A little more than a year ago I went through a series of experiences in South America that changed the way I view the world and my relation to it. It was the closest I had ever come to tangible spirituality with each event occurring at the exact time I needed it to. Yes, it involved psychedelic drugs, but it also involved much more than that. Anyways for the past year I have been slowly trying to put my experience into words and my hope is that if I post this first part it will push me to finish the rest. Let me know what you think, even if it is just that you would rather not have me write on this blog anymore.
What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck have I gotten myself into? These were the thoughts running through my head as I sat cross-legged on a sleeping bag surrounded by five of the most eccentric people I had ever encountered. Admittedly, I have made some pretty poor decisions in my life, but this was clearly the worst decision a person could possibly make. I was completely convinced that the small cup of vomitesque “medicine” I just imbibed had given me the South American Bird Flu. I was seriously considering the possibility of death or at the very least long-term hospitalization. Why the fuck did I listen to a guy who referred to himself as Medicine Wolf?
I had met Medicine Wolf around two weeks earlier in a small mountain town north of Lima. I was enjoying some pizza with some fellow travelers when we overheard a curly-mulleted individual loudly and expressively telling a story about being in Alaska overlooking a river high on peyote when a “goddamned octopus arm with an eye on the end comes out of the water to greet me with a blink then instantly vanishes” (only about every fourth word is an attempted translation into Spanish despite the fact that the people being told speak absolutely no English). My friend and I immediately joined in the conversation and soon learned that after a few years of solitary shaman work in Alaska (during which he would consume a daily ration of mushrooms) Medicine Wolf moved to Peru, got a woman pregnant out of wedlock, and is now involved in legal troubles preventing him from leaving the country. Also, he had been running a Shamanic Tours Adventure Program for the past two years in order to raise child support money. So far he had given three of these shamanic tours but received full payment from just one. To get by Medicine Wolf does massage therapy and attempts to get bartenders to give him free drinks. He also tries to find peoples coke stashes on the logic that, “if I find it they have the obligation to share.” He wears a colorful poncho, and a tad too much patchouli oil, has a tattoo of a cartoon devil on his bicep and (as we soon found out) is not welcome in the majority of the small town’s bars. Throughout a long night of bar hopping we learned many valuable tidbits from Medicine Wolf but most valuable was that the bartender at the local pizza place had a bottle of his San Pedro brew (a Peruvian cactus containing mescaline) that he was trying to sell and he gave me the email address of a shaman friend he knew in Cuzco that made the mixture if that didn’t work out.
The next day my friend and I had lunch at the pizza place, discussed some details and walked back to our hostel the proud new owners of a large drinkable yogurt bottle full of a green, supposedly mescaline-containing liquid. I split the contents into two containers giving my friend her portion as she was leaving and went to bed giddy as a schoolboy. The next day I woke up fairly early and marched down to the closest store to buy some water and snacks. On the way back I ran into the bartender’s friend who told me how to get to the giant cross overlooking town at which I intended to drink the brew. Unsure of my navigational skills while on mescaline I invited him to come along. Luckily he had nothing better to do than watch some stupid gringo drink San Pedro by himself and agreed to accompany me. After arriving at the cross we climbed on an abandoned lookout structure that previously served as a hideout of the Shining Path guerrilla army. I decided to share the contents of the yogurt bottle with him then waited for around 10 minutes before concluding that it wasn’t going to do anything and smoked a joint. I spent the rest of the day in a weird daze, not really sure of what to do or what to feel. I was disappointed that the San Pedro hadn’t given me the desired hallucinations but was nevertheless content with my detachment from reality. Shortly after I hopped on a bus to Lima and forgot about my foray into the next level of psychedelics.
Soon enough I would find myself in an experience so crazy and profound that this “trip” would be rendered inconsequential. In fact, nothing I have since experienced (not even that time I did three Richards and looked at my hand through a kaleidoscope) has even come close.