“We were descending rapidly as the tunnels spiraled around like DNA helixes, sometimes branching off in diverse directions. The snake seemed to know exactly where we were going, though, and there was no hesitation in his path choosing. Left, then suddenly right; up a bit and then down and down. I knew we were traveling deep into Ayahuasca space. “
The Amazon, deep in the wild recesses of Peru, and David Crews is racing through cosmic pathways on a giant, electric blue snake. How did he get here? He tried to board a train that had materialized out of thin air, but the doors were too tiny to enter. So, instead, he climbed on top and watched in amusement as the metal underneath him morphed into the coils of a serpent.
“I sat, straddling the body the best I could,” he says.
Then, like a bronco, the snake jerked and took flight, crashing through the portals of reality at a blistering fast pace, with Crews as the cowboy on its back, ducking and diving through tunnels full of neon blue lines, helices of DNA, phantasmagoria more vibrant than the mind can fathom.
He trusts the snake–he has to–as it criss-crosses through the psychotropic milieu, leaving behind one cluster of fantastical geometry for the next. Then, finally, it glides to a stop in the midst of a dome littered with white dots. It must be a challenge, Crews thinks.
“How do I get past?” he shouts into the abyss. “Isn’t there a door or something?”
Just like that, a wooden door manifests in front of his eyes, and on the other side is a native woman with long, straight black hair, dressed in tribal clothing, smiling and motioning for him to come along. He quickly realizes that he is communing with Mother Ayahuasca, the elemental feminine presence commonplace in such visions. After ten years of research, planning and anticipation, he has arrived.
I’ll try to tell you in nutshell…
That’s what Crews says to me by phone when I ask him how he transformed from a strict Christian to a desert-wandering truth-seeker, who six years ago took a shamanic pilgrimage to the Amazon to eat the psychotropic entheogen Ayahuasca in Peru. He talks of a steady progression of self-learning that sent him diving into Zoroastrianism, the Vedic Scriptures and the works of psychedelic pioneers such as Terence McKenna and the Swiss writer Jeremy Narby. He explains that it was all centered around ontology: the consideration of what is real vs. what is imagined. That’s what motivated a 57-year-old Texas-based music and video producer who has never had a drink, smoked a cigarette or taken a drug, to travel to South America to take a powerful hallucinogenic.
“From what I had read Ayahuasca guaranteed that you would step into another realm. Nothing in my background had given me that, given me what you might call a religious experience. It had all been intellectual, cognitive, whereas this would take me deep into the spiritual world,” Crews says.
The substance, which is a mixture of a number of naturally-occurring plant materials, is illegal in the U.S., but has been used in the Amazon for thousands of years by shamans to catalyze spiritual awakening. Its active ingredient, DMT, can cause powerful visions, like the ones documented above.
Crews spent close to ten years researching the drug, before deciding to venture to the Amazon and consume it under the guidance of the shaman Don Roberto Jurama and a company called Vision Quest, which provided accommodations.
He took the substance three times, the results of which he documented extensively in a four-part series on his blog. Though his first experience was less than pleasant, Crews describes the results of the journey as life changing.
“For me, it was enough to be able to say that there is something beyond this reductionist world, that this is not the only reality, but just another dimension, and that our brains are less like a computer and more like a tuner. If we can just re-tune, we can access other universes,” he said.
A Circle in the Desert
Crews’s trip to Peru was one of a handful of foreign excursions that he has been on in his life. An avid traveler, he’s scaled the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, hiked in Hawaii in Alaska, and trekked through Mayan ruins in both Guatemala and Belize. However, his favorite outdoors spots are the deserts of the American Southwest.
Crews has made numerous visit to desert landscapes in the Four Corners region between Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. Before he started his current blog, he wrote about his travels in the American Southwest on his site A Circle in the Desert.
“I’m a person who is very oriented to the landscape of a place, more so than the people,” says Crews, about what makes him so drawn to the desert.
Crews has done much shamanic work–without the aid of substances–in the desert, where he’s had at least two very compelling visions. He primarily goes on such excursions solo and will often spend a day or two alone in an attempt to cultivate spiritual growth and still his mind.
He documents many of his trips with photography and videos that he posts online, a process of sharing his experiences that he says has given added meaning to his spiritual excursions in the natural world.
“It’s tied into my deepest psyche. I get so happy and joyous when I’m in these places and it’s such a wonderful experience that I can’t help but want to share it. I want people to get excited about it the way I’m excited about and maybe they’ll go there too and see it, maybe that will help us all preserve it,” he said.
For more of David Crews’s writing, check out his blog or website. If you are a camping or wilderness blogger interested in being profiled on Lost in the Woods, please email Dan@camping-gear-outlet.com