Searching for shamans
in the Amazon Rainforest

One of the things we wanted to experience in South America was to visit shamans in the Amazon Rainforest and to attend Ayahuasca ceremony. The word Ayahuasca can be translated as “liana of the dead”. It is a plant which grows only in Amazon Rainforest and the shamans are using it for treating different types of diseases and also to cause hallucinations which answer their questions about life.

How did the plant call us?
It is said that if it’s in your destiny to participate in Ayahuasca ceremony the plant itself will call you at some point of your life. Before our journey to South America, David attended a lecture about shamans in Ecuador. He got inspired by this experience and started to look for more information. From the first moment in South America David felt he must attend this ceremony. During the journey he was asking everyone for information and contacts for shamans. The rest of us were a little bit scared and not sure if we want to do it. This is how our search for shamans started.

The selection of the righ shaman
We collected several contacts for shamans recommended by people that we met in Peru. Selection of a good shaman is actually one of the most important things! We got a contact for a shaman in Iquitos from one French guy who has already attended great ceremonies including 10-day healing diet many times. Our second contact was for a shaman living in Tarapoto who cured cancer of a colleague of our friend from Lima. Third interesting contact we received was for a community called San Francisco in Pucallpa. You can visit one of these areas if you want to find a shaman in Peru.

The ceremonies are not popular only in Peru but also in other countries that have part of the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca also grows in Ecuador, Columbia or Brazil. In the last years unfortunately this ceremony turned into a tourist attraction. There are also many fake shamans who sell the plant and don’t have any special abilities. A shaman is taking you through the ceremony and is ensuring a smooth course of this ritual. If something bad happened to you he would know how to help you. For this reason it might be dangerous to buy ceremonies on the streets. There are cases of tourists that were robbed or even raped during the ceremony. That’s why it is so important to find contact for the right shaman!

Why (not) to attend the ceremony?
It is difficult to explain what happens after you drink Ayahuasca. Every person can have very different experience. They say that Ayahuasca will change you. The plant can answer your questions, show you the way to live, help you to get rid of bad memories or problems that are stuck deep in your mind. It will also help you to release your emotions so it is normal to cry or laugh loudly during the ceremony.

A bad course of the ritual can for someone lead to psychological problems or even schizophrenia. For this reason it is not recommended to attend to this ceremony if you have psychological problems or weak heart. The effect of the plant is really very strong and can take up to 6 hours!

And how is it with the diet before the ritual?
There are many myths about the diet before Ayahuasca ceremonial. The basic information that we got was:

NO MEAT, NO ALCOHOL AND NO SEX FOR 14 DAYS before the ritual.” “This combination will be really hard to do in South America”, said Karel and ordered a steak for lunch.

We decided that our last meat must be roasted guinea pig! It was really hard to follow this strict diet and we were getting more and more information about it. We shouldn’t even eat anything fried, sweet or salty. “I don’t know what to eat anymore! Can I have soup when it is prepared out of broth?” sadly sighed David and ordered again dry rice with beans. We even heard some speculations that you shouldn’t eat any dairy products.

Luckily the first shaman we visited in Tarapoto explained us everything. He said it is ok for us to eat the soup. “You shouldn’t be too week for the ceremony, on the contrary you will need all your strength!”, was his advice. He added, “Don’t eat pork and alcohol and you will be fine. On the day of the ceremony eat only light breakfast“.

Sex is not recommended either because your energies shouldn’t be disrupted by physical contact. They say that the Ayahuasca plant is a jealous woman that will take revenge during the hallucinations. You should follow this diet to maximize you Ayahuasca experience. Our shaman recommended us to undertake a body cleaning procedure. Cleaning our body with tobacco from jungle will prepare us for the ceremony. We agreed to do this tobacco ceremony called Purga.

Cleaning our body with tobacco from jungle
Next morning we skipped the breakfast and went to find our shaman. He has been already waiting for us impatiently. The ceremonial was taking place next to a river. It lasted around an hour. While the shaman was singing each of us had to swallow a tobacco drink and drink 8 liters of warm water after that. Each time we were supposed to drink until we vomited. When we were vomiting only water the ceremonial was finally at its end. The shaman approached David and told him: “Yours is still not clean! Drink some more water.”

David has already vomited four times but he had to continue drinking more liters of this disgusting warm water. He was not able to keep it in himself for too long. Soon, he was vomiting again. This time it was finally clean and the shaman was happy. After the ceremony we were sitting on the stones by the river and we were observing and feeling the nature around us.

Shaman told us that we can still feel a little bit dizzy for a while and that we will feel much closer to the nature. David was feeling connected to nature so much that it was hard to make him leave. We all felt like newborn. We never felt like this before. It feels differently than when you are vomiting after drinking alcohol. We felt great and so clean.

Arrival in the heart of Peruvian rainforest
After our interesting experience with tobacco we decided to continue in diet and finally undertake the Ayahuasca ceremonial. We wanted to do it deeper in the rainforest and so we took a boat to a town called Iquitos which lies right next to the Amazon River.

The boat cruise to get to Iquitos took 17 hours without stopping! We went by a small uncomfortable motor boat. It was very long and tiring trip and we were very happy when it was over. As we were getting deeper in the jungle we were starting to worry about malaria. We doubled the mosquito repellent doses and we started to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. The heat and humidity were unbearable. We found a place to stay in neighboring town called Nauta. The next day we went to look for a shaman.

How we found our shaman Luis
We took a tuk-tuk to the harbor and went for a walk to a local market. They were selling fish, caiman and even worms. We tasted the worms on the way back. We were surprised that they tasted quite well, almost like bacon!

We took a boat and tuk-tuk to get further in the jungle. Last part we went by foot. After about an hour walk we found the house of our shaman Luis and his wife Sara! Their daughter welcomed us. “We would like to attend the Ayahuasca ceremonial”, we explained our arrival. “The ceremonials take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night. Tomorrow is Monday. Come tomorrow then!, she invited us for next day.

The Ayahuasca ceremony
The wait for the ceremony seemed to be never-ending because we were only lying with other people in a bungalow doing nothing. Most of the people were staying at this place at least for a week or ten days to undertake the cleaning diet. During this time he shaman is preparing drinks for you from different types of plants. He decides what is suitable for you from a conversation. We met travelers that did this ceremonial many times. They told us that their experience was different every time and that each time they were getting deeper in themselves.

At 10 pm arrived our shaman Luis with his wife. We were 12 and so they needed more shamans. The ceremony was slowly starting. Luis prepared a little glass with Ayahuasca and he was calling us one by one. You should drink it at once because the taste is not really nice. Shaman was blowing tobacco into each drink and then he was whistling a song. We lied on the prepared mattresses. At the end the shamans swallowed their drinks as well and started to sing Ikaros songs.

Approximately after a half an hour the plant started to work and incredible things started happening in our bodies. Every participant had different experience. The effect of the plant was really strong and it lasted until the morning. The things you have stored deep in your mind start to come up on the surface. You can see for example the circle of life, animals from the jungle, your family, different life situations but also things you have never seen before, colors, shapes, etc. It is very individual. Some people say that they stepped out of their body or that they were a melting piece of gold. One traveler we met is now planning to open a hostel in a jungle in Peru. She said that she saw it in her Ayahuasca visions.

As an example we will describe our visions:

“I saw a situation from kindergarten where someone stole my crayons. It was incredibly real vision. One boy stole my orange crayon. The crayons started getting closer and finally they exploded in shower of colors. Then I felt peace and the problem was gone.”

“I saw me as a baby. My uncle and my aunt were changing my diaper. It was crazy! Later I called my mother and she told me that that was the first moment she left me alone with someone else. How could I remember this?”

Later, the shaman told us that everyone can be carrying some problems from childhood that is blocking him, making it difficult to move on and it is causing more problems or illnesses. It is incredible that everything that ever happened to you is probably recorded in your brain. The shamans are using Ayahuasca to get to this information.

Unfortunately the visions don’t have to be always good. If you are doing the ritual with fear or bad state of mind it is possible that you will see demons, dark forces, funerals and more unpleasant things. These visions can help you as well by going through them. After many long hours the plant decided that it was enough and left our bodies. Next day morning we finished the ceremony with flower bath.

Venomous frog
The next day David had another great idea. “Let’s do the venom procedure as well!”
It didn’t take long and they were already burning holes into our shoulders. In these holes they put venom from sapa which is a frog living in the rainforest.

In few seconds the venom paralyzed us and we were feeling it flowing to all parts of our bodies. The body temperature increased rapidly to 40°C and for 10 minutes we were sweating like never before. We thought that this is our end. Then suddenly everything stopped and our body was clean with regenerated immune system. The venom from the frog is also said to be prevention against malaria. That could be useful in Central America where we are going next.

At the end we were feeling very tired but happy. It is hard to describe the feelings, even us we were still thinking about our visions many days after the ceremonial. This ancient art of shamans is very interesting as well as Ayahuasca itself. We are happy that we have done this because it was an amazing experience literally from another world.

Video from our adventures
in Amazon Rainforest

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