On Hippies, Medicinal Healing, Insecurity & Batman

I liked all the hippies except the one I was supposed to

Time To Read: 7 mins | Apr 22, 2017

It was an hour-long bus ride home. I was staying with a girl in Peru, and we were both wiped out from a day marching up and down Incan ruins. That exhaustion made tempers shorter than average, so I had no patience when she pointed to my most prized possession and sarcastically commented,


“Are you glad you brought your Batman mask?”

We were returning from Ollantaytambo, the most unpronounceable historical site I’ve yet come across. It’s basically Machu Pichu-lite; a series of mountainside ruins scaling two separate peaks that surround a small tourist village.

My handle on ancient Peruvian history is comparable to Kylie Jenner’s knowledge of quantum theory, so I can’t really explain the significance of what we were crawling all over, except to say it’s insane to imagine people 600 years ago building anything half so grand. Tons upon tons of stones hauled hundreds of meters up near-vertical cliff sides by men and women without any machinery – and here I was, winded after a couple flights of neatly-carved steps.

Really though, it’s unfair to blame my exhaustion and subsequent aggravation on the hiking. That would be unfair to the mountain.

I’d come to Peru on a whim. A girl I’d taken on exactly one date several months back was living in the town of Pisac for most of 2017, and had invited me to stay for a week. And so I thought, what could possibly go wrong, staying in a foreign country for an extended period with a female you barely know but thought was cute one night while drunk?

The answer is everything. Everything goes wrong.

My friend is of the hippy persuasion. Which I hadn’t been oblivious to going into the week, but I had severely underestimated her fanaticism. You see, Pisac is the de facto medicinal healing capital of South America. Over the past several years it’s become the central hub for people looking for solutions outside western medicine — ancient herbal remedies and the like.

Maybe you’ve heard of Ayahuasca? It’s gotten some mainstream traction the past couple years. You drink a combination of natural occurring jungle ingredients, one of which contains DMT (the chemical that makes you dream), and proceed to violently throw up.


That’s legitimately part of the process; you’re expected to yack.

In fact, every one of these medicines makes you feel like shit before you feel better. Rape – pronounced RAH-pay – is a snuff powder that’s aggressively blown into your sinuses. As far as I could tell, this doesn’t do much other than make your nose leak dark brown snot. Sananga are eye drops that, from what I witnessed, simply make the user writhe in agony while crying for five minutes straight.

And then there’s Kambo. It’s an ancient ceremony where the natives catch a poisonous frog, string it up by its four legs, then wipe the toxins off its back. The shaman next burns a human with an incense stick, making a hole in their skin, and applies the poison directly into their blood system.

I consider myself an open-minded person. I’ve read and heard dozens of stories about treatments like these doing wonders for people. Shit, I even joined in an Ayahuasca ceremony in Pisac – that’s a rollercoaster story for another time, but suffice to say I came of it thinking that, yes, I understand why people subject themselves to all the surface-level misery.

But I’m not about to give myself second-degree burns and shove frog poison directly under my skin. In the words of every American white girl, “I just can’t.”

Now, the nice part about hippies is, they don’t pressure you into anything. They’ll sing their medicine’s praises, sure, but if you’re not comfortable, that’s cool too. They are much nicer than I am at a bar with a slow drinking friend.

They’ll tell you that it’s fine, that you shouldn’t do anything you don’t want to do, and then you’ll probably get a back rub or a two-second too long hug. Very handsy, these hippies — which, surprisingly, is my only complaint about the crowd in Pisac.

The most important trait a human can possess is self-awareness, followed closely by self-assuredness. From what I experienced, the hippies were willing to laugh at their slightly-smelly selves, make jokes about their matted hair and their ponchos (I’m not being stereotypical, this description fits every single one of them), and be perfectly comfortable doing so.


The reason this trip went to shit, then, was that my friend was a bad hippy.

Insecurity is the simplest thing to pick up on – just pay attention when someone’s constantly feeding you unnecessary flattering details. My friend didn’t tell me that she left her job to move to Peru, she left her 6-figure job. She’s not cooking soup tonight, she’s cooking her delicious soup. She didn’t just hike Machu Pichu last month, she did it in half the time it took a pair of ridiculously fit looking men who’d tried to pass her.

That last bit, now that I think about it, was the straw that — well it didn’t snap the camel’s back, but it certainly threw its spine out of alignment. Because I’m currently as fit as Jabba the Hut, plus had no time to acclimate to the 14,000ft altitude, and yet I spent half the afternoon waiting for her to catch her breath.

We’re all a little insecure. We all hype ourselves up a bit. To talk a big game and not deliver is by no means inexcusable. But when you’re caught in your B.S. after the fact, and you can’t laugh it off? And you instead become defensive and lash out at others for no other reason than your shame? The real hippies were cooler than that.

So when my friend mocked the Batman mask hanging off my backpack, which was a gift from one of the coolest, most self-assured and simultaneously ridiculous humans on the planet, the trip was over.

“I don’t mock the medicines that mean something to you,” I defended, more sharply than a $4.99 plastic mask has ever before prompted. “Don’t make fun of the toys that mean something to me.”


photo: i learned what a dutch angle is and i don’t see myself ever going back. fountain in centro historico, cusco, peru

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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1 Comment

  1. Edgar

    The link to Hali Ford’s rap had me in tears ?


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