Our big day had finally arrived, and we eagerly looked forward to returning to a private community a half-hour away from central Playa Del Carmen, to attend the Ayahuasca ceremony Mantas invited me to.
Our ADO transport left early in the morning, and I prepared my usual carry-on baggie for bus survival — hoodie, jeans, thermal underwear, and a booklet of prayers to God.
I was pleasantly surprised as this bus featured a toilet — a toilet!!! — and monitors for movie watching. Whoa! Unexpected to say the least. Maybe I had unknowingly taken a second-class vehicle from Palenque to Playa Del Carmen when I chose the cheapest fare I could find.
Though the AC didn’t seem intimidating at first, I recalled having the same thought on my last bus-ride, 2 hours before my enthusiasm was relegated to probing my mind for absolutely any excuse to live.
When the vehicle fired up, and a droning, static, white-noise began pumping out the speaker system, I feared a new level of insanity. Was a movie imminent, or was this another torture tactic of the ADO to buy their proprietary earplugs to avoid secret, subliminal Satanic messages?
The noise of a radio-station mistuned never abated, and no movie was shown. But 3 hours into the ride, a hoodie was all that was necessary to remain comfortable. There were no stops to use pay-toilets, and the trip ended with a beaming smile on my face, without fear of my head shattering like a rose dipped in dry ice if I exercised facial muscles.
After a quick stop at a fruit-stand to stock up on sustenance for the morning after, we found a colectivo to take us to the compound. It was hot and crowded, but for 9 pesos, well worth the ride.
Arriving early, the fastidious security guard would not let us wander into the grounds without a member of the community to hold our hands. Though Mantas had amazing skill with the Spanish language, no amount of bullshitting could get us past that watchdog. Mantas really wanted to let his anger take hold of him, but I said it wasn’t worth it. We only had an hour to wait, so no sense in generating negative energy before an experience meant to do the exact opposite… hopefully…
Before long, our contact picked us up in a run-down SUV, and brought us to the main temple. Mantas made a wise decision to book a cabana to rest at following the all-night ceremony, but was on the verge of anger again when they told him his reservation somehow slipped between the cracks of their disorganization.
But it worked out for the best, as we decided to split cost for the only available dwelling left — the “hobbit-house” — a kick-ass, earthy structure that had electricity and a working toilet. Pictures never do justice…
It was fucking awesome!
We set up shop in the temple with our mats, purge-buckets, and rolls of toilet paper, as more and more attendees arrived for the ceremony — far too many it seemed for comfort.
We were luckily provided access to the hobbit-house a day early, and had a couple hours to relax before the main event would begin, so Mantas brought me down to a cenote he was familiar with, having volunteered in the past at this community.
The sink-hole I was expecting turned out to be a system of deep-blue, clear water caves, much like the ones I missed out on at Finca de Ixobel. Cool!!!
Getting naked and jumping into the refreshing mineral water teeming with small fishies and turtles quickly became a habit I realized Mantas was addicted to, and for good reason — the waters were a perfect temperature, and your body felt more refreshed and clean than rubbing soap all over your skin. More on our cave dips later…
We made our way back to the temple to discover waaaay too many people were crowding every available inch of space. Past our scheduled initiation time, an unexpected decision was made to move the ceremony outdoors, around a fire-pit that could accommodate this 40-plus group.
And though judgemental thoughts crossed my mind about greedy planning, things couldn’t have turned out more authentic than my imaginations, finding a place on the outskirts of the outdoor circle where I could feel comfortable in my own space.
More waiting occurred as the organizers wanted to collect the remaining fees from the large group in attendance. My negativity resurfaced again amongst the level of chaos.
After another anticipatory eternity took hold of my mind, the curandero made his ultimate appearance, to share preliminary insight, while a kindly participant repeated English translation for morons like myself.
And then the magic began.
The ceremony started with a ritual of rapé, a shaman-imparted delivering of sacred tobacco to focus one’s mind, in preparation for the sacred brew.
I very much enjoyed it, as our Curandero blew the prayed-upon, powdered grounds directly into both nasal cavities for each and every person gathered around the fire. Though several people teared up and treated the offering like a sinus infection, my thought after the experience was, “Where can I buy this shit in Canada?” Haha.
The meat of the feast was imminent.
I have no fucking clue what our shaman was sharing in his deep, authoritative tone, but the the words were fast and furious, reminding me of my Sri Lankan buddies back in Canada who spoke a mile a minute — definite words, but gibberish to my monkey mind.
The first offering of Ayahuasca was next, as the large group lined up to take a spoonful of the viscous liquid, ironically housed in a giant jar of “chocolate protein shake.” Perhaps that was the only way he could transport it across the border.
After days of minimal eating, I found the concoction quite tasty, though Mantas was ready to gag from his past memories of the brew. My research on the medicine had always suggested an expectation of the foulest gustatory sensation, but I suspected a sweetener, possibly honey, was added to the mix to make it more palatable to newbies. Or perhaps it was the stevia-burdened powder in his can o’ choco shake. I dunno.
The first round was introductory, not affecting my body or mind in any way, but laying the groundwork for the unfolding ritual. After an hour of waiting in silence, contemplating our Curandero had nodded off, he stood to announce a second round, and a frantic crowd lined more quickly than the last time for a chance to enhance their journey. I took my place at the end of the line to see what would happen next…
My second spoon kicked in more quickly than expected. At no point did I feel I lost control of my mind, or felt ill, as Mantas was already purging into the litre container of plastic we picked up from random trash on our way to the retreat to hedge our bets of spilling our guts all over the grounds, but a definite effect took hold.
The closest insight I could provide would be a psilocybin experience, as the mind begins accepting/debating whatever fears or expectations we obsess over on our journey through life. The true ride slowly began, as harmonicas, harps, flutes, and guitars were introduced.
Though I have no idea how this ritual generally plays out with the head Shaman, my night was made whole by the guitar dude who stole the show, sharing everything from soft, sweet, Spanish melodies, to foot-stomping rattles courtesy of the ankle-shakers he wore, while dancing frenzied about the fire circle.
He kicked ass.
A third offering of the brew ensued, and it was enough for me to find a happy place to watch the stars and clouds morphing above my head. The opportunity to partake in more medicine upon request was never shunned, but my desire to burst beyond the Earth-realm was unnecessary. Despite the three hundred and thirty three mosquito bites covering my lower limbs, I was in a place of peace.
Doing my best to establish a time of night as I watched the Big Dipper circle overhead, entranced by the wandering minstrels who made the evening an experience beyond words, the Shaman eventually announced an end to our fire-camp, to make way back to the temple-structure for a cleansing ritual unique to the Columbian ceremony.
Though I’d decided against a fourth spoonful of the potent brew, when Mantas encouraged me to stand and walk the 50 metres back to the beautiful structure built in the jungle, I will definitely admit my motor skills were far from perfect. My journey was still taking place, but I managed to follow his lead to sit in a tight circle around the candle-lit building.
The final ritual was excellent. Thigh-to-thigh, shirts off, packed into the temple, more intense chanting began, as incense and palm-leaf brushings were shared on an individual basis to all members of our new family.
Upon completion, still under the effect of the medicine, I found the guitar-playing superstar, offering my hand to shake, and a simple thumbs-up — to say to him without words, “You fucking rock, dude.”
He got it, and sent a “gracias” back my way.
We’ll pick this up again next post. A full day of relaxing at the hobbit-house is on-deck, along with learning Mantas’ addiction to cenote diving… and maybe an unexpected twist or two my Divine Tour Guide had in order…
Perhaps time to introduce the acronym DTG, as I don’t see any reason to ever lose faith in my other-worldly benefactor.
Another amazing day. My gratitude knows no bounds.