“Your travelling where?” came the response after explaining where my next adventure lay. “I am travelling to one of the largest, remote and inhabited parts of the planet, the Amazon Jungle”, I triumphantly declared towards my friend Melanie, who was still startled from my outburst. This was a common theme that had a predictable direction each time I told others of my impending fate.
I had decided to finally take the plunge. It was July 2019 and I was 2 days away from boarding 4 aeroplanes with the final destination being the Amazon Jungle, it felt good and I can assure you I was very much looking forward to getting away. I had remained calm, until now, but I think the realisation of just how far away I was going began to hit home. Being calm changed to being excited.
This was not a rash decision by any means as I had been planning my trip for 12 months. I had researched this inside out starting in 2018 after watching a video on alternative medicine in the Amazon Rainforest. It immediately struck a chord within me how the indigenous tribes of South America, Peru in particular, survive in extreme solitude cut off from the outside world and from mainstream society. I was engrossed at how connected these people seemed to be with the earth, nature and the plants within the Rainforest. Their medical wisdom comes from plants and trees and they were talking about a brew that enhanced this connection. You drink this brew in small cups and this provided you with great insight and knowledge. It’s called Ayahuasca.
I have always been fascinated by the power of insight. It’s something that ignites a flame inside me and reading books by Anthony Williams and Caroline Myss provided lots of examples of how they use their insight in a medical sense. Both are able to tell what problems an individual has and what is needed for them to be better, with little, or no examination. My palette was wet with excitement as I had never heard before of such a thing. Imagine just looking at someone and having that insight and knowledge to be able to just know what was wrong. I was hooked and I wanted to learn this for myself. I wished this to be part of my life journey and I strongly felt I could offer this benefit to others. With the kindling smouldering, my journey of knowledge had just began.
The first thing I realised was that, in developed countries, there was a stigma attached to Ayahuasca and there was a lot of bad press and reports of people dying. I understood that this brew was not to be taken lightly. It is not a drug, it is medicine and that is not always clearly stated in the myriad of information that’s available. Images of a hippy retreat with hedonistic ravers sprung to mind listening to loud music and taking copious amounts of illegal substances alerted my cerebral cortex. I soon learned that these images were probably as a result of an overactive imagination which my mother always told me I had. Whilst I understood there was an element of risk, I already had that kindling smouldering and it felt right to continue my research and discover how and where to go to experience this medicine.
Ayahuasca is illegal in some countries but in Peru it’s widely available. In fact, in Iquitos, which is classed as the gateway to the Amazon, is situated in the North of Peru, there is an Ayahuasca boom and the fascination with Ayahuasca has swelled the tourist trade in recent years. This could be classed as the second boom in the history of Iquitos as the city was famous for Rubber production in the late 19th century. When this trade was killed off, the city suffered a decline in fortunes and with little government support the city saw a rise in poverty. The lack of government support remains the same in this decade but the steady stream of tourists wishing to sample a plant based cocktail has swelled the pockets of many local businesses that keep meals on the table for their families.
In some shops in Iquitos, Ayahuasca is sold freely to some in an ethical manner and others I would wage a guess, not very ethical. Ayahuasca is made, largely, from a combination of two plants. Ayahuasca is a vine that attaches itself around the Chacruna plant, the two are mixed together and when drunk can induce a psychedelic episode. If administered in a safe, controlled and ethical manner it can open the doors of your perception and provide higher insight and knowledge of the existence and purpose of life.
My evolving research revealed that there are a number of venues that legally facilitate the partaking of Ayahuasca and they are dotted around different parts of South America. I felt drawn to Peru and I looked at many websites and read a dozen books on the subject to help inform me of the best choice. I settled for a retreat called The Temple of the Way of Light based deep within the Amazon Rainforest, cut off from civilisation. There were no roads and to get there it was only accessible by boat and then by foot. Since booking my flight, bouts of self enquiry flooded my brain continuously, and I questioned…..What am I doing? and Do I really want to go this far for this experience?
In the next instalment I will describe my departure from the UK and my arrival in South America and my first impressions of a truly magical country.