No Ayahuasca for Me

Lunes 03May10

The Army

After I had slathered exposed portions of my skin with sunscreen and Deet (finishing the 34% tube of cream), and after a brief rain shower we went to “our” restaurant for breakfast. 

While there we heard, down the Malecòn in front of the military headquarters (beautifully covered in antique Portuguese tiles), a military band and shouts in unison from a large contingent of men.  Mary and I hurried down.

Over two hundred men (and a few women) in digital camouflage and shiny black boots jogged in place to jazzy military music.  (It sounded a bit like New Orleans.)  Then they jogged in ordered ranks down the street on the way to the central park, to the music of the numerous saxophones, a trombone, trumpets, a snare and a base drum.

We later asked Victor (at La Pascana Hostel) if today was a holiday.  He said no, that the men just need to dance occasionally.


After we returned to our balcony, two young Shipibo women spread out beautiful embroidered cloths on the park bench below.  Their blouses were fuschia and turquoise with contrasting ruffles, their skirts the same embroidered cloth they were displaying.  I bought one for S/. 85 ($30) and Mary bought two for her kids. 

I was tempted to buy more for presents, but I was just about out of money except for the soles for the airport tax to be able to leave, the last two nights at the hostel, and the rest of my meals.  No lattes in the Miami airport!


A friend asked me if I’d taken ayahuasca while I was down there, and other than seeing the restaurant menus for the Ayahuasca Diet, with no sugar, oil, or salt, I knew only that it was a psychedelic drug and that you needed a week for the experience. 

Ayahuasca is a powerfully psychedelic South American brew traditionally made from the B. caapi vine…One of its primary effects is considered to be the vomiting (the purge) that accompanies the experience.

(More info from

But in doing my research today I came up with this article  from National Geographic and I actually was sorry that I hadn’t used ayahuasca.  This, in particular, interested me:

At the vanguard of this research is Charles Grob, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UCLA’s School of Medicine. In 1993 Dr. Grob launched the Hoasca Project, the first in-depth study of the physical and psychological effects of ayahuasca on humans. His team went to Brazil, where the plant mixture can be taken legally, to study members of a native church, the União do Vegetal (UDV), who use ayahuasca as a sacrament, and compared them to a control group that had never ingested the substance. The studies found that all the ayahuasca-using UDV members had experienced remission without recurrence of their addictions, depression, or anxiety disorders. In addition, blood samples revealed a startling discovery: Ayahuasca seems to give users a greater sensitivity to serotonin—one of the mood-regulating chemicals produced by the body—by increasing the number of serotonin receptors on nerve cells.

Unlike most common antidepressants, which Grob says can create such high levels of serotonin that cells may actually compensate by losing many of their serotonin receptors, the Hoasca Project showed that ayahuasca strongly enhances the body’s ability to absorb the serotonin that’s naturally there.

You should read the entire article.  It’s great.


For lunch we took Miriam (owner of La Noche) to la Casa de Fitzcarraldo, where Isaias (some records say Carlos) Fermín Fitzcarrald lived around 1890. Jim and Mary took a motocarro and I rode over there behind Miriam on her motorcycle.  No helmets.  I thought maybe I shouldn’t be wearing thong sandals, and then realized that she was wearing them too.  No lines on the roads.  Chuck full of motorcycles and motocarros, a few buses and two trucks that we passed.  And dogs, seemingly unconcerned with traffic, lazing along the side of the road.  50km/hr. 

A four-story tree house as well as other buildings and a very clean pool.   I must see the movie by Werner Herzog again.  There’s an article in  Miriam then picked up her young son from school and he joined us for a languid lunch.

The Wrap-Up

In the afternoon my friends needed to wrap up all of the business matters, such as how much wire for the enclosure, top too, for the pen for the fowl.  But the man who had been contracted to incubate the eggs quit, so the hundreds of eggs, brought from the US at not an inconsiderable expense, may all be dead.  And the deposit given to the aluminum boat builder must be retrieved, as he had said that he couldn’t do it.

Divide and conquer.  Mary and Tito and I left to pick up the rest of the T-shirts.  (Their mannekin looked like a horrible futbol accident, missing fingers and toes bandaged.)  But no, they were not done.  Now we ordered the next 13.  They said that’d be ready in two hours.  We would see.  

Next we returned the cerveza cartons and empties.  After that we thought to take in a museum to fill the time, but it appeared to be closed or moved. 

Museo Etnográfico

The more than 70 statues of indigenous women, children, men and high chiefs of western Amazonia are the highlight of the Museo Etnográfico in Iquitos. Their creator preserved tribe members for all time in traditional dress and poses, as the region developed and these peoples lost their foothold. The statues ring the museum courtyard, gleaming gold in the tropical sun. Members of the Shipibo, Iquitos, Yagua, Bora and several other tribes are represented. They are fiberglass but look bronzed. One is frozen in time as he looks down and another is ready to let loose an arrow. A bare-chested chief in a 65-feather head dress holds his arms outstretched, his neck and wrists heavy with jewelry. He’s captured with his eyes closed and his head tilted to the sky.

It started to rain, so I convinced Mary to give it up.  Luckily.  That morning we had asked the proprietor (of La Pascana) to check on our plane reservations for tomorrow.  The flights from Iquitos to Lima had been changed.  My new flight was fine, but my friends were now on a later flight with only 20 minutes to change planes in Lima.  The travel person worked to correct that error, so they’d be on the same plane as I would be on.

Jim reported that the aluminum boat builder had already spent the S/. 1000 and would now construct the boat.  They had spent yet another two hours discussing that.  So life goes on in third world countries.

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2 Responses to “No Ayahuasca for Me”

  1. MapMaker Mike Says:

    I think you’d like a video and article I made about ayahuasca and the perception of reality….come check it out if you get a chance.

  2. Jim Says:

    Shaman Ramon Cumpanam is renowed for his ayahuasca treatments. I once asked him what is he experienced. He replied by raising his fists, chin, shoulders, and chest. This led me to suspect that it was traditionally taken by the Achual and other Amerinds, primarily to enhance courage before their war raids.

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