HONEY HUNTING - SIDING VILLAGE, NEPAL
28th Apr, 2019 | Tourism Mail Crew
Well many of us had one sip of honey in their lifetime. Many love it, many like it and sometimes its used for medicinal purpose. With these description of the so called sweet nectar, most of us may have heard about Honey Hunting through news or social insights. Well in one part of Nepal, Siding Village which is two hours drive from Pokhara, honey hunting is done through the traditional way in which the hunter climbs the rocky cliffs and slides gently towards the honeycomb as in any action movies to battle with the army of bees not to kill it but to conquer the golden liquid, we all know as Honey.
Our very first morning of the honey hunting began with the view of humongous Fishtail Mountain in front of us and the serene view of the Siding Village. All of us, the hunters, our guide and we few amateurs and professional photographers headed towards the cliff to capture some process of honey hunting by the local legends. The walk almost took four hours through the village, rocky stones and the sloppy jungles. It was amazing to see how the honey hunters and the locals would easily walk, run and jump like any superheroes in these frightening route. Even the local children from the village hopped from one place to another in minutes never showing any sign of tiredness. We also came to know how the local people of the Siding Village has been surviving in this old age tradition of honey hunting. Finally, after reaching to the surface of the hunting ground, we witnessed a small ritual was being held by the senior guardian who kept Tika to all of us and offered Prasad too. We could see the huge honeycombs all covered with bees way high up in the cliffs secured from all aliens.
The process began as the hunters prepared to spread the fire smoke from the ground to make the bees move out from the honeycomb. We were cautiously told to take places for our shots and to be safe by ourselves. We were all covered from head to toe with all our safety clothes, gloves, mask and shades. To my astonishment, I could see the hunters without any closed shoes , no gloves and no proper safety mask too ! All I could think at that moment was there would be thousands of bees and how each sting would be unbearably painful. The fear of sting was so scary that I sat so close to the smoke just to protect myself from being stung. The hunters waved at us and marched up the cliffs, as we prepared with our gears to watch and capture the hunting. Both the hunters took ladders, ropes and sticks way high up and then they started proceeding downwards from the cliff. As the honeycombs were safely built at the edges of the cliff, the hunters had to get down hanging on the ladder. It was a sight to be remembered for lifetime as we could see them playing with the bees, provoking them with fire smokes sticks. A swamp of agitated bees flew from time to time towards us and stung few members too. As for us, we could just bow down, not breathe and act like a statue as we saw them flying in front of us like bullets. I did notice how the hunter would be at different levels of the cliff, one at the top, second hanging on to edge in the ladder and few on the ground. During the process, each of hunters made sounds like “Hooo.. Oieeee… Hooieeee” to communicate with each other as talking with one another was impossible in this furious battle. The second process was to shoot the honeycomb with a long stick attached with a rope and shoot at it. Then the hunter would pull out the stick and the rope would get attached to the honeycomb. The hunter hollers to his team to pull it off gently. This way the honeycomb was snatched from the cliff, the bees and was lowered to the team waiting desperately in the ground. We watched the huge honeycombs being descended through our lens and all the activities too.
After the hunting was over we all descended downwards the same way we had come up. The most difficult route as we all had to slide down seeing the rocks and Mardi river below. As for me I was handled by three helpful hunter brothers who helped me get down to the base from the steep hill. There even came time when I had to step on their hands not knowing how to walk on those slippery grassy land. My utmost respect goes for all these hunter brothers who do this annually without any fear. We all also got to taste few drops of the sweet honey but somewhere in my heart felt bad for all those bees who had worked so hard each second to create this magical potion which everyone craves for. It was saddening to see their home being destroyed, their little ones dead, and all their food being taken away.. As for the villagers it was a way of earning for the livelihood which was passed down from generations.
During my hike, I did give up in the middle as tears broke down and was too difficult to continue for me because of the lack of energy and the fear of vertigo. But the perseverance of my team, Raj Dai our guide and the will to witness the once in a lifetime moment of Honey Hunting kept me moving along towards the destination
Lastly, a walk to remember for lifetime. All I take back from Siding Village is how I met friendly, humble, simple people with smiling faces. The place unknown to me just few hours away so beautiful and quiet. I am able to capture the process of honey hunting through my photography to share with my people back home. Hence, a glimpse of the daring journey for me.
Text/Photo : Mia Tuladhar