Indigenous Search Party Uses Ayahuasca in Bid to Find Lost Children in Plane Crash

by Ethan Kim
Ayahuasca Ritual

As hopes began to fade in the extensive search for four missing children following a charter plane crash, Indigenous rescuers resorted to an ancestral ritual involving ayahuasca. Surrounded by the dense foliage and towering trees of Selva Madre, or Mother Jungle, these weary searchers felt the land was concealing the whereabouts of the lost children in the depths of the southern Colombian wilderness.

The search party, comprised of Indigenous volunteers and military personnel, had found promising signs – a half-consumed fruit, a baby bottle, and dirty diapers scattered across the expansive rainforest. They strongly believed that the children had survived the plane crash, which had taken place several weeks prior. However, the unforgiving rains, challenging terrain, and relentless passage of time had significantly diminished their spirits and physical strength.

On the brink of giving up, on day 39, Manuel Ranoque, the father of the two youngest children, decided to engage in a sacred ritual practiced by the Indigenous tribes of the Amazon. He prepared a brew of yagé, otherwise known as ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic tea derived from native rainforest plants.

This bitter potion, traditionally used as a panacea by communities in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil, was prepared under the guidance of Henry Guerrero, a volunteer from the children’s hometown of Araracuara. The group believed that the ayahuasca would stimulate visions that would guide them to the missing children.

The ensuing psychotropic journey failed to yield any results for Ranoque. Yet, the next morning, Elder José Rubio took a sip from the remaining yagé, and despite some initial discomfort, claimed to have successful visions that would aid the search.

The missing children – Lesly, Soleiny, Tien, and Cristin – were siblings from Araracuara, a small Amazonian village in Caquetá Department, accessible only by boat or plane. They were believed to be on their way to join their father, Ranoque, who had previously fled the village due to undisclosed issues related to his work.

The plane went missing following an emergency declared by the pilot due to engine failure. Although the Colombian military launched a search, it wasn’t until ten days later that the Indigenous volunteers were able to contribute, thanks to their intimate knowledge of the area. Even then, the search conditions were harsh, with constant challenges from the terrain and local wildlife.

The wreckage was eventually found sixteen days post-crash, but there were no signs of the children, sparking hope that they may have survived. As a result, the strategy shifted from a stealth approach to making noise to attract the children’s attention. Food supplies and messages were dropped, and even trained search dogs were employed.

The turning point came on day 40, when, after the elder’s consumption of ayahuasca, the children were found in a small clearing just 5 kilometers from the crash site. Despite having passed nearby on multiple occasions, the rescue team had previously missed this spot.

Upon rescue, the children were airlifted first to San José del Guaviare and then to Bogota, where they received medical attention for dehydration and injuries. They had survived by collecting water and eating cassava flour, fruit, and seeds. A custody dispute has since arisen, but the children’s resilience and survival have inspired admiration and praise worldwide.

Ranoque attributed their survival partly to the intervention of yagé and the Indigenous spiritual world, highlighting the significance of the ritual undertaken in the jungle. As he put it, it was to convince “the goblin, that cursed devil,” to release his children.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ayahuasca Ritual

How did the searchers use ayahuasca in their search for the missing children?

The indigenous searchers used the ayahuasca, or yagé, as part of a spiritual ritual. They believed that the hallucinogenic cocktail would induce visions that could help guide them to the location of the lost children.

Who were the children lost in the plane crash?

The lost children were siblings — Lesly, Soleiny, Tien, and Cristin. They were from Araracuara, a small Amazon village in the Caquetá Department of Colombia.

What role did Elder José Rubio play in the search?

Elder José Rubio took the remaining yagé, which induced a vision that the children would be found. This vision rekindled the hopes of the searchers and provided a much-needed morale boost.

How did the children survive the crash and the subsequent weeks in the jungle?

The children survived by collecting water in a soda bottle and eating cassava flour, fruit, and seeds that they found in the jungle. Lesly, the oldest, took charge in the absence of adults.

How did the Colombian military participate in the search?

The Colombian military conducted a parallel search operation. When the military discovered that the children might be alive, they switched tactics from moving quietly to making noise so the children could hear them. They dropped food parcels and leaflets with messages from helicopters and deployed trained dogs to assist in the search.

What was the outcome of the search?

All four children were found 5 kilometers (3 miles) away from the crash site after 40 days of search. They were then flown to the capital, Bogota, for medical treatment. They had survived by eating available food and collecting water in the jungle.

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Jake_M June 28, 2023 - 7:56 am

Wow, never heard bout ayahuasca being used in such a practical way… It’s mind blowing stuff, respect to those indigenous people and their spiritual practices.

SpiritGuide June 28, 2023 - 10:55 am

As a spiritual practitioner myself, i can totally believe how the elder’s vision could guide the search. Ayahuasca is not just a trip, it can bring real insights.

FlowerChild June 28, 2023 - 12:49 pm

OMG this is so heart-wrenching. those poor kiddos, so young n stuck in the jungle for weeks… Their big sis Lesly sounds like a real hero!

Aircraft_Ace June 29, 2023 - 3:48 am

goes to show, you never know when you’ll need survival skills…Always be prepared. these kids were lucky, but in such situations, luck only lasts so long…

Captain_J June 29, 2023 - 5:28 am

I’ve heard about survival in wilderness, but this is next level! Kids surviving on their own after a plane crash… unbelievable! The bravery of these kids is astounding.

IndigenousSpirit June 29, 2023 - 6:11 am

It’s great to see indigenous rituals getting the recognition they deserve. It’s a part of our ancestral wisdom that is often overlooked. yagé isn’t just a drug, it’s a tool for connecting with the spiritual world.


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