Listed in Ayahuasca
- Manacamiri, Iquitos Peru
The Kapitari Center was founded in 1980, by the shaman Luis Culquiton, widely known as Don Lucho.
Don Lucho comes from a long line of natural healers, but he discovered the healing qualities of plants himself, at a very early age; he drank ayahuasca for the first time at age 16. He soon discovered the power of the plants and felt a calling, which he describes as “the legacy of my ancestors.”
In 1980, at age 30, Don Lucho was an established, self-educated shaman. This is when the spirit of ayahuasca called on him to work with the plants, to help protect the incredible biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon and indeed to save the world; “Up until that moment, I had not been very concerned about the forest. Then I said; ‘How can I save the world? I have no education, I don’t know anything.’ But I started to learn from the plants. I was told by the plant spirits what their qualities were, whether it was for food, as medicine, or even as fertilizer to add nutrients to the soil.”
Don Lucho developed a new way of agriculture, which is very similar to what has become known as ‘permaculture’ in the West. Traditionally, Amazon farmers would burn down a part of the forest and plant only one or two crops on their fields. But the soil quality is poor in the Amazon and they would soon have to abandon their fields, repeating the process of ‘slash and burn’, slowly destroying the rainforest.
By planting up to a hundred different plant species on the land, Don Lucho recreates the balance of the rainforest, which sustains its own existence. This way, the farmers’ fields remain fertile indefinitely, removing the need to ‘slash and burn’ and even returning wasteland to the rainforest, where it can be reintegrated.
One of the main sources of funding for the Kapitari projects is through our Ayahuasca retreats. Unlike many of the Ayahuasca retreat centers in Peru, Kapitari is not owned or controlled by westerners, but by Peruvians for the benefit of Peruvians.
Don Lucho’s main objective is to share his knowledge, expertise and experience with whomever can benefit from it. He promotes the exchange of seeds and saplings, which he grows at Kapitari and invites people from throughout the Amazon and the world to come learn and share through his ‘Field School’.
I went 2 years ago, and things may have changed (Don Lucho mentioned they were building a second Maloca at the time..) but I thought I would give my 2c in the hopes it helps someone make the right decision for them.
Before considering Kapitari, I think you need to ask yourself a few questions – for you to have your ideal transformative spiritual experience, do you need to feel comfortable, secure, and have activities to keep yourself occupied? Do you need accommodations and food that are First or Second World level?
If you answered “Yes” to any of those, then Kapitari is DEFINITELY NOT for you.
If, on the other hand, you want an ascetic, brass tacks, balls-to-the-wall Aya experience in (an enclosed compound in) the Amazon jungle then this might be the place you belong.
– When I went, Don Lucho’s female assistants/translators were awesome. I felt like they had nothing but the best intentions, and they handled a couple of sticky situations (i.e. people having bad trips) very well, and with maximum compassion imo.
– The Aya they gave me was *ultra* strong. I happen to be a large, healthy-looking, relatively young guy, so your mileage may vary – but I went all around the cosmos, to Hell and the depths of my soul, to the Spirit World and back, and lived to tell the tale.
– During the week, they had a local Psychic named Ms. Mercedes come by to do readings on all of us. It was hands down the most shockingly accurate and informative experience I’ve ever had with a Psychic.
– There was an optional fourth ceremony, and I wanted to go – but Don Lucho’s assistant came to me privately and told me Don Lucho didn’t think it was a good idea since I’d experienced so much, and needed to reflect on all of it. I respect that integrity, and they were absolutely right.
– The Maloca was awesome, thin-ass mats and all.
– Lots of people with extremely questionable motivations for coming to an Ayahuasca Retreat in the group. For example, one guy wanted to “see aliens, and go into hyperspace”, etc. I politely told him he could have saved a lot of money just by learning how to make DMT from Joe Rogan, and done that at his house. Before coming, we had to fill out a questionnaire regarding our motives for coming, so it just makes me wonder if Don Lucho is down to let people in just to pay the bills on occasion.
– Borderline starvation during your time there. I literally lost ~12 lbs over the course of my stay. I had almost no energy during the day, and much of my time was spent sleeping in my tambo hut. And heaven help you if you’re a vegetarian.. the only substantial thing we had to eat was a small chicken wing and drumstick per person per day. Did this contribute to the extreme spirituality and ascetic aspect of the retreat? For sure. But I definitely wouldn’t look forward to it if I go back.
– I personally didn’t connect with Don Lucho. I felt like he has a lot of shit going on inside and outside the retreat, including community projects and such, and he seemed sort of bored at times when we’d have our morning “debrief” sessions in the Maloca and people would be describing some “far out, man” things they saw during the ceremony. I get that we could probably sit there all day and talk about just one person’s experiences, and that wouldn’t be fair to everyone else – and that Aya is a very personal experience, but I feel like he didn’t offer a lot of feedback, and what he did tell me didn’t really resonate with me as much as my interactions with his assistants and the Psychic.
– If you are awake during the day, prepare to be bored unless you: connect with people in your group and can schmooze all day, want to meditate and reflect on the stuff you experienced, come up with games like “find the cats” (hint: there are 2 that I saw on the compound) or “chase the chicken”.. because you’re basically stuck in the compound for the duration of the retreat.
All in all, it was a milestone experience and I think the “rawness” of it worked for me. I saw a lot, learned a lot, and felt a lot. I’m planning to check out a different retreat soon just for contrast, but I certainly wouldn’t say I *would never* go back to Kapitari – I would just say I want to see if I can find a place where the shaman(s) are a little more dialed-in to the guests, and where hopefully I can be at the kind of place that mainly attracts people who are looking for healing and knowledge, not “seeing them aliens”, or because they heard about it in a Vice video.
Recommendations if you choose Kaptari:
– Try and get on a diet (as close to the dieta as possible) beforehand, so your body doesn’t have to go into keto hyperdrive mode. The less salt and THC you have in your system will also make your experience(s) better.
– Bring a journal, and write down your experiences as soon after the ceremonies as you can. You *will* forget even profound stuff you experienced, so your future self will thank you for making the most of your $700+ and experience by preserving it so you can reflect on it later.
– Consider bringing some playing cards, a musical instrument, a frisbee, or some other means of entertaining yourself during the day.
– If you found this review helpful, please pay it forward by bringing some cat treats for the super haggard shorthair white cat that roams the compound.
I’ll start with the good. Kapitari is absolutely gorgeous – the grounds are beautiful, with several ponds and pretty secluded tambos. It was great to be able to have so much time to sit and think about things, while being so deep in nature.
The food was very good too. I’ve been to other retreat centers, and the food at Kapitari is much much better than the others that I’ve been to. Don Lucho has a permaculture project going where he grows all sorts of fruits and vegetables, so there was a nice variety of food.
Now to the bad – the medicine there is very weak – like almost zero chacruna. I understand that they emphasize healing over visuals, and I get that – I wasn’t going just to trip out, but I did want to feel something. Most nights, I was just sitting on the mat, feeling absolutely nothing. Most of the people in our group felt the same way and were very disappointed to have saved all of the money and traveled so far to not really experience Ayahuasca. I had requested more when I went up to drink, but Don Lucho would not let us have more than a “grande” shot. I would take the second shot when it was offered which is really hard to do because of how sick the first drink made me, but even with the first “grande” and second shot – nothing. I’m fairly experienced with Aya (20 times) so I don’t think that I was expecting anything unrealistic – their brew there is just really weak.