I first met Maule Dhan nearly ten years ago, and his story has clung to me ever since. Thrilled to share the true story of this incredible man and his community with the world.
After years of friendship; hundreds of hours of sweating, suffering, and leeches; and months of editing I hope we’ve stumbled upon something timeless. At least for now.
@natgeo has released #TheLastHoneyHunter article online, and in the July edition of the magazine! Check out the link in my profile and do be sure to watch the amazing behind the scenes edit by @renan_ozturk linked in the article.
Our short film with @ben_knight is going to be making the festival rounds for a while - so keep your eyes peeled!
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Coming back to Maine always makes me wonder why I left in the first place. But then I recall all of the adventures, misfortunes, missteps and bliss that I've found across the globe that have made coming back so sweet.
New England Pastoral.
America is as great as you allow it to be. It's nice to be home.
So many moments this week where my life has fallen into a strange focus. The moments where you can’t believe this is actually happening. When you see yourself from the side. A child in footy pajamas plodding down the stairs on Christmas. The overwhelming weight of one’s good fortune.
Tonight is the world premiere of #TheLastHoneyHunter, and I can’t really believe it. Overwhelmed with gratitude for @ben_knight and @renan_ozturk who have found and told the best story that I’ve yet known. Amazed at how deeply this story has now been woven into my own, along with friendships forged along the way. @sadiequarrier@taylorfreesolo@irving_matthew
Actually I’m terrified.
Watching Mauli Dhan's handwoven bamboo ladder twist in and out of the smoke along the cliffs always brought to mind strands of DNA. Chewing on this more, now, zillions of miles and months removed, it still somehow feels right.
But I'm not sure how to bring the metaphor to earth. There is something undeniably fundamental to how he and so many men and women like him across Nepal engage with the world. It's a brutal life, without question, but there are also undeniable moments of joy and real love.
Maule Dhan's life feels more human perhaps because I'm not living it. It feels more fundamental because I long for simplicity. It is all too easy to see hunger and hardship as an abstraction, and too assume the joys and loves are made the more potent therefore.
Isn't it a miracle, though, all that we can share? We are all woven together now in a way we have never been before. We all suffer differently, but we suffer the same. #thelasthoneyhunter#airplanemusings#dna
In anticipation of the upcoming #thelasthoneyhunter world premiere my super cool friends at @khalikhutta cooked up an amazing balm from some of the wild beeswax that I gave them.
It's available on etsy - so check their IG if you want to get some. I promise it's not hallucinogenic.
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On the eve of yet another international departure, life devolves into the usual shrapnel of last minute tasks and meetings, duffel bags, jealously counting pairs of socks. Lucy (the mutt of leisure) looks at my bags and proceeds to mope on the bed, sighing heavy dog sighs.
Each and every trip, my Nepali ‘family’ insists on blessing me before I fly. I’m always too busy, but somehow find myself bouncing through the rain on my motorcycle and arriving haggard and stressed.
The blessing is always quiet and calm, poised and slow. First offerings to the five elements. Oil lamps burning for Ganesha. The room fills with incense and flowers. Offerings of alcohol, eggs and meat. Wishes for safe travels and health.
This is the currency of the human heart. Love. Protection. Calm. This is what makes it so easy to get onto the airplane and navigate the cloudy ether back to #Kathmandu. Soon.
We've been spending a lot of time with this crew again lately. Our #thelasthoneyhunter film project is lurching towards a World Premiere at @mountainfilm in May, and the story will be out in July's @natgeo Magazine!
It's really hard to believe. Eight years of dreaming now stacked upon countless sleepless nights is chiseling out something powerful. Something otherworldly, yet human. Something I don't believe any of us expected to find.
For the past few months, things in #Kathmandu have just felt off. My colleagues @dzifoundation were continually getting sick, our office truck kept getting in minor accidents.
We realized that it had been years since we had blessed the office and purified the space. Monks were assembled and we spent the morning in quiet reflection. Which is surprisingly easy to do despite the near constant clashing of cymbals.
Two years. That’s half of a college education. A long time. Yet sometimes the earthquake feels like only days ago. I jump when someone slams the door. Did you know that airports, more than other buildings, shake and move constantly? I know this. It won’t go away.
I have the luxury of condensing time thus. The landscape of rural Nepal, once muted and sublime with cozy mud and stone homes, is now repainted with bright sheets of zinc roofing tin, cobbled together like junkyard fences. Loud in the rain. Cold. Dark. Sooty. Leaky. Homes worn like a ragged uniform of poverty. The type of home that slows time, lengthens nights, a constant reminder of all that is lost. This type of home turns two years into a lifetime. Or two.
Two years ago, international donors poured pledges of $4 billion into Nepal’s leaky hands. Divided into two years, that comes out to $3,800 a minute. Every minute enough to build a new home. For two years.
If you believe the Nepal Government statistics, which many do not, only 3.5% of homes have been rebuilt. 3.5 percent. Two years on. #nepalquake
During a serendipitous stopover in Edinburgh, I met with friends from the #royalbotanicalgardens to investigate how certain Rhododendron species contribute to the toxic honey we've been chasing in #thelasthoneyhunter project.
It turns out that, completely contrary to popular knowledge, the toxins might come from another plant entirely. The science is murky to say the least, but now I'm obsessed with finding the answer.
In the process of creating films, there are times when everything comes together seamlessly. Sometimes the story almost tells itself, leaving our job to simply document and experience. ~
But more often, making films is like trying to run uphill at altitude - slow, arduous, miserable, and pretty damn forced. ~
During our recent shoot in the wilds outside of Manang, Nepal we were searching for strong female characters who relate to climbing and mountains differently than most western climbing films portray. But we needed them to shine, to stick out. Enter motorcycles. Add borderline unsafe altitude gain. Have the punk rocker (@sodapopchamling) bring her guitar to 17,500ft for good measure. ~
Admittedly, it all was a bit contrived. ~
But the one thing we did right was to choose two incredible women to work with. Sareena and Pasang (@pasang_lhamu_sherpa_akita) patiently tolerated, then ignored, our bad ideas and instead created their own narrative which was more important, hilarious, and meaningful than anything we could have dreamed up. Stay tuned. ~
New Roads, Hard Roads.
While driving the road to Manang, I couldn't stop thinking about the courage of those who built it. At times dug out from sheer cliff faces or propped up with rough hewn wooden supports, it is a temple to our need to be connected - at nearly any cost. Driving the road is disconcerting in that one is constant, and often simultaneous, witness to tremendous feats of human engineering and human neglect. ~
For a few days, we climbed along the thinning Marshyangdi river and into the very heart of the Himalayas themselves. The road grew dusty and then even dustier. We watched as Annapurna 3, Gangapurna and Nilgiri - some of the tallest peaks on the planet - were backlit to our south as storms gathered and flashed against them. ~
The road to Manang has only been open for a few years - the flap of a crow's wing when compared to the deep history and culture of the place and the people there. This is a place where time bends somehow. It bends with the rough jeeps clattering past the rows of ancient prayer wheels, with the fear and focus it takes to simply stay on the motorcycle and out of the snarling river, and with the inevitable gravity of the Himalayas dying pink in the alpenglow.
At least the first 150 kilometers went well enough. Granted, the roads were paved for the most part and the greatest risk was finding the flat grill of a massive TATA truck squarely in your lane on a blind corner. ~
Then the road got rough, it got dark, and things got very real, very quickly. To describe the next 40 kilometers using the term 'road' would be dishonest. The rough-hewn path is wide enough for a vehicle to pass, but strewn with massive boulders and ruts. At one point @renan_ozturk put on a motorcycle helmet to protect his head during the impromptu rodeo happening inside the jeep. ~
The bikes fell over and broke down. It was pitch black, not even stars visible. We lashed the wounded motorcycle into the short bed of a passing pickup. We limped into a small town, ate, and passed out in a local lodge. Spent. Exhausted. Dreaming already of the relative pleasures of Kathmandu - only a day behind, but a universe away. ~
Today, the road got rougher and cut a thin path across sheer cliff faces with the Marshyangdi river coaxing us a thousand feet below. The injured bike struggled, then died completely. It started to rain, thin at first then in sheets. ~ I guess this is what we signed up for. Working together, suffering, taking turns navigating northward. Tomorrow, after another ten hours of riding, we will leave the bike and the jeeps and the lodges behind and walk. Our own feet stepping onto the snows and deeper into the stories of the two amazing women who have inspired the trip. Stay tuned. @royalenfield
With: @sodapopchamling@email@example.com@rudy.le@yeti@irish_goodbye #MotheredByMountains
Hitting the road. Pasang Lhamu (@pasang_lhamu_sherpa_akita) and Sareena Rai (@sodapopchamling) are an unlikely but formidable duo. Pasang is Nepal's leading female mountain guide, and Sareena is the powerhouse lead singer of Nepal's preeminent punk band. ~
But they both have a few things in common. They are unconventional and groundbreaking women - both pushing and expanding boundaries for women and girls in Nepal. They are both climbers, nurtured by the Himalayas and adventure. And neither of them are terribly comfortable on the big @royalenfield motorcycle, but are game to give it a try. ~
We're off on what might not be our most well thought out adventure - ten days of road rage and dust, then high altitude, glaciers and snow. We're riding into the hills as far as we can, then ditching the bikes to pick off an unclimbed 19,000 foot peak together. It's ambitious, maybe a touch foolish, but with these two it's more than possible. ~
Photo: @renan_ozturk ~~
Been back in the dust and decadence of Kathmandu for a few days, and am on the cusp of another adventure back into the thin and cold air. ~~
Much gratitude for @yeti@bennyob301 and @nomadic49ak for allowing us to tag along and for being so open and direct about what it means to be a hunter.
Given our history as predators, it's surprising how controversial hunting can be. Given our present disconnect with our food sources, it isn't.
What I didn't expect was the degree to which this adventure would make me think about myself and my own relationship to nature, to mountains, and to meat. ~~
When all is said and done --after all the Instagram and all the trophies and all the stories retold over warm meals in sheltered places, this is why we set out. To understand ourselves.
Photo by @renan_ozturk ~
Raju Gurung crosses an obscure 15,000 ft pass in Nepal's remote Rukum district, heading back to camp carrying the skin of a Himalayan Blue Sheep after a successful hunt. ~
Just coming back into spotty contact today after a surprisingly tough expedition deep into the rugged mountains of Western Nepal, and into the lives and spirits of the men and the animals that live there. ~
To study hunting is to study what it means to be human -- equal parts crucial and cruel, laden with stereotypes and deep passions. Hunting gives us a view into our relationship with the natural world, which ultimately is about our relationship with ourselves. ~
Flying out this morning early - the usual scrum of luggage and caffeine and the wide eyed energy of rugged men new to the dust and the dharma of Nepal.
We're off chasing snow leopards and blue sheep for a few weeks. Hoping to come back with stories of what it means to live, to take life, to understand a place on a more primal level. Death, power, spirit are all connected. Tantra. @renan_ozturk@nomadic49ak@bennyob301
Image shared from @nomadic49ak - who is en route to KTM and about to embark on what promises to be another epic with myself and @renan_ozturk.
Heading West this time, in to the ultra-remote crags and mountains of Dorpatan. We'll be searching for some thin air and an exploration of that deep space between the hunters and the hunted. Stay tuned.
One time I picked up this guy hitchhiking outside of Waterbury, VT. His arms were covered with jailhouse I love John Lennon" tattoos. He was going to Waitsfield, I was heading south. When I dropped him off, flatly refusing to take him any further, he looked at me, shooting daggers, and exclaimed: "This is the story. of. my. f---ing. life." I guess sometimes I feel that way too.
I’d like to think that I’ve come to grips with the principles of non-attachment so well that I’m not attached to them.
Kathmandu is like an eddy in a river. Generations of flotsam and jetsam has ended up making lazy circles in the lee of the Himalayas, bobbing like a coke bottle while the rest of the world heaves and rushes by, somewhere else.
This detritus includes a handful of vintage motorcycles, all with provenance and long stories of near misses, bad decisions, wind and dust. After eighteen years of bobbing around myself, I found myself the humble caretaker of a 1972 BMW R75/5 and wrestling with the delirious joy of property.
The bike is delightful to ride. Ornery. Fast and perfectly impractical. It inspires desire, demands holding on to the grips a bit harder than one should at speed.
Ultimately, this too will pass someday. The roads here are dangerous and poor. Anything could happen. The paperwork for the bike is sketchy to say the least, and forty more years on the road would only but double its lifespan.
Breathe. Hold on, but loosely. Relax. Lean. Look ahead. #Kathmandu#nepal#bmwmotorcycles#R75/5 #dancingspeedometer
In the darkest alleys of Kathmandu, there is a gang of no-goodnicks and dharma bums. Like their ancient motorcycles, this is a gang burned with decades of bad petrol and even worse roads. Conquistadors of the impractical, students of the sublime. Introducing Shiva's Slaves.
Here's an unedited sequence of shots from a joyful weekend spent wrestling with some of the most terrifying roads on Earth and hanging with some of her greatest characters.
Underexposed. Exploring the periphery of #Kathmandu takes you through dozens of brick factories. Primitive and crude, they churn out the bricks and the heavy smoke that have come to define the city. Working conditions are brutal for humans and animals alike.
Stopping with @codytutts to take a few photos, I got to thinking about what it means to look upon such drastic suffering from afar and, for me at least, so often. One of the most important elements of travel is that we are brought face to face with our own privilege. That we are rendered speechless in the face of hardship. There are no answers here, just questions. Just reasons to strive for a more equitable world - first within ourselves, and then without.
Quench your thrust with trust.
The English language really only realizes its full potential in the hands of those who speak it as a second or third language. I can only hope my Nepali is as creative. #nepal
Often when I'm traveling outside of Nepal, I find myself missing the deep spirit of everyday people - the ancient truths of the temple bells.
But I never feel that way when I'm in a bookstore.
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Descending from the market town of Aiselukharka in far-away Eastern Nepal, I came upon this elderly man carrying a basket of fresh oranges - his uphill progress stopped by a solo excavator punching in a new road to the tiny settlement of Maheswhori.
These rural roads are nosing into even the most isolated corners of Nepal - spurred on by local politics and corruption, but equally by the grassroots desire to be connected, to be more "modern." But one excavator and limited planning make for extremely unreliable thoroughfares. Come this monsoon, this track will rut and turn to a thick clay soup - only to be rebuilt with local funds at some point when they can.
The people who benefit most from these roads are the excavator cartels and the banks that finance them. It's likely to be some years before the first small truck rattles up this hill with a load of fresh oranges market-bound. #nepal#roads#progress#oranges
Bal Krishna Rai shows off a map of the future. Today @dzifoundation is officially launching our programs in our new partner community of Jaleswhori, and the first thing we do is ask community members to dream about where they want their community to be in ten years.
Asking community members to share what they actually want for themselves and their village, and then working to make this possible, makes us all accountable, invested, and more effective.
Bal Krishna's community dreams of having a road, a good school, drinking water as well as healthy forests and rivers. We typically find that by working together we can accomplish most ten-year dreams in half of that time.
It took us sixteen hours of driving to reach this bridge - the last eight hours of which were spent crawling in 4wd at walking speed. Fifteen years ago, we never imagined that rough roads would reach so far into Nepal's backcountry.
Crossing over the turquoise Dudh Kosi river and into our @dzifoundation partner communities, I found myself grateful for the incredibly steep and thin footpaths, for the places far away, for all these remote villages have to teach us for all they have yet to change. With @heemarai