Trip to Colombia

Trip to Colombia – Mocoa, shamans, yage and trekking

In 2012 I was in Bogotá, 20 years had passed since the last time. My grandmother is very old and she wasn’t well, so I made up my mind and in April, with my mother, we took a quick trip. The family over there told us that we had chosen the worst period, that of the rain.

In reality, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve always found the climate of the capital excellent, just a little capricious, moody, which I love. In those days it rained every now and then, but then an almost violent sun came out again, from the mountains, given that we are in 2600 meters above sea level.

The nights at certain times of the year are very cold and you should have a poncho with you (in Colombian ruana) It is ideal. You get used to it, you eat it sopa and beans and you walk up and down a lot. But Colombia is perceived by being in the family, on the outskirts of Bogota and watching soap operas in the afternoons it was certainly not the one I would find two years later.
We arrive at 2014, end of July. I decide to take a return flight and spend a month in Colombia.

I carry with me some email addresses, a couple of telephone numbers for safety (uncle, friend, etc.). On the flight I meet some slightly “frikkettoni” Italians who are going to Putumayothey say “Amazon”, perhaps to make things more adventurous.
In fact, for Colombians that is not yet the Amazon (which is another region, capital Leticia). They tell me they have contact with shamans and healers of the area and will be hosted there.

Let me start by saying that my “flower child” period is long gone, but primitive cultures are a great passion of mine. So I decide to follow them and I find myself in an area of ​​the world and Colombia that is absolutely unknown to me: no stories, no preconceptions. I don’t have any type of guide with me and I carefully avoid constantly consulting the web for tourist information, I only want first-hand experiences and random information from travelers or locals.

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Read also: Travel dangers in Colombia

Arrival to El Dorado

Arrived at a The Golden, the Bogota airport, completely renewed and sparkling, I’m already extremely excited but I think it’s a highly subjective fact. The rest of the crew makes various comments about Bogotá, those who have already been there say that it is nothing special and we meet some who have already been there for a couple of days.

Per me Bogotá is the most special city in the world and I must say that I’m happy that foreigners don’t like it so much, it gives me the idea that it is somehow a hidden and therefore protected beauty. I feel a little strange, a little at home, yes, but I have no sense of direction at all.

I was born there and I lived there, I have a thousand memories, Christmas and New Year celebrations, but it’s all been buried for years and years in Europe. I act as if I were an Italian going there for the first time and I join the group. For the first few days I don’t want to think too much about where to sleep, look over my shoulder and find transport: I let myself be guided.


We take the bus from the Terminal to Mocoa in the department of Putumayo.
My first relationship with buses: they are literally freezers, which force you to bring a blanket and wool hat with you.
It’s the only reason my sleeping bag was any good. I would later discover that in all the buses around the country it’s like this: either extreme cold or no air conditioning. Don’t try to ask the driver to lower it, it won’t happen.
We travel during the night and as soon as it gets light we find ourselves surrounded by a tropical jungle truly wild, violent, wonderful and disturbing at the same time. This vision gives me the idea that after all I was right to join these unknowns and do something I otherwise would never have done.
Once we get to Mocoa I don’t even feel like I’m in “Colombia” anymore.


The locals look at us with curiosity and from their looks I perceive that it is certainly not a place very popular with tourism. The city is tiny and very noisy, it’s hard to think due to the noise of the engines. Near the central square with the church there is a place where they make huge ones jugs Of juice with tropical fruitswater or milk that combine mine and the tastes of Italians.

In the city you equip yourself with rain boots (to be left on site later) and for those who don’t have them: a waterproof cape, flashlight and repellent.

Conversing with the kids I slowly realize that some of them have already known each other for a long time and frequent “holistic” environments, now very popular in Italy, practicing Reiki and various therapies. Having practiced for a long time yoga and dance therapy somehow I am accepted into the group; however, after the experience in Colombia, to radically changed my position on these topics.

Now I’ll explain how I received the first shock.

Esoteric tourism and yaje

I believe that in Colombia it is a necessary ritual, even if it is just my idea, but Something has to happen sooner or later that seriously affects you and if you pass that moment, you have come into contact with this country.

I “esoteric” tourists they asked me for money, to give to those who would host us and to the “team leader” of the group, as well as to cover food, accommodation and transport costs. Not knowing what I was getting into, I gave them something but not everything they asked for (without explaining exactly what it was for), luckily.

We were hosted in a wonderful “maloka” in the middle of a part of the forest, full of plants and fruits. There was also the coca plant, we chewed the leaves. A great place to reconnect with nature which you really feel in a very strong way.

A shady it is a small house without doors or windows made mostly of wood and straw, where we slept and where the first one took place shamanic ceremony that I have ever witnessed. The truth is that I not only witnessed it, but I actually decided to get involved.

Although she is very knowledgeable about these kinds of rituals, however, by taking their medicine, she yager, everything I knew no longer made sense. It was a completely unexpected experience. I don’t recommend it to everyone, in fact I say the opposite: it’s very strong and unsettling, but I was there and… I did it.

If my experience had a positive outcome it is only a secondary, fortunate and personal fact.

standing woman wearing yellow dress during daytime

To avoid ending up in the hands of inexperienced people, it is best to contact recognized indigenous institutions such as the National Indigenous Organization (Onic) o to Union of Yageceros Doctors of the Colombian Amazon (Umiyac) (, based in Mocoa (Putumayo) or as an alternative to our local operator who knows well who is serious and who isn’t!

The shady it belongs to a crowded local family, very hospitable. He carries out the various “cures”, he is a singer-songwriter and plays the guitar with his son who has the gift of a beautiful voice, she is certainly an excellent cook who also dispenses health advice if necessary (very obvious to be honest) . In any case him he is not a real taitabut “self-taught”!

You get there and do whatever you want, respecting their rules (otherwise they’ll get very angry!!). Bringing gifts from home is welcome (clothes, shoes, whatever). Not everyone takes yagie, but sometimes local children and even pregnant women are seen taking it knowingly.

Some travel there from neighboring towns to treat everything from rheumatic pain to marital crises.
The group participated in the rites every day or almost (this was actually what most of the money was for), but I immediately abstained from continuing to take this bitter black substance, extracted from a particular wood that was used by the local Indians as a cure-all. and a means of speaking with the ancestors, being a Westerner who grew up in Catholic countries and with a completely different education, it seemed almost sacrilege to me.

A few drops of indigenous blood also flow through my veins but/and I feel a sort of fear, reverence and respect for pagan beliefs
I leave other comments to those who read me, in any case I would like to point out that the comings and goings of Europeans in Putumayo is increasingly intense and those who tell you they are going to Mocoa usually have a single intention: to try yagie. Colombians also know this very well. It’s a completely personal matter.

In any case you can go for many other reasons.
I’ll tell you one: Trekking to La Fin del Mundo.

green palm tree between grass field under cloudy sky at daytime

Trekking to the End of the World

A medium difficulty trekking route in the jungle. I had never been in such a wild place, made up of cliffs and waterfalls. You have to go with a guide who knows the route and gives you a hand in the most difficult points, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Wonderful walks through tropical forests where intimate contact with nature occurs regardless of semi-muddy drinks or not.

The walk lasts about 1 hour and 30 minutes and was not as tiring as we had been told, especially when you begin to be surrounded by the lakes and waterfalls that dot this magical and wild place, ending with a swim in the lagoon.

Whether you go for shamans or for trekking, the Putumayo area is full of eco-tourism activities that tell and make you experience a different Colombia and certainly outside the usual tourist circuits in a current reality made up of oral indigenous traditions and music of the soul.

For everyone there is a Colombia, but everyone agrees that anything can happen down here.

Later I had conversations with Colombians about this area and for them it has a negative reputation: it is precisely the border areas with’Ecuador those where it still lurks guerrilla.

Here is one of the illusions of this country: where I heard greater sense of “security” it was Mocoa, where what scared me the most was nature!
The question is who you are and what you are doing there, whoever settles in and starts working may receive threats, but the guided tourist can rest assured.

10 days later…

After 10 days in this strange dimension and also a little dazed by the smell of burnt wood and other penetrating aromas used in the rituals, the strange gang wanted to head towards the Caribbean, in short from the sacred to the profane.

If in the maloka smoking was considered an unworthy act (throughout Colombia it is not generally seen well, but just do it discreetly if you are a smoker) and alcohol was banned, as soon as we landed in Cartagena everyone smoked and drank cocktails.

Cartagena dazzled me, enchanted me, and somehow deceived me. I think that’s his specialty. A bit like some “witches” Colombians who exuberantly display their beauty and femininity, but have very sharp claws.

I will talk about all this later, because with the arrival at Cartagena de Indias and leaving the somewhat familiar and bucolic (and humid!) climate of Mocoa ends the first part of this journey within a journey.

The curandero told me that it is enough to throw a seed into the Colombian land and something always arises: it is a phrase that I like and I give it to you.

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Read also: Why travel to Ecuador – 10 good reasons to travel to Ecuador

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