I’d been in Lima, Peru for about a week and a half, and I was feeling kind of crummy. It was nothing major, but I had occasional stomach pains, and I'd started sleeping a lot. After putting up with it for a few days, hoping that maybe it was just a case of food poisoning that would go away on its own, I decided it was probably time to consult the neighborhood pharmacy.
But then I met Lucho, and he told me he could help. He didn't prescribe an antibiotic or do any of the sorts of things I'd expect from a doctor or nurse back home. Then again, he was hardly an ordinary doctor.
Lucho started by chanting over a glass of water to invoke the “mystical spirits.” After having me drink it, he went fishing in his duffel bag and removed a small bottle of an herbal liquid he’d brewed using plants from the jungle. He poured it over what looked like a little rock that had a face carved into it, which he said was a bone from the Incas. Then he rubbed the rock around my stomach and rubbed some of the liquid on my face.
Lucho is a traditional medicine man who describes himself as a "curandero," or someone who heals. Using medicinal herbs, archeological relics, and hallucinogenic plants (as well as some special powers), he claims to have rid himself of diabetes and his father of cancer. He regularly travels around Peru treating people with all sorts of ailments. "Some diseases are said to be incurable," he told me, "but in the jungle, there is no way that a disease cannot be cured."
On the latest episode of Far From Home, I join Lucho as he goes on a journey, searching for a star-shaped stone with supposed magical powers that he saw in a vision.
Along the way, we tour the traditional medicine market in the northern Peruvian city of Chiclayo and check out some of the fascinating, profoundly odd, and even downright creepy things for sale.
Special thanks this week to Andres Torres for translation help, to Jessica Williams for editorial assistance, and to Whitney Henry-Lester, who hosted me in Lima through the Noise Attic Radio Residency and helped make my reporting possible.
Until next time!