Fundación Camino al Sol and Ayahuasca Activities

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The following is a guest post by Sam Eldred.

Note: Medellín Living does not endorse the use of ayahuasca (known as “yagé” in Colombia). If you are thinking about taking it, familiarize yourself with both the benefits and risks.

Camino al Sol is “a foundation interested in the recovery of ancestral knowledge, providing a space and ideal conditions for experimentation, teaching and learning of different rituals and workshops that enable our visitors to share with us the way to the sun.”

It is located in Santa Elena, just outside of Medellín, on the property of Samuel Vélez, who functions as the main contact person and guide for visitors.

Camino al Sol is an off-shoot of Comunidad Carare, a spiritual/peace/medicine community with various bases throughout Colombia led by Taita Orlando Gaitán, a descendant of the now-extinct indigenous tribe Carare. One of these bases is in Santa Elena, at Camino al Sol.

This space hosts bi-weekly ceremonies for local community members, which travelers are welcome to participate in.

Comunidad Carare’s ceremonies (which includes Camino al Sol) are delegated by a number of indigenous elders from different territories, including Carare and Muisca near Bogotá, Witoto Murui in the Amazon, Siona in the Putumayo, and Arhuaco in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Though the elders are not necessarily present at each ceremony, their cultural traditions, rituals, and medicines have been entrusted to Comunidad Carare, and the knowledge of these elders forms the basis for each ceremony.

About Samuel Vélez

Samuel functions as the bridge for foreigners to learn about this knowledge and share in its practice.

Born and raised in Medellín, he has taught English for years, traveled extensively, and ran a hostel in the city, so he interacts and communicates naturally with English speakers.

A member himself of Comunidad Carare for a number of years, he enthusiastically and respectfully shares what he has learned and continues to learn from his time with the community, though he is quick to ensure you that he is a mere novice himself.

He acknowledges that he is a bridge to foreigners, and he is using this unique position to share the vision of the community with anyone interested in learning.

This vision includes, but is not limited to: healing humanity; bridging cultures and generations; promoting peace, respect, understanding, forgiveness, and personal development; and recovery and practice of ancestral knowledge and medicines.

The Community and Its Activities

The community works with various sacred plants and plant preparations, including ambíl (from tobacco), mambe (from coca), and yagé (as ayahuasca is called in Colombia). Up to this point, Camino al Sol has only offered participation in ceremonies in Santa Elena for one day.

Looking to deepen participants’ connection with Comunidad Carare’s vision and work, Samuel has decided to offer four-day retreats in the near future, building a guesthouse on his property to host visitors.

The first few days of the retreat will include various activities recommended by the community’s elders to help participants cleanse physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Activities may include various plant-based purges, a guided meditation on a walk through the forest, learning about the cultures of the community’s indigenous elders, tejido de palabra (literally “fabric of word,” a metaphor for weaving words in a collective fabric of conversation), massage and aromatherapies, and workshops led by other community members regarding their work in permaculture, weaving, music, and so on.

Participants will be fed a diet of clean, easy-to-digest foods to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system. On the final evening of the retreat, participants will have the opportunity to culminate their physical, emotional, and spiritual cleansing with a traditional yagé ceremony.

This ceremony is led by one of Taita Orlando’s apprentices, a man from the Putumayo with almost 20 years experience of working with these sacred plants and rituals. Samuel translates the tejido de palabra that precedes the ceremony and, along with other community members, attends to any of the participants’ needs, questions, etc.

Camino al Sol occasionally offers trips to partake in ceremonies at some of Comunidad Carare’s other malocas throughout Colombia, including to the Putumayo, the homeland of yagé. Contact Samuel and keep in touch with the goings-on of Camino al Sol here.

A word to the wise: Camino al Sol is a sacred space, so please treat it, all others, and yourself thus. Go with an intention and an open mind and heart. Observe any dietary recommendations, as they are intended to prepare your body, mind, and spirit for the work you will be doing during your stay.

Do not go to Camino al Sol looking for miracles. Yagé may help you, but only in showing you what you need to do in the day-to-day. People in the community call this your homework, and you have to do it if you want to really learn a lesson and incorporate it into your life.

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About the Author: Sam Eldred spent December 2014 and February 2015 at Camino al Sol participating in various ceremonies, getting to know many of its local community members, and coming to understand the context within which Camino al Sol exists. For others’ personal accounts regarding yagé ceremonies and experiences with Camino al Sol, see The Early Bird and Medellín Living.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. He is not a Taita, he is not even an indigenous, he doesn´t have the knowledge about ayahuasca: Orlando Gaitan (mentioned in the article) is accused of rape by more than 50 women from various countries of the world. This women claim to have been abused during ayahuasca ceremonies leading by Orlando. He is also accused of corruption in Bogotá.

    For more information:
    http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/bogota/los-lios-del-taita-orlando-articulo-566215
    http://www.eltiempo.com/bogota/chaman-acusado-de-violacion-y-contratos-con-el-distrito/15925898

  2. Thanks for this great summary. I wanted share my own incredible experience with Samuel and the Camino al Sol community below too –

    I first encountered Camino al Sol in August 2018, when I attended a retreat in Southern California. The experience with the group was so positive that less than a month after this retreat, I accepted their invitation to visit Columbia, and traveled with them for 18 days to visit the elders of their community and do ceremonies in the jungles of Putomayo, the mountains above Medellin, and the jungles of Santander. Below is my more detailed review of this incredible community.

    I had been waiting for the right opportunity to work with ayahuasca for literally twenty years (ever since reading The Cosmic Serpent, by Jeremy Narby, in college), and I felt strongly that it was NOT something to chase after, and I would wait until it came to me in the appropriate way. This group was first recommended to me by two close and trusted friends who had worked with them earlier in the year. Their ceremonies in the US are now being held at a site in SoCal that is already sacred to me, where I have been attending retreats and doing deep transformational work for years. Taking this as the sign I was waiting for, I signed up for the full length of their US stay in August 2018, which encompassed 7 nights of ceremony across 10 nights, total (essentially, 3 separately held retreats, all back to back). This was a profound and, as it turns out, very courageous way to meet the medicine, but was exactly the right move for me. I do not necessarily recommend that other first-timers consider attending so many nights of ceremony at once – my wife and I were the only 2 people to do so – UNLESS you take it quite seriously, and do all the necessary preparations – follow the strict dieta, learn as much as possible (Highly recommend these 2 books: Ayahuasca: Soul Medicine of the Jungle, by Javier Reguiero, and The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook, by Chris Kilham)., and, at the same time, drop all expectations, hopes and fears, and enter the ceremony with as much equilibrium as possible. It also helps if you have some kind of meditation experience, because the context of mindfulness, awareness and spaciousness, or just a background of working skillfully with your own mind, greatly helps to navigate the profound experiences of the medicine. I don’t think I could have handled these 7 nights so well if it weren’t for the groundwork of more than12 years of meditation and study I’ve done.

    Now, as for the close-knit team that is Camino al Sol: Samuel, Martine, Diego, Andrea, and Camilo – they are family to one another, and now, are family to me. They are all beautiful, careful and caring, a cohort of genuine, dedicated, and expert shamans (though they would not necessarily use this term themselves – because they would say, for example, that after as many as 27 years of walking this path, they are still learning its ways!). These five people are specifically responsible for bringing the plant medicines of the Carare tradition to North America, and they hold all the Camino al Sol retreats in the US and Mexico. Samuel is the main holder of the retreat center in Santa Elena (he lives there), and the others all hold the ceremonies there with him. The wisdom, knowledge and experience of this group can be traced to their main Taita, as well as directly to their elders in Putomayo, several of whom I was introduced to when I traveled with Camino al Sol in Colombia in Sept 2018.

    Through the ceremonies of the circle of word that would precede drinking the cups each night, and in the morning gatherings after breakfast, Samuel and Martine would freely answer whatever questions that any of us had, offering context, perspective, and useful teachings to help us assimilate our experiences, enlarge our understanding of the plants as both medicine and teacher, and, to generally support us on our continued personal journeys of healing.

    Healing is, after all, at the center of this. While of course occasionally people show up who are just looking to ‘try’ ayahuasca, or have an ‘epic trip,’ they quickly find out that it is far more profound than that. As Andrea explained to me, the medicine works first by healing ourselves, then by healing our family, and finally, extending that healing into the world. It is deep work, it is very hard work, and it is also beautiful work. I cannot imagine undertaking it with any other group. The container they create is impeccable.

    In Colombia the next month, my experience (again) exceeded every expectation, shattered every concept, accomplished more healing, integration, and transformation than I have encountered through any modality prior, and left me planning to return soon and often. I will be back to the next US retreat in November, and am clear that ayahuasca is a newly integral part of my own journey of spiritual healing and growth. I am so grateful to have found this community to heal and grow with.

    TL;DR: These people are the real deal, offering a supportive, open, welcoming and safe environment for the messy work of true inner healing to take place. Both at their US retreats and in traveling with them for ceremonies throughout Colombia, I was cared for and supported exquisitely. Highly recommend, with no reservations, for anyone looking to encounter and work with the sacred plant medicines in a scrupulous form, with greatest respect and rootedness in the traditions of the Carare community of Colombia.