Greg H – New York, U.S.A

The center is about 20 minutes outside of Iquitos, then another 20 minutes down a (bumpy) dirt road.  It’s in a relatively remote area and is more or less free from noise pollution, which I very much enjoyed. The Big House was still being finished while I was there, but it served nicely as a communal space/dining room/library/movie theater.  I stayed in a tambo but slept in the maloka on ceremony nights.  The occasional privacy, undisturbed mornings, and personal pond-front hammock were nice, but staying in the maloka every night wouldn’t have made the experience significantly less enjoyable.  Most of the walkways and hangout spots are covered, so you don’t need sunscreen.  I was there during the rainy season, and the mosquitoes were biting… C’est la jungle. (I took no pills and didn’t get malaria, BTW.)  Jumping in the pond is a good way to cool off, and I’m now in love with hammocks.
 
Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful.  Jann was great with the emails — quick replies, walked me through my options, recommended hotels in Iquitos, etc.  Stace made things run like clockwork and helped a number of people through some tough times.  He only stays on ceremony nights, so Drew was the on-site supervisor/caretaker, and he was magnificent.  He has a big heart and was always ready to help.  I only speak a little bit of Spanish, so I didn’t get to know the local staff too well, but my brief interactions with them were always very pleasant. (Shoutout to Delia!)  Obviously, I can only speak to my experience, but all of the other guests were lovely.  Jann, Stace, and Drew create a comfortable/safe/nurturing/connected environment, and I think the guests feel that and promote it amongst themselves.
 
The ayahuasca ceremonies are held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  These are also the only days on which people arrive.  Having a ceremony almost immediately upon arrival was a good way to quickly feel connected with the group and break the ice.  The days off in between are vital from reflection and recovery.  During the ceremonies, Stace and/or Drew continually check-in to make sure everything is OK, and they’re always nearby if you need more water or an escort to the toilet or someone to help you get through a tough time mentally or emotionally.  I never struggled in that way myself, but I was impressed with the way they helped the people who did.  Don Raul took care of the spiritual side of things brilliantly, and his icaros were beautiful anchors/lights when things got rough/dark.  The morning after, Stace leads a discussion in which everyone shares their experiences from the night before.  It’s not compulsory, but everyone participates to some degree. (Sharing is good!)
 
The food…..So fresh, so clean.  Massive portions.  Nobody will go hungry.  If you do the dieta, you’ll learn to truly appreciate oil, salt, and bananas by the end of it. (I mean that in the best way possible.)
 
 RECOMMENDATIONS
 – Learn a little bit of Spanish beforehand.
– One night in Iquitos before and after is probably enough/ideal.
– Pack light — you don’t need sunscreen — maybe natural mosquito repellant, but I’m not sure how effective it was — nobody wore boots while I was there; mostly sandals and bare feet — if you plan to do laundry, bring fast-drying fabrics (not a lot of sun in clothes-hanging spots) — if you’re not bringing books to donate, you probably shouldn’t bring books at all… you’ll be able to find something interesting in the library.
– Bring extra cash so you can tip the staff. (You will want to.)
– Be prepared to do some deep emotional work — If you approach it as therapy, you’ll get more out of it.

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