The honey hunters of the blue mountains

We had just heard stories about honey hunting, while backpacking all over the state of Tamil Nadu in 1994 - travelling to any corner of the state, if you even whispered the word `honey'. 

This brought us to Kotagiri in 1995 and a new journey began. But nothing had prepared us for this - standing in awe of these sheer cliff faces and even more so, this set of lean, wiry men who took upon themselves, this gravity defying and jaw dropping exercise! 

It was a time of just print rolls of 36 shots - it had to go to Photo Centre in Coimbatore for developing & printing. Till the results came, you chewed your nails! 

There were only land lines and so one would get a call anytime that honeyhunting was going to take place in an hour and we would have to hurtle down in our beloved Maruti Gypsy or bikes (Yezdi/Kawasaki Bajaj -remember those!!), only to find that the collection was postponed due to too much sun or any such reason - it would take place tomorrow!⁣

Even during those first few days of just sitting there, my Nikon camera refused to function and I was in near tears - this activity happening in front of my eyes but nothing to record it! 

Another dumb idea that we came up with was asking the honeyhunters that why they simply did not use the coir rope in the market rather than making all this effort of finding the right fresh forest vine and constructing it into a rope. The answer came in a few minutes when they attached the honey basket to that rope and lowered - the coir rope rubbed against the rocks and just snapped - a 300 foot plunge! 

We made a promise to ourselves - never open your mouth unnecesarily - what had evolved over thousands of years was not ours to mess with - such boneheadedness on our part! 

Memoir - Mathew John 

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