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La ceremonia de fuego…

The boat back to Iquitos

December 1, 2022

This morning was supposed to be the San Pedro ceremony, which is the final bitter drink of the retreat. I was originally excited for it because I’ve never tried mescaline before, but I knew when I left the maloca last night that I would opt out. It was a rough night and the thought of drinking yet another bitter, foul tasting liquid made me want to gag. Instead, I spent the afternoon lazily lying in my hammock, journaling, and attempting to nap, though never quite getting there. Later that evening, we had a fire ceremony (the “Ceremonia de fuego”). The fire ceremony is when you list on a sheet of paper all of the things you want to release from your life—people, events, trauma, negative traits, and things that no longer serve you, and then burn them. Eladio built a big bonfire on the grounds and as it blazed, said a few words. Then, we each walked up to the fire and threw our list into it. For me, many of the things on my list were the things that I struggled with on this trip—things like anxiety, my inability to fully relax, my inability to accept the things that were uncomfortable, among a host of other things. I felt ready to let those go. Gone, good riddance. 

The fire

Shortly after tossing my list in the fire, I went back into the building to go up to my room, wanting to get my phone to take a picture. When I came back down the stairs, Maria and another of Eladio’s daughters were waiting for me with a towel. “Venga!,” Maria said. I didn’t catch everything they said, but I did understand the word ‘masaje.” Eladio, knowing how I struggled with my neck and back all week, asked Maria to give me a massage. I sat on the towel on the floor and Maria worked her strong fingers into my neck and shoulders, eventually having me lie on my stomach to get at my back and my calves. After more than a week of accumulating tension, I could tell that the muscles were rock hard, then gradually softened as she continued to knead them into submission. It felt heavenly and after she finished, I gave her a big hug. 

December 2, 2022

Today is our day of departure. I packed my things, carefully shaking everything out lest a stowaway lurked in my clothes and bags (LY discovered termites nesting in her clothes. Yikes!). We had breakfast, the last meal that Maria would make for us. Then, we had our final plant bath. We started with a plant bath to cleanse our bodies, and we ended in the same way, pouring aromatic water over ourselves, washing away all of the things that were brought up during the ceremonies, and leaving us clean and ready to re-enter civilization. 

We had a long day’s journey via motocarro, boat, and bus to return to Iquitos. The discomfort of being confined to a seat all day nearly had me at my wit’s end, so by the time I reached my hotel room, I could not bear to leave it again to meet the others for dinner. All I wanted was to lie still in the cool room. I was so tense that even the feather pillow on my nice, comfy bed could not give me comfort, but eventually I slept. It was a massive relief to sleep for more than a few hours.

Views from Genaro Herrera, the nearest village

About colleen f

Colleen is a globe trotting, sight seeing, day tripping, frequent flying traveler with a penchant for voluntourism.


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