The countdown begins, so much to do, so little time.
Here’s the latest version of my master-plan. I’ll travel to Nepal and set up two Apiaries one for friends and one for the parents of friends and I’ll help the neighbours if I possess skills or knowledge of use to them. I’ve got a lot to learn. In fact I’ve got a small mountain to climb in terms of improving my Nepalese which is very basic and learning the local dialect in Dada Pangma which uses quite a few words distinct from standard Nepalese. I need to educate myself in the practical husbandry of A. cerana and source materials for building hives and ancillary kit. In outlying areas you can get bamboo and thin strips of cane to bind them together but you can’t get sawn timber and nails. I could add to this list and there are, no doubt, problems I’ve not even thought of yet. I’ve studied a little of the natural history of the Asian honey bee in the past few months and I’ll pick the brains of any beekeeper willing to help then I’ll ‘take the plunge’ and set up 3 or 4 hives myself. I’m under no delusions, or at least none that I’m aware of, (boom boom), about the challenge ahead. Apiarists manage their colonies by anticipating the instinctive responses of the bees, whose behaviour has evolved over millions of years. Predicting the colony’s reactions to naturally occurring or manually induced environmental stimuli is the essence of their management. According to all the literature I’ve read, the behaviour of Apis cerana, is different from Apis mellifera in many, albeit in mostly subtle ways, such that a beekeeper who only has experience of A. mellifera will not be able to directly transfer his skills and knowledge to the management of A.cerana. I’ve got a lot to learn! My hope is that I’ll be able to modify skills and management techniques acquired beekeeping with Apis mellifera and apply them to bee-keeping with the native bee in Nepal. I will, I hope, enjoy a mutual exchange of ideas with beekeepers in Nepal but I confidently expect that I’ll be doing more learning than teaching.
My itinerary is as follows fly out of Heathrow at 0930 on the 30th, stop-over in Mumbai for 12 hours and arrive in Nepal 1400 hrs local time. I calculate, that is something like 24 hours. Then by air, from Kathmandu to Pokhara, where I’ll stay for 4 or 5 days. In Pokhara I’ll lodge with friends, made on my last visit, and I hope to make contact with the professional Beekeepers one that I met on my 2011 visit and the other that I’ve been corresponding with by e-mail. Whilst there I’ll purchase a couple of hives and the tools required to make more. From Pokhara, it’s back to Kathmandu stay one night then catch a bus to my ‘base camp’ Dada Pangma via Khadbari, the nearest town.
I’ve been a little surprised by the reactions to my plans. In so many words, I’m being told, that I’m too old. “You’re not getting any younger”, “you shouldn’t impose yourself on others”, they say! Are there adequate medical facilities in rural Nepal for an old person? What does all this mean? Should I listen to what people are saying? Am I being selfish? I’m 71, all but a couple of weeks, but, bless you, I still cycle everywhere, within five miles, and I hump supers* full of honey around, which can weigh up to 30 lbs. I’m pretty fit, healthy and strong and the way I see it, barring serious illness or injury, I could well have another 10 or more years of reasonably active life ahead of me. Even if fate is a little more cruel than I expect it to be, I don’t think that such possibility should deter me, or anyone else for that matter, from doing their thing.
Earlier this month I paid £75 for a 90 day visa at the Nepalese embassy in London. I was asked to return for my passport between 10am and 12 the next day. Simple. Get the first train to Charing Cross, from Dartford, ‘off-peak’, then from there to Oxford Circus on the underground, Oxford Circus to Notting Hill Gate and a short walk from the underground station to the embassy, or it should have been! A couple of stops short of Oxford Circus the passengers were informed that no trains were running on the circle line which was shut down because of “industrial action”. I decided to get a bus to my destination. The bus crept along at something less than walking pace for about a hundred yards then came to a halt in a very long cue of traffic. After five minutes or so the driver informed us that there had been an accident and that he didn’t know how long we would have to wait. A £10 taxi ride later, I got to the embassy with minutes to spare!
More when I reach my destination.
The photos below of Apis cerana and A. florea were taken in Thailand, 2013. The others of Vespa velutina, carving herself a chunk of fresh goat meat, A. dorsata, they were about 2 foot above above our heads and a typical bus which is the main form of transport, were taken in Nepal,2011.