The Difference between Shamans and Curanderas


Location: Iquitos, Peru

Currency: Nuevo Sol

Duration: 1 Month

Purpose: Ayahuasca Retreat

In January, I made a bold decision to immerse myself in the depths of the jungle in Iquitos, Peru, leaving behind the familiarity of my life. My journey was twofold: to delve into the study of plant medicines alongside the Shapibo Tribe and to undergo a profound spiritual cleanse, shedding the influences of Western habits and societal constructs.

Guided by a friend's recommendation, I discovered "Aya Madre," a center owned by a third-generation female "Curandera", whom we affectionately referred to as Maestra or "Mama." She explained that Curanderas are true healers that use plant medicines, where as shamans can often get powers from both light and dark energy. It was paramount for me to learn under the guidance of a female healer deeply rooted in traditional practices. While other centers in Peru may employ "shamans" for ceremonies, I was drawn to the authenticity of curanderas, who are renowned for their pure healing methods utilizing plant medicines.

The journey to reach Iquitos was an adventure in itself, comprising three plane rides. From Austin, I traveled to LA, where I met my companion Anya. Together, we continued our journey to Lima, Peru, before finally arriving in Iquitos. Upon landing, we were greeted by "Moto Cars," essentially dirt bikes outfitted with carts for transporting passengers and luggage. Our final leg of the journey involved a thrilling 90-minute drive along a roadless dirt path deep into the jungle. Despite encountering a thunderstorm along the way, soaking us through, I found solace in the warmth and excitement of the experience. Anticipating such conditions, I had packed trash bags in my carry-on, which proved invaluable in protecting our belongings.

As our driver skillfully navigated through the jungle, we encountered obstacles that required him to stop and clear the path, all while maintaining a sense of humor, occasionally channeling his inner Tarzan with playful chest thumps. Giddy with the realization of embarking on this wild adventure, we finally arrived at a sprawling retreat center. Welcomed by the lively barking of dogs and the sight of free-roaming chickens, the property boasted uniquely shaped buildings known as "Tambos." At its heart stood a magnificent Malloca, where we would partake in the sacred Ayahuasca ceremonies. 

I was so tired from the Journey, we quickly met with the Maestra, who's eyes were so pure I could hardly look into them. Almost embarrassed of my "Western Energetic Mess Frequency" I told her my struggles with anxiety. She had our translator prepare a calming tea (which I will include  all plants I worked with in my e-book). After drinking it and going to my Tambo, surrounded my 360 views of the Jungle. I fell asleep more deeply then I ever have in my entire life. Listening to the symphony of Mother Earth. 

I had arrived on Sunday Jan 6, so the weekly schedule for ceremonies were as follows:

Monday Night: Ayahuasca

Tuesday: Plant medicines prescribed by the Maestra and integration 

Wednesday: Ayahuasca Day

Thursday: Plant medicines prescribed and integration

Friday: Hauchuma Ceremony and Giant Bonfire

Saturday and Sunday: Off 


This was kind of a rigorous Aya schedule. As I had only experienced Ayahuasca a handful of times in the past 5 years and only over the course of  weekends (a year or sometimes 2 years apart). I basically had signed up for the Olympics of Ayahuasca. And by the end, I felt like a transcendent spiritual navy seal from this training.