The main reason for my trip to the Peruvian Amazon was to experience the ayahuasca plant served according to the Peruvian traditions and by a female healer. Up until this trip, I had attended dozens of medicine ceremonies, all of which were led by Colombian male shamans. I had a calling and had to listen to it.
My ayahuasca journey
In the last few years of my life, I have been so fortunate to realize the dreams I’ve had. Now when I look back, I laugh at the rat race I have been a part of to gain more material or status than others. It is so liberating to finally be able to see that we all exist as ‘one’ and there’s no success in anything unless we all succeed together.
I can tell my remarkable transformation from the old me to the new started with my introduction to Ayahuasca, the ancient plant medicine that connected me to the Source. Starting with my first Ayahuasca ceremony in the woods, I gained a valuable perspective about who I was and what my purpose was in this body and physical world. Since then, life has become a school where I’ve been constantly learning lessons from everyone and everything and evolving to be a better version of myself. Along the way, I understood that I needed to connect more to my heart than my mind, and consciously choose to love vs resent, expand vs contract, and connect vs shutting down.
How Ayahuasca cured my Hepatitis B:
I tried to write my journey below with all the details to explain how plants cured my Hepatitis B in 5 days in hopes that it can be a source of light for people who are on the path of self-healing from physical and emotional pain.
According to Western Science, a true miracle happened to me in Peru and I am now Hepatitis B and medication-free after 10 years of slavery to the pharma industry that cost me roughly $1000/month.
My healing journey in Peru:
Following our 3 week journey in the Native American Vision Quest camp in Colombia, my friend Daria and I followed our hearts that took us to Peru on a cargo boat on the Amazon River. Along the way, we took recommendations from friends as to how to get by in the jungle. We also asked around Iquitos about different shamans and practices.
Apparently drinking ayahuasca had become so popular among gringos in this area in the last 10 years, hence it led to corruption. We heard stories about shamans who tried to rape girls and served medicine that killed people, or people who were ripped off since the medicine didn’t have any effects. Having this in mind, we started asking about how to go to Doña Othelia’s place, the female shaman who was referred by friends. After finding out she would be above our budget (~$200 per night), we decided to go to another female shaman named Doña Isabelle, a half Shipibo/half Bora shaman that lived 2 hrs away from Iquitos by the river. The 5-day trip would cost 900 soles (300 USD) in total including lodging, food, remedies, and the 3 ceremonies that would take place every other day. If we wanted a translator to go with us, it would have been an additional 150 soles/day (50 USD) but we skipped this.
**Scroll down to the bottom to jump to the places that serve sacred medicine in South America**
Here is how the magic happened in Peru:
In the morning, we were picked up by the travel agency that arranged our trip to Doña Isabelle’s village and were dropped off at the dock to take two boats: one speedboat, and one regular boat to get to her lodge along the Tahuaya River. After the first one-hour ride, we were handed to her helper Jorge in Tamishacu who transferred us to his slow canoe for another hour of the ride.
Welcome to the Jungle!
The lodge was in the middle of the jungle, beautifully surrounded by trees, tiny black monkeys, wild cats, and all kinds of bugs and birds. We were given a private cabin with two beds and individual mosquito nets. When we set up our hammocks, it didn’t take us too long to get used to our new place, which would be our home for the next five nights.
We met with Dona Isabelle in the maloka for a meet and greet, to tell her about our purpose of being there, and the health problems we wanted to cure (frequent bladder infection and hepatitis B). After listening to us carefully, she and her husband Lorenzo, who we later discovered was her maestro, put us on a 2-meal-a day no salt, no sugar, no oil, basically a super bland diet (dieta), which consisted of grilled or smoked fish, plantains and rice.
Our first ayahuasca ceremony took place the same night in our cabin and lasted three hours in complete darkness. The two shamans sat in chairs in front of us and us on the floor. The medicine we were served was raw and pretty liquified hence it was easier to gulp down and we took it only once at the beginning of the night.
The shamans sang icaros all night long and both Daria and I got well in the buckets (which means we vomited) pretty quickly. The ceremony was quite different than my past ayahuasca experiences.
The Colombian ceremonies lasted at least 8 hrs and we are able to walk around, sit by the fire or lay down, which helped me to connect with nature more easily. We were also able to drink as many cups as we wanted. Whereas Peruvian ceremonies were short, and took place in one room in the dark without a chance of interacting with anything other than ourselves.
When we were both almost falling asleep (or I might be in full sleep) Jorge came to end the night and they left us to rest and meet the next morning to get our remedies.
Day 2: No breakfast | Lunch: grilled fish and plantains | Dinner: boiled rice.
The morning after our first ceremony, Daria and were given two bottles of the remedies that we would be using until we finished them and we would be free of our health problems. Jorge told us joyfully how the shamans previously cured his stomach tumor and other illnesses such as hepatitis, different types of cancer, diabetes, and obesity. We were skeptical but it would definitely be worth trying. We spent most of the day in our hammocks protected with mosquito nets and read and slept.
Day 3: Breakfast: a cup of rice soup | Lunch: rice, 2 boiled eggs, smoked plantain | No dinner.
After breakfast, Jorge took us to the jungle to gather the plants with which he would prepare purification baths for us. We walked nearly two hrs among the vast green trees and plants while Jorge cut off pieces from nearly 20 plants and placed them in the bucket he brought with him. We finally stopped at a creek and minced all the plants to make a blend of amazing colors and odors. He then washed us with this wonderful mix by scrubbing the juice all around our bodies and faces.
In the afternoon, Jorge showed us how to make fibers from palm trees to make bracelets, belts, bags, etc. The second demonstration was to make wooden utensils from palm trees with just the help of a machete. At the end of these lessons, Daria and I each had a bracelet and a wooden fork+spoon set (to be used for spaghetti as instructed by our helper).
At night, we met with the shamans in the big house at 8 pm for the 2nd ceremony. After we drank ayahuasca and put out the candle, the waiting began. The tissues soaked in the medicine that they placed in my ears to cure my ear ringing problem, somewhat made me hear the jungle much more clearly. The birds, monkeys, cats that sounded like jaguars waiting for us outside, and bugs were so loud and clear. I jumped a few times thinking that there were animals around my mat. I also heard a woman singing a different icaro besides our shamans.
I purged pretty quickly and waited for the next 3 hrs to have visions. Even though I asked questions or tried to think about the problems I had intended to resolve, I could only manage to think about the rest of my South American trip. I also entertained the idea of the things I wanted to eat when I’m back in the civilized world. Meanwhile, I sent Daria positive vibes while she seemed to be working with the medicine more successfully than I.
Day 4: No breakfast | Lunch: smoked fish and plantains | Dinner: smoked fish and rice.
The day was very chill and tranquil. We continued our diet of eating bland food and gulped down our remedies. Upon our request, Jorge made juices for us from the jungle plants to stop constipation and repel the hungry mosquitos around us.
We also took baths in the lagoon, which removed the several layers of bug repellents on our skins and it felt amazing!
Day 5: Breakfast: boiled eggs and rice | Lunch: smoked fish and rice | No dinner.
Our requests from the shaman to make the ayahuasca brew stronger and the ceremony longer were apparently heard and we started the night by drinking from a bigger cup, twice the size of the previous ones, which was also thicker.
It didn’t take too long to get well and dive deep into the astral journey. Throughout the night, I was able to work on the things I intended to and found answers to a lot of questions in my head. I saw my future family and sent blessings to every single person that had been in my life. I truly enjoyed the 5-hour ceremony minus the flying cockroaches that hit our faces right and left all throughout the night. At some point, I had to wrap my face with my scarf so I didn’t end up with a huge bug in my mouth. This reminded me of the film Midnight Express, in which the guy had to wear women’s stockings on his head in the prison to avoid the cockroach actions at night.
The ceremony was very powerful and ended at 1 am. We didn’t get to sleep much afterward as we had to get up at 5:30 am to start our journey back to Iquitos.
The supposedly 2 hr ride took us 4 hrs since we had to wait for the boat to fill up at 7 am in the morning. To add more pain to the early morning wait, we were forced to listen to super loud Peruvian rap/techno music from someone’s equipment and all the songs seemed to contain words like puta, marihuana, oye..
Since we were assumed to be rich gringas, we accepted to pay for the 8 lacking passengers so that the boat could leave the port quicker.
Upon arrival to Iquitos, we were so happy to check in to Flying Dog Hostel (20 soles/night or 7 USD), take a shower, and have our filthy clothes laundered.
What happened in the jungle during those 5 days was a true miracle. Upon my return to NY, the usual blood tests I used to do every 6 months came negative for Hep B virus. I kept seeing my doctor for the following 3 years just to make sure I was free of this “incurable” disease and every time the result was the same.
This experience changed my life as living with the disease had become my identity, which I got used to hiding behind. I always felt sorry for myself and ashamed that I had this secret. And it took me a while to get used to the idea that I didn’t have it anymore, I was free physically, mentally, and emotionally! I had no excuse to put myself down anymore.
I am so grateful to mother nature for first giving me the disease and then taking it back. This incredible experience still helps me to go on with my life with less fear and more trust.
If you plan a trip to the Amazon, here’s what you might want to consider:
– Since we were in the Amazon in the rainy season, it poured most nights non-stop but thankfully it stopped around 7 am to leave us a freshly washed and cool nature. So bring waterproof shoes, jackets, raincoats, ponchos, etc.
– Mosquitos were the main annoyance. You need a strong repellent with at least 25% deet and you need to spray it often.
When mosquitos couldn’t find a place to bite in our bodies, they attacked our faces so we had to stay indoors most of the time and wore long sleeve shirts and light-colored pants. But in spite of this, we were bit terribly and constantly scratched our bodies all day and night. A good anti-itch lotion is also highly recommended.
-The jungle was loud but not dangerous. When we heard big animals walking around our cabin, we were pretty sure that they were some type of predator. However, when we spotted a group of cute little black pigs an afternoon, we laughed at our wild imagination 🙂 The heavy leaves, branches, and fruits constantly falling from the trees as well as monkeys and birds jumping around were the source of most of the noise.
We saw a huge hairy tarantula probably bigger than my hand only once and it was on the Colombian side of the jungle. We were told that the anacondas, tarantulas, jaguars, and other wild animals lived about 2 hrs away from where we were, and by signing up for a jungle tour, we could see them closely. We said “umm no thanks” to that offer for now. The tours usually cost around 200 soles/night.
Where to find a retreat to learn about the plant medicine, join ceremonies, talk with shamans, etc:
Disclaimer: Please know that everyone’s experience with the sacred medicine is different. I am happy to provide some leads as a starting point for you but please use these connections at your own risk. Do a lot of research and talk to the shamans, facilitators and organizers before making the best decision for yourself while entering into this new phase of your life.
This retreat that I fell into magically with the help of the universe can be reached by contacting the travel agency that arranged it for us. Hucari Tours (looks like they changed their name to My Amazon Tours) is located in the main Iquitos market area. Alternatively, you can call the shaman’s helper named Jorge Luis Valderrama Tuanama: 984 80 32 52. He speaks only Spanish and the ceremonies were with Shaman Lorenzo and his wife Isabelle. I highly recommend them if you have a health problem to cure and you are ready to surrender to the power of plant medicine!
If you google ayahuasca retreats, you will see that there are so many centers in the Iquitos area. The ones that have a website are targeting westerners, hence the prices are high. I am talking about like $2000 for a week.
- In Pucalpa, the sacred waters of Mayantuyacu Centro Amazónico has been recommended by a friend. If you are seeking healing, they are waiting for you!
- Temple of the Way of Light- Iquitos, Peru: While I cannot vouch for them, I heard about this retreat from a few people I crossed paths with. It seems like they are more westernized to accommodate the western seekers in a more comfortable environment with a bill that is associated with it. They also are good if you want to learn more about medicinal plants or even become a shaman. I know Dr. Gabor Maté also held programs for psycho-shamanic healing methods in this center, especially for addiction problems, which is a true gem not to be missed!
- Willka Hampi – in the Sacred Valley: An eco-community working on the base of the Sacred Medicine wheel to discover the Mystic Arts and Sciences of Life. Their work is guided by traditional principles of Nature, the Master Plants Tobacco & Mama Coca, the Sacred Plants Grandmother Ayahuasca & Grandfather Huachuma.
From a close friend who spent time there: it’s a very communal experience and people go into it with questions as a community and individual. They take it really seriously and do it as a way to further grow in their spiritual path. Usually, they give you the opportunity to do it with them if you do a course with them and they invite you, or you help out in the community as a volunteer.
- The Sacred Valley Tribe is another group that organizes ceremonies pretty often at a reasonable price in the Sacred Valley (Cusco/Pisac area).
- Santo Daime Church near Cusco: I had amazing experiences with Santo Daime ceremonies in the last 2 years (updated in July 2020). It’s the Brazilian tradition/religion founded in the 1930’s in the Brazilian Amazon by Raimundo Irineu Serra. Santo Daime churches have spread globally far beyond their origin and promote a wholesome lifestyle in conformity with Irineu’s motto of “harmony, love, truth and justice”, as well as other key doctrinal values such as strength, humility, fraternity and purity of heart.
While they have centers all around the world, the one near Cusco was brought to my attention by a good friend who had a great experience.
- There is a shaman in Salento, Colombia who holds ayahuasca ceremonies. I almost went to his ceremony with a bunch of backpackers but he declined me since I was in my moon period (that is a common thing with ayahuasca due to the female/male energy conflict). If you go to La Serrano hostel in Salento (an eco-hostel and a beautiful place to stay in), they would tell you where/when or simply bring you with them.
- Taita Tulio’s yage ceremonies in Putumayo, Colombia: Taita Tulio and Taita Querubin are the elders of my long-time shaman Alberto and I have been fortunate enough to sit with them in several occasions. They are from the Cofan tribe and perform authentic ceremonies following their routes in their indigenous outfits, and playing their amazing instruments.
You can find their info on their facebook page and watch their video below:
- Lastly, I have friends who organize ceremonies near Bogota. I’ll be happy to try to connect you to them if you reach me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Shaman Geovanny does ceremonies with both medicine and without medicine in his sweat lodge and they are all very powerful. He is an experienced shaman and healer and also makes healing oils. I met him in a retreat in Colombia and did san pedro in the temazcal (sweat lodge) as well as in his beautiful place in Ecuador.
His English is not advanced so you can write him in very simple plain English indicating you’d like to join a circle of its happening around your travel dates. His email is email@example.com and he is very responsive.
If none of these work, you can trust that the medicine will find you this way or another! 😉
I wish you the best of luck in your journey! Leave a comment down below if you happen to visit any of these magical places 🙏🏼
“I feel so grateful to Ayahuasca for giving me the objective introspection I desperately needed. It slapped me in the face and opened my eyes to the true nature of reality. Of course, the experience wears off but my eyes are now open… wide open. The insight I have gained and the positive changes I have made will never wear off. There are many paths, which will all ultimately lead to the same goal. We all have to cross this river at some point but which rocks we use to cross it is our choice…”