Today I am taking kambo, a poisonous frog secretion used in Amazonian traditional medicine for purging. This is in preparation for the ayahuasca ceremony at 11 pm tonight. I have been feeling lethargic since the ayahuasca ceremony a month ago, so I’m hoping the kambo, named after a species of frog, will reboot my system. I think the lack of vitamin C in the ayahuasca diet is throwing off my energy levels. Also I’ve been bored in Panama with the national protests shutting down the roads. I don’t feel like I’m traveling anymore.
I have been fasting since 7 a.m. when I ate some fruit and peanuts in Panama City. It’s about 4pm now. Before taking kambo I quickly drank three liters of water in 10 minutes. We went to the ayahuasca altar and Shaman Tambo burned my arm in five places with a stick of incense. The burn wounds are used to administer the medicine. He apologized every time he burned me, which I thought was funny but kind.
This is what the wounds look like two days later on Monday morning. To the right you can see the white scars from my first kambo experience in 2018. The incense stick Tambo used was much larger than the one used in my previous ceremony.
For the kambo ceremony, Tambo’s assistant Ricardo chose this spot on a hill, under a tree, overlooking some boulders and a pond. I was sitting in a chair with this view.
Seated, with both of them standing behind me, I thought about the ending scene in Of Mice And Men when George is telling Lennie about the rabbits and shoots him in the back of the head.
My belly was uncomfortable storing three liters of water. Tambo used a blade to take a dot of kambo and apply it to one of the burn wounds. He quickly did this four more times. Since my first ceremony had smaller wounds and the administrator only used three of the five, I was given a lot more kambo this time.
Immediately my blood pressure dropped, my heart beat hard and fast, my vision went black, I passed out and vomited all the water onto my shoe and shorts. It sounds gross and painful, which it is, but this is all normal to the procedure for kambo. What isn’t normal is that I vomited after only five minutes instead of the usual fifteen.
After I regained consciousness I noticed Ricardo was holding my water tumbler I was holding before I passed out. He must have taken it thinking I was going to spill it. He said I was very pale.
I felt embarrassed. It wasn’t about the vomiting because I knew that was going to happen. I was talking to Tambo, but I felt like my words didn’t make sense and my tongue wasn’t working right.
Tambo said I seemed low energy compared to last month when he met me. He recommended I eat red fruits and vegetables, especially beetroot. He thinks I may have anemia. No one has ever told me this before, including the doctor in San Jose who gave me a full battery of blood tests in April. I think the lack of vitamin C has thrown off my body’s ability to absorb iron. At a hostel just two months before, a black lady I didn’t know from Hawaii and Diabla both said I was glowing. So this lethargy is a new problem.
After sitting for a while and recovering I was very hungry. I ate a banana, grapes, an apple and some peanuts.
More people started arriving for the ayahuasca ceremony. I didn’t feel like being around a lot of new people. I went to the bathroom to clean up and then to another part of the property where there were no people. My mood was strange for the rest of the day.
Even though it’s very uncomfortable, I don’t regret taking kambo. I still don’t feel 100%, but days later I can feel my energy increasing. After my diet and sleep patterns get back to normal, I am hoping I will feel much better.
The ayahuasca ceremony that night was my third. It was similar to my first and second ceremony last month. After drinking I kept waiting for the trip to start but it took a long time. When Tambo offered a second dose a few hours later, I took it, but still didn’t trip. After staying up all night, when the sunrise started, so did the hallucinations. It was so weird that the sun triggered the medicine to work. When I took ayahuasca in Austin, the trip would consistently start 45 minutes after drinking.
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