In the Jungle with Peter Gabriel

By Aaron Smith March 2009

The Jetset Vagabond

Who would of thought, while being in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, of bumping into Peter Gabriel and Tony Leven (bass player of King Crimson) - but thatís exactly what happened to me recently at Peter Schneiderís Amazon Lodge on the Momon River, some forty kilometers out of Iquitos. Peter Schneider who runs Latin Americaís largest radio Station, Top, which broadcasts in some 578 cities throughout 30 countries, invited me to his lodge to stay. I was after an interview with Peter Schneider, who is nothing short of a colorful character, for my book about, amongst other things, Iquitos. Having gone to school with Richard Branson and then later sent to Peru to pursue Alpaca for the family business, Peter S. fell in love with the country and is now based in Miraflores, Lima. His second home though is Iquitos and his jungle Lodge that he endeavors to visit at least once a month.

Peter Gabriel arrives to the lodge

Amazon Lodge is an architect designed complex that blends in to the jungle. Twenty two, clean, self-contained lodges are connected by covered walkways through manicured gardens, decorated with Shipibo Indian handicrafts. Tortoises and native hens roam free, as well as Rigoberto, the tame, resident Tapir. You can also feed the wild Macaws who hang outside the dining room that has a great balcony with river sunset views. A pool with water slide, jacuzzi, kids playground, games room, cable TV in all the cabins, English speaking staff, kayaking, jungle excursions and three tasty buffet meals a day, all inclusive, is good value from $70 dollars a day. There is even a resident shaman for those interested in drinking Ayahuasca and experiencing a different kind of jungle trip. Whether you are an Indiana Jones adventurer, spiritual quester or those just wanting to finish that trashy novel poolside in a hammock with an umbrella drink, Amazon Lodge caters for all - and thatís exactly what I was doing when a late 50ís man with a goatee came up and sat in the hammock adjacent to mine. I had of course been tipped off that the legendary Peter Gabriel and band were coming to the lodge but was also warned he was a diva and totally unapproachable. Mr. Gabriel leaned over and extended an open palm, ďHi, the nameís Peter.Ē - So much for unapproachable.

We chatted about his grueling tour of Latin America and how the twenty four hours they would spend at the lodge represented the only down time on the whole tour. They had snuck into Iquitos at 4am that morning on Gabrielís personal jet and were excited about being in the jungle. A little later Tony Levin (a teenage icon for me), flopped into the hammock on the other side of me - handlebar moustache, shaved bald head and khaki-green jungle fatigues, he looked the part. Casually shaking hands I resisted swooning and becoming an obsessed fan, remaining ice cool was imperative. I managed to present a gift to Gabriel and band from Bill Curtis and his American Amazon Music Company, a selection of his handmade, exotic, Amazon-timber guitar picks that carry a lifetime warranty, Gabrielís guitarist Richard was suitably impressed and said they felt beautiful to touch.

I figured that Peter Schneider being a long time, big player in the Latin American music scene and that both him and Peter Gabriel were friends of Richard Branson, that the bandís arrival at the lodge was no coincidence and due to an Ďold boysí contact. But that is exactly what it was, a sheer coincidence and nothing more, Peter Gabriel had just booked the lodge out of the blue - it makes you wonder of the mysterious ways of the universe.

Hammock conversation swung around to indigenous Indian culture and the icarros of the Ayahuasca shamans. Knowing that in recent years Mr. Gabriel has had a growing interest in World music as well as humanitarian issues, having recently been awarded the Amnesty Internationalís 2008 Ambassador of Conscience Award, as well as working with the likes of Richard Branson and Nelson Mandela, I asked him if he was aware of the ceremonies. Having a limited knowledge he was keen to know more, so I did my best to explain what I knew from my own personal research and experiences. Intrigued, he, his daughter Melanie Gabriel, and the rest of the band sat in on an Ayahuasca ceremony with me that evening with the local resident shaman, Havier. Unfortunately due to their tight schedule they couldnít afford the headspace of an Ayahuasca journey as they were playing a gig in Mexico City in forty eight hours.

Peter and band bird watching

Early the next morning I headed out with Mr. Gabriel and the band on a bird watching tour up the river, in between snapping photos of the passing wildlife, we continued to talk about Ayahuasca and the many medicinal Amazonian plants and mysteries and legends of the jungle. Leaving just after breakfast, we exchanged emails and Mr. Gabriel promised to review my upcoming book. As the fast boat wound through the water ways back to Iquitos I smiled as I considered how everyone has an approachable, friendly side and I was glad that someone with the fame and fortune of Peter Gabriel was able to maintain this over the years.

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