Inca Trail, Peru,
Andes & Machu Picchu
Do it yourself - Shaman Trip
If you want to arrange your own group, you can hire out the facilities in Iquitos. There is a venue specially built for the purpose called Sacha Mama which is hired out for groups of people. It is owned by a man named Francisco Montes who has spent time living with a tribe and can offer a choice of curanderos including a user of San Pedro cactus. He is not a shaman but often takes part in the rituals himself wearing a long white robe, and charms people by anointing them with flower water. Sacha Mama has very nice simple accommodation in the jungle by a stream, with a circle among trees for rituals. But it is so near the city that some workshop leaders have made it appear more remote by leading their groups to it via a long walk in the jungle!
There is one 'shaman' who has his own facilities: Augustine Rivas. Various groups of people book him and his entire encampment. The groups are usually brought from North America by a leader who prepares people beforehand and acts as an intermediary with Augustine. His place is a few hours boat ride down from Iquitos and is quite extensive with nice buildings made of local materials, providing the experience of being right in the jungle yet safe. Although Augustine has the reputation of having an affair with a woman from nearly every group, he is highly regarded and appreciated by most of his participants. Although tours need booking in advance, it is also practical to arrive in Iquitos without a booking and shop around, but this is where you have to be careful.
The most obvious trap is to be ripped off by phoney shamans, but your loss would be far greater if you were abused by a powerful curandero. There are also many curanderos who hold ayahuasca sessions every Friday night for local people, the true ethnic 'shamans'. We attended one in the suburbs of Iquitos.
The curandero's house had a sign advertising his services and prices alongside a picture of Jesus, his favourite football team and a bare breasted blonde pin up! The session, called La Purga (purge) was attended by people with a physical illness and although he sang icaros they were uninspiring: still, it would provide an experience more genuine than many tourists would find by asking a taxi driver, and for only $5 or $10.
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