Via a Llayzhatan Bajo, Ecuador
I had been to three other centers in Iquitos, Peru to drink ayahuasca. I had done mushrooms in Amsterdam twice. I sought out G-S primarily for san pedro which I had never done before. I wanted to see what the cactus had to teach. First the setting is literally breathtaking, +9000 feet on the mountainside among farms, cows, horses, lamas, overlooking a stunning valley. Wow. So peaceful. The only drawback was it took my body a day or two to adjust to the altitude but then I was fine. Thus, at G-S I got to do ayahuasca again as the first ceremony. It was gentle, instructive, and beautiful for the icaros, beautiful music Salvador, Polina, and Christene made, and the fire was definitely unique. The second ceremony with san pedro was mind blowing for the novel and unusual way it was conducted, part theater, part group psychotherapy, part pyrotechnics, part council. The tag-team of Santiago, the hat, jacket, face paint, decorated belt, leopard skin, fire, and Christene, her experience and wisdom and motherly concern, it was the most and usual beautiful thing I had every seen. A knockout. The third ceremony with sweat lodge was by far the most difficult. Native peoples say the sweat lodge teaches through claustrophobia and anxiety–and although I experienced neither of these, I still wouldn’t want to do it again. The fourth ceremony with ayahausca was by far the most powerful and over-the-top. The medicine came on fast and strong. The final san pedro ceremony was held outdoors and while it was not as stunning at the first san pedro–I knew what to expect this time–it was probably it was best that way as a send off. The food was unique and very well prepared, bland but delicious. They gave us a day off and my group (7-9 of us) went to the ruins at Ingapirca which was set on this stunning (I’m running out of adjectives!) plateau in a valley. From there we went to Cuenca where we had lunch, sat in the park and talked, and subsequently ate dinner at this cool open-air restaurant called Goza on Calle Larga, if you go that way. In conclusion, Christine attended and participated in every ceremony which is mind boggling how she does it. She sat right up front with the hot stone and was taking the heat full on. She’s a talented musician, a caring and resourceful person, and an inspiration, particularly for women trying to find their way as healers in what remains largely a “man’s world.” She has an original point of view and something important to say. Overall, I’m still integrating everything I learned which I expect to take years. Ecuador is a must see, especially if you make the Guayaquil-Cuenca trip by van or bus: the Andes are truly amazing. In fact, I’m glad I came this way (while the Cuenca airport was closed) and consequently I would recommend this 4 hour journey through the mountains; I got to see more of Ecuador, the people, the culture. If I had any advice it would be to bring a notebook and take plenty of notes; it helps to a matter of discipline, to put matters in their place, to remember, to make sense of things. G-S is a good place to start, that is, if you want a taste of ayahuasca, san pedro, and the sweat lodge. If you want to go further into the different medicines, you can then branch out to other places.