I am a 65 year old man with arthritis and osteoporosis with very basic needs. A daily hot shower keeps me content. I can withstand cold Peruvian weather if I can have just that. While searching for an ayahuasca retreat, the words HOT SHOWERS leapt up to me from the Shamanic Vida website, and that was the ONLY deciding factor for me to schedule an 11 day stay at their retreat. I was asked to stop taking my pain medications well before the retreat and to TRUST that the hot showers they lured me in with were already in place and operative. The photos of the retreat were beautiful; the promise of hiking trails and communing with nature was very enticing. So it quite pissed me off to travel 6,000 miles only to learn that NO such hot showers existed. Only when I arrived in Peru was I informed that the location had been changed. I felt lied to and taken advantage of for the 10 days that I suffered through this “healing experience”, WITHOUT my medications. Without any pain relief. I actually left a day early, simply because there was nothing to do.
The first thing that I was asked to do when I arrived was to climb over a huge pile of wet boulders then travel along a treacherous pathway comprised of mud, grass and an awkwardly constructed cement drainage system that led past their ayahuasca camp, it was very clear to me that, because of the difficulty getting UP there, that I would not be able to go anywhere else soon without an awful lot of effort. One slip, one poorly placed footstep off that path, and the blood from your crushed skull will drain into the cold Peruvian river on your right. There are no people around that could help you; no nearby hospitals; helicopter airlift operators most likely do not know the existence of this area.I arrived to find out that “We use solar power to heat the water “, which means that it heats the freezing cold Peruvian river water all the way UP to what we “city people” recognize as COLD. Excuses about when the shower would arrive were useless to me. After my seventh day there, a device was hooked up that heated the water somewhat, but the water had all the force of an overturned garden sprinkler can.
The community dining room, when we arrived, had no glass in the windows to protect one from the harsh elements. The apartments were all built from what seemed to be a mixture of mud, cement, bamboo reeds, and I suspect, feces, which would have explained all the flies that permeated YOUR sleeping areas. The beds were very old and most likely never washed; much less ever disinfected. A plain mattress suspended over bowed boards from the weight of people over the decades. No box springs. Now, almost a week later, I am having back pains from having slept on that bed for all that time. Windows that were improperly installed. Five inch GAPS under every door to ensure that one could never, ever be warm and comfortable. Instead of trying to make the customer’s rooms mere livable, the owner Chrissy, is having her workers build her and Pacco a new house on the premises. A huge brown 4 inch poisonous spider crawling up the dining room wall.
If you were hungry for the meals that you PAID for, you would be advised to “chew coca leaves (of which there were plenty in abundance) because they help quell your hunger “. Since no activities were ever planned, save for impromptu yoga sessions, we mostly sat around waiting for the next meal. One day a volunteer came in to tell us that “we haven’t made any food today; would anyone like a banana?” That was not on a day that we have scheduled fasting. Chrissy spent all her time playing with her baby, a pen of guinea pigs, and that bag of coca leaves that never leaves her side. I have worked as an addiction counselor for the past 20 years, so it was clear to me exactly what was really going on.
The washing machines turned into “Just give your sh$t stained (quinoa and vegetables boiled down to some kind of vegan sludge was fed to us) underwear to Juanita”, a small Peruvian woman who would wash your clothes squatting in the muddy river. Poor old lady ran around like a slave. Bonding with my group was impossible due to the many passing hitchhikers that were allowed to join our company for a measly $60. I paid $1250 for the opportunity to be treated like a trapped animal and GUESS WHAT! Now the price has been raised another $400. I guess I was “lucky “ to have found this before the price increase. What really pissed me off is Chrissy and Paco’s unwillingness to take responsibility for their false advertising of the true conditions that awaited me.
I did my part; I stopped my medications, I adhered strictly to the required diet, I paid $1250 to attend, I showed up. If it is a question that you prefer ONLY young customers, you need to let us old people KNOW THAT. While the elderly are usually treated with respect by the people of most South America, I can’t expect you to feel the same, so just say it: Shamanic Vida only wants your people there. The truth might set you free.
All they had to do to keep me happy was provide the hot showers that they falsely advertised they had. Because I was kept in a painful, uncomfortable state, I did not really enjoy all the ayahuasca ceremonies I attended. What I did do was try to make the best out of a bad situation until I could get away from this ridiculously run “retreat”.