Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Hallucinogen Honey Hunters - Hunting Mad Honey - Full Documentary

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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 dear 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 haul the basket to 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

The Description of Hallucinogen Honey Hunters - Hunting Mad Honey - Full Documentary