I'll never forget it, that place of beauty and wonder or the old man that told me about that valley. It was during my second visit to that little town of my heart: Algecris, Hulia, Colombia that I met him.
I needed to find a "special rock called Mambu" and only the "Poco Loco Coco Hombre" could help me. It was he who told me about
"The Valley of BonBon"
where it rains butterflies like these:
This is actual size! These butterflies are huge...
The town of Algecris is located in the state of Hulia, Colombia S.A. and it sits just a few degrees north of the equator high up in the Andes Mountains.
these are the mountains
I had to cross after I walked
for nine hours through a field to get to
"The Valley Of BonBon"
Algecris is a small dairy town and the population of about 700 are all, one way or another, connected with the raising, breeding, butchering, or the selling of cattle, except of course for the few shop owners in the small town.
What is "mambu"? Mambu is a rock to some...but to others like myself it was magic!
Mambu is a magic rock or stone found in the beds of certain rivers. When heated in a pot, mambu will break down into a powder, and it is this powder that one needs when one chews cocoa leaves. Not all rivers in Colombia have "mambu" in their beds...but his river did! His? Well, he thought it was his river...
He didn't know that it was called the Rio Negro. He didn't know that it was one of the sources of the headwaters for worlds largest river: the Amazon. People tried to tell him that the river wasn't his, but it ran through his land and so (through his eyes) it was his river and that was that!
He was a small and very strange looking man. He was also a very very old man. I figure he was about 90 years old, and still in excellent physical shape for a man of that age. His land was about five miles north of town, on the bank of the Rio Negro. He lived in a small hut made of bamboo and thatch and some scraps of wood and plastic he found somewhere. The hut on the roof had a layer of plastic under the thatching. His small but cozy home sat real close to the edge, right near a bend, on "his" river. He must not have left this area many times during his life because he didn't know much about the outside world at all. He didn't want to either! He seemed very happy in his own little world by the bend in his river.
My walk from town to the "poco loco coca man's hut" was one that I'll never forget. Walking through fields and climbing mountains that have remained the same since the beginning of time, untouched by man, I followed the directions given me by some of the men in town, and before I knew it, the five-mile hike to his hut was behind me and I was standing there, face to face, in front of the old man's hut introducing myself.
After a few minutes of idle conversation he asked me what I wanted with, or from him. I told him that I needed mambu. He then asked me to tell him all I knew about mambu; and why I wanted it, and where I, a "gringo" learned about it. So I started to tell him about the first time I had chewed coca and all about the lady who gave me the leaves.
It was she that told me all about mambu and gave me some mambu to chew with the leaves that day I was attacked by five dogs. I told him how I was cutting through a field, to take a shorter route back to town one day and from out of nowhere five large dogs attacked me and chewed me up pretty bad. I told him that she was the same woman who stitched up my dog bites...after all, it was her dogs that had attacked me. While she was stitching my wounds, back at her farm house, she gave me coca leaves and mambu to chew. They seemed to give me the power to take the pain and the strength to walk back to town once she repaired me and gave me some refreshments. My legs were pretty chewed up and I had lost a lot of blood...the leaves seem to give me unlimited energy.
I went on to tell him that I had been chewing now for a few weeks and that the supply of "mambu" she had given me was running low. I showed him my wounds from the attack and he seemed impressed with them. He also seemed to be impressed that I was a chewer... and that I was attacked by her five dogs and got away with such little damage (as he put it). He told me that I was very lucky because her dogs were killers, and trained to protect the people of that farm and the livestock that grazed in their fields. Someone else might not have gotten away with just their legs chewed up. He went on to tell me that she, the lady who sewed me up, also gets her mambu from him!
"Are you charmed" he asked me, with a big smile on his face.
"I don't know for sure" I said, "but I must be. "I've always been lucky and it seems that someone up there in the heavens is watching out for me all the time! And besides, to show ya just how lucky I am, look...I'm here with you today aren't I!"
I asked him how many other Americans had been here, he told me that I was the first! Then he invited me into his little hut. Once inside we sat for a few minutes in silence on a palm-leaf rug in front a small fire that was left burning all the time.
I looked around at all the things hanging from the walls of the hut. Berries and herbs, roots and leaves of all sorts, bones from dead animals, pieces of strangely carved wood, statues carved by him I guess, that had feathers and beads on them. There was some kind of animal skull and claws too. As I was looking around, out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach behind himself and pull a bag out of a box. His stash of "gunja bud" was in that bag. He picked out a real big sticky bud then he loaded up his pipe and when he lit it and took a big hit, the whole hut was filled with the sweetness of the herb... we sat there smoking his herb for what seemed like hours. By now I was very stoned. He had some great pot! His herb was a dark greenish brown bud with little reddish hairs that ran through the meat of the bud. The few seeds that were in each bud were white and underdeveloped, he called his herb "punta roja." He said that he grew it himself.
He invited me to visit his garden sometime...
just then, out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something flying above me!
It was glowing.
The sunlight that came in though the cracks in the bamboo walls seemed to cause this thing flying above my head to glow...but how could it be...yes! It was a butterfly? A large butterfly that somehow found its way into the house.
It was the biggest butterfly I had ever seen.
The colors were iridescent.
The sun was reflecting from its wings. The butterfly was shining. It had at least four or five different colors on its giant wings. It was at least eight or nine inches long and about seven inches wide. At first, I thought the herb might of had something to do with what I was seeing, I didn't think butterflies could ever get this big.
Just then the old man looked at me as if he knew what I was thinking (and he most likely did!). I found out later he was a "brujo" or a magic man. He just laughed at me and then told me all about a place...
"Not to far from here" he said..."just on the other side of that mountain. There it rains butterflies!"
"It is called the Valley of BonBon" he told me.
He went on to tell me that I would see hundreds, and hundreds, maybe even thousands, of butterflies there and that some of them would be even bigger. He said there were so many of them there that it looked like it was raining butterflies. I just sat there stoned and speechless. Totally amazed at what the old man was telling me. Then he gave me directions to get to the road that leads to the "Road to BonBon." I found out later that BonBon is a small valley area where these butterflies migrate to and mate, and that there were a few farms in the area. He went on to tell me that they were cattle farms, and asked me if I knew anything about "hungos." So I told him all about my experience with the magic mushroom, and the out of body experiences I had with them. He was very impressed...and I was very excited! Now I knew I had to go there. Cattle farms mean only one thing to me: hungos. I couldn't wait to trip in a field where it rained butterflies of such size and such beauty.
"So really, it rains butterflies there"? I asked.
He told me the story again.
"I would not lie to you." "Yes gringo!" "There it rains butterflies!"
Then he pulled some reddish brown rocks out of another bag that was near him. He threw a couple of them in a old pot and put the pot right on top of the small fire that was still burning there, each of us on opposite sides of the fire. He looked at me and smiled as he lit the pipe and took a giant hit of the sweet herb. I knew he was heating those rocks so he could turn them into powder mambu for me. He knew that I knew what he was doing too. You see you have to heat the mambu rocks first. And when they are just the right temperature you can crush them into a powder; it's only when they are crushed into powder form that "mambu" can be chewed with the coca leaves! A lot of gringos think that you just put the leaves in your mouth and chew. But that's not the case. See, if you don't use mambu you'll get nothing out of the leaves at all...no energy from them at all. Theres no high to the leaves like there is with the white powder we all know as cocaine, but they are well worth chewing when you're out in the bush... or climbing mountains... or just high in the Andes where the air is really thin. Anyhow... we went over the directions to BonBon again, and I promised him I would go just as soon as I could. He gave me a gourd full of the powdered mambu and a few choice sticky buds from his stash bag... I asked him if there was anything I could give him in return for the mambu and herb.
"No, I have everything I need right here."
Last, he gave me an open invitation to visit him, there at his home anytime. After we said our goodbyes I started back to town; making plans for my trip to BonBon.
I woke the next morning before the sun came out and I packed up a few things in one of the many bags I had collected throughout my travels in Colombia. I went over the directions in my head that the old man had given me again and again. Then I headed out; north to BonBon.
The road out of town was nothing more than two tire marks or tire ruts made by the few cars and trucks that did come to this town over the years though the field. I walked for quite a few hours and then I came to the bridge over the Rio Negro just like the old man had said I would. I decided that I would take a break there. I was tired from the walk. I had to recharge myself. I put a fresh wad of leaves in my mouth and a pinch of the mambu the old man had given me, rolled a big doobie from one of the gunja buds he gave me as well, lit it... hit it... and then I did a few lines of powered coke I had. I was very happy just sitting there, on the old narrow wooden bridge, listening to the sounds the river made for me. I love the sound of a river flowing.
Maybe half hour later I picked myself up and started walking towards that mountain again, the mountain that looked no closer now than it did about 5 or 6 hours ago. BonBon was on the other side of it; or so the old man said. I started walking again; 1 hour (walk)... 2 hours... (walk, walk)... 3 hours had passed and I was tired again.
"It must be time for another break" I thought to myself.
So I sat down right there where I stood. I put more leaves and more mambu in my mouth... then I did a few more giant killer lines and then I lit up the roach I had left from my last break. Just then; as I exhaled some of the sweet herb I suddenly realized that it was now late afternoon... late afternoon! Fuck! It felt more like early evening...maybe 6 or 7 o'clock. I was starting to worry a little bit now. God! Even if I turned around right now, and headed back to town it would be very dark and very late when I got back to the little house I had been renting from the Guzman family for a few weeks now. I wondered if I could make it in the dark, all the way back to the town without running into some of the banditos that had made camp just outside of town. By the time I finished the joint I knew what I had to do... the only thing to do... just go on. Keep walking towards that mountain and then over that mountain until I reached the valley of the butterflies. BonBon!
"If I had to sleep under the stars; I would much rather do it on top of the mountain" I thought to my self. "It has got to be safer up there." Why? At least I would be able to see what was going on around me. I would be above it all!
As I walked on, the road had by now turned into a footpath. I was sure I had followed his directions.
"Just head northwest" he had said.
The sun was setting behind the mountain now and it was beautiful. What a gift this show of color was. The colors that the setting sun made were so surreal. And all of the clouds were lit up with the colors from sunset. What a sight; all those colors behind that mountain pointing me to my goal: the Valley of BonBon. If what the old man told me was true it was just behind that mountain. The mountain on which it now looked like I would be sleeping tonight.
I was very tired. I was very hungry. I had no food with me at all. Just then... because I was "charmed" I guess... I noticed right there in front of me, about a quarter of a mile away, papaya and orange and banana trees! So... I helped myself to some of the fruit, ate my full, then rolled a big fat joint and smoked it as I just kicked back. I fell into a deep sleep; right there on the top of that mountain that stood between me and my goal... the Valley of BonBon.
The songs that the birds sang woke me at dawn. I ate a few bananas, an orange or two, loaded my mouth with coca and mambu, did a few lines just to chase the sleep out of my head and I started on my way... up to the very top... and then down the other side of the mountain.
As I stood there on the very top of that mountain, I could see it below me... I saw a valley anyway. Soon I would be down there in that valley of the butterflies. I couldn't see any butterflies from the very top of the mountain, and I looked real hard. I wondered if the old man was telling the truth?
"What if he sent me out here for nothing?" I thought to my self.
I decided if I could just get down a bit lower on the side of this mountain, then maybe I could see them. I knew I was close now. I could feel it! If, in fact, this was the place, I knew I would be there in a few minutes. I was so excited that I started to run down the side of the mountain. I must have slipped in some mud, or maybe my legs just gave out, but before I knew what was happening, I was rolling down the mountainside. Head-over-heels.
I must have flipped and rolled for ten minutes or more before I could stop myself. Once I came to a stop, and gathered my wits and caught my breath, I looked around and I found myself in the middle of thousands of beautiful, colorful butterflies... they were all sizes... all colors... they were just flying all around me... each one being careful not to bump into the other... they were so thick that I had to swat them out of my way just to see where I was walking... as I touched each of the ones I had to touch to walk though them, it was as if they gave me a little electric shock... in fact it some of them left colors on my fingers and my hands from their touch.
I stood there looking. Looking for hungoes. I knew once I found some that this would be one trip I would never forget. As I looked around, I stood there for the longest time in total amazement; it took an hour or longer to get used to what I was seeing! There had to be a thousand of them right in front of me! All shapes... all sizes... all color's. Some were dayglow color's... blue and dayglow red and a neat dayglow greenish and the brightest yellow you ever saw. And an orangy color that I have never seen anywhere else since that day. Some were at least 3 or 4 different colors and some were only two colors and some were just one color and some seemed to glow and others were just regular colors, and some were large, and some were small. They were all around me. It was truly "raining butterflies!" It was amazing! I have never seen anything like it in my life... before or since.
It was all true... the old man was right, he wasn't telling stories. I was there in the valley of BonBon, a magical place that very few have ever seen, a place that is not on any map of Colombia, South America that I have ever seen. But even as I stood there amongst them I still couldn't believe my eyes. Then! Once I found and did some hungos, Wow! What a day.
I stayed there in the valley all day and all night, smoking herb and tripping on the magic mushrooms that were all around me... just looking at the butterflies.
Was it day or was it night, i didn't know...
The old man would be happy to know that I trusted in him enough to come here. To come here to this magical place, "The Valley of BonBon"... The valley where it rains butterflies.
A few months later I went back to The Valley of BonBon with my good friend "The Head Mon" and we stayed in the valley the whole day. Picking and eating mushrooms, just sitting there on the side of that mountain, in and out of body, getting higher and higher as we watched the show that the butterflies put on for [just] us... it was like color in movement
it was all around us in
the Valley of BonBon...
but that's another story
1994 Jim Nasium