First Jesper Grønkjær dragged his magician’s suitcase through the Andes
in Peru in order to visit and perform for the descendants of the Incas.
Then he sailed down the wild Amazon River on a raft in order to get to
the native Amazon tribes far away from civilization.
In each place barriers were transcended – whether they were cultural,
social, financial, racial or status barriers. The locals opened not only their homes
to Grønkjær, they opened their hearts.
AND NOW TO THE FAIRYTALE...
Agony in the Andes
In 2003 we journeyed to Peru in South
America partly to reach the mysterious Inca temple ruins Machu Picchu far into
the mountains and partly to travel into the Amazon jungle. The last part meant
several days of walking in the rain forest followed by a journey down the river
on a raft to reach the small communities, where the river indians live.
First we traveled several days with a team of carriers,
where we dragged yourselves along the Inca Trail ind the midst of the Andes
Mountains. These mountains are the worlds longest mountain chain and stretches
over 7200 kilometres. The Inca trail is 100 kilometers long, and it is this
route the Incas used to visit their holy city Machu Picchu.
We started out in the “Inca capital” Cuzco, where I warmed
up with a small magic show, that gathered a great part of the city's
inhabitants at one of the smaller squares. In the legendary silver jacket,
which has been used at shows all over the planet, I shortly became the center
of attention, when the locals for the first time in their life's saw a magician.
To camouflage my intentions as long as possible, I had pulled a poncho over my
shiny silver jacket, which meant that I began the show in this outfit. When I
felt the time was right, I took of the poncho, revealing the sparkling jacket,
that every Dane with a bit of self conscience would find horribly ugly. But
when they saw the jacket, everyone was taken aback. They thought it was so
As I continued with the show, the local audience changed
their expressions. In the beginning there were – if possible – even bigger
wrinkles in their dark leather-like skin, which has been hardened by the strong
sun in the mountains. But in the end their faces were completely crocked from
laughing. Especially when I with a toy-drill made a hole in a small girl and
through this poured a soda! No one had ever served them a soda in this way
From Cuzco we walked through piles of horse shit and
lama-leftovers up the twisted Inca trail, which consisted of a small path
between rocks, 2100 steep steps, that sometimes would be more than 70
centimeters tall, across rivers and all in an altitude of more than 3000
meters, which made it difficult to breath, because the air was too thin.
Especially when you are so lame, that you besides your normal backpack bring a
magic suitcase, TV-equipment and heavy wool ponchos.
To compensate for the lack of oxygen in the thin air our
guides had brought bottles of oxygen and coca-leaves, which especially the
local chewed constantly. We spend the nights in small two-person tents, where a
smell of sweat, socks and donkeys-ass quickly took over. To avoid ending up
caressing each other in our sleeps as a reaction to missing the girlfriends at
home, we always slept with a backpack between us!
I really enjoyed when we camped near locals, because we
could go join them, try talking with them or at least do a bit of magic tricks.
Yes, the old, magic suitcase did well in 4200 meters altitude.
The magic suitcase and my silver jacket have been trough
amounts of adventures. It is difficult to recall them all upon request.
After the walk along the Inca Trail the time had come to
complete the expedition in the Amazon Jungle. In extraordinary good company we
went with three Indians in a jeep through the mountains that surround Cuzco.
The ride was several times about to claim our life's, when parts of the
mountains fell down in front of us or the road simply vanished below us because
of the rainy season.
After 24 hours of driving we arrived at the banks of the
river, from where we sailed in a small motorized boat, which the following days
was to be our home. We sailed with the stream from village to village, and
everywhere we were allowed to sleep as a payment for a small magic show.
The local Indians lived wonderfully simple and they went on daily hunts into
the jungle with bow and arrows. Every day except when a danish magician came to
visit! These shows took place in old barns, in the space between the cottages
or at the banks of the river.
One day I had “borrowed” a duckling from the community. A
girl came on stage, and I let her do the trick, where the duck suddenly
appeared from an apparently empty cauldron. I first lighted a fire with big
flames from it, and when the duckling suddenly jumped up the cauldron and walked
away, they were all completely silent. And then they roared with laughter. This
was a trick they talked about for days.
At some point we had to leave the boat to continue at foot
through the wilderness in the jungle. It was tough fighting your way through
swamps, mud and the thick vegetation. Our bodies were taking some punches and
mentally we could feel it as well. We spend the nights under the sky, where we
had the sounds from the animals and the screaming parrots to give us a lullaby.
When we after a while had crossed a part of the rainforest,
we reached the Amazon River again. Without the boat we depended on the natural
resources at our hands. We made four logs of a tree, and we twisted the bark
into a strong piece of string. In this way we made our raft and was now ready
for the next part of our adventure. We paddled our way down the river while
piranhas and crocodiles swam around us and monkeys jumped above our heads in
the trees. After a few hours I was completely sore in my arms from paddling and
in my legs from trying to keep the balance, in the bag as well from the
steering the raft and in my but from the resting in the middle of the
The knowledge that this was the only option of
transportation - and therefore our small uncomfortable home the following days
was exiting but at the same time frightening. It was even more frightening when
the raft got caught in the wild river and crashed into some fallen trees.
Everything – the magic suitcase, clothes, sleeping bags, TV-equipment from the Danish
channel DRended up on the bottom
of the river. Luckily everything was picked up by an Indian, so we could
continue our expedition.
In trance at the Shaman's
While we at some point lived in the middle
of the Amazon Jungle we got a visit from the local Shaman, who is something
like a spiritual leader or a nature priest. His job was to get us into a trance
with a drink, which is used by the Indians to enter a journey into their
sub-conscience with the means of hallucinations. This is a way to get to know
their abilities or their inner demons. For some this means that they mentally
transform into an eagle, a jaguar or another animal.
In a foul-smelling, wet cottage with cockroaches all over
the place we were told to take place on the floor. Me, Simon and our three
Indian carriers. The Shaman saluted us and dressed in his cape. Every light
were blown out, and we sat there in complete darkness. It was forbidden to
speak, so the only sounds we could hear came from the animals in the jungle.
From screaming birds and croaking frogs.
Between us there were placed two buckets. One was
filledwith the elixir named
Ayahuasca. The other empty, ready in case anyone got sick from drinking the
elixir. An empty coconut was dipped in the elixir and passed around. Simon was
the first to taste it, and I could hear him moaning. I couldn't resist asking
if he had been transformed into some kind of animal and which, and I laughed at
my own question, but the Shaman hushed me. NO words were allowed.
I got to taste next, and I got the most horrible taste in
my mouth. It tasted like a mixture of blood and tobacco. My stomach winced and
I gasped. It was all about to return to my mouth. The drink has a sort of
likeness to the effect from LSD, and I have later gotten to know that it can be
The coconut got dipped and passed around several times,
while the Shaman with a monotonous voice prayed louder and louder. I felt
horrible: My head hurt, my stomach turned. I fought the nausea and I felt like
the world was spinning with me in the center. The Indians had laid themselves
on the floor and Simon and I followed. The coconut with liquid kept coming back
and we just lay there quietly on the dirty floor as in a kind of meditation.
Suddenly Simon got up, reached out for the empty bucket and emptied his stomach
into it. He vomited loudly and I smiled a bit to myself, happy that it wasn't
me. But this was a short sensation of happiness. A few seconds later my stomach
exploded. Between my clinched teeth I told Simon, that I needed the bucket. My
mouth was full of lumpy vomit and my stomach was aching. I tried to get up but
I had no control over my body. I fell over and at the same time I vomited into
the bucket with such force, that Simon's vomit flushed all over me. Both in my
head and my clothes!
The Shaman hissed, and told me to sit down calmly. But I
was done with “land of the trance”, and I walked towards the door of the cabin,
while I told him to shut up – in danish. The sweat pored down my face and the
minute I crossed the doorstep and went out into the fresh night air, I got hit
in the head by something large. Smack! Even though this rarely happens to
people, a big bat had hit me in the head. I screamed and fell on the ground.
There I lay looking up at the sky with millions of twinkly stars and I suddenly
felt that life was amazing. It was complete obscene and grotesque and far from
our western standards of reason and normality. But I was happy and I felt
This was another of these experiences, that this type of
traveling gives me, which enriches my life. Imagine being with one of your best
friends, three Indians and a crazy Shaman. All alone and in the middle of the
jungle. That is an experience for life!