My journey to Iquitos, Why I left (Day 1)

The journey to Peru began on April 6th, 2016. I arrived in the Jungle city of Iquitos on April 7th, at roughly 8:30 A.M.

A little background story for those of you who do not know why I went on this trip. Well after High School I applied to be a part of something I have always known would be a part of me, it’s a huge passion of mine. It’s Journalism. I’ve always wanted to see the world for what it really is, and also see the reality behind what the mainstream media portrays conflicts and disasters to be. After all, we all have free will, and writers and editors can choose what they write indefinitely, however if the owner of the corporation that funds and owns the paper does not believe some stories should be written, then they are not. On the contrary, if the owner believes a certain story should be written or  “tweaked” shall I say, then they most definitely always are. The summer before my first semester in college I visited a very good friend of mine, Cyriaque, who lives in the French city of Nantes, which is absolutely lovely might I add if any of you are thinking of travelling Europe. That summer I was “partying” on a daily basis with all my friends throughout France and a short visit to London, and also on my return visit back to Canada. So my mind wasn’t exactly in a good place. I had also met a girl when I returned home, Brooke. She was incredible to be completely honest, and seeing how I was never one to get serious one girls, I surprised even myself on the night that I asked her to be my girlfriend. The rest of the summer went surprisingly well. I worked odd jobs to support myself (labor work for property maintenance as well as be a pizza cook) and found peace with a beautiful woman, a great group of friends and writing daily passionately about what I knew I was going to be able to do once I was finally in college, with classmates that would grow to become close colleagues, as we ventured through the unknown and tried to make sense of a chaotic world and period of time. My music was beginning to flow once again (I go through blocks of times where it’s hard for my to put a pen to paper or even play the guitar), and I really just felt like my life was just beginning to take off. Little did I know, another journey for me was just about to unfold.

The first day of college seemed magical to me. I fell in love with my classmates, adored my professors (even if they could be tough sometimes;)) and felt like I had belonged for the first time in a very long time. I made some lifelong friends there, of that I have no doubt. However, all good things must come to an end. Although the work was never overwhelming (it could be for some people, however I was used to writing consistently on my own, so it never really seemed like they were asking a lot of us) I began to sink, lower and lower, on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. I began to push my friends away, and the lovely girl who was mine for a short period of time, well I began to push her away and become and jealous, and well, simply mad man. I thought she was messing around with other guys (something she’d never do, she’s really great) when she was at work? Yeah, like I said, I went a bit mad. I suspected my friends thought I was crazy, and well I was. I put off my school work and preferred to drink and smoke with one of my close classmates, Jeff, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who’s served on multiple combat missions, and was actually incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable. I also became a bit of a hermit and had a hard time going outside. My Ego and mind had gotten the better of me, and I found myself identifying things that had nothing at all to doing with who I was as an individual human being. Grades began to slip, as I did. In October, me and Brooke broke it off, as she didn’t deserve to have to deal with someone who was so unsure of himself. I stopped going out and preferred to meditate under clouds of smoke as I pondered for the reason of my own existence (as we all so at many times in our life). After Christmas Break, which I spent accomplishing very little, I came back to class where our largest assignment of the semester (a short biography on an individual you admire in your community, I did mine on Andrew West, the Green Party representative for the Kanata-Carleton riding, a great guy may I add) as well as about a dozen other small ones were due, and I felt constricted and very anxious. However I knew that there was no avoiding these tasks, no angel was going to fly down with a finished copy of all my work and hand it to me as she whispered to me “everything was going to be OK”, although I truly wish that happened at times. I buckled down, got it all done, and got ready for the next semester.

The next semester I was chosen as the Lifestyles Editor for the Algonquin Times (this is all the Algonquin Journalism program does, we make the paper, write all the stories, snap all the photos, and well editors, they edit), and I wasn’t disappointing, but I wasn’t enthralled either, I had really hoped I would get the entertainment editor position. Regardless, here I was, 18 years old, anxious and unsure, and I suddenly felt like I had even more pressure on the back of my spine than I did beforehand. The first edition of the Algonquin times paper featured my two first articles, one on the mindfulness meditation sessions that take place in the Algonquin College prayer room, and the first editorial article of our class, it was on following your heart, your passion, and not the dogma that parents and teachers, as well as the whole of communities spew at you from a very young age. Needless to say, those were my only two articles ever printed for the Algonquin times, I dropped out of college two weeks later, in pursuit of following my heart, following my dreams.

At that time in my life it was the single most difficult decision that I have ever had to make. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, my parents and friends thought I was crazy. After all it’s true, I’ve only ever wanted to be a Journalist, Writer or Musician, so why? the hell was I leaving one of those behind?

I’ve realized now that I can be all three, even more if I wish, and I can do it on my own.

The weeks leading up to that decision were filled with depression, anxiety and most certainly uncertainty. I did not know where I would go afterwards, how I would continue down my road. I knew that I wanted to play music and write, however I had been so drained and unmotivated from my time in college, that both my passions at the time we lacking, so I was stuck in an abyss somewhat. Then I found Synchronicity in the most unlikely of forms, a carpentry position. I had been working at Winners as a sales associate, manning the cash as wave after wave of material hungry customers flowed through the lines for their purchases, day in and day out. My family friend Jesse (whom I’ve known for years) was working building log homes five days a week for a company called Kealey and Tackleberry log homes, run by the two men with their last names in the company name, both were really good men, even if I only met them a few times. Anyways, Jesse tells me that he can get me a job with them, and that it would get me out of the city, and I could make some pretty decent money until I knew what to do. I accepted the offer. The next day I put in my resignation at Winners, and on the Thursday of that same week I withdrew my the Journalism program at Algonquin college.

The week after that I found myself in Plevna, over two hours away from Stittsville, my home town. I’d be working there for the next two months. Learning a ton and drinking a ton at night (The boss of the company rented out me, Jesse and “Nagel”, another character, a log home in the woods on an American man, Kevin’s property. Kevin was a Vietnam veteran and a true American at heart. I heard he strongly enjoyed his pints). I never enjoyed the job to be completely honest, I’m just not meant to physically work with my hands all day long. Some individuals are and truly excel in that line of work, I however felt like an awkward child, clearly out of his element, I’m sure many of the guys I worked with felt the same way. Regardless, we all got along really well. After a while I became somewhat comfortable and proficient within that line of work, however I knew that I was only there long enough for a “trip”. I knew I needed to get away. I was thinking maybe back to Europe for a month, maybe India or Thailand (my sister had just got back from a three week visit in Thailand and told me it was incredible). For some reason though, my heart was telling me to go to Peru, why, I did not know. The last week of work, I kind of felt like something was changing, I knew it was my last week, not of my own will. The boss’s didn’t think I was picking up the tools fast enough, and as a small company they’d rather save the money then have me continue my training (most of the laboring was done anyways for the current project, both houses had been framed, one was completely roofed and shingled and all the other tradesmen- electricians, plumbers, they were all coming in to begin their work). That Friday my buddy Jesse told me it was my last day of work. Love and light entered my heart once again, and I felt free. So free. Those two months had been good and bad for me. I realized many things, read some interesting books, however there wasn’t much to do out there besides drink and smoke marijuana after work (there was actually so much to do out there now that I think about it! However my ego at the time prevented me from doing many outdoor activities). That day I got home and in my heart I knew I was going to the Amazon Jungle. Why? Well to drink Ayahausca with the shamans of old and to access the dimensions of consciousness and become one with the true world, of course.

As I told my friends and family about the journey I was about to embark on, they were somewhat taken back. Why was their son and friend going on such a crazy adventure? Why did he always have to take things to the extreme? I am an extremist by nature after all, and am incredibly enticed and absorbed by new ideas, thoughts and ways of life on a daily basis. But the answer to this question is actually very simple: It was time for me to go. Quite frankly, it was my destiny to go. Something that I was meant to do long before I was even born. Two weeks later I found myself at the Ottawa International airport, hugging my mother goodbye as I went through security.

Day 1:

As I said, I arrived at the airport at 8:30 A.M. and took a taxi to my hostel in Iquitos, La Casa Chacruna, which roughly translates to “The House of Chacruna” ( Chacruna is a plant found in the Amazon jungle. It’s leaves contain high amounts of DMT. The leaves are generally boiled by shamans into the Ayahausca brew to increase it’s potency. however some shamans brew Ayahausca vine, solely on it’s own. I’ll give background on Ayahausca and other plants on another post, as there is ultimately so much to be said about them. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Freddie and Gladys, and their beautiful baby daughter (whose name I cannot remember). Freddie is a strong London born man, with intricate tattoos covering his body. He’s lived in Iquitos for the past ten years and works consistently with the medicine (ayahausca). Holding ceremonies weekly with a shaman named Roman (I never attended a ceremony of theirs, as I had already signed up for an Ayahausca retreat at “GaiaTree”, a new company linked to the popular Kapitari resort. I was to be a part of the first retreat ever taking place at GaiaTree). Gladys on the other hand is absolutely stunning for a Peruvian woman, always smiling and holding the beautiful baby, who is also always smiling. They made me part of their internal family ring for the short four days I was there, as they do with all guests.

After I put my things in my room, the energy in Iquitos drew me. I grabbed my Nikon camera and headed out the door, to face the Jungle city. Let me tell you first off that Iquitos is a very poor city. The unemployment rate is 80%, and most people live in the jungle and come to Iquitos to sell their art and jewelry to the tourists (most people are artists down there, and there work is absolutely incredible. I’ll post some on here).The police and government officials are also incredibly corrupt, as you shall discover on the second day. Life’s tough, but the people are so happy with what they have, which by North American standards is quite frankly absolutely nothing. I quickly met up with a couple locals who spent the day with me, showed me around the entire city, took me on three tours, and allowed me to meet their families, and of course tried to sell me all their beautiful work. All in the span of a single day. First we grabbed Mapachos (pure jungle tabacco, that as an avid chemical smoker back home, really intrigued me), then we went through a boat tour of the “Floating City of Belen”, which in reality is just a poverty stricken slum where all the poorest of the poor go. Before that I also saw the Belen marketplace, where delicious fresh food was sold on a daily basis, and where I generally went to get my meals, either that or the Dawn on the Amazon). As I floated through Belen, which is essentially a poor, dark take of the water canals in Venice, I saw all the locals looking at me. I must have been a real mystery. Who is this gringo with the expensive looking camera and his two Peruvian friends? Why is he taking pictures of us, does he not know that this is our reality down here. At least he get’s to go home. When I realized that I almost threw my camera in the water. I never took pictures of people again without permission, and without of course hearing their stories first.

After that I went on a tour of the Amazon river. It’s just as beautiful as you can imagine it to be. It’s nature in it’s pure form. It’s love incarnate. The brown water of Belen meets the pure blue water of the amazon at some point, and it’s incredible to see the stark contrast. It’s almost like your leaving the realm of sinners (Iquitos is a city of many sins) and entering the jungle, a place of purity, cleansing and serenity.

After that we went to two different animal sanctuaries, where I saw all types of the biodiversity the Amazon has to offer; Jaguars, Anacondas, Pythons, Spider monkeys, Sloths, Piranhas, just to name a few. Then we went back to the boat, where I was informed an extra charge for the taxi drive to the boat would be applied, at first i argued, then came to peace knowing that fact that the little money I had, would be put to much better use with these people and their families that needed to eat than it ever would with me. After all, the human body can fast for as long as a month and still survive.

Then we went back to the city, had lunch and a few cervezas (pints) and took leave of the family. Then the dark side came out. the two guys I was with I discovered were formed crack heads, and although they had been cleansed by the jungle and Ayahausca, you could tell they still had some demons to fight. All night they asked me to buy cocaine and hookers (which are abundant in Iquitos) and all night I said the same thing I’d say to anyone, no. Not only will I never touch chemical drugs that I do not trust again in my life, I also am sick and tired of the way some women feel they need to degrade themselves in order to possess power. Prostitutes use their money to obtain funds and control men through sex, yet they lose the one thing that’s most beautiful about them. Their sacredness, purity, their mystery. After all, everyone knows what it looks like if your legs never shut. Apologies for the little rant there, and that’s simply a very small percentage of women, all the others are beautiful, intrinsic and mysterious. And I don’t look down upon the women that do choose to live those lives. After all it is their decision and no one else, it’s their life. One day they will realize the error of their ways, and then they will once again become pure, and mysterious. After a final beer I took my leave of the two friends I found, and went to find find a place to eat. I ate at Dawn on the Amazon alone, then met a friend who sold marijuana, and rolled up a few jungle grass joints as more and more of his friends came to smoke and talk about life with me. All his friends also brought their own art and drugs, in an attempt to make a quick buck off a “rich gringo”, seriously, I was probably the poorest traveler in the city but everyone just wanted to sell their things to me.

After that I went back to La Casa Chacruna, had a mapacho with Freddie, had a quick shower and played guitar and read until I’ve drifted off to sleep.

For those of you that made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. If you have any questions please do no hesitate to leave a comment or message me personally.

Day 2 of my journey will be released tomorrow.

Thank you so much, and I hope your all having a wonderful day.

May the light shine through you,

Brandon.

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