Explorer’s Journal: Dropping 2,700 Meters, Nine Hours, Downhill, Through ‘Nam. And You Better Leave the Forest By Six.


Phrase from Field: Eager hands direct us to thick scratchy rhododendron bushes, promising a fast route down the 2,700 meter drop through the Macaheli cloud forest maze, mentioning little of waterfalls, river crossings, or the labyrinth of towering trees and their karakovan hives, beacons of history reminding us of the final words of mountain villagers, “Make sure you leave the forest by six.”

Memorable Meal: The three servings of corn bread, green beans with tomatoes, fried potatoes with tomatoes, and Nescafe was a blur in front of my face, only a crying baby girl with curly hair being fed by her grand-mother seemed to stay still in a room of heat, food, and smells – welcome sensations after marching through the barely marked forests of ‘Nam.

Location: Duzenli Yaylasi highlands to Efeler.

Altitude: 3,000 – 300 m.

Date: August 24.

A History of Trees and Hands in Macahel

“We’re Marching through ‘Nam” we yell as bushes whip our faces and our knees cry in pain, only to be hushed by the calming hands and historical taboos on Macahel’s ancient trees.


About Explorer’s Journal: From April 2012 – December 2012 I am exploring the Caucasus through the lens of honey and bees as a National Geographic Young Explorer grantee. My mission is to use the living history and culture of small-scale beekeeping to help connect global travelers to local food traditions. The Explorer’s Journal is a daily snapshot from this adventure, giving you a small taste of the very complex life of the honey road. I am joined on parts of this adventure by story-teller Claire Bangser and navigator Suat Celik. To learn more, find me at my National Geographic Explorer page or read about the adventure here.
Would you like to read a story in your local magazine? Do you have an idea for an article? We are producing extensive visual and creative material on the region’s food, culture, and history. Send us an email to brainstorm how you can bring our young perspectives into your publications: balyolu@gmail.com.


About Cat

Catherine de Medici Jaffee is a National Geographic Young Explorer, a Fulbright Scholar, a Luce Fellow, the Founder of Balyolu: the Honey Road, and a lunatic about honey culture in the Caucasus. Raised on a farm in the Colorado Rockies, Cat grew up loving animals, dirt, and altitude. Her dedication and passion for animals, agriculture, and women leaders has launched her across the world as a Luce and Fulbright scholar: to raise Aigamo ducks in Japan, to research yak trade caravans in Sikkim, and to study rural women’s migration in Turkey. In particular, Turkey - with its fish hung like laundry from windows, its 9,000 species of flowers, and its delicious honey - continues to lure Cat back to its borders. Cat’s love for Turkey, the mountains, agriculture, and women’s leadership blend together sweetly in her new venture Balyolu and her blog Inspired Beeing. You can most frequently find her jumping on a mountain, running from angry bees, cooking in villages, hitching on dirt roads, or joking with Turkcell about her internet woes. Cat is joined by her partner in crime Claire Bangser, artist, photographer, writer, and globe wanderer who believes in creative storytelling as a way to powerfully connect people across mental and physical borders. From working with small-scale women farmers in Mali, to documenting peoples' lives along a 2,000 mile bike tour in the US, she finds that every person (and bee) has an important story to tell and much wisdom to share (speaking of Wisdom, Claire just published her first book, Ride Somewhere Far. Check it out on our Link Roll). These days, you're most likely to find Claire upside down, yodeling from a mountaintop, making tragic mistakes in Turkish, or eating meat for Cat.

Posted on October 5, 2012, in Business, Culture, Environment, Explorer's Journal, Food, History, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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