Travel Writers: Making Love with the Universe

by Sue Palombi

Location: Amazon Jungle, Peru, South America

I travelled deep into the Amazon jungle looking for an ancient medicine they’ve been using there for thousands of years. It has many different names but in the place my travels took me to it was known as ayahuasca. It is a medicine which functions on three levels: it it used to cure physical illnesses (amongst them cancer), mental illness, and for spiritual healing. Not much is known about it in Western society, except that one of the ingredients is the strongest hallucinogenic known to man and that it occurs twice naturally in everybody when your born and just before you die. To the people of the jungle, it is known as the most powerful of all the plant teachers; it is the entrance to the spirit world.

After spending a week on a boat, which was supposed to hold about 50 people but there were about 150 other people on it, travelling up the mighty Amazon River into Peru, this was followed by another day in a little wood before travelling by canoe up one of the many rivers that run off the Amazon. Finally I arrived at a little community of about 40 people calledEsperanza. As I walked up through the little community, with kids looking at me like I was an alien, most of them never seeing a white man before, I knew I was not going to leave here the same person as when I arrived.

I spent most of the day walking through the jungle, amazed at its sheer size and beauty, wondering what it was the great ayahuasca spirit would have for me to see. That evening the shaman arrived and after speaking with him for a while we got ready to start the ceremony. I watched as he poured the brew into a cup and then began to sing and whistle to it, smoking some strange cigarette and blowing the smoke over it. He gave me a couple more words of advice, which I hardly understood as my Spanish is so bad, and handed me the cup. I looked into it wandering where and why and how. Then drank it as I was told.

Uuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhhhh! Just thinking about that dirty dirty taste sends a shiver through my body. i handed him back the cup and sat down, desperately trying to hold it in, and watched as he poured himself a cup. I could feel the spirit inside me working her magic and waited for take off. He started whistling softly and after about 30 minutes everything started to bend a little. I knew that this was it.

What exactly happened from then on is a little confusing and impossible to explain with words, other than to say I saw the most amazing images I have ever seen, far too beautiful and complex for my mind to be able to conceive them. I listened as the shaman sang these magical songs in an ancient language and guided me through my journey, amazed and bewildered, but having the most incredible time of my life.

After what seemed like a couple of hours, I could feel that awful feeling you get, deep down in your stomach, that something in there wants to come out. I tried to ignore it but it wanted out and after not letting it out my mouth it went looking for another exit. Finally I came stumbling out of the hut and popped spilling the toxic shit everywhere! What an awesome feeling! Spewing has never felt so cleansing. I don’t know how it kept coming or even what it was that was coming out but it just didn’t stop. I finally regained myself and crawled back to where I could hear the magical sounds and sat in amazement, tripping for another couple of hours, before the shaman told me he needed to rest and left me to reflect on what had just happened.

Text © Sue Palombi 2004, All Rights Reserved.

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