I felt a warmth in my heart and tranquillity entered my veins. The rich, complex notes tantalized my taste buds, and each mouthful seemed to unlock a new layer of delight. The smooth texture and the lingering aftertaste left me in awe of the natural wonders that the magical delight had to offer.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I watched the beautiful sunset and birds returning to their homes. I was proud of myself for conquering my fears and being a part of a lifetime journey.

The journey was tough, no doubt about it. Climbing those cliffs tested my resolve, and the buzzing of bees in the air made me question my sanity. But with each obstacle I overcame, the doubts diminished, and a newfound confidence took their place.

The taste of fresh honey straight from the comb was the sweetest victory – a reward for pushing my boundaries and embracing the unknown.

Returning Back To Kathmandu

After five to six days of travelling, I came back to Kathmandu. And I stayed a couple of few more days to enjoy more places in Kathmandu.

The city's bustling markets and delicious local cuisine brought me closer to the rich history that Kathmandu had to offer. The contrast between the intense honey hunt and the relaxed atmosphere of the city made his visit a truly memorable and well-rounded experience.