This fascinating article documents E. L. Haze time at the SpiritQuest retreat in Peru where he took Ayahuasca for the first time. His journal entries describe his incredible experiences over five Ayahuasca ceremonies.

What follows is the journal I kept during my Ayahuasca baptism in the Amazonian jungle, ten of the most wondrous days of my entire earthly presence. Most accounts were written the day following each ceremony, since returning home I have proof-read and fleshed out where necessary.

I have included a glossary to explain some of the names and terms used here. It’s not especially detailed as I’m assuming that most people who read this have at least cursory knowledge of what Ayahuasca is. An interesting historical trivia that I don’t recall coming across before though is just how the early shamans discovered the means of preparing it. Already familiar with the ambiguous "the plants told us", I wanted a more pragmatic explanation as to how this information was conveyed. Don Howard told me that tribesmen witnessed the jaguar writhing in hallucinogenic ecstasy after chewing bark from the banisteriopsis caapi vine. After some trial and error they discovered how to prepare a tea from it so they could try it for themselves. A common misconception is that Ayahuasca is merely "oral DMT" – this is not true. The actual bark has psychoactive properties in itself; there are tribes whose Ayahuasca is devoid of anything DMT related. It was from drinking this brew they were given means to communicate with the plants, who in turn told them what else to add to the cauldron. This is also why the jaguar has such a central place in Ayahuasca mythology.

Arriving to SpiritQuest. The building to the right is the longhouse where all meals are served

SpiritQuest– a retreat located on the banks of the Río Momón in the Amazon jungle. In order to get there one must first travel to Iquitos, further on to a coastal village and then proceed by motor boat down the river for half an hour. Neither words nor photos can do this Eden-like sanctuary justice, simply a stunning setting surrounded by vast rainforests in all directions. The centre’s proprietor is also its architect; don Howard was shown the construction and placement of SpiritQuest in an Ayahuasca ceremony and subsequently brought his vision into manifestation.

Don Howard – Owner and founder of SpiritQuest. With over 50 years of experience in traditional sacred plant shamanism – coupled with a wide acumen in western academia, he has conducted Ayahuasca and Huachuma SpiritQuest retreats in Peru every month since 1995.

Don Rober– The shaman leading the ceremony, small and unassuming in stature but with a giant presence. A true banco ayahuasquero, a maestro curandero (master healer) who has mastered the art and science of Ayahuasca healing at the highest level. He has practiced vegetalista curanderismo (traditional plant healing) for over 50 years, beginning as apprentice at age eleven with his father, uncle and grandfather – all renowned curanderos.

Doña Eliana– Don Rober’s wife and a master vegetalista curandera in her own right. They have worked together for more than 40 years and are as adorably umbilical as I’ve ever seen a couple. When don Rober sings his icaros she does so with him – almost eerily synchronized from decades of mutual work, which gives another layer of depth to them.

MalocaThe ceremonial longhouse in which the Ayahuasca is consumed. The one at SpiritQuest is clearly the work of a master builder – a massive wooden building with a huge conical roof. The interior is as aesthetically appropriate as one could possibly imagine.

Icaro– The icaros are songs the shaman sings during the ceremony. They have a number of different practical applications; among other uses they can heighten or diminish the medicine’s intensity, call upon spirits or be used to protect or in other ways handle the ceremony. They are not composed in the manner of traditional music; a true icaro is not written by the curandero but rather given to him or her from the plants. The word itself derives from the Quechua language and means "to blow smoke in order to heal". The singing is accompanied by the chakapa, a bundle of dried leaves that is used to carry the rhythm of the song.

Mapacho– South American black tobacco – considered sacred by Amazonian shamans, who use it in healing practices. One does not inhale the smoke, it’s held in the mouth until forcibly exhaled. During a ceremony one will continuously hear the shamans using it in various procedures. There are also specific mapacho ceremonies, which are powerful in themselves. We conducted one as we were brewing the Ayahuasca on our first day there.

The patio outside the ceremonial maloca, its central meeting place. On the day following a ceremony, this is where the sharing session takes place

First ceremony

I arrived to the maloca approximately 8:50 pm in order to go through my stretching routine, so that I would be able to sit comfortably in half lotus position. The ceremony commenced at 9:30 pm with don Rober performing a number of protective measures, such as an individual arkana (a sealing circle) for each participant, various blessings and banishings – accompanied by the truly mystical icaros.

Now, I’m sure the notion of a Peruvian shaman prancing about with a piece of bundled shrubbery, puffing smoke and chanting divinations sounds like a potential source of comedy to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but rarely have I held anything in such solemnity. During this, I was subjected to an ever-increasing urge to urinate despite having heeded this particular call moments before the ceremony started – a common occurrence when I get really nervous. No choice but to sit tight and wait. It’s near impossible to gauge how much time passed but I think the actual drinking commenced after 45 minutes. When my time was up, I quietly whispered my intentions while making my way to the altar – don Rober started pouring my cup, filling it to the brim. I took the jungle Eucharist in my hands, stared into the concoction and pondered my intent before downing the whole thing. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in regards to flavour sensation, since Ayahuasca is legendary for being amongst the foulest fluids one could ever inflict upon one’s taste buds. I’m fairly certain this is the last time I’ll say this but I actually thought it was rather nice. Not something I’d sip to a fine meal obviously but it tasted strongly of soil and nature which gave me pleasant connotations.

The Ayahuasca vine, with DMT containing chakruna leaves in the bucket below

Once seated again, I didn’t feel quite as nervous and briefly entertained the possibility that I might make it through this with both my mortal existence and sanity intact. Shortly after the last remaining participant emptied her cup, the first person to drink started vomiting. The purge, as it’s known as, is an integral part of the Ayahuasca experience – meant to rid body and mind of impurities. At this point I could definitely feel something happening in my headspace, a sensation I’ve never felt before and honestly can’t find anything to compare it to. As I kept getting drawn further in, my careful optimism was suddenly torn to shreds by an unrelenting gale of ominous foreboding. The single burning candle that remained upon the altar had been snuffed out and it was dark, absolutely pitch black. After approximately 20 minutes the nausea had besieged me to the extent that I had to grab my purge bucket. I have a fair bit of emetic experience – food poisoning, stomach bugs and youthful over-indulgence of alcohol – but the force with which the vine of souls was ejected from my body was quite startling. While viscerally assailing the bucket, I was spectacularly dismayed to discover that someone had stabbed me in the belly. At least that’s what it felt like, my expulsion was so forceful that my entire stomach cramped up something preposterous. I put my hand on my abs and was quite shocked to feel them literally pulsating – almost as if there was something in there trying to get out. Think John Hurt in Alien. I writhed on the mat in absolute agony for an unspecified amount of time. As soon as the cramping got a bit more manageable it was replaced by another sensation – the now acute need to piss. Don Rober had started his first post-drink icaro, one that I remembered was supposed to last for at least 20 minutes. It was requested that you call for the aides that assist you to the toilet only between icaros, so that you don’t have to shout and thus risk startling other participants. All sounds are greatly quantified under the influence and even whispering can be a great distraction. I tried my hardest to struggle through, all the while sinking deeper into Ayahuasca oblivion.

Visions of lighting and sweltering shapes covered my view, regardless if my eyes were open or closed. My sense of dread increased steadily, competing for attention with nausea and a near-critical need to urinate. Once the icaro was over, I quietly said "baño" (toilet, in Spanish). Within a minute, one of the previously unseen aides came wielding a flashlight and helped me stand up, then guided my way out of the maloca to my quarters. Outside and in sight of the jungle I almost forgot my various ailments – with my enhanced senses it looked like something out of Avatar; absolutely mesmerising. The aide led me to my room, I made my way to the toilet and, in complete blackness, sat down to empty my battered bladder. The relief from this was astounding as well as the final pleasant memory from the entire duration of the medicine. The aide led me back into the maloca and to my mattress. I collapsed into it, tried to sit up but the unrelenting vertigo, profuse cold sweat and general queasiness kept me buckled over and prone as I crawled over to the purge bucket for another onslaught of projectile bile and brew. Judging by the sounds, everyone in the room was being meticulously purified – the lively choir of regurgitation with a background ambience of distressed breathing and petrified whimpering might have been somewhat comical, had I not been scared out of my wits myself.

What happened next is a foggy blur but somewhere in the burning darkness I heard someone on the opposite end of the maloca start crying. To my increasing horror I quickly came to the realisation that it was my partner who I had travelled to SpiritQuest with. I could only helplessly listen as her soft crying evolved into the single most heart-wrenching and soul-piercing weeping I have ever heard. She has had a hard and sometimes deeply traumatic life and I assumed some of this was surfacing. Tears filled my eyes as I attempted to telepathically send her comfort and support. This is, after all, the plant that was initially given the Latin name "Telepathine". Tuning my frequency over to hers lead to, at least through my perspective, me sharing some of her torment and if what I felt like was any indication, she was put through such horror that I can only bow in admiration at her composure for not suffering a complete meltdown. I don’t know how long this lasted but it was emotionally excruciating.

Bridging this phase was a transition from anguish and despair into sheer unadulterated terror. One of my primary intentions in going to SpiritQuest was to process what is by far the most traumatic experience of my life, a past psychedelic calamity that induced such existential dread of which power I could never have imagined existed in the human emotional register. Ever since, in high-dosage work with plant teachers I have found great difficulty in letting go and allowing myself to be wholeheartedly immersed in deeper states, such as ego dissolution. Despite feeling confident that I wouldn’t end up in that ghastly place again – especially since I would never repeat the imbecile mistake that served as catalyst, there is always the subconscious awareness that nothing can be ruled out. Perhaps, once such a gate has been pried opened you can never completely shut it again. I was hoping to bring proper closure to this and perhaps gain a greater understanding of what happened – I must admit however that I was not expecting to be forced to re-live it. What made matters worse was that besides the feeling of my very soul being torn asunder, I was simultaneously petrified of causing a ceremonial disturbance. I also remember my ego whinging, feeding me negative energy by getting angry with the Ayahuasca – I had been dreaming of this moment for the past three years, this was supposedly a medicine and all I got was being hurled headway into this maelstrom of chaos. It got so unbearable that I considered asking for help, but I kept telling myself that the maloca was the safest place in the world for me and that I was surrounded by good people with the best of intentions. I tried to yield to what I was being put through, to surrender. Not to flee or claw my way out of it but rather observe what was going on and see what I could learn from it. It was these straws that I feverishly clung to for the remainder of the medicine’s heaviest influence over me but the most soothing help came from the icaros. Looking around me at various instances during this, I saw figures clad in white standing around my mattress. In my confused and panicked state I thought it was aides making sure I wasn’t freaking out completely but I have since learned that it was not. Instead, it seems that what I saw was "doctorcitas"; the so-called "little doctors" the medicine uses as healing agents.  Many other participants reported seeing and interacting with them during the ceremonies. Once lucid enough to sit up and assess what just happened with a semblance of composure, something don Howard had said earlier in the day dawned on me. He mentioned that in order to heal a traumatic experience, Ayahausca will often make you confront it. This was precisely what had happened! As I type this – the day after, it’s still impossible to say whether I have finally closed this particular chapter or not but I can say with certainty that work has been done. Upon realising this, I actually started silently weeping – utterly overwhelmed by awe and reverence for the plant spirit.

Brewing the Ayahuasca

Having been deep in thought I was bluntly summoned back into the now by don Rober standing next to me, singing an icaro and gently patting my head with the chakapa. My initial thought was that I had somehow been launched back into trepidation and caused a ruckus without even noticing myself and that I now had to be calmed and sedated. Fortunately, I soon found that this was the second sealing – a process performed on all participants towards the end of the night. Once he’d made his rounds a candle was lit on the altar, which means that people can start making their way to bed if they so wish. The actual ceremony was still not over, so overt socialising was discouraged. I stayed for perhaps 20 minutes, gathering my bearings – following which I collected my belongings and made my way towards my room at approximately 2 am. On the way out I stumbled by don Howard and stopped to shake his hand in sincere gratitude for bringing me into the fold. He smiled back at me, obviously aware that I had a tumultuous evening.

Back in the room I crashed straight into bed – psychologically drained and physically exhausted. I had assumed I would pass out immediately but no such luck, unfortunately. I kept replaying the night’s event over and over in my head, analysing and trying to make sense of it all. One is advised against drinking water immediately following an Ayahuasca session and in combination with no dinner this made for long hours of feeling parched as well as famished. At 7 am I gave up on sleep, picked up my iPad and started writing this journal. An hour later I went out to the patio outside the maloca, where Peruvian lemonade awaited us. This was the first liquid I consumed since the sacred brew and it tasted spectacular. Somewhat invigorated but still baffled and shook up I made my way to the flower bath don Rober and doña Eleana had prepared. This signified the end of the first ceremony and as strange as it sounds, I could feel my headspace shifting back to a more normal frequency as the scented water washed over me. Finishing this entry, 9 pm in the evening, I still have not had a wink of sleep. With any luck I’ll faint as soon as I lay down, leaving me energised for tomorrow; my second acquaintance with the infinitely powerful spirit that is Ayahuasca.

One of the buildings that serve as living quarters

Second ceremony

As the brew had been left to ferment further, we had been told it would be stronger. We would ourselves be more receptive to the medicine’s effects. It was thus with little surprise that today’s chalice had slightly less in it – perhaps two thirds full. Down it went – less tolerable than the day before but not too difficult to keep down. I picked up a mapacho cigarro from the altar, lit it and then returned to my spot. Shortly thereafter, I felt a surge of cerebral power that I recognised from the night before – as well as hints of visual patterns when scanning the room. Whereas this sensation brought a deeply sinister vibe the night before, this time I felt quite sanguine.

I sat in half lotus, gently rocking back and forth – transfixed by the ever magical icaros. As with the night before, this was when I was subjected to a severe urge to urinate. Fortunately, this became somewhat governable as I kept getting distracted by increasing waves of nauseating mire. Once back from the baño I was surprised to find myself feeling more "normal" than I had since arriving at the sanctuary. As far as I could tell, the effects had fizzled out completely. I got the feeling the dosage had been too low to cross over to the other side but debated whether or not this conclusion was drawn from the medicine or just my ego. This set off vicious inner turmoil, in which I fought a losing battle against crushing disappointment and an urge to simply go to sleep and put an end to what I perceived to be a waste of an evening. I noticed that my inner dialogue was riddled with sarcasm, which in turn made me realise this was the first time I had used such a tone since arriving; quite surprising given that it’s usually my second native tongue. I also became rather irritable and felt stabs of annoyance against other people who were purging or obviously struggling with a terrible experience. Each time, this set off a torrent of self-loathing – this is not who I am and not how I would usually react in such instances. I started to doubt the actual medicine – had the first ceremony’s purgatory really been healing or was that just my way of trying to rationalise another "bad trip"? I clenched my jaw in anger and tried desperately to will myself back into the sacred mind-set I had hovered in ever since arriving – one I had assumed would be with me all the way through and a long while upon returning home. Occasionally, when shifting positions on the mattress, I would feel my stomach rumbling and almost pray for nausea, purging or anything that would indicate that I was actually affected.

View from above

Once the maestros performed the second seal and lit the candle, I moped back to my room in sullen silence. As I made my way back I heard someone start a brutal purging, an output that often hallmarks the Ayahuasca onset – it’s not unheard of that the medicine will take hours to activate. I remember thinking "lucky bastard" and contemplating if this would happen to me when I got back to my bed. As I brushed my teeth, I heard the same person start groaning – primal female moans that soon escalated to deafening shrieks reverberating of rage, panic and fear. They kept increasing and getting more hysterical and after approximately five minutes I headed back to see what was going on and if I could help. Shortly after I re-entered the maloca, I saw don Howard entering from the other side – someone had fetched him from his quarters. As soon as he appeared the poor girl, who had her head buried in the mattress and obviously didn’t see him coming, calmed down again. In the sharing the day after she said she sensed a white, glowing figure approaching and giving her comfort. Had this little episode taken place earlier in the ceremony when everyone else was deeply entrenched in the medicine, it would have completely changed the dynamic and become sole focus of all attention. I couldn’t help but think that the entity residing in the murky potion intentionally delayed the onset of her treatment until everyone else’s was over. Before returning to my room I quickly checked up on someone I had witnessed go through something seemingly agonising – to the point where he had to beg don Howard for help. He was visibly shaken but appeared to have recuperated somewhat. The next day, people were giving matching eye witness accounts of witnessing don Howard tear a red orb of negative energy from within him.

Instead of the comforting release from waking torment I had hoped sleep would bring, I spent the entirety of the night tossing and turning – grinding doubt and bitterness through my head. The first time I had a look at the clock it was 6:58 am – almost identical to the previous night. Instead of yielding to insomnia to start this report I scoffed at the idea – I felt there was simply no point, as not a damn thing had happened. An hour or so later when my partner woke up, I joined her to the flower bath – not because it felt warranted to close the non-ceremony but rather to get it over with. While waiting for my turn I began dreading breakfast – wondering if I would demean myself further by resenting people who had a good experience. Or any kind of experience! Once the pleasantly fragranced and cool water splashed over me I immediately felt better and during the accompanying icaro I actually started to feel a bit sheepish. Still tired and grumpy I joined the others for breakfast but was relieved to find myself genuinely interested in hearing about their evening. Heading back I ran into don Howard talking to a few people and stopped to listen. He asked me about my experience and I told him – fortunately in a much less cynical and self-pitying manner than I would have a few hours earlier. He said that it appeared as if I had actually undergone a rather powerful medicinal effect and reminded me that Ayahuasca doesn’t always work the way we think she does. This is when I realised that this had been a test, one I had barely scraped through and had laid bare some traits that I was unaware of. I remain in admiration and wonder at the extraordinarily peculiar plant spirit whose communion keeps you constantly guessing.

A variety of psychoactive vegetation grows on the premises; among others is the beautiful Bobinsana tree. Drinking an essence brewed from it is known to have heart-opening qualities while also promoting lucid dreaming.

Third ceremony

My mental groundwork was greatly aided by don Howard being kind enough to lend me his ear and wisdom about an hour before take-off. Before convening in the maloca I headed up to the star deck – the usually grey skies had parted completely to reveal stars in the night sky, shining with such a burning intensity in the absence of light pollution that it rivalled images on the NASA website; massively uplifting. This evening’s intention was imploring the medicine to annihilate all doubts and allow me to be submerged in her presence. Point being, to let go and lose control – immersed in the deeper levels of shamanic trance. This time there was no fear. Kneeling, I downed the full cup while smiling. The emerging headspace was accompanied by the now traditional gush of nausea – but no purge. Once the worst of it passed, leaving a small lingering feeling in my gut – I identified my current state as very similar to how I felt before going to the toilet on the second ceremony. Perhaps slightly stronger but nowhere near intense. Determined not to submit to frustration I sat surveying the maloca and murmuring my intention as a mantra each time undesirable thoughts made their way into my head. After ten minutes I smoked some mapacho, remembering that if done during the onset it is said to aid the purge and intensify the experience. It did.

Within minutes, I found myself doubled over – face down in the purge bucket. I remained there for the duration of the ceremony. Physically, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so cripplingly ill. Pounding convulsions of rotten sickness with occasional dribbling vomit. Interesting to note; each purge took place during the beginning of an icaro. However, as debilitating as this was I found myself grinning all the way through, as well as being hurled between intergalactic planes. The latter could easily have brought me back to that void of soul-tearing hellfire that consumed the first ceremony. I didn’t fight it and let the medicine take me wherever she deemed appropriate. This ended up being a good place. At one point I felt my consciousness break free and completely separate from my body and ego. I was no longer myself. I got the feeling I had returned to the source, whatever that means. This is my one point of regret – I was so startled by this and distracted by the ailments of my physical anchor that I found myself thinking, "Wait a moment, I’m quite certain that I was a person once". I glanced to the side and saw myself in my current physical manifestation; with this came the realisation of who I am and where I was. I wonder if this was another test – if so, I probably failed. Perhaps this was the opportunity I asked for in my intentions and had I only fully melted into it I could have soared away and explored without fleshly manacles. I can’t fault myself too much though, as this was entirely inadvertent. I didn’t choose to flee, had this been the case I would have been really disheartened. Having glimpsed myself from the outside I was given the chance to scrutinise myself without the blindfolds of ego shackling my judgement. To me, this is one of the most desirable gifts of clarity from psychoactive vegetation. I found myself quite content with what I glimpsed, who I am and what I have accomplished. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but fully respectable given what I’ve had to work with thus far. I was filled with enormous gratitude for the life I’m currently living. I share a wonderful home with two cherished cats and the best woman in the world. I have a job that I genuinely enjoy and that gives me the financial means to do things like this. I couldn’t ask for better friends, a list that has grown substantially since setting foot in SpiritQuest. Despite my body seemingly going through the later stages of Ebola, I felt positively radiant with bliss and euphoria.

The remainder of the ceremony was a bit of a blur, with being tumultuously hurled between different states of sensory extremes, purging and utter visual confusion. At one point, don Howard was standing over me watching for an extended period of time, this made me feel very safe but curious as to what warranted this attention. To my baffled astonishment, I simultaneously saw him bringing someone out of the maloca – something he later confirmed never happened. Seeing him at multiple places at once remained constant throughout the ceremony. I’ve tried several times now to describe the more metaphysical aspects of what happened but I just can’t seem to find the words for it. Periodically through the experience, I was beset by the most smothering drowsiness I have ever felt in my life. Despite intentionally sitting in an uncomfortable position, rocking back and forth, vomiting, forcing my eyes open and grappling with confusion I could barely stop myself from falling asleep face first into my purge bucket. It felt as if both body and mind were being shut down, even my vision went dim. In retrospect, I don’t know if it was the medicine trying to pull me into a visionary trance but at the time I was petrified of dozing off and starting to snore. Unable to move, I was also bursting for a piss – to the extent where I for a split second contemplated urinating in my purge bucket. Fortunately, this notion was thoroughly strangled at birth. While battling these ailments, it was primarily the icaros that kept me grounded.

Just minutes after the second seal had been administered I felt much better, I was even able to sit up properly. With the candle lit I put on my headphones and listened to some very special music made by my friend for precisely these kinds of activities. Icaros of a different musical tradition but created in much the same way and for similar purposes. While submerged in his sonic spells I was gifted the most powerful and clear vision thus far. A feminine figure clad in a white hooded robe, face hidden by darkness and hands in namaste, appeared on the Ayahuasca mandala tapestry on the wall behind the altar holding the candle. I interpreted this as the plant spirit revealing herself to me. Back in bed it was instantly evident that I would not be getting a wink of sleep this night either. I felt so ecstatic that I didn’t care. I lay in bed contemplating what had happened, listening to music in my headphones and squirming rhythmically along to the music.

One of the many gardens surrounding the sanctuary.

Fourth ceremony

This time, the brew tasted so inconceivably vile that it almost came right back up again. The previous ones were certainly no aromatic delights but this took the onslaught of rot and mould to unsurpassed levels. I recall pondering whether this was a good sign or not. The answer to that inquiry manifested itself soon enough – absolutely staggering nausea but without the accompanying charge and spark that indicates the treatment has begun. Feeling too sick to even analyse this, I crouched over the purge bucket praying for release. Nothing, besides the sedating slumber that almost forced me into subjugation two nights prior. The icaros came and went but the rotten feeling persisted. After perhaps half the ceremony I decided to take a more hands-on approach by drinking a few mouthfuls of water and then making myself burp. The repulsive sludge tasted even worse as it burst from my gut with torrential force. The relief, however, was so profound that I staggered back against the wall to just sit breathing blissfully for quite a while.

A short while later, it became evident as to why the enigmatic plant spirit decided to keep me grounded for this session. I was made witness to some particularly harrowing events that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to handle burrowed deep within the rabbit hole. It would have sent me tumbling down lunacy’s abyss, to the point where I’m unsure I would have re-emerged unbroken. I lay for a long time, trying to fathom what had transpired – to make sense of the impossible. My pragmatic self dismissed the authenticity of it, opting for assumptions of psychosis and mass hysteria. Once the candle had been lit, I stalked don Howard out of the maloca and asked for a moment of his time. He confirmed that what had taken place was in fact real and that he has seen it many times before. He said that the affected individual had once invited something in and that it had just come out, unwillingly. As with the previous sessions, nothing will ever quite be the same again.

Apologies for not going into greater details about what transpired – I don’t mean to be cryptic. I did however decide from the start not to reveal anything about anyone else’s experience as it really isn’t my place to share such things and writing more would violate this.

The Ayahuasca vine grows in abundance around SpiritQuest

Fifth ceremony

Final serpent rite; two cups for this one. The cerebral lunar tides flooded in faster and more overwhelming than in any previous experience, drowning my mind with a mixture of fright, rapture and fascination. As the intensity solidified, the terrifying aspects absorbed other impressions and I found myself dreading the extinguishing of the final candle. Once solid blackness covered the maloca I started craving the icaro. Visions permeated my view. A mist filled with a hundred gazing eyes. Two enormous amber feline eyes swept the ceiling. Features of an owl in the night sky. Like a prayer bead, I kept rubbing the Ayahuasca necklace I had purchased from a local tribe – it had a calming influence. As if someone whispered straight into my ear, I was gifted a mantra directly from the spring – "No fear, no doubts – let me heal, help me understand"; I repeated this endlessly. The nausea was strong but very brief this time, I purged during the first icaro – following which I felt much better equipped to ride the waves. I was almost disappointed when the fear was mediated and my journey morphed from external travelling to a more introverted evaluation.

I found myself thinking about my mother, how I don’t know much about her childhood and adolescent years or what she did prior to meeting my father. I made a point to sit down and talk to her about it. I thought about my late grandparents, in particular my grandfather – the relative who was the closest to me and who I am said to take after the most. I would like to think that he would be proud of me, even if he knew my deepest, darkest secrets. I thought a lot about my friends and pondered for the first time that I tend to be someone that people confide in and turn to for advice when they are having problems. That is precisely how I would like to be remembered, should I perish on the morrow. I was shown instances from the past, featuring friends that I no longer see as much as I would like to. I vowed to get in touch with them upon returning home, to let them know how much I have valued their friendship and loyalty over the years. This process was emotionally overwhelming and tears streamed down my face for the duration of this phase. It also struck me that I had not told a single white lie since arriving to the premises, something that can be near impossible to navigate normal life without.

I realised that what had transpired the past week had left me irrevocably changed, to extents that I have yet to fully grasp. Bereavement and restoration in vomit and weeping. My old self was scorched earth and salted soil, never to be revisited. I tried to fathom how I am to adequately give an account of this to the few people back home who know what I’m doing – a phrase I like to use is that it’s like trying to describe colours to someone who’s been blind since birth. A flashlight briefly illuminating the room showed don Howard sitting in his chair, the white giant keeping watch over us. The marble pillar that between ceremonies had been my radiant lodestar, when I’d been stumbling in the dark – unable to find my way. I have learned more from my endless inquiries and his patient answers than I ever have from reading books. I have learned equally much from my fellow travellers, but in other ways such as human interaction. Had anyone told my friends that I’d been baring my soul and weeping openly in front of complete strangers that I met by drinking fermented regurgitative jungle cocktails they would likely be cautioned of impending defamation lawsuits.

Once the candle had been lit I remained on my mattress, listening to my friend’s music and just gaping in reverence and astonishment. I was soaring through all I had learned – fully content but still a little confused. Fortunately free from disappointment I was still somewhat perplexed that I, besides the first ceremony (which was beyond intense), wasn’t affected more in terms of the most spoken about effects of Ayahuasca. The deep visionary states and communication with beings. This felt particularly strange as I’m usually highly receptive to entheogens. I almost melted into the mattress when I realised that this is because Ayahuasca is primarily a medicine, rather than a facilitator of experience. I hope this doesn’t come across the wrong way but when I came here I wasn’t really in great need of serious healing – certainly not in comparison with the truly moving stories many of my comrades had shared with us. The notable exception was processing the torment I was forced to re-live during the first ceremony. Once this was done – for which I am eternally indebted to the medicine and the curanderos who so expertly and compassionately administer her – the remaining ceremonies were rather mild in comparison despite sometimes significantly higher dosages. Nonetheless, addressing issues within myself I had been blind to. In closing, my greatest gift from this is the knowledge of what this venture has done for the woman I intend to grow old with. One intention I brought into each ceremony, but that I left unspoken in the subsequent sharing sessions and this journal, was to see her healed.

The centre has several recreational areas

E. L. Haze


The author is in his mid-thirties and a relative new-comer to the pastures of visionary vegetation, having wandered in while exploring other mysteries. A writer by trade, he earns a living covering more mundane matters but has long harboured ambitions to broaden his subject range. Besides interdimensional tourism, international travel is another keen interest and something enthusiastically combined with the former when opportunity arises.