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.
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.