We have always had to hire people for harvesting coconuts -an increasingly difficult task. We have those native coconut palms which go up about two stories high or sometimes even higher. A lot of people have those stunted, probably genetically modified hybrid trees, which are easy to harvest with a sharpened sickle attached to a bamboo pole. I have always wanted to climb them, but there has been stiff opposition from my aunts and uncles. This is understandable that unlike on the beach, there is no sand to break your fall (not that it helps much) and the trees more or less grow up vertically rather than inclined like at the beach. Additionally a coconut palm has no branches to grab onto on the way down if you did slip and fall.
The circular pit (see last pic) around the coconut tree is also the nemesis of those climbing coconut trees and I have often heard of climbers who have fallen from the tree and have broken their backs and now lie paralyzed in bed. The harvesters back home still use traditional coconut coir rope to help them climb the trees. Sometimes these ropes -due to their negligence fray and break, or sometimes the tree itself snaps due to the palm rotting on the inside which is not often visible from outside.
I took some pics when our trees were being harvested in a traditional manner. My mother however says that the climber in the pic is relatively unskilled as he comes from the interior of north Karnataka and has learned more or less on the job. I wish I could have seen some of the local experts at work to immortalize the technique on this post. However, better late than never or before everyone shifts to using something like the pic to the right and people forget that there was a time when people climbed coconut trees assisted only with ropes made of coconut coir. So here goes!
Both the ropes are customized to fit the climber. They are soaked in water for several minutes to improve its grip on the tree and re-soaked between climbs if required.
If tender coconuts for water are to be harvested, a whole bunch of them are gently lowered from the tree with a rope to prevent them from breaking as the hard shell has not yet formed inside them.
It is not impossible to climb the coconut tree with your bare hands, but it is relatively more dangerous and you need to have a lot of strength as a kid I’d always give up half way up the tree. It is also extremely dangerous and foolhardy to climb a coconut tree during the monsoons as the trunk becomes slimy.
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