This is an old post but a full run down of this experience (a 5 day retreat in the Amazon) is now published in the book Latinalicious – The South America Diaries, which you can order super cheap here from Amazon.
Loads of people have been asking me about my experience with ayahuasca in Peru last week, and to be honest it’s been kind of hard to know where to start. Even though I spend most days wrapping words around observations and feelings, there’s something tough about trying to describe what’s essentially an out-of-body, sometimes out-of-mind experience!
I did a lot of research before deciding on the Kapitari Centre, located a few miles outside of Iquitos. One of the area’s most basic retreats, it was founded in 1980 by the shaman Don Lucho, who spends the majority of time in his ‘garden’, otherwise known as the Amazon Rainforest, working out ways to protect the biodiversity and fragile ecosystems of the region by implementing sustainable farming practices.
It’s important, if you’re planning to play with ‘the spirit of the vine’ to hand your hard-earned money over to someone who’s a) going to spend it wisely, and b) knows what the hell they’re doing by encouraging tourists to drink what’s essentially, potent, hallucinogenic tree sap. I found Don Lucho via expat Andy Metcalf, who’s written a blog on this very topic, but the best thing to do in my opinion is head to Iquitos and ask around. Most soul-searching hippies can be found sipping carrot juice, over-analysing their existential new existences and smoking profusely in the Karma Café. They’ll point you in the right direction.
People have been using ayahuasca for centuries to maintain contact with jungle and plant spirits. In case you want to make it yourself, it’s concocted specifically from the Banisteriopsis vine, mixed with the leaves of dimethyltryptamine-containing (DMT) species of shrubs. Yummy.
You can watch various videos on YouTube, read as much as you like, but every ayahuasca experience is different. The effects of this powerful hallucinogenic brew are said to last up to eight hours in some cases, and heaps of people report huge revelations hitting them like bolts of lightning; things like the meaning of life and the true nature of everything on earth. From what I’ve heard, ayahuasca calls you when you’re ready, and I’d been hearing about it for what seemed like months via various sources, so I did feel a bit like I was supposed to get involved. At any rate, I convinced myself that was the case.
I stayed six days at the Kapitari Centre, during which time my group and I were all on a strict ‘ayahuasca diet’. This diet is so boring that by day six, the act of putting food into my mouth was a tedious, unrewarding chore that I could barely bring myself to leave my hammock for. But anyway… it helped me shift a few pounds!
I did a total of three sessions while at the retreat. There was the chance to do five, but there’s only so much DMT I can personally consume before I start worrying that my brain is about to be lost somewhere in the Matrix, never to return. Ayahuasca sessions are always held in total darkness. You each get a mattress on the floor in the maloca – a circular structure where the ceremonies are held – and in our case we were provided with a nice patterned blanket each (perfect for convincing yourself you’re part of a firework display or infested with crawling critters when you’re tripping) and a bucket. The bucket is for purging your demons into, because that’s what the ‘spirit of the vine’ is doing when she enters your body – helping you dispel all that negativity and sorrow you’ve been storing up for years.
Of course, you could also just be throwing up poisonous tree sap, because poisonous tree sap is bad for you, but let’s keep things spiritual, shall we?
My first experience was pretty uneventful. Apparently ‘Mother Ayahuasca’ will only work on you if you’re ready and obviously she’d deemed me unsuitable for participation. I vommed in my bucket, which was something, at least, but other people had ridiculously powerful experiences. One guy was worked on by extraterrestrials and was told that we’re all just energy in human bodies, waiting out our time on earth until it’s time to return home. I had serious ayahuasca-envy as he spoke. Don Lucho in full-on shaman mode chanted his icaros (special songs) and waved his leafy bundle but for four hours or so I just lay there, waiting to be astounded. I did see my own aura when I staggered back to my cabin, but apart from that… I’ve had stronger experiences smoking weed.
My second session was different, perhaps because of a special plant juice diet working to open me up to the powers unseen? I had some seriously powerful visions that stunned even the most cynical side of my brain. I saw three tribesmen towering over me, all with long hair, all carrying spears and wearing those over the shoulder warrior vest-things. I saw visions of a place I became one hundred percent certain I am supposed to move to, and had flashbacks to my childhood and situations I haven’t thought about in years. But the weirdest thing was that I sensed a dark energy in the room, and saw our shaman leave the maloca with someone. I later learned he’d left alone, but banished a troublesome demon outside… he literally frogmarched it out of the door!!!
There was so much more, but I can’t explain it all here. My third session was even more powerful, but a lot lighter and more fun. I laughed a lot and felt really, really, really, reeeeeeally high for what must have been at least an hour. Again I saw visions of this place I’m supposed to move to, and this time I heard voices. I also saw my friend’s unborn baby, out and in her arms, and later found out she gave birth while I was in the jungle.
I also spent time with a very interesting and powerful lady called Jeannie, who’s been seeing spirits since she was five. A lot of her visions matched those of the other people in my group, while we were under the influence of ayahuasca. I will explain more in my book (a lot more), but this is a lady you want to know if you head to Iquitos! She lives in a village near the Kapitari Centre and works with her local community and tourists looking for authentic experiences in the Amazon.
So yes, it was a bit of a head-spinning experience that I’m still processing, but suffice to say ‘the spirit of the vine’ is real, and an experience with her can definitely be life-changing. Whereas I’m not about to move to Peru and spend my weekends drinking tree sap in the hope of being worked on by aliens, I’m happy to have seen what all the fuss is about, and would highly recommend the ayahuasca experience to anyone. Just remember to sneak some chocolate into the jungle if you’re going for six days. That ayahuasca diet is enough to make you want to eat the trees in the first place.
Don’t forget, there’s a ton more in the book. ORDER LATINALICIOUS HERE, NOW.