Part 2 of Amazon trip – Cuy, ayahuasca & cacao

So we were still just hanging out and relaxing in Lamas.

Kristi made us a lovely Colombian traditional chicken soup (Ruben, her hubby,, is from Colombia) for dinner with of course a few beers as accompanying beverage.  I must say since being in Peru, I have only twice drank wine – just not in the mood for it being a red wine drinker.  Beer is just so much more refreshing and better for hydrating one’s body.

The next day we just hung out at the house for the most part, enjoying the view and just relaxing, briefly heading into town to find the one bank.  From Kristi’s suggestions we were planning our jungle excursion and a sampling of that substance that draws so many tourists and their money, but all had to be paid in cash – no credit card for these trips – get it wink wink.  I also got to enjoy their two cats, a dog and a pet parakeet – all rescues.  I have been missing my critters (at least I get my cat fix as I volunteer with Misicha Peru – Los Gatos del Parque Universitario where I help out every Monday night, putting together the cardboard boxes that the cats sleep, giving them food and fresh water, as well as some cuddlin’).

Here’s Coquito & Inti having a go at each other:

We ended up having dinner out that evening, deciding to visit this supposed great chicken place.  Well I guess I had in mind a restaurant of some sort even if basic but we essentially were at someone’s house, her barbeque outside the front door and us eating in her main small room.  It was a cultural experience of course just not what I had expected.  And ridiculously cheap to boot.

We ended up spending a few more days at the house while Kristi & Tala, her daughter, headed to Lima for work and to meet up with Daddy Ruben.  I was consciously trying to spend time on this vacation really doing nothing but sitting, reading, drinking coffee, etc… I usually do the ‘do do do’ vacation so this was a bit of a struggle for me but heck we had 2 weeks.

Some pics of Lamas: View from a lookout, a tethered rooster used for cock fighting – a big pastime here with lots of gambling, stunning murals, & the House!!

Cock fighting tethered rooster

A building buit with large beer bottle walls:

Some stunning flowers:

Another culinary experience was to come.  From meeting up with another volunteer, Lesley Rosales, and meeting her partner Adler who was a small scale farmer, we – or rather Mr.C5 – had his 1st experience of eating cuy – remember that’s Spanish for guinea pig.  I have to say I was shocked at the price considering the size of the little buggers and their ability to reproduce exponentially.

I baked it in the oven with Adler’s advice of course (the internet was not much help).  I thought we would just do a basic roast just like a chicken in order to sample the original flavour, so all I added was some salt and pepper and extra oil so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the makeshift roasting pan, and some water just in case I might dry it out by cooking it too long.  And the verdict is… well Mr.C5 found it tasty overall.  However, there just isn’t much meat on them and they have lots of little bones.  He did get more than one meal out of it with sandwich for breakie the next day. I did try it and was like okay but I am a white chicken meat eater so dark meat isn’t my fav especially with lots of bones.  Sorry but texture is important for me.  We did learn that since cuyes are originally higher altitude Andean critters they are fine with the cold. It is rather the heat that the farmers have to guard against.

So in the end Mr.C5 would like to try producing them but I am not yet convinced for several reasons.  Are Canadians going to freak at eating what most/all would consider a pet?  Perhaps if we lived near a very big city that has South American cuisine on offer and/or South American clientele it might work but in Nova Scotia?  Hmmm…

Thanks to Kristi’s suggestions we decided – what the heck – to try ayahuasca.  Of course we had thought about it, and I had done a bit of research before I left to come to Peru, but the thought of vomiting really put me off.  I have always felt more drawn to trying peyote and doing a vision quest, perhaps because I am so drawn to the U.S. Southwest.  Well the shaman that Kristi had had her experience with was the right price and the right timing.  We were open to whatever might come our way on this trip, a trip that I really hadn’t planned much (I normally book much of our accommodation in advance but this time only the beginning and end points were booked).

Shaman & wife on the boat ride to their compound, chacra (farm)

View alongside the river with corn drying along the river bed as we head to their home

Where we stayed – they can accomodate quite a large group of folks.  There place is right on the river and a swim was in order but I was planning on doing this the next morning.

Shaman’s cacao plantation & a really neat tree bark – so smooth

In the evening, (no dinner was provided which is the practice) after a cup of lemon balm tea, we headed to the building where the “ceremony”would took place. I put ceremony in quotes because there wasn’t really any ceremony, no cleansing, no opening words let alone any words of explanation or preparation – just if you need to go to the bathroom just ask.  It was dark by this time, and it was supposed to last 3 hours.  We were the only two participants, besides the shaman and his son in training.  (I did learn that this was a family tradition passed down from generation to generation).

Mats were set up for us to sit on with some cushions, and of course the trusty vomit bowl and toilet paper on the side. Well after we each had a shot glass full of some dark greenish liquid which wasn’t abhorrent in taste but not great either, they blew out the candles and we were immersed in total darkness, except for the occasional red tinge from the mapacho cigarettes the shaman was smoking somewhat nonstop when he wasn’t “singing” which he also did a lot of – of course speaking in Quechua I believe (although it could have been another Indigenous language for all I know). I can’t say I actually enjoyed the chanting – it sounded so childlike and somewhat off key.

I certainly did sure enough feel “stoned” throughout but not heavily so. SImilar to shrooms. I also experienced waves of heat and incredible fatigue, but no hallucinations of any sort except for perhaps once in one sudden instant.  My gut did feel a little queazy but I really didn’t want to puke so kept my mind focusing on not feeling ill – maybe I should not have done that but I did not know.  I did at one point go to the toilet to take a pee but that was all that came out.  I did eventually lie down on my mat although I kept asking myself was I “allowed” to do so.  It just got to the point that I thought I need to lie down.

And so it went on and on – the chanting, the smoking, the subtle stone feeling and gut gurgling.  Otherwise silence.  Then after quite some time, I believe the shaman saw I was lying down and so ended the ‘ceremony” what turned out to be early where his son in training did then do some cleansing rituals, similar to smudging, and then we returned to our dorm room.  This was when things went south.  I went to the toilet and all shit let loose literally for hours.  I had no idea that you could lose it at that end, only ever hearing about the other end.

So I started to get a little worried, wondering if I might have food poisoning.  I got Mr.C5 to get help since I was feeling absolutely horrible.  The shaman and son came to see me, reassuring me I was simply purging.  I thought oh great this is the hell folks talk about.  When was this going to end since I was getting no relief.  He did some cleansing body work on me, and eventually his son brought me a super concentrated cinnamon tea which I had to force down in small gulps since it tasted so horrible taking breaks in between.  Eventually I threw up which was a relief, since he had noticed my gut was just filled with water – well I thought it was a good idea to try to keep myself hydrated.  Alas I just wanted to sleep but just couldn’t because of the stone feeling in the back of my eyes – sleep would never come with that.

As for Mr.C5’s experience – well that was super disappointing for him and completely unanticipated.  He felt nada, nothing, not one little tinge of anything.  I have since learned that it is not common but also not uncommon that this can be one reaction.  I also learned that there are different strengths or added ingredients to the liquid.  In hindsight, he/we should has mentioned this to the shaman since Mr. C5 could have been provided with more of the potion.  Unfortunately Mr.C5 was just super angry at the whole experience, feeling it has been a complete waste of $.  We spent some time afterwards in the coming days reflecting on why he would have had no reaction.  He was so angry that 1st day afterwards that he shutdown which is what happens for him.

All in all it was a disappointing experience. It didn’t help that breakie was at 7 a.m. the next day and I diligently got up even though I had barely slept and I felt like shit.  And then we were told we were heading back to the village of Chazuta at 8:30 since the shaman had a meeting to go to of his cacao coop.  I was like great – we don’t even get the opportunity to rest a bit and to take it easy that morning.

Fortunately my chocolate experience was to be which made up somewhat for a horrible experience. And oh by the way, I have had no other effects or impact from this experience, no hallucinations, no learnings or transformations about self.  I will add that it seems that it is best to actually do several sessions, not just the one but we certainly had not planned on this or even knew this might have been advisable.

So the day after our supposed ‘trip’, we headed back to Chazuta for a quick visit to a women’s chocolate coop, Mishki Cacao, where I got to sample some different chocolate and see all the equipment used to make it. Mr.C5 was not really interested in this. And then we got a tour of the cacao cooperative, Allima Cacao, which was celebrating their one year anniversary in becoming a cooperative, having been an association for 10 years previously.  They were also celebrating their first big international sale to a company in Italy.

I stupidly wasn’t thinking clearly so I didn’t take out the camera out from the beginning to follow the process. But here are some pics.

After the cacao podes are harvested and beans removed from their shells, they are placed in large cloth bags and essentially they are allowed to breath or should I say froth – it looked like they were being washed with soap but it was the substance coming out of the beans. Sorry not pic of this. They are then rinsed of this foamy stuff.

2nd step – fermentation which is done in stages of 2 days, another 2 days, another 2 days and then another 3 days – all in those wooden boxes – see below, with at each stage the beans getting darker.  Not sure if you can see but the maggots are part of the process (remember to click on the photo to enlarge it).

Wooden fermenting crates:

This is stage 1 & 2 of 2nd step:

3rd step – 3 types of drying processes:

Low tech: just plots of dirt where they lay down I think black plastic or something similar and beans on top

Medium tech: where there is a canopy over top

High tech: each of those layers or huge trays can slide for all to be under the canopy should it rain – very sophisticated indeed

This is what’s inside the cacao bean which becomes the chocolate

An small experimental cacao  plantation adjacent to the medium tech drying ‘shed’

To me, these pods are so utterly brillant

A pretty gruesome warning poster against the horrors of big ag/agri-business’ use of toxic chemicals

and to counter this, some helpful advice on good health

Even if the ayahuasca experience was pretty hellish, this was a bonus to see this place as I am a chocolate lover, so it was a nice ending to our adventure in Chazuta.

Next stop Yurimanguas by car and then Laguna by rapid boat – but first our mototaxi ran out of gas as he was taking us to catch a taxi collectivo to Yuri, and so I took a pic of a neighbour’s drying cacao  You would see small batches of cacao beans drying along sidewalks, most likely from a few trees folks would have in their home gardens.

Waiting to depart on the fast boat – el barco rapido.



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