My 7 days in the village Santa Maria in the Peruvian Amazon jungle was one of the most profound and life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. I came here with the intention to experience Ayahuasca and Kambo and left with so much more. I had heard about Ayahuasca (a medicine consisting of the mixture of two plants from the Amazon that has the ability to bring one deeper into their consciousness) at a workshop in Buenos Aires, from the workshop leader, coach Kat Hargraves from LA. I had heard about Kambo (an Amazonian frog that gives off a secretion that deeply cleans the body and has the ability to treat many illnesses) the month later when I was traveling on a tour in Salta from a German fellow traveler Sandra who had done it in Germany and got amazing benefits.
These were two medicines I had never heard about and within a span of a month I heard about both of them, and just before I was about to go to Peru which is the country they originate from. I thought what are the chances! I took it as a sign from the universe that I had to experience them while I was in Lima in November. More importantly, as a coach, I’m constantly looking for new ways to develop myself and try different methodologies so I can 1) become a better person and in turn a better coach for my clients, and 2) incorporate additional effective tools into my coaching.
The 7-day experience in the Amazon proved to be everything I was looking for and more. Not only did I experience the plant medicine Ayahuasca and the animal medicine Kambo, but also did I experience another plant medicine San Pedro, and got to see the magic of the jungle and be at one with nature. All these medicines are so powerful and the combination of doing them in the jungle was so profound that I felt compelled to incorporate them into my own transformation program and retreat in January 2019. Here is a video capturing the highlights of my 7-day experience.
The trip didn't start out quite as well as it ended. The first few days in Santa Maria I felt quite beaten physically and mentally. First it was due to my complete lack of sleep the night before I got on my flight at 5:30am. Getting out of the airport I was greeted by Victor from Kambo Jungle Expedition, the guide that I booked the retreat with. He took me on his scooter to a restaurant by the river to have breakfast. As we were talking, he said I would have my first Ayahuasca ceremony later that evening, which took me by surprise as I thought I would have at least a day to relax and ease into things. Then I mentioned that I also wanted to do Kambo and that the e-mails I've been receiving said that I should do Kambo before Ayahuasca to clean my body. Then Victor said, “Oh if you want to do Kambo then we can’t have breakfast. Let’s go to my house and do Kambo.”
The next thing I know I was in Victor’s apartment in Iquitos, sitting on a sheet on the floor doing this potent frog medicine. Kambo is an Amazonian frog that gives off a powerful secretion that deeply cleans the body and has the ability to treat many illnesses as wide-ranging as cancer, AIDS, depression, anxiety, migraines, fertility problems, and many more. Right before the Kambo session I drank 2 liters of water, this is to ensure there is enough fluid in the stomach for the purging that usually happens once the medicine goes into the body. After that I sat on the floor, very close to the bathroom and with a bucket in front of me. Victor burned 3 small holes on my left upper arm, then he asked me to spit on a stick that has the Kambo secretion, this is to activate the medicine that has been drying on the stick. He mixed my saliva with the medicine then took a small amount and applied it to each of the 3 burned holes on my arm.
Almost instantly I felt a burning sensation in my head, I felt my lips and face getting swollen, then very quickly it entered into my stomach with an intense discomfort and I started puking out the water. It was such an intensely uncomfortable feeling that I really can't compare it to anything else. I puked a few times, all water, with a bit of white foam, then I couldn’t anymore. Victor gave me some more water and said that more should come out, I drank the water and more did come out. Then I felt the poison going down to my lower stomach and I needed to go to the bathroom. When I came back from the bathroom I was still completely beaten. All I could do was lie on the sheet on the floor wanting to curl up, wishing this would end and wondering why the hell I was doing this to myself. Then I heard Victor’s girlfriend Natasha come in and I heard them talking as if nothing unusual is happening, never mind that I was lying on the floor and obviously in intense pain. In a way that made me feel better because I figured that they probably see this all the time. Then I heard Victor asking me to go take a shower, he said to rinse everything, top to bottom. It was so hard to get up but once I finished showering I felt better but still very weak, exhausted, and a bit disoriented, but glad that it was over. It was the most intensely painful and uncomfortable feeling I had ever had and I said to myself there is no way I'm ever doing this again. Little did I know two days later I was doing again.
We then went to Karma Café to wait for another guy, Steven from Switzerland, to join us. We took a boat to a nice little hut in the middle of the river for lunch.
After lunch we took a boat back to town, then another boat to the place where we would stay for the rest of the time in the jungle – a beautiful and magical place that the owner named Dream Jungle Lodge.
The first Ayahuasca ceremony
Later that night was the first Ayahuasca ceremony with a shaman named Elias. Ayahuasca is a brew consisting of the mixture of two Amazonian plants, a vine called Banisteriopsis caapi, or like the mixture itself is also called Ayahuasca (which means “vine of the soul”) and the chacruna leaf, which contains a relative high amount of dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, a neurotransmitter found in all human beings, mammals, and a variety of plants, and plays a key role in all kinds of extraordinary states of awareness. Normally, the human body produces a small amount of DMT, except when we dream and just before we die. Ayahuasca induces a psychedelic, visionary state of mind and this effect is employed by various people for various reasons. People have been healed from comprehensive problems, like addiction or depression, during one or more sessions. It is not a miracle cure as in when you drink it not all your troubles will go away, but it is miraculous in the sense that it brings unconscious and seemingly other-worldly processes to surface, which enables one to work with it while the effects last.
Before the ceremony at 8pm we took a flower bath at 5pm and talked to the shaman to tell him about our intentions. During the ceremony, both Victor and Natasha sat in the room with us, explaining in more detail how the process works and made sure we were okay throughout the ceremony. At the start of the ceremony, one by one Steven and I went up to the shaman to take the brew. We put our intentions into the cup and took the brew in one gulp. Then the shaman took the brew himself. We were told that after drinking the first cup we can expect to feel something within 25-45 minutes and if we don’t feel anything after 45 minutes to an hour we can take some more.
During the first hour we sat on a mat in darkness and silence waiting for the effects of the medicine to kick in. When we didn't feel anything after the hour, we both took some more. Then the shaman started singing in this amazing voice in the Shipibo language. After another 45-60 minutes, we still didn't feel much so we both took some more. In the middle of the ceremony, the shaman also came to the front of each of us to sing for us specifically. When the ceremony was coming close to the end, Victor asked me if I wanted to drink some more and I probably should have said no but since I wasn't feeling much and Steven took some I also took some more. This last half a cup pushed me over. I started really feeling it after the ceremony finished and I just wanted to curl up and stay there the whole time. Once I got up to go to the bathroom I felt really dizzy and that’s when all the brew came out. I had to puke a few times to get it all out. Even after that I still felt it a lot, not visions, but kind of like being drunk and feeling very emotional. That night I couldn’t get up to go back to my room in the side house so I slept on the mat where we did the ceremony in the main house.
Day 2: When I woke up the next morning I still felt completely defeated, like I had no energy and just wanted to sleep. I ended up sleeping until close to dinner time, waking up only a few times from Victor calling me for lunch and for a walk in the jungle. But I had absolutely no energy to do any of it. When I mustered up the energy to go for dinner, I was feeling okay but still really tired. After dinner we went to look for Kambo, the frog that gave us the secretion. After some searching we found the Kambo in a true and I immediately became energized. The frog really mesmerized me. It was a female frog, bright green. I had never seen a frog so bright green and beautiful like this one. She was so calm, completely still, and I felt she had a consciousness and was so intelligent, almost human-like, and looked like she understood us. Her eyes were so big, just looking at us, not scared, not resisting at all, almost as if saying, "please take my secretion so I can heal you". Victor talked to her and asked both Steven and I to talk to her as well, thanking her and telling our intentions to her. Victor then took her secretion from outside her body. I felt really connected to the Kambo and felt a tremendous amount of love filling up my heart.
Day 3: The next day, Tuesday, was another day of Kambo in the morning and Ayahuasca in the evening. Kambo in the morning was just as hard as the first time, this time we only got 2 dots because the secretion was fresh from the night before and very strong. Before I got the Kambo I also got Rapé (a sacred tobacco cleansing snuff) and Sananga (eye drops to sharpen vision) both of which were also super potent and put me in more pain. This time from I didn’t really want to puke but wanted to go to the bathroom right away. It was such bad suffering again but at least it was over in 30 minutes, maybe a bit shorter than the last time, and I felt the cleansing effect right away. After that I was able to have a substantial breakfast. Food on this trip has been fantastic, all organic, so healthy and tasty.
After some resting and lunch we went to see a native tribe, the Yaguas, and saw them perform, which was very interesting.
I also bought some souvenirs including a key chain which I needed and a bracelet made of Ayahuasca wood.
We also found a little monkey, tiniest and most adorable I had ever seen.
We called him Jungle and took him home with us for a few days before Victor found his family and released him back in the jungle.
During the second Ayahuasca ceremony, I felt the medicine much more than the first time. I soon got into a really uncomfortable state, feeling freezing cold, discomfort in the stomach, and paranoid and scared, as if all the fears that I had in real life got magnified. I really didn’t like the feeling and I didn’t understand why I needed to take a brew to make me feel this way. I didn’t have any visions, all my fears were in the present realm and it was only a feeling. I wanted to puke to get rid of some of the discomfort in my stomach but I couldn’t. So I was sitting with the queezy feeling the whole night. Even after the ceremony ended, I still felt dizzy and uncomfortable for a long time. Walking back to my room, I was so dizzy, and I couldn’t fall asleep for a few hours. At this point I started questioning what was the benefit of Ayahuasca and did I really need to do this.
Day 4: I talked to the shaman the next morning and told him that I didn’t have any visions and said I wasn’t getting that much out of the medicine. I was quite skeptical about the medicine and the whole process which he could probably see. He said that instead of expecting to get something from Ayahuasca maybe I need to put more into it, do my part, talk with Ayahuasca and maybe that way I will get more out of it. I thought about it and realized that is so true, even in life in general, the more we put into something the more we get out. I realized up until then I was expecting Ayahuasca to be this magical brew and I was expecting to get these visions, or see the past or future, like many other people have mentioned. But the medicine doesn't work that way. "Ayahuasca will show you what you need to see”, that was what Victor and Natasha kept telling me. I didn’t comprehend what it meant until now. It finally dawned on me that perhaps Victor and Natasha were right all along, that perhaps Ayahuasca is really that intelligent and she really has the ability to show everyone what they need to see at that particular moment. Perhaps she knows that I still need to confront my fears. I thought I had dealt with all my fears during my year of coaching but maybe I haven't. Maybe I still have more work to do.
During the day Victor took me on a walk around the jungle and we saw many plants and fruits
and even the Ayahuasca vine!
Similar to when I met Kambo, I felt an instant connection to the vine and it made me appreciate it much more. Especially after the talk with the shaman in the morning, seeing the vine opened my mind more to the medicine.
I went into the third ceremony with this newfound open and trusting mindset, believing that the medicine is intelligent and it will show me what I need to see and experience. The first half I felt similar to the second time, I was again cold, scared, and paranoid. Then mid-way through, I started talking to the medicine more and magically I was no longer cold and my fears were uplifted and I started seeing hope and optimism for the future. I also got to the realization that I had to confront my fears before I could move on to the bright future that I was seeing.
Day 5: I had thought about leaving early as I thought I had so much work to do and I didn’t know what else I would do on the compound since all my Ayahuasca and Kambo sessions were done. But I’m so glad I stayed because this day of just “being” turned out to be the greatest thing ever. It taught the value of patience and of letting myself be, rather than constantly doing something. I had some good conversations with Conrad, the other gentleman that had come the previous day to do Ayahuasca. Victor also took us to an alligator farm.
It was a relaxing day and I felt I was finally able to process what I had experienced with Ayahuasca and integrate them into my real life. From the reflection this day as well as in the subsequent days I realized that even though I didn’t appreciate the first two ceremonies at the time, they were absolutely necessary and the three ceremonies together had a profound impact on me. I learned so much from these experiences and am amazed at the power and intelligence of the Ayahuasca plant. My main takeaways were:
The more I put into something the more I get out.
I needed to confront my fears before I could have the future that I want.
I need to have patience. I can’t rush things. The universe, and in this case Ayahuasca, has her plan for how things work out. Just because something is not happening the way I expected, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work or that it won’t happen. Have faith and things will work out in the right time.
If you believe in something it usually will happen and if you don’t it usually won’t. If you really want something in life, first believe that it will happen then the universe will show you a way to make it happen.
I also finally felt that my body was recovering from the exhaustion in the first few days. Natasha said if I was not leaving then we could do San Pedro the next day. I had heard about San Pedro, that it is a cactus from Peru and also has psychedelic effect, and many people say if you don’t like Ayahuasca you might like San Pedro. So I was very excited that we were going to do it.
Day 6: Conrad and I did San Pedro from early morning and I loved it. Out of the three medicines I experienced - Kambo, Ayahuasca, and San Pedro - San Pedro is probably my favorite. The others are great as well and I experienced so much benefits, but they were hard - Kambo hard on the body, Ayahuasca hard on the mind and the body. San Pedro on the other hand was easy to take. It was a happy medicine for me and opened up my heart. Whereas Ayahuasca brought all my fears to surface, San Pedro stripped away all all of them and only showed me love and courage.
When I researched San Pedro it made a lot of sense that I felt that way, because mescaline, the active compound in San Pedro binds to virtually all serotonin receptors in the brain. The medicine has been described as empathogenic - experiences of emotional communion, oneness, relatedness, emotional openness. Here are some of the effects that people describe from San Pedro many of which I also felt:
Opens the subconscious “like a flower.”
"Helps us to heal, to grow, to learn and awaken, and assists us in reaching higher states of consciousness.”
“Out-of-body journeys” are common, often to real-world locations
Helpful for strengthening interpersonal bonds or patching up family relationships. Its empathogenic qualities, instill a “sense of universal understanding, a connection with other people, and the ability to come together and work out problems”—even problems that are usually suppressed. Many remark on a newfound emotional fluency, an ability to express their own emotions and identify the struggles of others.
A sense of unity with oneself, with other people and the natural world, and with all of existence at large.
The most meaningful part was in the afternoon where I sat in the hammock on the balcony looking out into the view.
I started thinking about all the people I love in my life. Then it evolved into how much I love this place, that it almost felt like paradise, with the plants, trees, the colors in the sky, all so gorgeous. Then I thought maybe I can get Natasha and Victor to come to Colombia and talk about plant medicine as part of the health segment of my transformation workshop that I had started planning before coming to this trip. I had planned to do it in January in Bogota which is where my Remote Year group would be. Then I thought, why don’t I do the workshop here instead? I already know this place, I like it, I feel connected to it, Victor and Natasha are here, it would be much more meaningful to do it here than a city I don't know yet.
I thought about what a journey the last 6 days have been. Starting from being so tired, to being completely beaten from Kambo and Ayahuasca, to even wanting to leave early, to letting myself sink into the experience and letting San Pedro take me deeper into my consciousness and experience all the love and connection this place brings up in me. Being on this compound, among nature and its plants and animals has been such an amazing and enlightening journey. Even the very basic living condition didn’t bother me anymore. Since I had this profound experience here I felt the need to share it with others. My intuition was also telling me that plant and animal medicine may be that missing piece of the puzzle that I had been looking for in my holistic and integrated approach of coaching and personal development.
These were thoughts that were going through my head as I went downstairs to propose to Natasha and Victor my idea. They were both instantly on board and started brain storming possible itineraries with me that I was very happy with. As we were talking about this, Victor also said that the owner of the house, a 23-year-old American girl, wants to sell the house. Then I thought, what if I bought the place? I hadn’t been tempted to buy property for over 10 years, but in Lima when I was walking along the waterfront in Barranco I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a condo here? That was the first time in a long time that I thought about buying a place. Now here again I was tempted to consider buying this place, because I felt so connected to it and felt that perhaps it would give me that anchor that I won't have anymore after Remote Year is over, which is coming up very soon.
Day 7: I did my third and last Kambo session this morning. This time it wasn’t so tough, probably because my body was already quite clean from the previous two times. I didn’t puke very much and I didn’t go to the bathroom at all during it. After breakfast, I went back to Iquitos with Victor, Natasha and Conrad. All the guard dogs of the house sent us off to the dock - I even became attached to them.
In Iquitos I checked into a hotel in the city center, La Casona. Conrad and I went to lunch at Big Al's, then to a natural herb store. I got a massage in my room later in the afternoon which felt so nice, and met up with Natasha in the evening for coffee. It was really good to get to know her a bit more and talk through my ideas for the retreat. She said that my idea of combining personal development and plant and animal medicine is not something she has ever seen before which was a great affirmation for me that perhaps this could become my expertise in the coaching and personal development field.
After staying a night in Iquitos, I flew back to Lima the next morning full of energy, enthusiasm, and hope. What a spectacular and profound week I just had - from the first few days being physically and mentally exhausted and being skeptical about the animal and plant medicines, to the last few days being uplifted, energized, and getting a tremendously important idea for my business. By the time I left for Lima I started feeling much more certain that the retreat needs to be in Santa Maria, because I feel so connected to it, I can tell my story, I would be doing it out of love and passion, and it would all come so naturally. So this was the start of my exciting journey to getting everything ready for my retreat on January 17-26th, 2019 in this beautiful place in Santa Maria.