Online Chat on Channel 4: Transcript

Jungle Trip – Piers Gibbon

Piers Gibbon made another intrepid trip, this time journeying into Channel4 chat.

Chat Ed : Evening Piers 🙂

Tom and Creeanne : woohoo

MV3 : evening piers!

Piers Gibbon : Hello everyone! Thank you all for watching and logging on, how can I help you?

Chat Ed : Right, first question. *Everyone* wants to know this:

Ceri : How did you manage to swallow that phlegm and not vomit?

Piers Gibbon : First thing is, is that it wasn’t just phlegm, it was actually a millipede which Don Demetrio keeps in his chest as a power object. Don’t ask me how that works! So what I was swallowing was a rolled up millipede, but yes it was a bit slippery.

(Chat Ed pales)

Joe : after 30 more days of drinking ayahuasca with the most powerful shaman, did you conclude that you had lost the plot or found it? and why?

Kathy : I also want to know if, on reflection you lost the plot or found the thread?

Piers Gibbon : I’ve been back in the UK for three months now and frankly I’m still not quite sure. Sorry not to be more definite, but to be honest I’m still dealing with it. What I can say for sure is that it did something. I know that doesn’t fit in with current views on science, millipedes, saliva and all that, but hey, that’s the truth – it did something.

Sy : Did you ever worry about losing your sanity in the Jungle?

Piers Gibbon : I am still worrying about that.

Roland Gardner : Piers , you stayed on longer than you were going to. Did you find what you were after?

Brion Davies : Can you elaborate on your time with Don Dimitrio following the documentary?

Piers Gibbon : I don’t know whether I found what I was looking for. I feel extraordinarily privileged to have spent that extra month learning from a master shaman. He is an extraordinary healer. After I had finished my isolation diet I spent some time watching him with his patients. People crawl for miles to see him and go away healed.

firefly : did you keep in touch with your shaman teacher?

Piers Gibbon : Yes, bizarrely he is one of the few shaman in Peru who has a phone in his village (Yumbatos near Tarapoto) so he is contactable. He finds it extraordinary and exciting that there is this amount of interest in his work in the West. Having described me accurately as a spoilt brat he feels that there are probably quite a few more people in our culture who could do with his help.

Adam520 : A phone? Huh. Anyway……Were you upset about the plant you brought back (can’t remember the name!) not being accepted into the country? What were the actual circumstances about that?

Piers Gibbon : We failed to get the Peruvian side of the paperwork sorted out so MAFF were perfectly within their rights to destroy it (they do seem to be rather good at burning things) but yes it was bitterly disappointing that the plant didn’t get in. However, seeds of that plant will hopefully germinate and the work will continue. I am excited because preliminary results suggest that the species Don Demetrio is using is not Psychotria viridis but another untested one.

Lucas : what exactly happen in those three days in isolation?

Piers Gibbon : I can’t be sure of that. I do remember that I was told by the shaman to face my fears and one night I remember getting scared of the crocodiles in the river and so decided to go and look for them. Luckily they had taken the night off. Also I saw the most extraordinary visions, although maybe they were dreams, and I learnt a lot about what a feeble scaredy cat I am.

Pete Kearton : have you ever tried Psylocibin mushrooms (magic mushrooms, Liberty caps, whatever…)?

Ali : Have you tried LSD and how are the effects of Ayahuasca different?

Piers Gibbon : Yes, I have tried mushrooms regularly. I think they are similarly powerful. However, when I spoke to Don Demetrio about this he was not impressed with the mushrooms.

Adam99 : Why was he not impressed?

Piers Gibbon : And he is definitely not a fan of cannabis. He regards the mushrooms as too much to do with entertainment and not enough to do with medicine. I think I disagree.

Duncan Brett : what was the most potent of all the ‘subvstances’ you have tried?

Piers Gibbon : Ayahuasca! Oh lordy! It’s scary out there!

(Chat Ed chuckles)

Piers Gibbon : And yet it really does feel like it is doing you good even when it feels like it is ripping your body and head apart. I think the most important thing was that I have read enough about it to believe in the safety of this particular medicine and knew Don Demetrio well enough to know that he definitely knew how to help me through the experience.


Piers Gibbon : The decision I took to go for it 100% and ignore the fact that there was a camera crew recording every idiotic thing I said and did. In retrospect I don’t think I recommend taking a film crew with you on a pilgrimage!

firefly : are you now a fully practising shaman?

Piers Gibbon : I wish! No, I’m simply not experienced enough. I need to do another longer period alone in the jungle, even then it would be a question of seeing whether that was what I was supposed to be doing. That was the whole point of firstly giving me the Ayahuasca for those 3 nights alone and then again for another month alone – it was to see whether the spirits and other weirdnesses out there accepted me.

Ingrid : can you still communicate with the plant kingdom?

Piers Gibbon : Only with special help. But, the millipede lives on! I dunno, maybe I can – it’s a slippery concept, can you?

NikH : Have you read Carlos Casteneda? – If so, how does his reported model of shamanism compare to yours?

Piers Gibbon : I have not read the whole Casteneda caboodle, but yes, even though most people regard his work as largely fictional, I think that by hook or by crook he got it largely right.

Lee gridley : Piers How did you feel, and did you accept, what Francoise had to say about you?

Piers Gibbon : Ouch! That was the most painful thing I had to see on the tele tonight. Well ok, one of many actually.

Jon Atkinson : Frankly I strongly disagreed with her

Piers Gibbon grins at Jon

Piers Gibbon : Yup, I looked a right pompous toad then, and I put my hand up and say ‘Guilty’. Although everything I said happened, I wish I had better control of the English language. Francoise and I are great chums now. She also said a lot of very encouraging things and frankly if she hadn’t have been there I would not have got as far as I did. She is a saint, although at one point I thought she had sold my soul to the Devil.

Szczepaniak : Was there tension between you and David? He seemed very critical of you in the film.

Dave R1 : That Yank seemed a little arrogant, did you feel hostile towards him, I wanted to smack him.

Mike44 : why didnt you punch the yank?

Piers Gibbon : Firstly, the Yank is much stronger than I am, as was made evident by the diagnosis, so punching him would not have been a good idea! But no he’s not like that really. You only got to see his negative comments mostly. But hey perhaps it made more interesting viewing? Seriously though the most interesting bit for me was when we both took the same amount of Ayahuasca and he had a very mild experience whilst I was off with the fairies. I really do believe it’s about letting go and allowing the weirdness in.

Chat Ed : OK y’all – our half hour is up now, so last three questions now, thanks….

Beryl : what does armadillo taste like then?

Piers Gibbon : You’re not going to believe this. Chicken. Sorry!

Chat Ed : lol

Piers Gibbon : Tapir tastes good. Apologies to vegetarians, and the tapir. And the frog – that was bad amphibian karma I was collecting there. I suppose the frog got its revenge – no visions, just pain and purging!

Anjuna : I think you’re fab!

Piers Gibbon : Cheers! That’s really good to hear because watching it, I found it very painful. Can we give Anjuna a job in the commissioning department?

(Piers Gibbon smiles)

(Chat Ed chuckles)

Gross : what was the wurst part of the trip

Adrian : would you do it again????

Piers Gibbon : The worst part was the very first Ayahuasca experience with Alan. Not because of Alan himself at all, I have great respect for him, but because I took a second cup of the brew and that took my head off. I found myself in a bizarre place where I could order pizza over hyper-space. I then became intensely paranoid and having a film crew filming me becoming intensely paranoid took the biscuit.

justin : What did you order?

tommo : Inter-galactic munchies!!!!!!

Toad Licker : millipede pizza?

Piers Gibbon laughs

Piers Gibbon : Excellent! Actually yes I did start talking to people in this bizarre space but they were very surprised to hear from me and I thought it was rude to interrupt them. I don’t think millipede topping is going to catch on.

melanie putzki : I found this program very inspiring, do you think you wiil be doing another?

Piers Gibbon : Oh yes please! I’ve just about recovered now and I personally believe that there is a lot we in the West could learn from other Shamanic traditions. We burnt all of our Shamans 500 years ago. I think we need more of them.

gemfry : i second that notion!

Chat Ed : That’s it! Thanks for coming, Piers, much appreciated. And thanks for all your questions, folks!

NikH : Ha ha! Great motto – ‘Let the weirdness in!’

podger-leaf : best of luck in future persuits!! from the boys in dublin

firefly : i think you were very brave to bear your soul….respect!

joy : have courage..may the millipede b with u

Piers Gibbon laughs

dharmabm : good luck piers

hawksmoon : congratulations, Piers

Ally : cool dude…..!

Overkill : all the best

odubrus : good luck to ya

Duncan : who’s up for a puking contest?

Piers Gibbon : Thank you, it’s been really good to hear some positive feedback. *Lots* of people didn’t like what I was doing out there.

BishBosh : Best of luck on your next mission Piers!

mchimpy : see you in hyperspace

Piers Gibbon : It’s excellent to hear that some people want to know more. Purge purge purge!

Jungle Trip Review in the Evening Standard

Fawning on flora
by Pete Clark, Evening Standard
19 December 2002

A couple of days ago, I was writing in this column about the disturbing effects that vast quantities of cannabis can have on the mental health of a human being. Having watched Unthinkable: Jungle Trip (Sci-Fi channel), I have come to the conclusion that there are even worse things that could catch on in the modern world.

Would you believe that in the forests that surround the Peruvian stretch of the Amazon river there are plants that talk to humans? I know that Prince Charles and one or two of his close friends talk to plants, but surely no one could believe that they actually talk back?

Piers Gibbon did. In fact, he was convinced of it. To his great credit, Piers cut rather a sympathetic figure as he set out on the first part of his odyssey to Kew Gardens. This was, it could not be denied, the easy part of the journey, but Piers was intent in presenting his credentials in the most austere light. He was no cheap seeker of cheap thrills.

He admitted to many experiments with hallucinogenic flora, but insisted that this was all in the cause of solving a conundrum which dominated his waking hours: he knew beyond doubt that plants spoke, it was just that he did not understand their particular dialect. And just to show that he had one foot in the real world, Piers admitted that he also wanted his name to be given to the rare plant that he was determined to bring back to Kew from those Peruvian forests. You’d have thought that a chap called Gibbon might have been a fauna man, but there you go.

Piers with Guillermo

The rite stuff: But Piers Gibbon could have achieved the same effect with 10 pints of beer

It was at this point that this edition of Unthinkable became less a physical journey and more a metaphysical voyage into one of those hearts of darkness that we know lurk in the jungle, ready to consume Western man with its strange and potent spells. The camerawork was rudimentary, but this could have been a knowing nod to such low-budget movies as the Blair Witch Project.

As he drew near what he hoped would be, if not nirvana, then a source of some enlightenment, Piers began to get excited. He was talking of shamans. I was reminded of a time long ago when a chap in the next room to me at university would shoot out of his door every now and then to announce that Carlos Castaneda had seen the light and we must all go immediately to Mexico and eat cacti.

Piers’s search for a shaman led him directly to a bloke called Alan who was, needless to say, American. Alan explained to Piers in a somewhat self-important manner that the most important factor in what they were about to experience was to get rid of the ego.

He then added in a casual aside that there might also be some other business that involved getting buttnaked and being spanked with bunches of nettles. Had I been present at this exchange, I would have strongly advised Piers to call the whole thing off on the spot.

For what he was about to undergo was an Olympic trial in puking – shamans are skilled at one thing and one thing only: boiling up disgusting potions, mumbling a few platitudes about the purging of the body and then watching as everyone-throws up at once. Alan also had a neat little chaser to this routine which involved injecting thick, black tobacco juice up his victims’ noses. Then they got naked and were spanked by nettles.

Piers Gibbon, it has to be admitted, was made of stern stuff. Deciding that Alan was essentially a lightweight, he sought out Richard, who helped him find David, who had gone native. The natives to whom David had gone believed that true enlightenment could only be achieved by rubbing frog poison into the holes in the flesh caused by the ends of red-hot sticks. Immediately after submitting to this procedure, Piers found himself down on his knees puking up once again.

No one had the good sense to tell Piers that he could have achieved the same effect at home by drinking 10 pints of beer and a bottle of creme de menthe, but perhaps I was missing the point.

By the time we said goodbye to Piers, I felt he had gone completely off his rocker. Through the good graces of an anthropologist called Francoise, he had met a really out-there shaman called Don Demetrio, who made Piers spend days on end in the jungle on his own, taking vile potions and being sick. Piers claimed that he was beginning to reach some degree of enlightenment. I felt he was probably suffering from lack of sleep and malnutrition. When Don Demetrio regurgitated what looked like a worm from his stomach and got Piers to eat it, I decided that they deserved each other.

One positive result of the trip – and for all I know, Piers is still there – was that he found the plant he wanted to give to Kew Gardens and had it sent there, where it would, he hoped, one day bear his moniker.

Unfortunately the plant was destroyed on arrival due to lack of verification. That said it all.