CARGO BOAT – DAY 1
I’m still mentally and physically dealing with one of the most intense experiences of my life — meeting my shaman in a remote part of the Amazon and drinking five bowls of Ayahuasca to become inducted into the indigenous community — leaving my body and crossing into the natural-spiritual world in the process.
Now I’m on a cargo boat full of 4×4’s, motorcycles and local passengers heading down the Rio Madeiro towards Bolivia. Our boat is large and sturdy. Next to me are some teenage-looking parents with a baby all in one hammock. Too young, but too cute to judge.
Just after dark we depart the Manaus harbor and pass a factory the size of a village. It looks menacingly efficient in whatever job it’s doing to harvest the raw materials from the lungs of the world.
Manaus is a gritty port city that became famous for its rubber boom in the late 1800’s as colonialists began harvesting rubber trees, enslaving and eradicating indigenous tribes in the process. The boom was so booming that a massive Parisian-styled opera house was erected in 1896, ominously named The Amazon Theatre.
My tour guide tells me there’s basically no corporate tax here and thus Honda and other multinationals have erected huge factories to take advantage. Most infamously, Chanel, the French luxury fashion house, nearly eradicated the Rosewood Tree from the Amazon to extract fragrant oils for its “Channel N°5” — all so rich women could smell more rich.
I’m glad to be leaving Manaus. After returning from a tribal lodge with no electricity in a remote part of the jungle, the horrors of city life revealed themselves in shocking clarity. People in the street hawking plastic crap; drivers nearly running down pedestrians to get some place of no real significance; and everyone else staring into their cell phones like zombies, searching for brains.
Abort Mission Civilization. Get me out of this horror show and back into the jungle. After six days sleeping in hammocks with the cacophony of animals, insects, and reptiles permeating my mosquito net, I can’t even sleep in a fancy hotel room. I feel like the A/C is poisoning me, and it probably is.
At least I’m back in my hammock now on the cargo boat — my green cocoon that re-birthed me into the animal world after the most fear-inducing and vomitus part of my trip.
Just days ago I had been lying on the floor of the tribal lodge in a mess of green chunks as I left my body and entered that of a reptile. From above, I watched myself slithering out from the swamp, ejecting muck (Ayahuasca) in some sort of primordial-spiritual hatching of my consciousness.
CARGO BOAT — DAY 2
When I awake it’s bread, butter and sugary coffee for breakfast. Next to me, teen mom wants teen dad to hold the baby — but he just wants to play video games on his phone. Most passengers are staring at their phones to kill time and I get some funny looks as I pull out my journal, a green Jurassic World notebook with a velociraptor on the cover.
I’m writing about the visions I had on my trip after I drank my fifth dose of Ayahuasca and ventured out of the ceremonial lodge. The air was ethereal; some alien environment which I cut through with my hand, making snaking, liquid movements. The sandy beachfront turned into a glass-like surface, illuminated from below with blue and white camouflage patterns. The palm trees above were visible breathing the ethereal air, in-and-out.
The sticks on the beach were moving like snakes and I made sure not to step on them as I worked my way towards shore. There, I laid down on the dock and looked up into the stars which were darting around randomly.
What is this place? Some sort of parallel, more vividly-colorful reality that exists once the curtain is pulled back on our concrete world? The Amazon Theatre, indeed. I’ve seen glimpses of it on LSD trips, but this was much more pure. Can it be accessed without hallucinogens? I’ve heard it’s possible through Kundalini Yoga … something to explore later.
After dinner on the boat I’m reading “We,” the 1921 dystopian novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin, and this passage comes up:
“We, on earth, are constantly walking over a bubbling crimson sea of fire, hidden there in the belly of the earth. But we never think of it. But what if suddenly the fine crust under our feet becomes glass, and suddenly we could see…”— Yevgeny Zamyatin, “We”
CARGO BOAT — DAY 3
In the morning I do my yoga and meditation on the stern and come up with a vision for the rest of my trip in South America (all visions subject to change). Later I talk to the captain and learn that our boat reaches Puerto Velho in three days, not one day as I’d been anticipating … fuck.
I recently noticed a parasite in my foot; some sort of worm that’s been moving around at clip of 1/2 cm per-day, causing bad itching. What to do besides head to the canteen and drink some beers. I get to know some of the guys onboard in the process, and share travel stories in broken Portuguese as no one speaks English.
Beer: the universal remedy for quelling boredom, loneliness, foot parasites, whatever.
After dark, and without warning, our boat reverses its engines before hitting a giant dirt embankment. I think we’ve almost run aground, but it turns out to be some shady, makeshift dock. We unload two Mitsubishi 4×4’s to some guys on dirt bikes before quickly exiting the scene with our ship lights off.
Sketchy mission accomplished.
CARGO BOAT — DAY 4
Onboard I’m reading “We” and it’s hitting all the right chords. Funny how you find the right book just when you’re ready to receive the message, no sooner no later.
“Mankind ceased to be savage when we built the Green Wall, when we isolated our perfect machined world from the irrational, chaotic world of the trees, birds, animals. But what if the yellow-eyed being — in his ridiculous bundle of trees — is happier that us?”— Yevgeny Zamyatin, “We”
Prior to my Ayahuasca ceremony, I spent two months traveling Brazil learning some Portuguese, then one week in the Amazon on a Igapó (backwater) canoe trip sleeping in the jungle with two local guides. To purify my body for the ceremony, I completed two weeks detox from all alcohol, drugs, technology, and sex.
For me, this was the bare minimum, considering: 1) it was my first time in the Amazon, 2) my first time taking Ayahuasca, and 3) I was to be the only person staying with the tribe for the ceremony.
I was dropped off via passenger ferry boat at the tribal dock, with one bag of raw fish, one bag of fruit, my hammock and backpack. A German girl on the ferry gave me a look I won’t soon forget, like, “Oh my…“
The Shaman didn’t speak English, but did speak Portuguese in addition to the indigenous language, so we could communicate good enough. He welcomed me into his hut for a dinner of fish and rice, which his wife cooked deliciously.
I explained to the Shaman in that I’m from Wisconsin, U.S.A., I’ve been traveling through Brazil for two months and was previously in India riding motorcycles in the Himalayas, which he seemed to find amusing.
He told me I’ll be the first foreigner to stay with their tribe in one year-and-eight-months — a major privilege, which I acknowledged. In the morning his son took me out into the jungle to learn about medicinal plants and how to a shoot a blow gun.
CARGO BOAT — DAY 5
On the river I befriend some young boys, sharing my binoculars and camera as we scope out strange boats. We passes a flotilla of what looks to be 20 house boats outfitted with cranes and tubes. They’re trolling the riverbed, suctioning up sand and sifting it through conveyer belts for gold. One of them apparently hits the jackpot as they shoot up a celebratory flare into the sky.
I do my yoga and meditation, which has been a lifesaver with no other activities available apart from wandering around the decks.
I just can’t believe I’ve been on this friggen’ boat for five days. I swear the guy who sold me the trip told me it was four days and we still have one more day left. It’s unnervingly hot in the midday heat, so I lay in my hammock and pass out.
CARGO BOAT — DAY 6
Further questions about my Ayahuasca trip are emerging as I sunbathe on the top deck. It’s a beautiful, final day onboard and I’m in the right state of mind to dive deeper into my mysteries, such as:
When I had my out-of-body experience watching myself vomit from above was I occupying some undefined space? Or was I looking through the eyes of my Shaman who had earlier initiated me as a brother to himself and his sons?
And when I look up to my shaman, is it just myself, looking up at myself, looking down at myself? If so, does that mean that my ancestors also traveled here from the Orion Constellation thousands of years ago along with the tribe?
According to the Shaman’s ceremonial story, the tribe of hunters originate from Orion. They traveled to earth via worm hole thousands of years ago in the belly of a giant Space Snake (pictured at top of post), gravitating to the strong energy vibrations of the Amazon, where they found the spiritual Ayahuasca plant.
Now it’s afternoon and our Cargo Boat finally reaches Puerto Velho. I only have a few days left on my visa in Brazil so I hop the night bus to a the border town of Guajará-Mirim.
I quickly research my foot parasite and write myself a prescription for ivermectin on a page from my Jurassic World notebook which I rip out and hand the local pharmacist. She fills it for $3.
Next I hop a ferry at the Brazilian border, cross the river, and walk straight into Bolivia. No visa, no passport check, no questions, nada.
I’m in no mood for cities, so I spend less than five minutes in town before hailing a moto-taxi towards the Bolivian Amazonica Reserve.
“It is at the edge of madness that we attain to a glimpse of the overwhelming truth and simplicity of life. It is the utter simplicity of life which defeats man. He has turned the earth inside out in a frantic effort to attain security, to arrive at wisdom.”— Henry Miller
3 thoughts on “Ayahuasca Trip Down the Amazon”
Jo really liked this one … writing clear
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I’ll check the local bars for Ayahuasca, although I am doubtful. It does read well, clear and personal. It is quite an adventure, but, that’s you, Alec. Best. Jim Bailey
Thank you, Jim Bailey. It was the first lucid account by a person travelling to Manaus in search of Ayahuasca. I recommend The Dream of the Celt by Llosa, a biography of Roger Casement, who also travelled there. At the present time, UK journalist Dominic Phillips and indigenous Amazonian guide went missing near the Peru border and today reports are coming in that their bodies have been found, tied to a tree. Several forces are in contention in the region, Indigenous people’s claim to triba lands, outside fishing interests who pay Brazilian and Peruvian fishermen to fish the river, shamans opposed to foreign interference. Consequently is a place of dangerous energy.