How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

Categories: Asia | Culture | Food and Drinks

The Gurung tribe in Nepal has been collecting wild honey on the tops of Himalayan rocks for centuries. Today, the existence of this ancient tradition is under threat. Commercialization and the growth of tourist interest have led to the fact that more and more tourists want to take part in dangerous fishing and join the honey hunt.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

Photographer Andrew Newey spent two weeks in Central Nepal with the gurung miners. During this time, he managed to capture all the dangers faced by collectors, and learn about the skills that are necessary for dangerous fishing.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

Honey hunters risk their lives every minute. In their craft, they use nothing but homemade rope ladders and long wooden sticks called "tangos". Most honeybee nests are located on inaccessible rocks on the south-western side — in these places bees can not be afraid of wild animals. Moreover, the south-western side is more exposed to direct sunlight.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

In December 2013, Andrew Newey spent two weeks in a remote village. He joined a three-day honey raid that started six weeks late that year due to climate change and declining bee populations. Before starting the hunt, the gurung perform a special ceremony to appease the mountain gods: the inhabitants sacrifice sheep, flowers, fruits and rice to the gods.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

The hunter holds fast to an unreliable ladder, waiting for the smoke to scare off huge individuals of Apis Laboriosa — the largest honey bees in the world. A deathly silence hung around, the tension can be felt by the skin. Dozens of men help one collector or, in the local language, "kuichi".

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

Engulfed in thick acrid smoke, the hunter randomly stretches the tangos forward to scoop up the honeycomb. If the attempt is successful, he throws the loot into the basket, which is attached to the second stick.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

One of the most serious threats to this tradition is the growing reputation of wild Himalayan honey as one of the most effective medicines against infections. Today, it is being actively exported to Japan, China and Korea.

Spring "red" honey is the most popular commodity: a kilogram on average costs about $ 15. This leads to the fact that communities are pushed away from the rocks by the state, which intends to monopolize the rocks with wild hives in order to establish uninterrupted production of medicine. At the same time, the younger generation prefers working in the city to dangerous traditional crafts.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

When the hunter descends, blood, calluses and bite marks are visible on his body — the consequences of dangerous fishing.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

After a long hunt and a three-hour journey to the village, the hunter warms himself by the fire along with a piece of honeycomb, which he honestly earned.

How Nepal's sweet gold is mined

The extracted "gold" is divided among the villagers, and the women first of all brew honey tea.

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