Iquitos, Amazon Basin

Just back in Iquitos, after an interesting week of heat and hallucinogenic experiences in the jungle of the Amazon Basin.

Unsurprisingly, I had a heavy cold after 4 days of sleep-deprivation and sitting on a glacier at Qoyllur Riti, so when the opportunity came up to see a shaman in the jungle, it seemed like a good way to cure my cold and at the same time try out the local medicine man. Oh, and there was also some mention of ayuhuasca, the powerful hallucinogenic drink.

I armed myself with a trustworthy guide, and we set off up the Amazon on a night boat, our hammocks slung cheek by jowl with hundreds of local passengers. There was no room for the luxury of gangways, so during the night I was occasionally woken by people skimming by underneath my hammock – a very odd sensation when you’re used to a solid bed.

We arrived at Requena, and made our way to the shaman’s house. He was called Jose, was 75 years old, had 28 children and no teeth. Local medicine evidently good for sperm count, not good for dental hygiene.

We had to wait until 10pm, for the spirits to be ready. Then Jose performed a strange ritual to cure my cold, involving exhaling cigarette smoke over the key energy points of my body. Not every day I have a 75-year-old blowing smoke down my cleavage.

Then we moved onto the ayuhuasca. I’d been warned that I would probably vomit. In fact, this seemed to be a desirable purgative side-effect, and a bowl was placed nearby for my convenience.

After suitable ceremony, we each drank our share of a faintly disgusting, bitter brown liquid. A bit like Winter Warmer. Then we sat in the dark to wait for the effects. The others seemed to be having a rare old time, watching whatever visions were dancing across the back of their eyelids, and regularly dashing from the room to vomit copiously.

I sat and waited. And waited. I asked for a top-up. And another one. And still I waited. After the third top-up, it was getting embarrassing to ask for more. I think I may have had a slight glimmering of a psychedelic experience, at one point, for about 2 minutes. I saw some interesting Sixties-style patterns, and the sound of a passing moto-taxi made the patterns jiggle in time to the put-put of the engine. And that was it.

So I have to conclude that my body is now used to assimilating any socially acceptable drug I choose to throw down my neck, and that the only trip I’ll be going on in the near future is around the north of Peru. And I still have my cold.

(Apologies for lack of photos. Currently unable to locate lead to connect camera to PC…)

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