Although a dozen copas of Mate de Coca got me through severe headache and malaise, the Peruvian altitude had nearly sucked the life out of me and I decided the Amazonian steam might better suite my constitution.
I’d read of William Burrough’s Ayahuasca and thought maybe I’d snoop around the last jungle outpost of Iquitos for a guide to take me into the Amazon interior to meet a”qualified” Shaman to prepare me a glass or two.
To my eyes, the Amazon women were consistently a sight to behold! The green eyes! The almond skin! The hot, wet air and distant primal calls from the far side of the Amazon river… beckoned me into her darkness.
It didn’t take long to find an old chap who’d serviced a National Geographic expedition or two. He showed me old issues of National Geographic magazine clearly showing he’d been trusted by the big boys and after an afternoon of fee haggling I had a departure time.
After a 3hr motorboat ride (one hour killed trying to get the stubborn outboard motor to cooperate) to “base camp”, another 4hr trudge through knee-deep jungle mud, another several hours moving through the sweet waters of the Colorado river to the Black River… we finally landed in a small hut strewn village.
The next morning, my Shamanic host asked where the “guide” had disappeared to. My heart sank…. I had nothing but the clothes on my back, and nothing else. The Shaman sensed my panic and assured me the “guide” would turn up sooner or later, and he took me out into the jungle to show me various plants he used to cure.
The Ayahuasca “trip” was the most difficult experience I’d ever had… swirling psychosis and violent expulsion. That evidently is part of the price to “see” with the Shaman. To me, falling out of a bamboo hut into the mud, and trying to get my pants off fast enough to “purge” from ALL orifices was not my idea of a swell time. But I went with it.
The following morning, the Shaman insisted I “cleanse” in the Black river and that I prepare for the evening’s second dose… Still no guide… while “cleansing” I felt tiny nibbles about my legs that bordered on uncomfortable. I later found out that the Black River is teaming with Piranha, but that I needn’t be concerned unless I was bleeding.
An Indian man, woman, and baby had arrived at the Shaman’s hut. The baby was ashen with a tinge of green about the skin… I’m no doctor, but that baby didn’t look like it was going to make it through the night, and a qualification of “living” seemed questionable at all.
The Shaman brushed the baby with various fauna and blew smoke into his ears, nose, and mouth… I thought, “I’m no expert, but that cigarette smoke is certainly not going to do that tyke a bit of good… but, maybe it’ll bring on his inevitable demise a bit quicker and end the suffering.”
When the Shaman had finished his “treatment” he instructed the young mother to bring’em back in a couple days time and that he made need a follow-up treatment. He also gave her a small bottle of fluid from the middle reddish bottle you seen in the photo. He later told me it was for “female problems”.
Two days later, still no guide, but the family returned with the healthiest looking baby I’ve ever seen. Pink! Laughing! And full of life!
Later that afternoon, my “guide” returned, had given away all my food surplus and water… and looked hung over. Apparently, he’d meant to only spend the night in a nearby village with his sweaty, but got distracted by some chums with a liter or two of hard liquor. I wasn’t pleased, but I was thrilled to have spent quality time with a real medicine man. And, decided to wait until we'd completed the return journey to Iquitos before laying into him… as the idea of finding my way back alone didn’t appeal to me. ;-)