Dangling off of the edges of treacherous cliffs, Nepalese honey hunters spend their days collecting Himalayan honey. It might seem like they could just collect honey the normal way, but there’s a reason for this death-defying, dare-devil task: this honey is known to have mind-altering qualities.
Fact: People will do literally anything to gather natural products that trip you out.
The second video of National Geographic‘s Explorer series chronicled an average day in life of “The Last Honey Hunter” as he climbs up the sides of cliffs to harvest honey, more than 300 feet off the ground while being attacked by angry bees the whole time. You’d be angry too if someone was constantly sticking his greedy hands into your house and stealing your hard-earned honey.
“We go there to get stung,” he tells the National Geographic crew. Plus, the Himalayan Honey Bee is the largest Honey Bee in the world and twice as big is the ones in the US (which still terrify American picnic goers every summer). This is all adding up to a seemingly terrible idea.
The honey itself will mess you up, big time. It’s full of a toxin that comes from the rhododendron flower. This is the reason it’s so sought after and sells on the black market for over $166 dollars per pound. It works like this: Gryanotoxins bind to sodium channels in your cells and are known to alter your mental state and give you some really trippy hallucinations.
But wait, there’s a catch. No mind-altering journey comes without a price. Eating this magical honey will also make you dizzy, nauseous, give you diarrhea, make you violently throw up and can even make you pass out. Long ago, soldiers tricked their enemies into ingesting it. Not a very fair way to fight, but it does the trick.
Why do people bother? There is one more positive side effect. The honey has been known to improve sexual performance. Ahhhhh, that’s the secret: People will literally risk a hive of bees to be good at sex!
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Dripping honey just after the harvest. Here is more info on its hallucinogenic nature from our writer and old @thenorthface adventure buddy @m_synnott – ~Sweet Poison~ "When I first started selling wild honey, the price was extremely high," says Jenge, the local Kulung trader who has always managed the Sadhi honey hunters. "Then someone in Korea ate too much and died. That killed the market." – The psychotropic effects of the honey result from graynotoxins in the flowers of the local rhododendron trees, which bloom on north facing hillsides each April. – The "correct" dose varies according to the strength of the honey. This year's harvest: 1/4 teaspoon. According to Jenge, once administered you have a few minutes before you are overcome with an urgent need to defecate, urinate and vomit. "Normally we have to see a doctor to get bad things taken out of our bodies," says Jenge, "but the honey does this for us. That's why we take it." – After the purge, "you alternate between light and dark. You can see and then you can't see." A sound, which Jenge describes as "jam jam jam" pulses, like the drone of a bee hive, in your head. Then you lose all motor function. "The paralysis lasts for a day or so," says Jenge. – This morning, Jenge gave us each a small plastic Coke bottle full of the milky orange honey. The question is – who will be the first in our group to give it a try? – @NatGeo @reddigitalcinema @switronix @gtechnology @sandisk @radiantimages @camp4collective #feltsoulmedia #thelasthoneyhunter
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The Honey Hunters build fires at the base to smoke out the bees. This unexpected 'hollywood' lighting FX only lasted a minute and a few camera clicks while spinning in space. @natgeo #TheLastHoneyHunter story ~ More insight on the shot by @m_synnott ~ “I’m getting stung and I’m missing the shot,” says Renan. “Try to spin me back towards the wall.” I reach out my leg and give Renan a kick. As my foot pushes off his shoulder, he starts rotating back towards the wall, while I spin in the opposite direction. Soon I’m gazing out over the valley and through the branches of a tree that hangs off the lip of this 300-foot overhanging honey cliff. The spin continues, and a few seconds later I’m face to face again with Renan, who is writhing in frustration on the end of his rope like a fly caught in a spider’s web. ~ The endless rotations continue. Over Renan’s shoulder I can see Maule Dhan #thelasthoneyhunter clinging to his homemade ladder with one hand while he scrapes dark clumps of bees off a nearby hive with a 20-foot bamboo pole. Each swipe at the hive triggers an explosion of angry bees that fill the air around us. My gloves are covered with dozens of bees, many of which have their stingers buried in the nylon. Like a barbed hook, a stinger won’t come out once it has been set. This has fatal consequences for the bees. When they try to fly away, the stinger slowly disembowels them, pulling a ropy orange tendril out of their abdomen. ~ Renan and I are wearing bee suits, so our stings are minimal. Maule isn’t so fortunate. Back in camp, the honey hunters gather around him and pick the stingers one by one out of his swollen face and hands. “The bees have thousands of babies in those hives,” says Maule. “The bees are smart. So it makes sense that they would come after us.” ~ See more on this story from the team: @taylorfreesolo @ben_knight @jetbutterflies @m_synnott