Trail Blazing Piedritas Verde

in #ecotourism4 years ago (edited)


The team sets off on a journey into the dry forest

Hello! My name is Ezra Kraus, I’m a recent college graduate of the University of Puget Sound with a Bachelor’s in Political Science. I was born and raised outside of Boston, Massachusetts and I’m the new reforestation intern here at EcoSwell. On the morning of January 30th, 2019 the EcoSwell team woke up bright and early for an adventure to Piedritas. The mission was simple, to map out trails and continue our efforts to conserve the land. Piedritas is a small village tucked away between Lobitos and Talara. The area is home to hundreds of native animals and plants that bring life to an already stunning landscape. Over the past two years, EcoSwell has been organizing the effort to conserve this oasis with the local community. After a very successful community meeting last week, enthusiasm for the project was at an all-time high. In order to continue this momentum, we traveled to the lush region. Here is our experience:


The EcoSwell Team posing in front of a huge specimen of the native Lipe or Pial bush (Scutia spicata), 6m high and 12m wide approx. Another jewel of the wild dry forest in Piedritas worth preserving for future generations

We arrived to Piedritas around 6:45 am with a team of seven, including interns Elliott, India, Camille and myself. We were led by directors Diego and Andres and Ellen, our coordinator. We began the day by walking through the small, quaint village and up into the wilderness area. The goal of the day was to walk through several trails and set way-points to map out future hiking routes that the community can later approve. The first trail we explored was beautiful and well maintained. We made stops to look at huge native plant species like lipe (or pial), palo negro (or canutillo) and algarrobo. Diego explained their importance in providing shelter and food for the endangered endemic bird, the Peruvian Plantcutter. According to dry forest and Peruvian Plantcutter experts like Jeremy Flanagan from SOS Peruvian Plantcutter and Edward Liñán (who published a scientific paper about the plantcutter in Piedritas) these plant species are important for management strategies that aim to conserve populations of this threatened bird in the region.


A previous expedition to Piedritas on the 16th of January 2019. From left to right: Jeremy Flanagan (Head of SOS Peruvian Plantcutter), Elliott Lang and India Boostani (EcoSwell interns), Andrés Bustamante (EcoSwell director), Ellen Jones (EcoSwell Projects Supervisor) and Edward Liñán (Biologist). Photo by Diego Almendrades (@diego-ecoswell)

Hope for the success of the project's future was as clear as the song of the Peruvian Plantcutter, which could be heard reverberating throughout the dry forest. Near the end of the trail, the group stopped to plant vetiver slips by a wastewater effluent that is currently running through an important section of this habitat and polluting it, not ideal if the aim is to turn the area into an eco-tourist attraction. These plants will help to clean the wastewater contamination that comes running down all the way from Talara city. EcoSwell is currently working with local energy plant company Enel Peru (subsidiary of Italian multinational as part of their CSR to implement a bigger scale vetiver project for cleaning the contamination in Piedritas and organizing the community for ecotourism and sustainable development.




The team planting slips of vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) to clean the contaminated ground in different sections of the trail. This strand of vetiver, even though it is exotic, can be planted safely because it is infertile and won't reproduce (it won’t produce fertile seeds and is therefore not invasive). It is a wonderful option for phytoremediation. For more information check out: )

The trail ends with an opening into complete tree cover which gives it a magical feel as if you are walking into a completely different world. As we continued to the next trail, I was in awe of how green the area was compared to the rest of the region. Flowers and trees accompanied by bird songs created a peaceful environment, but evidence of illegal logging stated the importance of the work we were doing. With this stark contrast in our heads, we hiked on.


The magical algorrobo tree path (Prosopis pallida) out of the dry forest

We crossed over a part of the wastewater stream into another potential trail. The landscape was very different, which shows the diversity of the nature that surrounds Piedritas. The vegetation consisted of tall invasive reeds and bamboo-like sticks (Paspalum sp.). It was a little harder getting around as the ground cover was vast. After walking for around a kilometer we came out to an opening with a stunning view of the ocean. A group of migratory aquatic birds could be seen floating in a nearby tributary so we made our way over and saw a few different species including herons, storks, ducks, flamingos, and spoonbills.


“Parihuanas” or flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis) at Piedritas, Punta Malacas.
Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)

After a quick break and a snack, we headed back towards the village where we were met by the local resident lady and project enthusiast, Marlyne Guerrero, with the freshest lemonade to quench our thirst after walking all morning under growing desert heat. Overall, it was an amazing experience that showed the potential that conservation can have and how to solve its challenges when communities are working together.


The team rests for some well-deserved birdwatching at a wetland by the beach of Piedritas, Punta Malacas. After visiting the outdoors, remember to always take your trash away with you until you reach a bin or proper deposit place!
Photo by Diego Almendrades (@diego-ecoswell)

Written By Ezra Kraus, EcoSwell Reforestation intern January to April 2019
All pictures by India Boostani, EcoSwell archive, unless otherwise stated.
To do a visit to the Dry Forest of Piedritas please contact Marlyne Guerrero at (+51)
922-001-759 (call or WhatsApp) or at her Facebook messenger (Spanish-speaking required)

@EcoSwell is a for-impact, sustainable development organization based in Lobitos, Peru. Since 2014, we have been working everyday to help coastal communities thrive in unison with nature. If you would like to learn more, please visit our Facebook, website, and follow us on SteemIt!


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