// Follow #TheLastHoneyHunter on @natgeo Instagram Stories, starting now!! // Photo by @renan_ozturk / Words by @jetbutterflies ~
@irving_matthew dangles in space while shooting. Earlier this week, the omens after the ritual offering to the forest spirits weren’t good. When cracked open, the eggs that sat nestled on a homemade alter of bamboo and banana leaves weren’t perfectly pure. The shaman, wild-eyed and shaking, clothes spattered with blood, saw a bad aura over Matt and told him to be careful. The honey hunters were having bad dreams. ~
No one spoke of any of this as we headed through the jungles and down onto the cliffs. We picked the leeches off of our ankles by the dozens. The rains slowed and the sun was hard upon us – robbing us of our last excuse to call it off. ~
The omens were right. The cliffs were nearly barren. The remaining bees swarmed hungrily but thin in the humid air. Abandoned combs dotted the cliffs like half moons setting over an alien planet. Trapped in their hives by the long monsoon, the bees had eaten the honey themselves. ~
We still lit the smoky fires at the base of the cliffs, and still dangled on our ropes spinning like mobiles in the ether. Maule Dhan and his assistants climbed their homemade ladders and separated the dry honeycombs from the wet rock. We trudged back through the jungles and boiled them down in copper pots set over a wood fire. The wax floated, like a dream, to the top as it cooled. ~
Eight men working four long days at significant risk yields a single disc of wax. Economically, a bust. Nonetheless, eight men left and eight men returned. Weary and bloodied, they carried back the sweat of tens of thousands of other workers, the essence of the forest itself. Three huge beehives distilled into three small blocks of wax: the most perfect yellow, the sweetest smell. ~
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