Seeking the Divine Spirit: Shamanic Retreat in the Sacred Valley of the Incas with Sergey Baranov

by Tomas Rehacek, Czech Republic


I first stumbled upon Sergey’s name on Graham Hancock’s website, which features a monthly book review. In that particular month it was Sergey’s “Path” which was being discussed on the public forum. Driven by curiosity I opened the link and read two chapters from Sergey’s book, which constituted an introduction to the book and its subject for the purposes of the review. At that time, I was in the midst of a search for a shamanic retreat in Peru. Attracted to the spiritual experience, I was dragged towards by reading and listening to people like Terence McKenna, Graham Hancock, Joe Rogan and others, I decided to contact Sergey and find out if I could work with him. A positive response came back almost immediately. The offered retreat was certainly interesting and reasonably priced, although for me was still expensive so Sergey and I began to design a simpler retreat which would allow for the basic work with the sacred medicine called Huachuma and left enough space for hiking and visiting some of the archaeological sites in the area.

It was still March when I booked my plane ticket and started to draw plans for a 3-week retreat in the Sacred Valley of Incas. Sergey was very helpful in the planning phase and got me a room in Calca, a town located in the canter of the Sacred Valley. A little over 3 months later I was standing in front of the airport in Cuzco where I was picked up by Sergey. From the beginning Sergey struck me as an honest guy and I never had a problem with trusting him. Even at the very beginning of our email exchange I somehow knew he could be trusted and transferred to him some $600 upfront with confidence. Throughout my stay, Sergey made sure that I had everything I needed. He took me around so that I could get a sense of orientation and showed me the local market, the bus terminal, etc. He was also very helpful when it came to organization of some of my trips!

After the first few days of getting used to the altitude, I managed to shake off the jet lag and Sergey and I started the work. I started to cover some of the theoretical ground by reading Sergey’s book “Path”. It was long planned, ever since I came across it on Graham’s site. The book was a valuable guide for me as it intertwines a recollection of the events which paved Sergey’s journey and eventually brought him to Peru and his search for the true spiritual experience. Sergey creates a nexus of very important topics, such as sacred archeology, the use of shamanic plants and their effects, religion, politics and more. Along with the actual work with the plants, the book was certainly a very good companion and a source of wisdom and information I was not privy to before. When the time came for the first ceremony, I felt ready. Despite of not having prior experience with serious shamanic plant, I was at peace. At this point, Sergey’s reputation was validated for me and firmly established. Indeed, there was no reason to be afraid. The first ceremony with Sergey was a gentle one. Just like the first date which is meant to get to know each other. The medicine connected me with the Earth and nature and showed me my place in it. I didn’t pose any serious question to the medicine the very first time however, I still gained some insights into several situations in my life as well as my very own existence in the universe. Sergey’s guidance was just right. He was around to talk to and periodically checked on everyone but at the same time he let the experience unfold without too much of interaction. A beautiful day by the river not far from Calca was magical and left me full of happiness and joy.

For the coming ceremonies Sergey prepared a stronger medicine which took me deeper into the spiritual realm of love and care but also revealed a lot of wisdom to me. Particularly the 3rd ceremony turned out to be more than a success as I maintained a strong connection with the divine spirit and received a powerful lesson I came for. The following and the last ceremony was a real blast which pinned me to the ground for a couple of hours and once again enlightened me about some crucial spiritual concepts, such as “what constitutes a real power”, “the balance between the feminine and masculine”, “the value of true friendship”, “the importance of selfless caring, loving and sharing” and much more. During this time Sergey stuck around as a much needed mentor and a grounding element.

If I were to describe the Huachuma experience, I’d say “one lives the words”. What it means is that the words are felt rather than cognitively analysed and processed while attributing a certain meaning to them, usually associated with a previous experience. Frequently, I entered a state of mind wherein I felt the emotional meaning of words. Words were not simple mouth noises anymore. They were feelings and emotions. Many of my own problems and issues were traced back to my own emotional imbalance, from which these issues stem. Sergey and I did 4 ceremonies over the course of 3 weeks and I must say that Sergey did a great job of selecting the ceremonial sites around Calca, the last one of which was not far from a mesmerizing archaeological site called Urco. All in all, working with Sergey and Huachuma proved to be the right first step, as the medicine isn’t overly demanding both, physically and mentally. At the beginning of my journey with Huachuma, I was told not to expect a trip but a relationship. This proved to be a very accurate description of what Huachuma does. It’s a grounding and connecting experience with mother Earth. Something that is always there although it’s been suppressed and pushed in the background by the cultural climate we live in. The interaction with all the living things around. Under the influence of the medicine, this connection is amplified at the expense of the cultural noise which is toned down and/or erased completely.

Following my work with Huachuma, I had one more request which I posed to Sergey in a hope he could help me to make it happen. Long before I even heard about Huachuma, I had been researching Ayahuasca (and DMT in general) and became acquainted with some of the mind-blowing accounts of the experience from people who had taken it. Leaving Peru without at least one ayahuasca ceremony would make it feel somehow incomplete. Fortunately, Sergey’s contacts include a local ayahuascero, who was just about to leave for the jungle but promised to hold a private ceremony in Sergey’s maloca at his cactus house. Gearing up towards that, I grew a bit anxious and, more importantly, very respectful towards the plant. The main active substance in ayahuasca, called DMT is a powerful psychedelic and cannot be taken lightly. I began my diet and 6 days later Sergey picked me up. We had about one hour before the ayahuascero was going to join us and as always my chat with Sergey grounded me and soothed my slight sense of anxiety. During my discussions with both Sergey and the ayahuascero, it was revealed that my work with Huachuma presented a much needed groundwork for further exploration of the psychedelic hyperspace. This was surely a good news!

Shortly after Sergey left, we entered his maloca, sat down and began to chat. I learned about my ayahuascero’s history of substance abuse, including cocain and crack. Fortunately for him, mere 6 months of intensive work with ayahuasca helped him to get rid of many years of addiction. And indeed ayahuasca is often used to help people rid themselves not only of mental and psychological problems but also various addictions. Roughly an hour of chitchat concluded with the first cup of a milder brew, followed by the second cup an hour later and finally another half-cup 30 minutes after that. In both cases, it was a more potent version and the effects did not take long to kick in. While lying on my back, I noticed changing patterns on the maloca’s ceiling. It looked like a kaleidoscope and I suspected I was in for a wild ride. Suddenly a bunch of flickering lights appeared. They looked like their source resided in another dimension and their purpose was to locate me in my body on the ground. Upon succeeding to do so, my spirit was lifted from the body and I found myself being medically examined by a certain entity. Their focus on one of the organs in my chest puzzled me and sadly my numerous inquiries into the nature of the examination were left unanswered. Nonetheless, shortly I was released and promptly taken to the hyperspace, which is utterly difficult to describe in words. In the words of Terence McKenna, I was taken on a journey inside the Arabian labyrinth – profusely complex, bright and colourful places, which rose around me only to be flattened and replaced with another salve of awe the minute later. Time dissolved into eternity as I was guided through the world of indefinability. My body froze even though I lay under a pile of blankets. At certain point, I was offered to get on a space ship and travel to what the entities introduced as “their place”. What now appears as a tempting and tantalizing prospect felt utterly frightening at that very moment. I feared for I felt I might not have come back from there. I declined the offer and drop down to my body for a reality check. Later on, I asked the entity for a gentler journey which was granted to me and lasted another 2.5-3 hours before I fell asleep around 2am.

Waking up in the morning with my mind intact felt real good! My spiritual retreat was at its end and I was left with 4 pages of divine wisdom from grandfather Huachuma (San Pedro), out-of-this-world ayahuasca experience and a lot of feelings and emotions to process. I left Peru with a heavy heart, knowing it won’t be anytime soon before I come back. Having to return to the western civilization and the suicidal, carcinogenic culture of this world brought about a mind-taxing experience. I am certainly more connected and more centered with my head set straight. A lot of bullshit that used to clutter my mind was tossed away during my retreat and my focus was sharpened. At the same time, the plant medicine helped me to identify some of the open wounds which I thought were healed. I was also educated about the importance of selfless and loving behaviour. On multiple occasions, love was revealed to me as the primary emotion and a guiding force in the universe. My sensory perception has intensified and so has the connection with the living, natural world. It is now up to me to assess my life according to the lessons learned in Peru and apply the necessary changes, which are mostly of emotional and spiritual nature. I plan on living more from the heart and continue doing my best to protect and care for our mother Earth. At this time and age, nothing is more important.