long series of anecdotes about tlie miraculous powers of the drug. (By the way» he never referred to it as a drug, but always as el remedio-"tlie remedy." But tlie condition it produces is a borrachera or "intox: ication. ") There were stories of locating lost objects through yage' visions. solving ciimes and producing miracle cures. I listened to these stories with interest, but 1 have learned that witch doctors always have good raps about their products, and the stories are very much the same, whether the drug is peyote. yage' magic mushroom or anything eise-which may simply mean that the "effects" of the drug are really capacities of the mind in other states of consciousness.

Finally, when we had dispatched the bottle of aguardiente and my. stomach was about bursting from the volume of chicha 1 had drunk. Salvador. decided we could start making yage^ Fortunately the rain had let up. and even a little bit of sun was showing. We took wooden stools from the house and walked to a little clearing partly sheltered by banana fronds. A large fire-blackened caldron was on the ground next to the ashes of an old fire. And on a mat of banana leaves was a pile of the bejuco-lengths of the woody stems of yage'

Salvador indicated that the first step was to strip off the outer bark of the bejuco. and 1 set to work on that task with the blade of a pocket knife. Tlie bejuco seemed neither very fresh nor very old. Looking at the cut ends. I noticed that it had the requisite number of "hearts" and therefore was mature enough for use. The bark came off easily.

Meanwhile. Salvador had uncovered the caldron, which contained a mess of black, cooked leaves and mashed bejuco in a rusty brown liquid-apparently tlie remains of the last batch of yage.' He poured tlie liquid into a bottle and fished out the spent leaves and stems. Then he seemed a bit confused and mumbled something about firewood that I did not catch.

The next step in the process was the mashi ng of the bejuco, a job that took considerably mote energy because tlie stems-up to three inches in diameter-were tough wood. There was a smooth flat stone to lay them on and a heavy rock to pound with- I set to work, taking frequent rests.

When I was finished and had an armload of mashed bejuco. Salvador announced that there was no firewood so that we would have to make this yage' without actually cooking iL Nor. apparently, was there any fresh chagrapanga, because lie began putting the old. unattractive leaves back into the caldron with the freshly pounded bejuco. He then poured tlie liquid from the old brew into the pot-plus a little fresh water, and set about mashing everything together with a heavy stick. After about ten minutes, he felt the potion was finished and poured it into two empty aguardiente bottles; it was a muddy brown liquid. Then we walked back to the house.

In that moment I knew that 1 had no desire to spend more time with Salvador and certainly no interest in drinking his yage' His preparation had turned out to be much sloppier and more haphazard than I could have imagined. 1 was not expecting a three-day .production with interminable chants, but., at least., I wanted cooking, particularly since the alka~. loids of yage' are not terribly soluble and require long boiling to release them from the plant tissue. I doubted that Salvador's brown liquid had any potency except what might have been there from the previous batch, if that had been made properly.

It was now merely dusk, and Salvador suggested that 1 go off and return, at nine to take the drug. "And don't forget to bring more aguaidiente for tonight,"/ he said. 1 was still- a little wobbly from all the drinking 1 had done that afternoon, and the thought of more sickly sweet, anise-flavored alcohol did not make me feet better. 1 said good-bye and made my way back.

To solidify my decision not to take yage' that night.» I went back to Sibun-day and ate a large meal. My stomach had been crying out for something to soak up the remaining aguardiente and chicha. Shortly afterward the rain stalled again, this tune in torrents, I doubt that I could have made it back to Salvador's house even if I had wanted to.

1 felt 1 had seen enough of yage' in Sibundoy. 1 decided I would leave tlie valley the next morning and head into tlie hot country, over the mountains to the little town of Mocoa. the capital of the Putumayo Territory. There. I hoped, the travelers 'would be fewer and the Indians a little more scrupulous about their yage* rites. Besides, the damp chilL of winter in Sibundoy was getting to my bones, and I longed to be somewhere where the chance of seeing sunshine was a bit better.

Continue reading here: July 1976 Through August 1978

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