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When the men come back...


What is Yopo and why did I take it?
Redmond O'Hanlon Writer
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It's two or three vines, the extract. But actually, in fact, it's packed with tryptamines, which just knock you out. It's a massive tranquiliser, eventually. I think probably the trick... the good deal is that the way of administering this drug that leads to such appalling pain... it's as if you'd taken a whole pepper pot, straight. Finely ground pepper, straight up your nose. That's what it's like. I don't know.

[Q] But you've done it more than once?

Yes. I like to be loved. Yes. And the effects were the same.

[Q] Well, you were joking, saying I like to be loved, but you mean this generates respect, does it?

You become... that's the way you become one of these people. I mean, of course, at many, many removes, you're sort of like the sub... well no, you're not the postman, but you're... well, you belong. You belong. And Chimo laughing about the monkey's eyeballs, but you take this stuff and they're not going to kill you. Chagnon, the great anthropologist, never did, you know. All these Americans don't do such things.

[Q] You're quite, sort of, bold, aren't you? Quite brave?

I don't think so, no. I think desperate. I think you spend half your life in bed and of course you're going to take yopo, won't you? No, not bold. I think the bold people can deal with life in Oxford at three o'clock on a grey afternoon. Or they can deal with getting up every morning to go to work. Though actually, maybe not, because when you get to work, it's lovely and there's low-grade sex and there's pheromones in the office and lots of things going on and... but yes, that's it. That's what... bold. Bold is to hold down a regular job, not to swanning off to jungles. That's what I really think. But how awful to think that I might die in my bed, a slow decline in some wonderful Indian summer, terminal goodbye people's home. There's one down the road in Titletown. And wouldn't it be classy to go with a six-to-eight-foot long Yanomami arrow. These things have enough kinetic energy, they hit you, they pick a big man up, pin him to a tree. Wow. Classy.

British author Redmond O’Hanlon writes about his journeys into some of the wildest places in the world. His travels have taken him into the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon, he has faced some of the toughest tribes alive today, and has sailed in the hurricane season on a trawler in the North Atlantic. In all of this, he explores the extremes of human existence with passion, wit and erudition.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Napoleon Chagnon

Duration: 3 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: July - September 2008

Date story went live: 11 August 2009