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Shamanism and the concept of healing the physical through a purification of the emotional is integral to Peru’s holistic identity. For thousands of years, shamans have been visited for their ability to help enhance an individual’s consciousness in order to heal a person from sickness, addiction and mental disturbances. The catalyst that drives this ‘awareness’ is a selection of highly hallucinogenic plants from the Amazon. In other words, shamans get people high. But the difference between these guys and your average London dealer is the drug they use is legal (at least in Peru). That, and it’s taken as part of a carefully controlled ceremony, not before a warehouse rave. 

Entering Eloy’s peaceful farmstead the next evening on the outskirts of Mancora, apprehension and nerves shake my need for control to the core. I took LSD once – involuntarily (my drink was spiked when I was 15 and I was still seeing Pac-Man floating in front of me 48 hours later). So it’s fair to say my hallucinogenic career was pretty short-lived. Still, reports from others who’ve used the experience to free themselves from addictions, poor lifestyle choices and ‘clean their aura’ propel me to trust in the power of nature and give myself over.

Strictly speaking, you should detox for at least a week prior to taking ayahuasca. This means no sugar, meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or sex – stimulants are totally off the cards. I avoid telling Eloy I was out drinking rum till the early hours the night before. Not that I need to; his calm, observant manner suggests he’s got me pegged the moment I walk through the door. I later discover Eloy is a sixth-generation shaman, learning from his father and other established shamans to the north of Mancora in the Piura highlands.


Big Trip: Surfing and shamans - a guide to travelling in Northern Peru
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