LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian police said on Wednesday that a shaman had buried the body of an 18-year-old American man to cover up his death during a spiritual retreat in the Amazon where he drank extracts of psychedelic plants.

Shaman Jose Pineda Vargas, 58, confessed to burying Kyle Joseph Nolan in his jungle retreat, the Shimbre Shamanic Center, near the native community of Tres Islas in the Madre de Dios region of the Amazon basin that borders Brazil, according to police colonel Roberto Palomino.

« Police have found the body of Nolan in a bushy thicket that belongs to the director of this retreat, » Palomino said.

Before confessing, Pineda had said Nolan disappeared. Nolan’s mother began searching for him after he failed to return from Peru as scheduled August 27.

« It’s like he’s vanished, » his mother, Ingeborg Eswalo, said before police found his body. His family could not be reached for comment on Wednesday at a phone number in northern California they gave to police.

Peru is a popular destination for a growing number of tourists who want to try ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew derived from Amazonian vines and shrubs that is traditionally drunk in indigenous ceremonies with the guidance of a shaman to heal sicknesses and communicate with nature and ancestors.

A similar brew is also used in certain religions in Brazil.

The website for the Peruvian retreat, written in English, describes Pineda as « Master Shaman Mancoluto, » and says he helps ayahuasca initiates « open their minds to deeper realities, develop their senses and intuitive capabilities and unlock the person’s untapped potential. »

The center says it holds five ceremonies held over 10 nights, when participants ingest psychedelic plants in « a comfortable private space in the middle of a virgin rainforest, » but that people familiar with the side effects of the drugs are always on site to help.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Reuters TV; Editing by Terry Wade and Cynthia Osterman)

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