Sustainable ayahuasca: Harvest, plant, brew, drink, enjoy

Join the Natural Medicine Gathering: harvest, plant, cook and drink sustainable ayahuasca with yackahs (Kichwa shamans) in the original home of ayahuasca!

sustainable ayahuasca

The First Annual Natural Medicine Gathering / Hambi Minga Mundial, which will take place in Tena, Napo, Ecuador, April 11-15, is a networking event for yachaks, drinkers and dreamers, community projects (ecotourism, botanical parks, reforestation, medicine making, permaculture) and various environmental action groups. See the programme here:

As part of the gathering there will be some sustainable ayahuasca ceremonies and we just talked to a good friend in the market. Her grandfather was a yachak (Kichwa shaman) and her mother is still looking after the mother ayahuasca plant that her father used for generations in the family’s chakra/finca (forest garden).

It has not been used for around a decade, thus grown big fat and ripe for ceremonial purposes. It is beaming with power from deep in the forest (the community is where there are no longer any roads, in the heart of the home of ayahuasca (see links below)), ready to go, wanting to come out.

This plant we can go and harvest sustainable ayahuasca together in a group with the family and members of their community. That means we will also plant seedlings from it. [Possibly we can visit another very big, wild plant in the area, as a pilgrimage, but its precise location must remain a secret!]

What we harvest we can take back to town and cook; then drink it at the gathering (obviously we test it before hand to be able to dose it well and understand its particular energies).

This is a great chance to meet the ayahuasca plant in its original home, living in the forest, and ask for permission to take it home. And, of course, also bring offerings.  It is also an opportunity to visit a community undergoing profound changes, since the road is now arriving. Visiting will help validate and revalorise their tradition, their medicine and revive their hope for a future which will inevitably be in the civilised world. Not an easy transition. They need as much help as possible.

AND: It is a chance to contribute to the emergence of sustainable ayahuasca.


This will happen in the beginning of April – Get in touch if you are interested: hambiminga@gmail.com


About the (original) home of ayahuasca, see these two very informative pieces by Gayle Highpine:

Unraveling the Mystery of the Origin of Ayahuasca

The Ecological Zones of the Amazon Basin and the Civilizations that Grew from Them

Amazonia – por la Vida
www.naturalmedicinegathering.com
www.hambi-minga.com

How to get to Tena, Napo, Ecuador (Amazon)

How to get to Tena, which is in the Napo region:

If you fly into Quito it could be worth a visit, but it takes close to an hour to get into town by taxi, depending on traffic and where you want to go, and you are going in the wrong direction, so to speak, away from Tena. However, the Old Town is architecturally pleasing. Mariscal Sucre, Gringolandia, in the New Town, has all the things you expect from a tourist destination – bars, cafes, shops, pickpockets and so on – great place to meet people.

From Quito you take the bus to Tena from Quitumbes bus station: Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe, which is located 10km southwest of the old town. It can be reached by Trole bus (C4) to the last stop. The Trole bus is very cheap. Takes approx. 45 mins. A taxi costs about $12 to $14.

Buses to Tena leave all day long, about once an hour until 10/11pm, and the route is operated by a number of companies.

The bus ride takes approx. 5 hours and cost $6. The last 2-3 hours are very beautiful, as you descend from just over 4000m (almost 13.500 feet) through the cloud forest, into the Amazon and down to Tena at 500m (1640 feet). Steep cliffs, waterfalls and amazing views. So it is a good idea to take the bus early in the day. It will be dark at 6.30pm

If you fly into Quito and want to avoid Quito (it’s a big city in 2850m with little oxygen and much pollution, but some lovely places and sights!) and instead go straight to Tena then you have several options:

  • Prebook a taxi (search online) that will take you straight to Tena from the airport. That costs around $180.
  • Take a taxi from the airport to Pifo (which is a small town on the main road to Tena via Baeza) and ask to be dropped just after the roundabout to get the next bus to Tena. The drivers will know. That’s a 10-15 minutes ride in taxi and costs $10. You can prebook and prepay the taxi inside the airport to avoid bargaining. By the roundabout in Pifo you simply wait until a bus comes past that goes to Tena, there will most likely be others waiting or people standing selling fruits and drinks. From Pifo the bus ride will be about 4 hours only. The buses leave pretty much every hour from Quito until 11pm. For the intrepid traveler this is an easy trip, if you speak Spanish also. If you do not speak Spanish and you are not used to independent travel, this is not a recommended option.
  • Ask us to arrange for pick up. We can get a taxi from Tena to come and pick you up in the airport. That will be about $150 and can fit 3 people comfortably, 4 people with a squeeze.

Staying longer – needing help with Visa?

Naturally we encourage long stays, now that you have likely travelled to a faraway place. Get to know the local ways. But many will need a Visa extension if they want to stay more than three months…

Although anyone can sort out their own Visa extensions — many if not most nationalities automatically receive a 3 month tourist Visa upon entry, which can no longer be extended by leaving the country, for example going to Peru or Colombia for a few days, and coming back; you are only allowed 180 days per year, counting from the day you first entered, without a proper extension — it can be useful to get help.

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Traditional Knowledge in the Ecuadorian Amazon

“Antes los gringos decían que somos estúpidos,
ahora quieren llevarse nuestro conocimiento…”
(Kichwa grandmother)

[“The gringos used to say we are stupid,
now they want to take our knowledge away…”]

Joining the gathering you will be entering into a foreign culture and even if you have been in the Amazon before, even if you have been here many times, you might not have spent much time finding out about the history, political economy and the ways in which Amazonian science, logic and medicine differs conceptually from its counterparts in Euro-American philosophical systems of understanding and making sense of the world.


Want to say a few things in Kichwa? Download Gayle and Elias’s wonderful little phrasebook.


Paradigmatically different things have to be understood, if you want to grasp them properly, in their own terms, not merely translated into your own language and system of thought – or, as it were, cosmovision. While we can never truly see the world through the eyes of someone else, we can try to listen carefully and slowly generate in our own minds a picture of another reality. This thesis is about that sort of thing: The Protection of Traditional Knowledge in the Ecuadorian Amazon: A Critical Ethnography of Capital Expansion. Chapter 3, Living in Napo: a brief political economy of extraction and colonisation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, is probably a good place to start.

For an easy, but very informative and exciting reading check out On the Origins of Ayahuasca, by Steve Beyer.

Very much worth a read is The Life and Times of Grandfather Alonso: Culture and History in the Upper Amazon, by Blanca Muratorio, which is briefly reviewed here and introduced here: Continue reading