Walking barefoot in the jungles of the Amazon, I was on an entirely different frequency. The rain on my skin, the thick humid air, the mud between my toes. I can still feel it if I really come into my heart space.
I can feel it all.
Everything I have ever loved, all at once.
Today I started to realize the depths of my death from doing Ayahuasca… and that I never stopped to grieve.
After not sleeping for about 48 hours, Amy and I arrived in Iquitos, Peru. We were on different flights and met up during a 5 hour layover in Lima, but spent all that time talking and eating awesome free food at the VIP lounge Amy had access to because of her credit card.
Dreamglade requires you to stay in Iquitos the first night you fly in to get some rest because you basically go straight into your first ceremony as soon as you get to the center. However, the way we planned our trip was that we would get into town at 7am, check into our room at La Casa Chacruna, then hook up with Victor, a jungle guide from Kambo Jungle Expeditions to go on an adventure until about 5pm. I always try to make the most out of my trips and wanted to do a bit of sightseeing before spending the entire time at the retreat. In hindsight, we really needed rest and basically jumped out of the airplane into an exhausting adventure, but it was SO worth it.
As soon as we got off the plane in Iquitos, we were swarmed with people trying to sell us things. Much to our surprise, most foreigners in town are specifically there FOR ayahuasca, and the locals know how to take advantage of polite Westerners. It totally happened to us, with a guy immediately getting into our taxi with us on the way to town, trying to sell us stuff — ayahuasca, a jungle expedition at HIS retreat, things FOR ayahuasca ceremonies — he even tried to get us to come to his house that he claimed looked like “Jurassic Park”, and when we didn’t go with him he charged us double the normal taxi fare. SO PLEASE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO. Don’t tell ANYONE where you’re staying, where you’re going, and what you’re doing. BE SAFE.
Basically right after we made it into La Casa Chacruna, Victor showed up and gave us a tour of Bela Market in Iquitos. Then we embarked on a journey down the Amazon River to an awesome butterfly farm and jungle wildlife rescue called Pilpintuwasi, a really great floating restaurant where we did rapé for the first time, and monkey island where we got to play with a ton of cute monkeys 🙂 Hanging out with Victor was awesome because there’s not much to do in Iquitos without a boat and hard to communicate if you don’t know Spanish. After what happened at the airport we were a little shaken up, so we felt a lot safer to be with someone who knew their way around. We learned so much from him and he was so kind and accommodating, even offering us Kambo which we spontaneously agreed to do.
Pilpintuwasi was AMAZING, and such a great first stop in Peru. We got to take an intimate look at the metamorphosis cycle of a variety of butterflies and get up close and personal with some jungle wildlife. The owner was telling us how a lot of people who live in the Amazon, especially foreigners, would try to keep some of these creatures as pets and not know how to take care of them. All the animals at the sanctuary were rescues, including a beautiful jaguar who she said was left on her friend’s doorstep wrapped in barbed wire 😦 Seriously… humans really suck sometimes. It was nice to see the animals being well taken care of by people who really care.
It was also a dream to go to Monkey Island. I had NEVER been so close to monkeys, and it was pretty surreal getting to swing them by their tails and have them jump all over you. One of the babies didn’t want me to leave their side, and it struck me to my core that these are basically like little humans…with really strong tails. The trip was long, but so well worth it. I would highly recommend both of these places if you’re in the area, especially if you love animals.
In the middle of the day we had lunch at the Amazon Oasis Lodge. Most restaurants in the area have an “ayahuasca menu,” since there’s a specific diet to take into consideration with ceremony. I was surprised by how delicious the food still was! Booking Kambo Jungle Expeditions with Victor was seriously such a fantastic idea… a great way to have some amazing experiences in a short amount of time, with no real effort of figuring out where to go ourselves. We honestly weren’t expecting to do rapé OR kambo, but in my opinion this was the best possible way to kick off the journey, and Victor was so accommodating. We were there to heal with sacred jungle medicine and Amy said she would do whatever I was down to do… and I was desperate enough to do anything. It sounds bad, but I was really in need of some deep healing. I regret nothing, and thankfully we had the perfect guide 🙂
Rapé is basically jungle snuff that you inhale through your nose. It’s a combination of various medicinal herbs (Victor had us take 2 different kinds, one made out of 15 herbs, another 25) that helps focus and sharpen the mind, clear energetic fields for ayahuasca ceremonies, detox mind and body, clear sinuses of mucus and bacteria to combat sickness, and help with mental illness like depression and anxiety. It made us feel GREAT!!! 😀 Really awesome intro for the journey we were about to embark on.
Similar to the rapé, kambo is supposed to help clear your body of panema, the negativity that builds up over time. In that same vein, it’s a great remedy for mental disorders like depression and anxiety, making you feel more joyous about life. It’s also just overall great for the body and the immune system. He said he never got sick again after doing kambo regularly. Victor even explained to us how it even cured his grandma of cancer doing it twice a week for 6 months. He had told us also that he had done ayahuasca but he felt kambo was more in line with his own healing… how horrible his life was and when he did kambo for the first time, he had a vision of being surrounded by people laughing at him, then a huge frog appearing and embracing him. From then on he started to administer kambo and has seen miracles.
To me, kambo was actually more painful than ayahuasca OR sananga, and I think it’s simply because it’s mostly physical. I also had eaten so much that morning and also at lunch, so when my mouth started swelling, it was really gross to feel a ton of pieces of food come up and I couldn’t tell the difference between my skin and the food. The sensations are really hard to describe, and Victor explained that everyone reacts differently. I for example, was clawing at my legs a lot because I was so uncomfortable, to the point where Amy had to massage my hand and it was so helpful just to know she was there. It was SUPERRRR intense. She on the other hand mostly sweated on her entire body, and seemed to take it way better than me.
The pain only lasts about 20-25 min until it starts to subside, and you can feel it traveling up your body, from your toes to your face. I remember when it got to my torso area and went up my neck, I thought I was gonna die. I kept having to tell myself to breathe, and remembered that I had to live for Eddy and Han. It was also really helpful to have Amy and Victor there, because I knew that it would all pass and they were making sure I’d be safe. Victor had even said beforehand that sometimes people faint, but he knew how to bring them back (which was kinda a scary thought and I prayed beyond anything that I didn’t faint because he made it sound almost like your heart could stop? Haha)
After the kambo, I felt FANTASTIC. Although our faces were super swollen and made us seriously “one with the frog,” I at least felt like I had tons of energy and was positive to the point of taking on the world! This sensation lasted throughout the next day, and probably even into our stay at Dreamglade.
Regardless of how alive I felt, we still passed out pretty quick after the kambo for like… 13 hours, which ended up being the best sleep I got the whole trip so I’m really grateful for it. The next morning we felt refreshed and ready to head to Dreamglade! 🙂
Deciding to do Ayahuasca at Dreamglade was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I swear I’ve watched every single ayahuasca video on youtube, looked into every center in the amazon, and spent hours and hours reading reviews. I couldn’t help being nervous setting out on the journey, but as soon as Stacy (the owner) picked us up from Iquitos, I knew I had made the right decision and couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.
The reason that research is important is because Ayahuasca is the main source of tourism in some parts of South America and there are a lot of people doing it for the wrong reasons. Ayahuasca is NOT a drug… it’s a medicine and needs to be administered in the right way for HEALING. It works best if you feel called to it, and have specific intentions about why you want to do it. It’s definitely NOT to have fun and trip out…it’s HARD WORK. People even say that your intentions guide you to the center and ayahuasca experience that’s meant for you. Here’s a tour video I took on the last day to remember what it was like walking around the place…I miss it SOOOO much. It makes my heart ache.
At Dreamglade we were immediately told that their main goal at the center isn’t a “light show for the Westerners” but legit healing. If not done right, it can cause people to have psychotic episodes and return home worse than when they came. Some shamans, called “Brujos,” can even steal your energy, or invite bad spirits in to mess with you. Also when you’re on the medicine, you are in a really sensitive, vulnerable state that continues post ceremony, even into integration, and I’ve heard about people being taken advantage of at some centers and even raped.
In my research I noticed that some places even sell tourist packages that include something like, one ayahuasca ceremony and then a jungle adventure or something, which seemed shady to me to begin with, but after actually TAKING the medicine I have no idea how people even do that. If you plan on using this to truly heal, you’re gonna need time to recover from this thing and process your experience. I’m not even sure how, at some centers, people can do ceremonies days in a row. At Dreamglade they actually require you to do 4 ceremonies MINIMUM, to give you adequate time to get used to the medicine, with the ceremonies every other day with rest in between. Those rest days were SO important. A LOT comes up that you just don’t understand, and I can’t imagine not having the right people around to help you through it.
Stacy, the owner, started up his center around 5 years ago and was really honest about the process of getting used to doing these ceremonies. We came at a really good time because by now, they REALLY know what they’re doing and you feel VERY SAFE the ENTIRETY OF YOUR STAY. I decided on Dreamglade because I felt, more than any other center that I’d come across, Stacy and Drew, his right hand man, are doing it for the right reasons. They recognize that the world is pretty messed up, and our only hope as a species is to heal ourselves, one by one, because only after we heal ourselves can that energy diffuse to others. The work that they do there is absolutely unbelievable… you can feel the power and love radiating from their shamans, Raul and Lidia. The entire staff is amazing because everyone plays such a specific role in taking care of guests coming in and supporting the great work of the shamans. So much sacrifice goes into running the place, and it can only be described as a labor of love for everyone there. To get a sense of what I mean, I urge you to watch the documentary. Here’s the link!
What immediately stood out to me was the general vibe of both the place and the people who work there. They’re not trying to sell you anything — they’re just very down to earth, genuine, amazing people, and it’s easy to get a sense of that from watching the video. Stacy really put his blood, sweat and tears into designing and creating the center himself, and when you’re there… the atmosphere is completely magical. SUCH great design, cozy spaces… thought put into every corner.
Something else I really love about Dreamglade is how picky they are with who they admit to the center, and how small they keep the groups (only 9 guests max at a time). You’re attending a retreat with a bunch of strangers with, in some cases a lot of emotional baggage, and that adds to the atmosphere of the whole experience. I was actually almost turned away from Dreamglade because of my bipolar diagnosis, and I immediately freaked out because they were my number one choice. Regardless of this, I still got a great vibe from Jann, the woman who handles their email correspondence. She explained that above all they were concerned about safety, for not only myself but their guests. When I signed up for the retreat I had been newly diagnosed and wasn’t aware that being bipolar was an issue, but she said that it could lead to manic or psychotic episodes depending on how severe the disorder was. I was clearly heartbroken in the emails, so Jann said she would run my case by Stacy, and she let me fill out their questionnaire anyway, which by the way is very extensive. I felt like I was writing a college entrance essay the way I responded to that questionnaire… and I basically begged to get in. I even sent them this video about the healing potential of ayahuasca for people with bipolar… it was literally my last resort.
I was sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear back from Jann and Stace about whether they would let me come to Dreamglade, and because I’m so impatient I actually emailed about 10 other centers while waiting, but none of them felt right for me. Stace says that both him and Jann are very intuitive and have been doing it for so long that they can tell when something is a little “off” about a person, and they don’t hesitate to turn anyone away.
I can tell they do a fantastic job with their screening process because we were able to experience two groups of people while we were there and everyone was awesome, good vibes all around 🙂 I also had SO many questions and Jann was super quick and thorough about answering them all….the Dreamglade staff is seriously just top notch. They showed me the true power of collaboration, communication, compassion and love. Thankfully I was allowed to come…I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else.
I uploaded some raw videos mostly for archive purposes, but I might as well share them here. This is the first one that was supposed to be an account of my first ceremony but turned into going a bit into why I decided to do ayahuasca and Dreamglade praise 🙂