Strain Hunters : India Expedition ~ A Cannabis Documentary

'Strain Hunters' are people that can’t sit still for too long, hence embark on another expedition traversing the Malana Valley in the Himalayas in search of the fields from where comes the world's finest charas made from live plants.

After completing the Malawi expedition in 2008, Arjan and myself began to think about the next mission. We had many destinations in mind, because the list of places where amazing landraces are awaiting is a long one. After much thinking and talking we selected a few “top-spots” on our list, and started gathering information and ideas. It became very clear that there was one place that could not be overlooked: the region of the Himalayas, particularly the Indian side, where the best charas and creams are from.

Ever since 1993, when the Green House won the Cannabis Cup with a cream from Malana, Arjan wanted to explore the origins and the history of this wonderful hashish. His last trip to India was in the 1980s, when he acquired the genetics that gave birth to the Himalaya Gold, one of the most acclaimed outdoor strains ever produced. So we decided time had come to go strain hunting in India. Now we needed a good guide, someone that could show us the right path to the highest fields, the tastiest creams, and the holiest of mountains.

A few years back, during one of the Cannabis Expos we attended in Europe, we met Italian book writer and connoisseur Franco Casalone, author of the most famous books on cannabis written in Italy. He lived in the Indian Himalayas for several years, living the life of a true charsí (master of charras-making). We suddenly had the feeling that he was the right man for our mission, so we contacted him. Loving the chance to get back to his beloved mountains, he accepted to be our guide, to become a Strain Hunter, and to make our dream possible. What started as an idea was now becoming reality.

Time to organize a scouting-trip to have a look at the area and prepare the path for the realization of the second Strain Hunters documentary. In June 2009 we boarded a flight to Delhi, and the adventure began. We spent two weeks trekking the mountains and the valleys of Himachal Pradesh, meeting several key-players in the area, from mountain guides to growers, and we visited more than 30 fields for the production of charras and cream. In this area the seeds are planted in May, so we could see tens of thousands of young plants already growing in the fields. For most of the fields we visited, we sampled the charras made the previous season. This way one can select the best fields and the best growers and charras makers.

Planning for a documentary involves truly challenging logistics: every route has to be walked in advance, camp sites have to be checked, and because electricity is needed to charge batteries and back-up of tapes it’s not easy to stay too long away from civilization. Moreover, moving through rough mountain terrain with a whole camera-crew can prove difficult, unless every detail is considered and every issue is addressed and solved beforehand. When we were satisfied with our plan, we went back to Amsterdam to start organizing for the mission ahead.

We were excited because we knew that we had found an amazing place with amazing people. In these mighty mountains charras has been used for thousands of years, and only recently the Indian government, under US and EU pressure, is acting against it. Since 2003 the police started chopping down cannabis crops and arresting people who produce charras. New dam-projects are underway, and the life in this region will change forever once they are completed. The entire cultural heritage of these mountain will be washed away in a few years, unless people around the world become aware of the problem. So we felt it was our duty to expose the situation of the cannabis plant and the people that live in these areas, victims of an out-of-control globalization madness.

We planned to go back to India at the beginning of October, when the first crops would be mature and the people would be busy making the charras and the creams the whole world want to smoke. The months went by fast, because life is busy at Green House Seed Company, and we never have time to get bored.. before we knew it, it was time to go back to the holy mountains of Shiva and Parvati. We arrived in India on a hot night, the air was sticky and the intense smell of the city was hard to accept after a long flight. Simon was there waiting for us, another Strain Hunter joining the mission from a far corner of Africa. The crew was complete, and the spirits high.

After another short flight to Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, we started driving. The car: a Mahindra, the roughest of Indian off-road vehicles. For 14 days we drove, we rode Enfield bikes, but most of all we walked up and down the mountains and the valleys of this amazing part of the world. We smoked great charras and unbelievable creams, mostly 1 or 2 years old, but in some cases even 3, 4 or 5 years old; real connoisseur stuff, jealously preserved by many master makers. We rubbed many hands of cream, learning the secrets from those who have been doing it all their lives. We met amazing people along the way, people that are struggling to preserve their lifestyle, their environment, their values and their entire framework of living. Globalization is claiming their land, and forcing them to adopt the values of a consumer-driven society, where being self-sufficient in harmony with nature goes against the principles of the economy. For 14 days we witnessed the damage brought to these communities by the building of dams, roads and other massive infrastructural projects.

During the traveling we were able to collect many seeds from different phenotypes of the same landrace, as well as some variations crossed with other genetics imported from Pakistan, Afghanistan and even from Swaziland. Now it's our time to give something back. Thanks to the cooperation between Green House Seed Company, the Green House Foundation and Gagarinpost Productions, a dream has come true. We are proud of it, and we look forward to the next dreams.

Reference : Strain Hunters

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