For those of you that have never heard of Ayahuasca, it is an ancient medicine used by shamans in the Amazon to communicate with nature or to see what's causing a particular patient's ailment on a physical or spiritual level.
It was during our visit to the Amazon near Puerto Maldonado in Peru, that we were invited to join a ceremony with local shaman Hill. This was our experience with ayahuasca.
We had read prior to entering the jungle that ayahuasca brought about a sense of self-awareness and personally, I was interested to see if taking part in a ceremony could help me overcome some emotional issues I've long struggled with.
Ayahuasca is a combination of Banisteriopsis caapi, vine of the soul or ayahuasca vine, and either chacruna or chagrop anga, both of which contain DMT, a psychedelic substance which cause a hallucinogenic trance.
On the day of the ceremony, we were told to rest and relax as much as possible because the ceremony would commence at 8pm and last anywhere up to 6 hours. We were also told we should refrain from eating after lunch. Strictly water only.
We met with our shaman just before sunset to discuss the ceremony and ask any questions we may have had. We learnt that Hill had been practising shamanism for the best part of 25 years after the health system failed him and he turned to natural remedies himself to heal a large lesion on his leg that had made him immobile.
Then it was time to enter the dining hall that our lodge hosts had converted to a make shift temple for the evening. Mattresses on the floor and a bucket in front of each one. Millan, our host, hopes to build a more permanent temple within his section of the forest in the future, but until then, the dining hut suffices.
Once inside the 'temple', Hill produced a plastic bottle filled with a dark brown liquid and a small scotch glass. He prayed over the bottle and smoked a couple of cigarettes before pouring a glass first for me, then for Justin, and finally for himself. We were told to relax and make our minds blank which in the darkness was fairly easy to do.
After 30 minutes, Hill asked us how we were feeling and we both replied fine. He asked us if we felt the medicine, and we replied no. So, following some more prayers we were each given another glass of ayahuasca. By the way it tastes absolutely awful, so after another 30 minutes when we had the same responses and he decided to give us a third cup, I thought that alone would make me vomit!
Following the third drink, Hill began to sing and chant while continuing to smoke, his hand planted firmly on my head. Justin was on another mattress, inches from me, but within minutes of the singing, he felt miles away and I began to feel quite different, the ayahuasca now in control.
Everything I'd read on the ceremony had pre-warned of 'purging' or vomiting and while we had a bucket each for that purpose, it wasn't going to help me. I spent most of the evening swatting mosquitoes away from my ass as I suffered a several bouts of diarrhea. As my body was purging itself, I was sweating uncontrollably and the thought entered my mind that I would indeed die in the jungle of dehydration.
I'd also started hallucinating, a side effect of the DMT. My 'trip' was rather pleasant though and I experienced a range of colours and patterns, changing and mixing like a kaleidoscope.
When I could finally manage to sit on the backstep of our hut without needing the bathroom, a strong urge to vomit swept over me. It felt almost violent but as this final purge left my body, the hallucinations began to slow and I gradually returned to a sober state.
Back at the 'temple', Hill informed me I most likely had a stomach parasite, then he continued his singing and chain smoking until Justin also succumbed to the purge. He too had been hit with vomiting and diarrhea.
When Justin returned at 1.30am, Hill informed us the ceremony was complete and it was time for us to rest once more.
The next day, we showered and were fed a soup of noodles to help regain our strength and rehydrate us. I had already noticed that my body felt cleaner and healthier, but I didn't feel that I'd received any sort of emotional release like I had expected. The advice given was that I may need more than one ceremony to achieve that but, unfortunately we were leaving the jungle, so it would have to wait for another time.
With tourism booming in Peru and ayahuasca shamans popping up left, right, and centre, it is important to research the ceremony carefully before taking part. Certain medications and your mental state can affect your experience so, it's also important to remember that ayahuasca is a medicine and not a drug.
Would we recommend trying an ayahuasca ceremony to others? Sure, but as previously stated, know your reasons for wanting to take the medicine and choose a shaman who believes in the healing process.
To book your own jungle vacation or ayahuasca ceremony, contact Millan or Klaus at www.lupunavacations.com.
~ Staying at the Lupuna Lodge 100 soles per person per night (USD $30)
~ Cost of the ceremony with Hill 100 soles per person (USD $30).
Read more about our stay at Lupuna Lodge here; http://www.globalrunaways.com/runaway-to/6-days-in-the-amazon-our-jungle-adventure
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