Greetings from a Lobitos lifestyle

in #lifestyle4 years ago (edited)

Greetings Steemians,

My name is Diego Almendrades and I just joined this wonderful community recently thanks to @intrepidsurfer . I wanted to start by sharing a series of posts of some of the things that I have been up to these past couple of weeks in between living and working (and working for a living!) so that you can get a glimpse of how I try to lead a sustainable lifestyle in the small semi-rural town of Lobitos, Peru, where I have been inhabiting for the past 4 years. If you see anything on which you would like me to write more in-depth about, please comment below! With your upvotes I will hopefully be able to keep raising awareness and provide more details on how to enjoy a more eco-friendly everyday life more in tune with your surroundings. So here it goes!

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One of the many views with the majestic ocean at the back of my neighbourhood Barrio Centro Villa Militar in Lobitos (Talara, Piura), where I live and work at @EcoSwell as one of the founders and directors. This is really a portion of coastal dry tropical forest / desert shrub that has been severely degraded by human settlement, which started in the late 19th century as a British oil camp. Lobitos is widely known as a main surfing destination now in Peru and South America, but it is also partly a ghost-town with crumbling infrastructure that has fallen into disrepair since the days of these old oil-exploitation companies which had to practically build the whole town in order to support their operation. A military government took over in the late 1960s and all oil assets where nationalized. As Peru gradually moved back into democracy and a free-market economy, the oil extraction fell back into private hands and is still very heavy in the area nowadays. However, the current companies and the human settlements are not one and the same anymore, there is now in fact quite a big disconnection and conflict between these two groups and during this whole historical process infrastructure that was considered modern for those times has been lost. Some classic houses still remain though (and a lot of memories as well) as the town is now experiencing a new boom from surfing tourism.

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Another view of the same neighbourhood and its savage beauty. As a sustainable development organization based in this place, there are several ways in which we are working to restore this habitat for the long-term enjoyment of all sentient beings, especially endangered species such as the peruvian plantcutter (Phytotoma raimondii) who is well known to share this peculiar neighbourhood with us.

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(Photo taken by my brother Juan Luis Almendrades in June 2017, #birding)
Male plantcutter chilling on a "palo negro" one of its favourite plants, in Barrio Centro, Lobitos. The peruvian plantcutter is considered a rare gem by birdwatchers. It is endemic to Peru and has the potential to provide a diversified income from ecotourism to Lobitos, one of the last towns where it can still be seen in its wild state, if we can manage its conservation. Total population left alive is now estimated between 500-1000 individuals, red-listed as endangered by the IUCN (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22700764/0)

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The backyard of the @EcoSwell House, you can see part of our orchard and our recently-planted vetiver hedgerow which melds in with the algarrobo trees and other native species, helping them to thrive. Featuring at the centre is also our dry toilet pilot unit, which we built and have been using for the past 2.5 months, saving A LOT of precious water in this arid environment.

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This is another piece of degraded forest, an old court of Paleta Frontón (a type of racquetball) turned into a mural. We have been installing and setting up the logistics for an irrigation and reforestation project in this very area using native species. On the back you can see the water tank that provides water to a big section of Lobitos town, a true landmark here that you can observe from different angles in many of the pictures in this post. It used to store desalinated seawater back in the day of the British oil companies, but it now gets water pumped a long way from Talara and La Chira river. This water dependency is also a problem for Lobitos and water scarcity is something very familiar here, sometimes for several months on end. We will implement storage and efficient irrigation systems to be able to cope with this until the forest and water table regenerate.

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Another main socio-environmental problem in Lobitos, and also tied to water, is the lack of wastewater treatment. Raw blackwater sewage spills are present in different intensities all over town, due to a major lack of government planning, education and infrastructure (more in-depth analysis of this will surely follow in later posts). This is a picture of one of those spills by a road leading to the iconic La Casona, an old important British construction now turned into a surfer hostel. You can notice on the bottom right the blackwater that just openly flows downstream and which is apparently making nearby vegetation blossom. As a tryout, I planted some slips of #vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) here in March 2017, which you can see in the picture as those slips of vertical grass spaced out in a line. This is a picture of how the vetiver is now in June 2018:

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Sean and me were returning from doing some community work in the neighbouring town of Piedritas, when we passed by here some days ago and noticed the incredible growth of the plants. Sean Nguyen is one of our current volunteer-interns at @EcoSwell, from Tampa, Florida. On his right you can see how the vetiver grass has grown huge and is blooming with inflorescence. This strand of vetiver is infertile and will not produce seeds and start reproducing, so there is no threat of it becoming invasive in this ecosystem. Amongst other varied and incredible uses, vetiver roots are used for bioremediation to decontaminate soil from polutants, in this case from the sewage spill, and it seems to be working great as the vetiver looks healthy and vigorous. However, the blackwater is still flowing beyond this point. Ideally, we will need to enclose all the blackwater within a vetiver hedgerow or contained wetland in order for the treatment to be more effective. It is great to know that we can do it though, and that vetiver seems to love the Lobitos sunshine!

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This is the old main square or centro histórico of Lobitos, with the old church still standing. On its left existed the first cinema of South America (no kidding). Only a floor foundation remains. In Lobitos you can literally walk on history and on the remnants from the times of the British oil companies. The Neighbours Association of the Villa Militar now wants to recover this place by greening it and turning it into a proper park and we will be glad to assist them with that endeavour!

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During a walk to the neighbourhood of Zarumilla, where Alejandro, Kyler and me had been invited to come and try a delicious peruvian dish of Carapulcra w/ Sopa Seca, we decided to do a bit of exploring and nature-watching. The natural landscape here, which may seem like just a barren coastal desert, holds many precious secrets underneath the surface. We first came across what we thought were bird nests on some algarrobo trees, but on closer look they turned out to be bee-hives!

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Evidently, some perfect hexagons were lying on the ground beneath. Bees are very important if we want to live in a sustainable world. "The value of pollination by bees is estimated around $16 billion in the US alone" (source: https://beespotter.org/topics/economics/). We have a permaculture orchard at the EcoSwell House and we know that if it wasn't for them we would not be able to harvest any fruits. Unfortunately, the algarrobo or mesquite tree (Prosopis pallida) which is the dominant tree of the dry forest here, is being illegally logged at alarming rates to obtain fuelwood/charcoal or for urban expansion. Sadly, among other nefarious consequences, this also affects the population of bees which make their hives on these very same trees as shown in the previous picture above.

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In this same walk, we also passed by the house of the owners of Ecologica Tallán Conservation Area, my good friends Patty and Toño. They are our main local partners in the irrigation and reforestation project for Barrio Centro and we are putting up a water tower strategically at their place to be able to irrigate this area. Notice the plantcutter on their signpost painted by Toño with his very artistic skills.

Finally, we reached the adjacent neighbourhoods of Zarumilla and Castilla in a very sunny and outdoorsy day. Zarumilla:

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The Piscinas surf spot, which has been pumping nicely this season, can be seen towards the right.

Castilla:
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These neighbourhoods seem like oasis in the desert, it gives you an idea of how the desert has the potential to be green, all thanks to the neighbours living there and caring for their trees.

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On our way back we took a different way inland, stumbling across more vegetation and oil buildings. Here Alejandro Pizarro (@pizarro1301), fellow founder and director of @EcoSwell, is judging the best way to pass by this thorny Azote de Cristo (Parkinsonia aculeata). Vegetation here has adapted to water scarcity and big nasty spikes are a sign of that! On the background you can see abandoned oil storage deposits, another environmental liability left behind in the wake of the petroleum craze.

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We ended our lunch walk with Alejandro and Kyler, another intern-volunteer from Florida, watching the surf in the main Lobitos La Punta spot, seen here at the far back. We also passed by one of the last remaining old-grown algarrobos by this old road which used to be a highway. All the rest of the main algorrobos here are just stumps now decorating the roadside:

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It is a sight that makes you want to cry. Algarrobos can take hundreds of years to grow in this fragile and dry environment only to be cut down in an instant. It is important for us to know this and assimilate it in order to prevent it from happening.

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On the next morning my friend Alvaro and me woke up early to go surf at a nearby spot called 3 Cruces. We went on his vintage Volkswagen van, which he recently acquired to fix up (most of that is still pending as you can see!). But the vehicle can still roll which is the important part. A bumpy ride but full of style!

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The view of mythical Tres Cruces at dawn. Yes, it was very much worth it to wake up at 5.30am just to contemplate this. Sea turtles quite often come into this long and remote stretch of coast to lay their eggs within the sand dunes.

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The surf was pumping here with long lefts peeling from those rocks and not a single soul but us... into the water with no time to waste! Unfortunately, as you might have noticed by now, I don't have pictures of the waves up close because I don't take my phone into the surf with me (thankfully!). Surfing serves to disconnect from the ever-increasing amount of information and technology - and distractions - in this new era while building our physical and mental exercise and spirituality. It is one of my favourite ways to commune with nature on a regular basis.

I still have plenty more to write about but this is it for now! I hope you are enjoying this glimpse into my lifestyle and if you do please comment, upvote, resteem and follow to stay tuned. I will also be happy to answer and doubts or questions. Buenas vibras!
@Diego-EcoSwell

(All text and pictures made by me unless otherwise stated)

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Great post I learned a lot more about Lobitos and I thought I already knew a bit, Gracias!

Thank you! There is so much more to learn, everyday can be a journey here.

Oh yes, so so much to learn about Lobitos and it is good to see this knowledge locked into blockchain. Available to all to see.

@diego-ecoswell , @silverlining1 is on the Steem forest team and is based in Los Muelles surf camp. You can't miss him as he has a tendency of being at his desk under the sun :)

Thanks @intrepidsurfer, I hope I can contribute value like this little by little. I will keep an eye out for @silverlining1 and the Steem forest team

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I really enjoy seeing all this! Thank you

Very glad you liked it! I am still wandering if this is the sort of style I will be using on my posts so any feedback is appreciated, thanks!

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Very nice entry! I enjoyed learning about Lobitos, to be honest i had no idea about this place before. Seems to be a big problem with the water there but the idea to use those sewage streams to grow something is so good! i mean of course its a bit nasty but the plant will receive loads of nutrition and probably filter a bit of the bad stuff!
I really like what you are doing and btw. that is a wicked camper van XD! Have a good day!

Thank you @mrf! I am happy that I can tell the Steemit community (and the world) a bit about this wonderful but also threatened place. Yes, those spills are nasty, not to mention a health hazard for everyone and everything, but the vetiver plant can really clean it up. It is just another example of simple and effective solutions that can be implemented to solve local problems that have interestingly persisted for years! I am VERY new here so any other feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

I am new here too and so glad to have the chance to learn about new places and projects. And best of all, i can even support what people like you are doing! Yes, simple solutions are often the best. I hope you will have a lot support from steemit soon, so you guys can do more to protect the environment in Lobitos!

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