When I embarked on this South American journey, my only two goals were to make it to Machu Picchu on the solstice and drink ayahuasca for the 2012 New Year. On December 31st, 2011 I hired a motor-tricyclist to take me to a Shipibo center outside of the noisy city in order to satisfy my South American mission. After making several calls he discovered that there would be no such thing. I was out of luck as none of the centers were drinking the jungle sacrament on New Year's eve. He made one more call and picked up an affable man in a long, red, patterned bandana. The man was clearly in the know and offered to take me to a recently opened Shipibo healing center. He mentioned the head shaman there was named Ricardo Amaringo, and included his terrifying ayahuasca experience as part of the road-trip story.
We finally made it to Nihue Rao. The rain went from a drizzle to nothing as we stepped in the small hut community. Cvita, a Canadian artist who is the co-founder of the healing center explained to me that they would not be drinking Ayahuasca that night. I immediately felt defeated and explained to her I came all this way to this particular place because I was told they would be drinking Ayahuasca that night. I've been fasting over 24 hours at that point with the intention of bringing in the New Year with Ayahuasca streaming around my system. Cvita attempted to help me understand my situation with the overly-used Grateful Dead saying, "you don't always get what you want, you get what you need." I cringed when I heard that because it was such a typical thing to say, and it was the last thing I wanted to hear at that point in time. After saying that, and probably observing my reaction to what she told me, Cvita offered to give me the medicine, but explained to me that there will be no shaman present. I could drink a dose of Ayahuasca alone in the Maloka, while everybody else soberly celebrated the New Year. I understood what she was getting at, and accepted the fact that I would not be drinking the magical brew that night. Instead, I met a couple of the people who have been staying there along with the Shipibo families who work with the center. We shared stories and I stubbornly refused to eat or drink the New Year's wine they were offering since I already decided to begin following the diet the day before (no salt, oils, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, etc.) 2012 was approaching, and Cvita recommended that I take a flower shower to wash away the old year along with the negative energies I might have accumulated along the way. So I grabbed a bucket of flowers soaked in water and proceeded to shower myself with the flower water. I ended up going to sleep before the stroke of midnight.
Two nights later we gathered in the space-ship sized Maloka and drank Ayahuasca. Let's talk about a cleanse on the triple level (physically, psychologically, and spiritually). I've drank ayahuasca before, but have never purged the way I purged during three ceremonies at Nihue Rao. I feel the week I spent at Nihue Rao changed me forever, both subtly and immediately. My understanding of the world around me, changed. I let go of a lot of unnecessary baggage. My diet changed. My breathing changed. My lifestyle changed. I felt lighter, more jovial, ecstatic upon leaving the place. Took my yoga to another level of meaning. I picked up Tai-Chi. I travelled much more. My experiences in Nihue Rao altered the course of my remaining months in South America. I had no intention of following the Amazon River from start to finish, but that's exactly what I sporadically decided to do. When I reached Leticia in the Amazon basin tip of Colombia, I decided to renew my Brazilian visa and do just that. I took several boats down the Amazon River, sleeping on hammocks, stopping at major Amazonian ports, including: Iquitos, Leticia, Tabatinga, Manaus, Alter do Chão, Santarem and Belem. I travelled down the Brazilian coast, stopping in Sao Luis, Fortaleza, Canoa Quebrada and made it to Salvador just in time for the 2012 Carnival.
Below is a video of the places I visited in my South American trip of 2012. Accompanying the ancient Droid Pro cellphone pictures are the Icaros of Ricardo Amaringo. The Medicine Hunter, Chris Kilham, calls him the hardest working shaman in the Amazons. Ricardo has been drinking ayahuasca 3-4 times a week for well over twenty years. During a ceremony it seemed like he was performing "open heart surgery" on me. But I will save these Ayahuasca trip reports for another post. Enjoy the medicinal Shipibo Icaros from the lush jungle itself. Let these Ayahuasca songs wash over your soul.