Chunky & funky San Pedro cacti and sacred Chavin de Huantar temple [video + photos]
One of the places you shouldn’t miss in Peru is Chavin, a small town only three hours away from Huaraz by bus through amazing scenery. You don’t even need to step off the bus to take inspiring photographs of Cordillera Blanca and numerous dazzling blue lakes.
It’s possible to take a day trip, but if you have time to spare we certainly recommend staying at least one night in this charming place.
Chavin de Huantar, an archeological site protected by Unesco and truly a magical place is the main attraction here. Most interesting part of the site is a 3000 year old temple built by the Chavin, a pre Incan civilization that developed in the northern Andes. It’s interior is decorated with their art which most often depicts exotic feline creatures not found in the region. We found it very similar to statues we’ve seen at temples around Bali.
However, if you are interested in psychedelic experiences this is definitely one of the best places in the world to explore the effects of San Pedro cactus or Huachuma. San Pedro cacti has been used for healing and religious divination in the Andes for over 3000 years. Actually the earliest known depiction of San Pedro and its usage for exploring the spiritual realms is found in the Chavin temple, where it was used by the priests in religious ceremonies. Some say that is the reason it was built in the first place and that its immense power comes from it being built on the ley line. Of course that is not the official theory, but those are always less interesting anyway.
San Pedro contains mescaline which is illegal in most countries, however it is completely legal here which is another reason you should try it in South America – though it still felt totally weird to carry it in a backpack on the plane .
We had our brew prepared by a good friend of ours in the jungle (you can see the part of the cooking process in the video), so we carried it with us to Chavin, but when we got there we found that the owner of the hostel we stayed in was actually organizing ceremonies for his guests. Jack is an interesting gringo who made Chavin his home after he visited the temple and felt its power. He has over 8 years of experience with San Pedro and he grows, prepares and guides you through the experience. Though he says that when it comes to San Pedro everyone is their own shaman we found his guidance very beneficial. He owns the property right next to the temple where you can drink in beautiful surroundings and when it takes effect he will drive you to the temple. He recommends staying in the temple for the most part of the day while the effect is strongest (the whole trip lasts between 10 and 15 hours) which is exactly what we did. For the 6 or 7 hours we spent in and around the temple we realized what he meant when he told us the temple is ALIVE with energy. The labyrinth underground in the middle of which you will find the statue of the main deity – Lanzon is like a portal to another dimension. The experience is not something you can describe easily, it is something you need to go through yourself if you really want to know what it feels like.
Finally around 5 pm completely exhausted we headed back to our hostel to be greeted with a warm soothing cup of soup and friendly faces. In the evening Jack made a bonfire and told us all kinds of interesting stories about his San Pedro experiences and the temple itself while we felt the effects of San Pedro wearing off. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
Finally before we headed back to Huaraz we spent an afternoon with a cheerful old lady who owns traditional fiesta clothes shop and was willing to rent the clothes (and dress us in it according to tradition) for a small fee. An awesome way to end our stay in Chavin.
Have you tried the cacti before? Let us know about your experience and setting. If not, would you like to go on such a journey?
Sergio & Lanita