Ayahuasca in Cornwall - the Eden Project
Cornwall is the left-hand toe of Britain, scenic and a great pull for tourists, yet it is still west-coast Britain so it's often wet. It's clever to site an indoor, wet-day attraction here. Saturday was wet and chilly, the various biomes of the centre merrily buzzing with families on days out.
There are three biomes ... one outdoors,a pleasing terraced area of gardens, the other two vast bubbles of conjoined geodesic domes.
To the left is the rainforest. My first principle delight, while waiting the ten minutes for my thick glasses to demist, was listening to tropical birdcalls ... in fact a host of robins singing their hearts out for their various patches of territory. The dome is large enough to absorb the crowds over the pathways and various levels, the whole surround of vegetation quite comforting. Up near the top, beyond the waterfall, is a run of plants strong in shamanic ceremonies of South America. The ayahuasca vine, its stem mashed to a pulp and mixed with the neighbouring (here at least) chacruna leaves, is a powerful hallucinogen. Though my own ayuahasca experiences (described in my book I Was Carlos Castaneda) took place in the jungles of Peru, I'd never seen the plant growing before. Those experiences were almost the death of me. I took gentle hold of a leaf to see what message it might send. I felt a deep internal shudder.
One thing the rainforest lacks is insects. It's a shame they don't import some butterflies at least, though clouds of mosquitoes and a host of spiders would make the experience much more authentic. Small ants were doing their best, crawling across many of the plants, but they were a tame version of the tropical reality.
More soothing was the Mediterranean biome ... featuring what we in Europe think of the Mediterranean but also South African and Californian plants. I especially liked climbing the hill on which grew the plants of the maquis, that area of scrubland familiar from our Pyrenean home. Rock roses, what I know as grey-leaved cistus, were just coming out when we left the Pyrenees two weeks ago. In Cornwall they were in full flower.
The day out seems to have had a desired environmental effect. Our car broke down just across the Tamar River back in Devon. It seems to be terminal. We shan't be replacing it so that's the end of cars for a while. Great cost-saving if we hire as necessary, and probably 10,000 miles worth of refined oil not spewed into the atmosphere.