We're 45 kilometres out of Iquitos, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, in the great green web of nature with our native Shaman, Percy Garcia. He has the boyish enthusiasm of a physical education teacher, which is reinforced by his western garb - Nike sneakers, tracky dacks and soccer shirt, but he's been trained since he was a boy in the world of the spirits, and of the great plant medicine - ayahuasca.
The night is alive with the sounds of insects and animals, like a constant hum of electricity. The maloca - a wall-less jungle hut - is lit by candles and mattresses litter the floor for the gringos to crash on as their bodies surrender to the pull of the medicine, and their spirits soar.
Percy's gotten changed into his ceremonial garb, a curious mish-mash of western clothes and indigenous bling bling that visually sums up the changing nature of Amazonian shamanism. Jaguar t-shirt, silk spotted pants and trainers, a feathered parrot hat with blue, red and yellow feathers around his forehead, offset with Christian rosary beads and a chacapa leaf fan in one hand.
He sits behind a makeshift altar, a wooden box covered with an intricate, geometrical patterned cloth that the local Shipibo Indians weave to represent the patterns one sees on ayahuasca. The altar is covered with ceremonial objects, little rainbow bead dolls, wooden cups, giant mapacho cigarettes filled with organic jungle tobacco, Nicotinia rustica, a smoke that cleanses and purifies and banishes bad spirits. Percy's got about a hundred mapacho cigarettes on the altar like he's expecting a horde of demons tonight, or he's having a stoner party with Cheech and Chong as the honoured guests. And last but not least, in plastic two litre San Luis water bottles, a thick, dark brown liquid - ayahuasca, the 'vine of souls'.