Science and Ayahuasca Soul-Puking: the Narco-Tourism of Peru

Posted: July 20, 2013 in El Dorado, NeverScience, Vic Neverman Travelogue
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Truth! Truth! Truth! crieth the Lord of the Abyss of Hallucinations

– Aleister Crowley

Sunburnt freckles and wispy-flamed hair accompanied a Dutch accent as she inquired if I was on the Ayahuasca diet. Her eyes were black dilated moons and her rusty-blooded smirk was an enchanting entangled viper: lips suggestively askew, dangerous, vexing, pleadingly desirous or perhaps just evidence of foot & mouth disease or something. I mean, that shit happens. “No.” I told the waitress with a stern delivery. “No, I am not on Ayahuasca. I am a scientist. Damn it.”

But wait!, I am getting ahead of myself. I first learned of “Grandfather” and “Grandmother” from an Acupuncturist in Centralist Florida. But no, before that, yes before that I went to see an acupuncturist. She asked what ailed me. Nothing. What was I there for? For her, of course, but I couldn’t tell her that. Not yet. Her business card had been residing in some tossed aside book of mine for some time, marking that book, holding the page to a story I dared not finish, but a page I always came to to thumb that card and ponder the number held within. Anyway, I told her I was there, or I was here, for enlightenment. So she stuck a damned needle between my eyes and it gave me a headache. So fast-forward and there is this quasi-second date and my acupuncturist is drinking the tea she bought for herself (it was caffeinated) and I am drinking tea I bought for myself (not caffeinated, else I’d never sleep). In this teahouse, she explains how a Peruvian Shaman inducted her towards the “Truth” courtesy of Ayahuasca and San Pedro – also known as “Grandfather” and “Grandmother”, disrepectively (narco-adventurers and their bloody code-words, I am not sure which means which). My acupuncturist spoke to me dreamy-eyed, as if a cat’s paw had overturned a saucer of milk onto a marble floor to create the color that resided in my acupuncturist’s eyes as my acupuncturist told me the Truth she found deep in the bush of ever-centraler Florida. After an evening of purging “Grandfather” and “Grandmother” (vomit induced from the Ayahuasca and San Pedro), she woke under a ceiling of palmettos with ticks and chiggers tearing away at her flesh, but this much wasn’t a hallucination. Next time, she admitted between caffeinated-tea sips, she wouldn’t wander into the wilderness after ingesting hallucinogens without bug spray. Lesson learned, Truth obtained. She told me about her wish to visit Peru where Peruvian shamans literally grow on trees. It was uncanny. There were jugs of Ayahuasca ripe for the taking. Just sitting there, waiting to be gulped and eventually vomited back out – perchance into other jugs. Peru: Mecca of Ayahuasca purging (a t-shirt begging to be printed).

Alas, she never made it to Peru. I did.

Iquitos: gateway to los Amazonas

Iquitos: gateway to los Amazonas

Iquitos: Gateway to the Western Amazon. There is a distinct Narco-Tourism trade here, where northern hemispherians flood in by the dozens to find some Truth in the jungle. I was no different, albeit, I was a scientist for fuck’s sake, not some long-haired hippy-douche bored of the suburban basement he lived in with his parents. My furrowed brow must have demonstrated some deep-seeded philosophical disposition many recognized in the drug-adventurer as I was asked repeatedly if I was in town for the “show” and handed menus that catered to pre-ceremony dietary restrictions. A week prior to the Shamanistic ritual of Ayahausca ingestion, the initiate is not to consume fatty food, spicy food, sugars or salts. Oh yeah – and (s)he must abstain from sex. I think I’d rather be a scientist for fuck’s sake. Pun not intended, but yeah, maybe, kind of, it is.

Ayahuasca menu for initiatives pre-soul purging

Ayahuasca menu for initiatives pre-soul purging

Ayahuasca is Quecha for “vine of the soul” and is the result of shamanic efforts to cook down various plants into a foul-tasting hallucinogenic cocktail. Ayahuasca users call the elixir more medicine than drug (it is illegal in the United States because of the dimethyltryptamine (DMT) contained within, which is the hallucinogenic agent), however, historically it was only taken by the shaman in order to have visions to predict the future, etc. The rest of the village would abstain. There are those who claim Ayahuasca can cure cancer, depression, drug-addiction and a host of other ailments. Should I ever be so afflicted, perhaps I will be less cynical.

Between pisco sours, Ayahuasca-inspired art with shape-shifting python mermaids

Between pisco sours, Ayahuasca-inspired art with shape-shifting python mermaids

So who are these narco-tourists? Are they all depressed cancer patients who’ve run out of blow? After a few days in Iquitos, you can certainly identify these A-Heads from afar. Apparently, even I look the type. As I have mentioned in my guide to the jungle city: Drunken Shrunken Heads and the Mosquitoes of Iquitos, I hired a deviant of a driver. I met this driver through a drug-trade pimp named Armando. Armando is a slick-haired scoundrel preying upon the wayward lost-soul tourist. He picks his way through the disembarking passengers at the airport, sending the scientists for fuck’s sake in one direction and the narco-tourists in another. Armando wasn’t too sure of what to make of me. He and I smoked Mapacho cigars together before I convinced him I was indeed a scientist for fuck’s sake. It was Armando, however, who informed me of the healing qualities of the jungle, “If the Earth was a woman…” Armando began. “The Amazon would be her bush. It is the hottest, moistest and it holds the cure to everything.” Indeed.

Amazingly enough, dear reader, everything this far is not even an exaggeration. The quotes that follow, as those that came before, are as my ear heard them.

Soon after my arrival in Iquitos, I learned that the days were best spent keeping cool in the hotel pool, submerged as deep and as long as you could stand amongst the primordial dragon flies and beetles drowned alongside you. Next best bet was to put on a pair of pants and a shirt and drink beer along the Boulevard until you are tired enough to sleep. My first full evening in Iquitos, I met a pair of middle-aged Narco-Tourists, British ex-pats whose diabolical demeanor was evidence enough to explain why they left the comforts of the first world. Both had just arrived and were eagerly awaiting their first meeting with their shaman. One was pony-tailed and goateed with a glib English accent and a Thailand address. This dude’s eyes were like Lake Nicaraguan bullsharks, hungrily devouring anything in their path. Dude was seriously perverse, thus his need to relocate to Thailand. He asked if I was a fellow “searcher” in town in pursuit of “a Greater Truth”. His companion, another former prisoner of Mother England who had his head bent over the café table all evening out of exhaustion, resided in Qatar. A pervert who has to flee as far as Qatar to practice their own brand of perversion is a pervert well worth the designation. Pray ye gods his “greater truth” leads him away from whichever perversities that forced him to Qatar.

SCIENCE f.f.s.... Vic of the Vines

SCIENCE f.f.s…. Vic of the Vines

After a week of performing science for fuck’s sake in the bloody jungle, I returned to Iquitos. On one jaunt through town, I found Armando guiding the Thailand and Qatar pervs through the streets (aye, supply has met demand). I returned to the famed waterside restaurant, Dawn on the Amazon, where a local Peruana waitress saw me for the second time in as many weeks. In her cute hesitation, she asks, “You are Victor?” This charming muchacha remembered me from one visit 8 days prior. Fortunately, I jotted her name in my book at that time and had recently come across it. “Yes.” I confirmed. “I still am, Gabriella. Como estas?” Smiling & blushing from ear to ear, she found me a great table overlooking the water and conveniently located beside a beehive of Ayahuasca initiates. The following is the dialogue I overheard as I consumed: coffee, cervasa, patarascha river-fish steamed in bijao leaves with a side of heart of palm, then muy cervasa por favor y una mas y una mas y una mas cervasa por favor.

The threesome of narco-tourists looked like a traditional slacker crowd in a mall food court, taking a break from their job sign-dancing in a banana suit to advertise the new Fro-Yo joint. They were early 20s and would not strike you as people that come from money, yet to live the Narco-Tourism lifestyle that will keep them in the jungle for more than a month, money they must have.  Dude 1 mentions the “terror” of seeing “demons” as they discuss their inability to sleep over their recent ordeals – fasting, drugging, hallucinating and purging in the jungle. Dude 1 describes, “other worlds… gigantic beautiful spirits.” I decide to take out my journal and begin documenting their experiences. Dude 2 carries around his intellect in a box formerly holding raisins, “traumatizing, fucking traumatizing.”

Let the fun begin:

Dude 1 describing one of his dreams: “… there was a snake in her body and it shot up into her head, or something like that, and then she shape-shifted into an aborted fetus in a ruined womb and she was in there with stomach juices and stuff.”

Dude 2, “fucking traumatizing.” He seems certain. “It is shocking after such a hardcore intense trip that I would want to go back.”

Dude 1, “When you drink there is something that needs to come out.”

Girl 1, a strange Midwestern dame who seems lost in her summer dress and idiotic eyes, “I was vomiting for two hours and I know that wasn’t it and once I finally got it all out it was like… pure clarity.”

And here is a gem that forced me to put down my fork of river-fish and start scribbling like a maniac:

Dude 1, “… like, I puked, and I puked up a dagger, like, I had a dagger inside of me and then I puked up the dagger and I watched it come out. It was really painful and I was like, ‘whoa’, why did that happen and I looked into the bucket and there was this festering evil.”

From my understanding of the Ayahuasca, “Grandmother”, ritual, the purge is an important part of finding clarity. It is supposed to rid you of your guilt and insecurities so that you might confront the self without the burdens of such emotional loads. The purge is a necessary part of the ceremony and there is even retch bucket placed before initiates.

Dude 1 continued, “I was puking up rotten eggs, what does that symbolize?”

Girl 1, isn’t certain, though she hypothesizes, “I think there is a lot of symbolic stuff.”

Dude 2, “Straight-up messages, you know what I mean?”

It is easy to pick out other A-Holes (Ayahuasca devotees) as they are the ones in bars smoking cigarettes like an aquanaut breathes off his hose and they are drinking cokes instead of booze. Their meals arrive with slim protein and heavily unflavored rice and when your dish of river-fish that tastes and smells like the fats and acids and spices and oil and sex they cannot have, they hover with their salivating glands on overdrive because they are seeking the “Greater Truth” while you are just a scientist for fuck’s sake.

Dude 1, still eye-balling my lunch, “the Ayahuasca just old me, like, straight-up, like ‘find a new shaman’. So I decided, maybe, Oscar wasn’t supposed to be my shaman. Y’know?”

Girl 1, still looking like the wide-eyed door-knobbed wit of a twit she was three minutes prior, “You’re getting messages for a reason. Follow them.”

Follow them…

Illustration of Chullachaqui

Illustration of Chullachaqui

Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug. Even the locals stay away from it, preferring a South American variant of crack cocaine and gasoline huffing to get their fix. Still, I have to wonder if my antagonist, Chullachaquithe dark sorcerer who hexed me soon upon my arrival, corresponds with the demons with a little help of the DMT within Ayahuasca. My uncle, Captain Dick Neverman – who amassed a small fortune smuggling seashells out of Latin America, says there exists a sub-species of Homo sapiens, some lingering Cro-Magnon man in South America, and that every jungle and beach village he has been in, from Colombia to Brazil, has had its bestial madman howling at the moon. Were these social outcasts, unable to cope with frenetic pace of contemporary jungle urban centers? Or… are these the narco-tourists of yesteryear, wayward Beat poets and musicians, who took too strong a pull off of the vine of their soul and are still living out their purge? Perhaps, one day I will return to Peru to find a naked witch barking at me from the gutter and upon closer inspection I might find the idiotic eyes that once belonged to a Midwestern girl in a summer dress.

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