Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How Magic Mushrooms Came to Iquitos

Someone wrote me to say they were going on a trip to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley in Peru in April. They'd read that my guests were sometimes offered magic mushrooms on my trips and wondered if I could turn them on to someone who might do a mushroom ceremony for them. I responded with the story of how magic mushrooms came to be used in the Iquitos area. This is it:

Dear X: Thanks for writing. There might be someone up in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley area, but I wouldn't know who that was. The whole mushroom thing was sort of funny: 20 years ago Alan Shoemaker turned me on to a small cow field near the airport in Iqiutos--very undeveloped then--and I looked for shrooms, got hit by a bull, broke a couple of ribs, did not find shrooms.
    A year later, someone else turned me on to a cow field out past the airport and I asked the owner if I could look for mushrooms and they laughed and said go ahead, but beware of the two bulls he had. Found the shrooms, had a wonderful time.
    Some time after that, I went to some large cow fields a couple of hundred kilometers upriver from Iquitos. I sent locals out to look for shrooms there. I paid for batch after batch that were worthless because they were either too wet or too dry. I patiently taught them how to collect and dry them properly (not on a tin roof in the sun, for instance!!!!!)  Once they got it down, I was able to offer them to guests on my trips: A lot of those guests had never done any plant medicines, or hadn't done them in 20-30 years, so I thought giving them several pairs of the Little Sisters would be a good, gentle opening for the often harsh ayahuasca they would have a few days later. 
    It worked. And naturally, Iquitos being a small city, word slowly got out that I was making them available to guests--and the next thing you know, people are running around the center of Iquitos, offering mushrooms to gringos. And naturally, my own team--seeing the opportunity to make money when I was not around--were among them. But at least my team had the real goods. The others, not so much. 
    That's the basic story of how people began using mushrooms in Iquitos. Whether it's yet spread to Cuzco, I don't know. So no, I can't tell you anyone to contact up there. Sorry I can't be of more use.

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