A Vision Quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually only undertaken by young males entering adulthood but it is now offered to everyone who is striving to find the path. It is a commitment that people make for 4, 7, 9, and 13 days in consecutive years. The Quester is planted on a spot in the mountain in a square by him/herself and there’s no interaction with other people, food or drink for the first 4 days. There’s only nature, sky, earth, and yourself. At the end of 4,7 and 9 days, a bunch of fruits and peyote water are brought to the quester which helps them to continue until the end of their time on the mountain. After I was invited to a 20-day camp in Colombia to practice this spiritual gathering, I packed immediately and started my life changing journey!
Trip from Brooklyn to Colombia
I spoke too soon about being super lucky to have avoided the snowstorm that hit New York City when my plane was able to take off only with a 1 hr delay. The sad reality hit me when my backpack didn’t show up in the luggage belt in Bogota after most of the passengers got their luggage. Apparently, the plane left New York without taking some of the luggage, which included mine.
I arrived at the hotel around 1 am to meet the rest of the group with my small handbag. As it was prearranged, the group got up at 6:30 am to take the shuttle that we had paid for in advance, which would bring us to the Vision Quest camp near the town called Villa Leyva. After saying goodbye to them with tears in my eyes, my waiting period plus calling the airports in Bogota and Newark began.
The next morning, when I stepped out of my room, I was given the best news of my life: my luggage was on its way to the hotel!
After picking up and giving a big hug to my bag, I ran out the door immediately to the bus terminal and 8 hours, 3 buses and 2 cars later, I made it to the Vision Quest camp before the sunset.
Vision Quest Camp
I set my tent up pretty easily with the help of the adrenalin I got and I was right on time for the opening ceremony that same night!
Since I didn’t have a watch, I am not sure about what time the opening ceremony started but in the end, I was told that we had sat in the Maloka for 16 hrs.
The opening ceremony included drinking Peyote, the cactus medicine. It was my first time with this medicine and I must admit that I found it pretty interesting. About 120 people sat around the big fire in a circle and the shamans fed us 3 to 5 spoons of the peyote paste one by one, which had tasted like coffee. The process was followed by drinking a cup of peyote tea that circulated around the room in a big pot.
The night continued with the lead of the shaman and the council members. They all sat on an altar and sang beautiful medicine songs all night long. The other participants also joined the singing with rattles and drums, we all smoked tobacco wrapped in corn paper, some of the people got well (vomited). The whole purpose of the ceremony was to invoke the spirits and give support and blessings to the Vision Questers who would leave for the mountain upon the end of the ceremony. The ritual also consisted of eating little bits of corn, meat, and fruits that symbolized the food that would keep the questors full on the mountain.
The rituals continued for hours and hours even after the sun was up. When the shaman finally concluded the ceremony, we all went to eat a healthy breakfast prepared by the volunteers in the kitchen of our camp. Following that, first the questors went to the temazcal (sweat lodge) and then the supporters. I was one of the supporters who would help with planting/harvesting my friends and stay in the camp over the course of their quest to support them with prayers and daily rituals and chores, such as helping in the kitchen, building the children’s play area, cleaning the toilets, cutting wood, etc.
Throughout the camp, we did 3 ayahuasca ceremonies with the lead of 3 shamans from the Cofan Tribe, a San Pedro ceremony in the temazcal, shared countless stories under the moonlight, bathed in the river, learned and sang beautiful Native American songs, and kept the spirit alive for the brave vision questors up on the hills. From what I heard from them, our voices combined with the strong drums gave them the courage to finish their quests, especially during the tough times when they considered quitting and coming back to the camp.
For me, this was a unique experience in terms of zooming out from my city life and connecting deeper to my inner voice under mother nature’s guidance. It was so necessary to unplug from the mental chatter and noise of the city. I saw and lived that it IS possible to live without electricity and infrastructure by completely depending on natural resources. It is also amazing to find your inner power and surrender to nature for so many days without eating or drinking. I am in total admiration for this thousand of years old native American tradition, the leaders who put together this amazing camp for us truth-seekers, and everyone who joined as a questor or a supporter.