Huancabamba – Shamans & Ayahuasca

Midnight chants & icy dunks in the remote lakes of the Peruvian Andes

From Piura (near the northern border to Ecuador) it´s a rough 10 hour bus ride deep into the eastern mountains until you reach Huancabamba (3000m): a small mystical town, hidden in mist and clouds and famous for its shamans, brujos (witch doctors), curanderos (healers) and of course, San Pedro cactus and Ayahuasca (Quechua for “vine of the soul”), two of the strongest hallucinogetic plants known to mankind. It´s a place were many Peruvians but very few tourists go and life stops wherever my dreadlocks emerge.

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The road to Huancabamba The view from our hostal balcony onto the picturesque parque central of Huancabamba

Inside the bus terminal is an information office which has a little book with a listing of all the shamans and their individual healing powers.  So, Jon (an English dude I met days earlier) and I picked the best sounding name, jumped into the back of a pickup truck and drove another 2 bumpy hours higher up the mountains.
As we arrived at the shaman´s house we found an old indigenous man and his wife both so drunk that they could hardly move and even less talk.

Not wanting to miss out the promises of health & eternal fortune we put our headlamps on and went off into the dark looking for another shaman in one of the remotest places you can think of.

Luckily the light in the distance happened to be the house of the curandero´s brother, which also was a shaman…

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Our curandero (r) & his helper infront of the altar We stayed the night at the shaman´s house

The next 4  hours we were praying to the moon, singing, chanting, dancing,  swallowing hallucinogetic brews and snorting indefinable mucilage accompanied by getting spit on with parfumes by the curandero. Then it was time to have “magic dreams”.

  2 hours later, just after sunrise we continued our way on bestias (on what?!) on caballos (aaaah… horses!) to the sacred Laguna Shimbe (3300m) where the ceremonies went on.Finally after a dunk in the icy lake, more spitting and the ritual of  “the cleaning” I got reborn.

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People from all over South America travel tremendous distances to visit Huancabamba, Laguna Shimbe & its curanderos. They take the rituals very seriously and pay horrendous amounts of money (sometimes up to several months of earnings) to the shamans. It is believed the more you pay the healthier & richer future outcome will be.

For the 20-hour ceremony, bed and mule transport we payed about 120 Soles (30 €). All in all it was an incredible and one of the most amazing experiences of my life and surely something I won´t forget in a long time.


The name of the (tanked) shaman: Román Chasquero Zurita.
His brother´s name was: Feliciano Chasquero Zurita. 
And another “recommended” curandero is: Juan Manuel Melendrez Garcia.

June 12, 2009  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Peru Views: 9345

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  1. Fab - April 3, 2017

    I was wondering if you managed to get “Juan Manuel Melendrez Garcia”details or contact?