The devil lies in the details

Agony. Restless, tiresome agony. Throughout the night I thrashed in that windowless room, and tore the sheets completely off the bed. My mind found no reprieve at all, drunk with apprehension and anxiety. “God…” I breathlessly muttered “when will this end…”

Since childhood I have always had issues with sleep. My overactive mind has always been a burden, producing vividly cinematic horror stories in my dreamscape. I always used to joke to myself how I would have easily won an Oscar for best horror movie, if only I could find a way to plug into my dreams and extrapolate them onto the silver screen. That night was no different. Finally, tired of choking myself in my sweat covered sheets, I sat on the edge of my bed, shook my groggy head to life, and got up for breakfast.

I sat alone in the dining room. I was still too early for breakfast by about half an hour. My lighter absent-mindedly twirled in my fingers as my zombie like eyes bored into the adjacent wall. “What am I getting myself into?” Well, it was too late. Here I was already. And besides… this was not the Dan I knew. The old Dan embraced adversity and challenge. He loved adventure and uncertainty. But this Dan, he was different. He had lost his confidence a while ago. He had succumbed to paranoia and self doubt, and allowed his thoughts to take him to the worst of places. Breakfast finally came, and still, I sat there alone with my fears.

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The next while was spent nervously packing and repacking my things. I double and triple checked everything, and made sure they were all in the right compartment. It gave me something other to do than to fret but there’s only so much of that you can do before you start to think you’re developing OCD, so I put on my boots and started walking the streets of Iquitos again.

The first thing I did was to get myself a local simcard. I heard that Movistar was the best provider, so I found a shop that sold it, and through my minimal command of the Spanish language, managed to purchase one. Except it didn’t work. After more broken Spanish, I managed to find my way to the main Movistar office in town, and managed to find a very helpful and sweet lady who spoke little English, but had a heart of gold. The problem was that the simcard registration required an identification number to activate the card, and it would only accept local identification; certainly not a Malaysian passport belonging to a gringo. After two hours of back and forth, I finally managed to get this sorted. Usually, I would have been enraged by something as troublesome as this, but for now I was happy with the distraction. As soon as my sim was working I texted my mother to let her know I was safe and sound. My poor mother had been worried sick about my journey, and in the past I hadn’t always been the best with staying in contact with her during my travels. I owed her more than just some reassurance.

I found a French Cafe to rest at, and I had the intention of sitting down and doing some writing and relaxing. Seemed like a good idea at first, but alas, as luck would have it, my patience was to be tested once again. There was a table of rather cheery people sitting next to me, which was fine to begin with, but twenty minutes later, they were joined by an ever-growing horde of even louder, even cheerier people. Fucking Ayahuascans. It was clear that they had just finished a group ceremony recently. They had found their peace and happiness already. I hadn’t. Why could they just fuck off and go play with the crocodiles instead of bother my frayed and frazzled mind? They hugged and talked and laughed and hugged some more. “Fucking hippies” I muttered. “Shaddup and let me worry in peace.” Finally I could take no more, so I grabbed the bill and headed off.

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The next few hours were spent wandering the streets and trying whatever local food I could eat within the guidelines of the ayahuasca dieta. Can’t say I really got to enjoy much, given the rather strict restrictions. I met one hustler who seemed markedly less obnoxious than the rest, and as an added bonus, his eyes were not glazed over and bloodshot from hard drug use, unlike some of the others I had encountered. Freddy seemed “safe” enough. He was annoying as they all are, but at least I felt like this guy didn’t have ideas on how much my spleen would sell for on the black market. I chit-chatted with him for a while, then carried on.

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I wandered and wandered and wandered for hours, just taking photos and taking in the feel of the town. By this stage, it was late afternoon, and my stomach demanded to be fed, so I went back to Dawn of the Amazon for some more plain and relatively tasteless food. How unusual it was, I thought to myself, that here I was on a grand adventure in such an exotic locale and I was eating such bland food. Oh well, there’s a first time for everything I suppose. At the table beside me sat an American girl who was also ordering Ayahuasca friendly food. She looked friendly, so I struck up a conversation with her. Surprise surprise, she was going to the same place as I. We chatted for a while, and it turned out that she already had a number of Ayahuasca ceremonies under her belt, so I was pretty impressed. April was her name, and she was the very first of our group that I would get to know. Another table next to me suddenly became occupied by two more seekers who also turned out to be a part of our group. And so I met the lovely couple, Marcus and Juliana. We all talked for a while, before finally heading off.

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I was exhausted by now, so I headed back to the hotel to get some rest. And rest, I did. I had finally tired myself out enough to get some sleep. By the time I woke up it was evening already, and my stomach rumbled, ready for some more bland food. I walked back to Dawn of the Amazon and bumped into Marcus and Juliana once more. We sat and talked for a while, and I came to learn that they were from New York. Marcus too, had a few ceremonies under his belt, but it was Juliana’s first time. I now laugh when I think of that conversation, because I must have been so high strung. I was describing the nuisance that was the hustlers, and was just saying to them that I hate being touched, and no sooner had I said those words that one of the hustlers came up to me, called me friend, and planted his hand on my shoulder. Sigh. I’m sure Marcus and Juliana had a good laugh at the angry Malaysian’s expense.

I headed back to the hotel. I needed badly to have a proper rest. We were to meet bright and early the next morning for the journey into the jungle. I turned on the TV and found a spanish music channel that was playing flamenco guitar, and did my best to zone out. The next day was going to be a big day.

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