The Shaman in the Amazon! - Day 93

Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hut in the Forest

Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, April 10, 2009

We took numerous forms of transport to reach the small village on the Yaraba river where I'll be staying tonight. Buses, tuk-tuk's and a boat were required to reach this small tributary of the Amazon. We left Iquitos for the forest at 7am. In total it took around 4 hours to reach the submerged village where the rainy season has caused the river level to rise 25 metres above it's normal level. It rained for most of the journey, which wasn't surprising.
Our home for the night is a wooden hut high on slits completely surrounded by the swollen river and thick rainforest. We bought a live chicken on the way to the village which was promptly killed by the family we're staying with to provide lunch. It was defiantly the freshest chicken I'd ever eaten.

After lunch we went fishing on a beautiful lagoon just off the Yaraba river. We saw several river dolphins playing around 100 metres from the boat, unfortunately they didn't come any closer but still amazing to see. The sounds of the forest, the dolphins and the still black waters made for an idyllic location to fish for Piranha. We had plenty of bites but we only caught one tidler between us and I didn't catch it. After an hour we left the still waters of the lagoon and rejoined the Yarbaba river in search of Woolly monkeys. Our guide said the Woolly monkey is the Amazon's friendliest primate and if we had banana's which we did, they would certainly come. So we stopped on the banks of the river when we saw these funny looking monkeys high in the canopy. Several came down onto the lower branches and one large female jumped in the boat. We handed over the banana's and she sat next to one the French guys, peeled the banana, threw the skin into the river and enjoyed her free lunch. A few more joined the confidant female but they stayed in trees above the boat so we handed out the rest of the banana's and headed back to the village. The family had cooked chicken soup for dinner which unfortunately I couldn't eat because I need to keep my stomach empty before the Ayahuasca ceremony this evening, I'm so hungry too!!
After the sun had completely set we boarded a small boat to be taken to Ayahuasca ceremony which is being held in a small hut somewhere in the forest. I surprisingly feel very calm, I think the French guys are more nervous than me and they won't be taking the Ayahuasca. We meandered along the river in the full moonlight, yes it's a full moon, is that an omen! Then to my surprise a large fish jumped straight into the boat, is this another omen! Weird! We reached a little group of huts lit by candle light after 15 minutes or so. We moored the boat and entered one of the huts where the shaman unpacked the ceremonial paraphernalia. The shaman's toolkit consisted of the Ayahuasca in a plastic bottle, a small wooden cup, a pipe with pure tobacco, a bottle of fermented sugarcane with garlic and onion, a tiny bottle of a perfume like liquid and some dried leafs bunched together with a piece of string. The shaman poured the thick orange Ayahuasca into the wooden cup and handed it to me, he said "don't smell it or taste it, just drink it", I downed it in one. Then he gave me the fermented sugarcane to drink followed by a tiny amount of the perfume liquid. The concoction quickly passed through my gullet and into my stomach and within seconds my belly started to pulsate like a beating heart. The shaman then handed me the pipe filled with pure tobacco, so I sat crossed legged on the bed and smoked in anticipation of the potion taking it's effect. The shaman's then blew the single candle out and we were in complete darkness.

15 minutes passed and the shaman told me to close my eyes, he started a hypnotic chant and wafted the bunch of leaves around my face and neck. At this point I started to feel something, my senses were ultra alert, I felt like I could see in the darkness and my hearing was finely tuned. I could signally pick out the sounds of the forest in the background. At this point it was a really euphoric feeling, very pleasant and not freighting in the slightest. Then the shaman's wafting of the leafs seemed to be a large butterfly flying around the room, the wind from it's wings cooling my face like a rotating room fan. An hour had now passed and I was describing to the French guys how I was feeling throughout. I said to them I felt really good and soon as these words left my mouth I started to feel drunk, like I'd been on a two day drinking binge. My body started to feel heavy and I was forced to lay down on the bed. This is when things started to get a little hazy and slightly crazy. The next thing I remember is being violently sick, this is a side effect of the Ayahuasca but I'd never been sick like this ever in my life. My body violently spasmed and it felt like my internal organs where going to be expelled from my mouth, violent is an understatement!! To add to this drama I started hallucinating. I saw my watch on the floor which I haven't worn for weeks, I knew it was in my big backpack in Iquitos, but I really believed it was my watch on the floor. Then the next thing a remember is the shaman throwing water over me and putting me back in to the bed. Then I saw a bottle of water and a packet of cigarettes which I tried to grab. When I tried to grasp them, I was just grabbing thin air. I tried over and over again to take these objects in my hand but too no avail, then I gave up. This same experience happen many many times during the evening, my sense of spatial awareness was completely screwed. The next big incident was when I tried to run for the door of the hut, I don't know why the hell I did this, I just had an urge. My legs where like jelly and just wouldn't work, I bumped my head and knees in a manic attempt to get out, one of the French guys grabbed my hand and had to put me back to bed, once again. The sickness then returned and I started violently heaving but there was nothing left in my stomach. OK, that was a complete download of all I can remember about one of the most random evening's of my life! This experience is something I shall never forget as long as I walk this earth, no regrets at all!
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